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Local app uses AI to screen prospective tenants

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Zabeth Venter, CEO and co-founder of Averly.
Zabeth Venter, CEO and co-founder of Averly.

Locally-developed application Averly uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help rental agents to screen prospective tenants.

The company says screening prospective tenants can be a laborious process, especially with a property owner expecting rental agents to perform miracles.

It adds that any rental agent knows perfect tenants are not easy to come by, and even harder to identify.

Averly uses AI and behavioural analysis to help identify excellent tenants faster, the company says, adding that it digitises the rental application process and helps agents verify their gut feel about future tenants on a single platform.

“Business in the rental space has been conducted in the same way for what feels like the last hundred years,” says Zabeth Venter, CEO and co-founder of Averly.

She notes that the focus was always on whether the tenant would (or could) pay their rent. But how they will behave once living in the property is equally important, argues Venter.

“That was the challenge – how do we learn more about a person’s future behaviour before signing a contract?”

According to Venter, bad tenants – including those that pay their rent on time – can cause several problems, including property damage and refusing to move out at the end of their contracts.

“If you ask a prospective tenant if they’ll pay their rent on time, they’ll definitely say yes because they know it’s the right answer to give. But how do I know they’re telling the truth?” Venter asks.

She notes this is why Averly teamed up with a group of international neuroscientists and machine learning experts to create a short survey for prospective tenants that can give a glimpse of how they are likely to behave in future.

“It not only looks at what you answer but also how you answer the questions,” explains Venter. “Your brain reacts in split seconds and can therefore not be manipulated or fooled, giving Averly the ability to calibrate to the individual before calculating each applicant's so-called Averly score.”

Agents can then use this score, along with industry standards like references, a good credit record and verified documents, to identify and place excellent tenants, the company notes.

How it works

Averly digitises the entire application process, the company says.

A link is sent to prospective tenants to create an Averly profile and fill out the survey of 22 specially crafted questions.

Tenants can also upload all important and verified documentation onto the platform that would normally have been scanned and e-mailed to the rental agent.

“By digitising the process, an agent and tenant can complete the entire application process as the viewing is under way,” says Venter.

She adds that if one property receives several applications, the rental agent can view all applicants on a single dashboard and compare their credit and Averly scores before making a final decision.

“This is where AI complements, rather than replaces, the human decision-making process. We simplify the process, providing additional information to better manage risks.”

Apart from digitising the application process, Averly also helps with managing property maintenance.

According to the company, agents can use Averly to build a comprehensive move-in snag list during inspections, upload photographic evidence, and indicate where maintenance work is needed.

It points out that tenants have access to the same list, leaving no room for nasty surprises when they move in, or out at the end of their lease period.

The company explains that if maintenance is needed during the rental period, tenants can indicate it on the same list. This will trigger a notification to the agent to arrange the relevant fixes. Rental agencies can also use this functionality to monitor the service their agents provide.

“One agent may rent out many properties, earning a lot of rental commission, but he is terrible at maintaining them. This can harm an agency’s reputation. With Averly, agencies can better understand the service they provide,” Venter says.

“It’s all about managing relationships and risks, making operations as effective and simple as possible. In the long-term, Averly will help agents to better manage their time and money to provide a much better service.”

Averly is free to use for tenants, the company says, adding that agencies or landlords get a 30-day free trial and subscription starts at R30 per active lease unit per month.

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