Mat Zalk

Mat Zalk is the President and Property Manager at Keyrenter Property Management which has offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Arkansas. He focuses on the acquisition and management of single and multi-family residential properties on behalf of himself and a small network of investors.

Before founding Keyrenter Tulsa, Mat was a Strategy Director at The Property Finder Group, where he worked closely with the CEO and senior management team on various international acquisitions, scaled local teams in the group’s Saudi Arabia and Egypt offices, and executed a number of strategic projects in the business’ core market of Dubai. Mat has been an active investor since 2014 and is a licensed real estate agent in Oklahoma.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Mat Zalk talks about what Keyrenter Property Management does for its clients and how he came to work there
  • Why people choose to work with Keyrenter and how different it is from other property management companies
  • Mat explains how he got started in property management and his experience with his first clients
  • Who are the ideal clients for Keyrenter?
  • Why Mat started The Same Day Podcast

In this episode…

Property management can be a headache. There are a lot of minor issues that pop up on a repeat basis. So, where can you find a property management company that can help ease the stress and frustration of dealing with these issues on your own?

The real estate industry is ever-changing, which requires experienced individuals with insight to aid in helping you make the right decisions for your property. Many homeowners have worked with small property management firms that make big promises and deliver underwhelming results. Focusing on property management companies that use cutting-edge technological resources and train their team members helps homeowners maximize the value of their investments.

In today’s episode of The Same Day Podcast, Chad Franzen of Rise25 sits down with Mat Zalk, the President and Property Manager at Keyrenter Property Management, to discuss his entrepreneurial journey running a property management company. Mat explains what Keyrenter does for its clients and how he came to work there, how Keyrenter is different from other property management companies, how he got started in the property management business, and his experience with his first clients.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Keyrenter Property Management.

Keyrenter Property Management is a full-service property management company who helps their clients buy, renovate, and operate real estate assets.

They help clients build wealth while taking the headache out of property management.

That’s why, no matter what rental you have — single-family homes, condos, townhomes, or apartments — they can give you the management solutions you need.

To learn more about their services, go to https://keyrenterpmc.com/ or send them an email at [email protected].

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:05 

Welcome to The Same Day Podcast where we discuss driving incremental business growth and other topics related to real estate, property management, and entrepreneurship. Now to the show at hand.

Mat Zalk  0:20 

Mat Zalk I’m the host of The Same Day Podcast where I connect with top business experts and real estate leaders. Today’s a little bit different. I have Chad Franzen and of Rise25 who has done hundreds of interviews of successful entrepreneurs, investors, and CEOs and we’ve flipped the script a bit and Chad is going to be interviewing me. Chad, take it away.

Chad Franzen  0:41 

Hey, thanks so much, Mat. I appreciate the chance to talk to you. Before we get started, I’ll let everybody know that today’s episode is brought to you by Keyrenter Property Management. At Keyrenter Property Management, they are a full-service property management company, helping their clients buy, renovate and operate real estate assets. They help their clients build wealth while taking the headache out of property management. That’s why no matter what rental you have single-family homes, condos, townhomes, apartments, they have the management solutions you need go to keyrenterpmc.com for more details, you can also email them at [email protected] Hey, Mat, tell me a little bit more about Keyrenter Property Management just kind of where you guys are located. What you guys do everything?

Mat Zalk  1:24 

Yeah, absolutely. Keyrenter Property Management is located in three markets were in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Northwest Arkansas, which includes all the metropolitan statistical areas of those markets. We help our clients buy, renovate and operate real estate assets, as you just said, and that really means we help our clients buy, renovate, and operate real estate assets. There’s no project is too big or too small, as long as it’s in the single-family or multifamily residential space.

Chad Franzen  1:50 

And you’re one of the founders of the company.

Mat Zalk  1:52 

So, Keyrenter is actually a franchise, we own Tulsa, Oklahoma City in Northwest Arkansas.

Chad Franzen  1:58 

Okay, what made you decide to get involved?

Mat Zalk  2:00 

Oh man years ago, I was living in Dubai and at the time, I wasn’t paying that much tax. There’s a foreign earned income exclusion and the first like 40 or $50,000 or so your first 150,000 of taxable income is is actually I guess, forgiven. They just don’t have tax on it. Above that, of course you pay tax. So I was saving, 30 or $40,000 a year not paying tax. And I sent a book home when I went to visit my grandparents one year I sent a book to their house about real estate investing. And my sister of course, being my sister open my Amazon package and she when I got to the house said to me, oh, you’ve been thinking about investing in real estate, so have I. So she at the time and still is living in Boulder, Colorado, and we started buying properties in Boulder. And that was great. At the time, they were a little bit cheaper than they are now. So we started buying properties. Their rent was great, easy to fill the houses and my sister was managing those properties. When I moved to Tulsa some years later to marry my wife or actually I should say I moved to Tulsa and I married my wife but her family’s from Tulsa. I started buying properties also and realized that it was a totally different beast, I was buying properties that needed a ton of work that were multifamily rents were at 350. And I needed to bump them up to 550. But the demographic of Tim that lives in a house that rents for or a duplex unit that rents for 350 is totally different than the demographic of somebody that’s in Boulder and paying 4000 or $4,500 a month for rent. I just couldn’t expect that the money would be deposited into my account. So I started looking around for management companies that could do it and realized I wasn’t happy with new solutions. And then found Keyrenter when I decided that I was going to do it myself and needed a system to actually handle the management. So fast forward, I started realizing that there was a dearth of management solutions in the market, started talking to investors picked up my first couple of rentals started marketing. And then here we are today with 2500 rental units under management.

Chad Franzen  3:53 

You know, I think a lot of people would be interested in buying property and renting it out. But the scariest thing is having to manage the property. What’s the reason why people choose you? And what’s the biggest benefit and uniqueness about working with you guys?

Mat Zalk  4:05 

Oh, my God, I mean, management is really a headache. It is a ton of very small things that happen on a repeat basis. I think starting from the acquisition, most of the time people don’t know what they should buy. And if they go to a regular realtor, oftentimes, the realtor is interested in just clicking a coupon. Not everybody is, some people are clearly interested in long-term relationships. And if the property doesn’t work, then they don’t get to continue that relationship. Many times a realtor is going, hey, I’ve got a client, I need to find them something let me find them something and I’ll just promise them whatever rents I need you to make the deal work. Then they come to us and we say well, it’s going to rent for $200 less. And they say well, my realtor told me it was going to rent for 1700. We said well, here’s the market your all the comps. You can listen at $1,700 but everybody in the markets already looking at stuff that’s next door for $1,500. So it’s probably going to rent for $1,500. Want to start at 1700, no problem, but it’s probably going to end up at 15 or 1550. And so, starting from that point where you’re just looking to acquire real estate, we can help. We have rental comps, with 1600 doors in Tulsa, for example, we have probably something in a similar neighborhood, if not next door. So starting from there, then putting a tenant in there are 20 steps that go into putting a good quality resume, not only do you have to clean the property, make sure it’s in show condition, hang a lockbox, put it on to Zillow, which involves taking photos, writing a description, getting everything put together, getting it uploaded to Zillow, and all the other portals, then you have to show the property right? You have to take the leads that come from Zillow, or any other platform or portal and actually put them through the house. And you have to collect information you get a an application, you have to screen the application, who’s doing the screening, how do you know that their social security number matches up to their actual name, on and on and on, I can keep going. But in essence, that’s the first little bit before you actually even get to the point where you approve them and sign a lease. So there’s a million moving parts.

Chad Franzen  5:57 

Would you recommend then like a potential, somebody’s looking for an investment property to rent out come to you before they even make the purchase?

Mat Zalk  6:07 

Yeah, I mean, we’re happy to provide advice at any stage, or share our experience, I should say, at any stage of the process. And if that means you have something under contract, let us take a look at it and share with you what we think it will rent for I’m happy to walk properties, and our team is happy to walk properties before they actually the deed transfers. So that we can give an opinion about what sort of work needs to get done to make it rent ready, etc. Sometimes we have people come to us and they share an inspection report. An inspection report will tell whether the roof needs to be replaced. And whether the HVAC system is too old, it’s not cooling, whether the hot water heater needs to be replaced. But it won’t tell you necessarily that the walls are in not rentable condition. So it’s really important that we see the property and that we get it, we’re able to provide an opinion about what needs to happen for the property to actually be rent ready, because that’s not done in the inspection report.

Chad Franzen  6:54 

Is there something about you guys, that kind of makes you different from maybe other property management companies out there?

Mat Zalk  6:59 

Yeah, I mean, we call ourselves The Same Day Property Management company, that’s why this podcast is called The Same Day Podcast, we focus on high touch communication, we want an owner to be updated every step along the way as a property flows through the process from being on boarded to being leased, and then being renewed the next year. So we communicate a lot. And we’re happy to do that until our owners go, okay, I trust you, you know, no problem, you don’t have to communicate as much, and then we might scale it back. But in essence, the property management industry has had a bad rap for a long time. Some of our owners think that we make up work orders if we don’t have enough stuff to do. And we’re sending out vendors unnecessarily. And so we want to make sure that when we get a work order from a tenant, whether that says, the latch on my toilet doesn’t work, and I say to that tenant, I say hey, by the way, go to Home Depot, buy one for $6. And here’s a YouTube on how to replace it. That’s not something that we’re going to send out to a maintenance tech for $65 or a plumber for $90 to fix, you have to do it. But I want to make sure that the owner knows, every time a work order comes in, that work order came in, and they can provide feedback if they don’t think it’s something we’re doing. So there are differences in opinions and philosophies about who is responsible for what, in terms of maintenance on the house. At my properties, I own 50 or 60 properties at my homes, I do quarterly pest control, because I don’t think even the best tenants may not do pest control. And I want to make sure that the problem doesn’t get out of hand such that I have to have a much more heavy touch solution down the road. So I do pest control of my properties, or at least says that pest control after the first seven days is on the tenant. So why do I do it, it’s a philosophy, not all of our owners want to do it, some of them are a little more cash conscious. And so if a tenant submits a work order for pest control, we might naturally tell them, hey, it’s in your lease that you do it. So, get it done. But we might also for something like, as simple as an example of the fourth burner on the stove doesn’t work, I would fix it if it were my property. But if an owner says that burner hasn’t worked in six years, and it never bothered me about the tenant deal with it, I’d say okay, I’m willing to accept that as a solution. Please know that they might not accept a rent increases readily. They may feel like we’re not taking good care of them. But that’s an option. As long as you know your options, I’m working as an intermediary, I’m working on your behalf. And I’ll handle that the way you want it to be handled. But so we make sure that our communication is top notch and that we bring the owner along every step of the journey, as long as they want to be involved. If they don’t respond to us, we accept that, we’re not the center of the universe. And some owners want to be purely passive, we go cool, no problem. We’ll fix it the way we would want it to be fixed if it were our property. But in so much as you have the opportunity, you then have the choice. Do you want to respond and let us know how you want to do it? Or do you want to just let us run with it. So I think that differentiates us one is communication. Two is we will literally do anything related to the property. You want us to tear down and rebuild it. We will do that, we’ve got a contractor on the team Seth Rice, I mentioned a couple of times on the podcast. He’s a fantastic general contractor was an unlimited journeyman electrician in his previous life and so he knows contracting really, really well. We’ve got all the vendors that will do anything from basic painting and make ready stuff to we want to take it down to the studs and rewire all the electrical, put a new HVAC on the plumbing, service lines, water and gas and plumbing lines into the property. We’ll do it all. We don’t shy away from any sort of contracting work. And many companies don’t do that much work. Because there’s a liability associated with that we’re willing to accept that. And we want to do the work.

Chad Franzen  7:29 

What would you say is most surprising, is that like a common thing that is really surprising to people who are excited about this property that they’re ready to put up for rent?

Mat Zalk  10:20 

I mean, the most common thing we’re seeing in this market now with interest rates, bumping up three-quarters of a point, it might actually change, but I think people have been surprised that we’ve been able to get more rent than they ever expected, right? I mean, we just have to put things up, and just hope that we get a quick bite on a pop rent on like rent, that’s 75, 100, $200, more than we were expecting it. So people have been really surprised that things have properties have rented for a lot more than they were expecting, but in a traditional sense, outside of the crazy COVID market from years before, and I suspect what we’re going to enter now, not being a 21st or second of June, I don’t even know, but I suspect we’re coming into a slower market rent and rent rates have come down just a little bit, or they won’t at least pop as much as they have been over the last two years. And people are a little bit shocked by certainly how much things cost these days. So an HVAC system that was formerly five or $6,000 is now $9,000. Things are just, the prices have gone up in such an incredible way. And it’s hard for us to do anything about it. If you want to start a two-by-four right now, it’s four or five, six times what it was two years ago, a sheet of OSB at 75 or $80 was formerly $12. I mean, that’s a global supply chain shortage. It’s just there’s an inability to get stuff. price gouging, I’m sure form some part of that. But I think one thing that shocks owners is how much prices have gone up from basic materials and labor over the past two years.

Chad Franzen  11:43 

You said you kind of got involved in this because you couldn’t find somebody who you were satisfied with to help you with that. Have you always had this kind of like problem-solving spirit where you’re just going to start something because you’re frustrated over not being able to find it?

Mat Zalk  11:57 

I don’t know if I’ve always had it. But certainly, when I worked at McKinsey, I was a consultant at McKinsey in the Middle East in the Dubai office. And there’s a huge emphasis placed on problem-solving. It’s like nobody else is going to solve this for you, the buck stops if you figure it out. And so there were times when we were working for various companies, and the solution was, fly to a different country, go to a retail outlet for that company and figure out what is causing declining sales. And I would do that, I mean, I might be in a suit walking around Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia, and 110 degree heat wandering into the cardiac shop or something like that, something crazy at a mall. And it was just find the problems. And so I think born out of that experience, I became a better problem solver and then stepping into the entrepreneurial journey, we’ve had a huge emphasis on just improving things, right? I don’t want to solve the same problem over and over. So let’s find a great solution to a problem once and then implement that solution across the business.

Chad Franzen  12:55 

How did you kind of get things started, then like, you decided to do this? How did you end up kind of get things started? What were your first few clients like?

Mat Zalk  13:04 

Yeah, so I mean, at the beginning, I was doing everything, right. I mean, I was taking photos, I was doing inspections, I was listing them online, I was doing the showings, I was doing everything. And as our team built our almost a team of 80 people. But as our team grew, I was able to parse out things and people were able to get go deeper in their expertise. So I remember early on, I had a colleague, Michael, and we had rented a property. And Michael got a phone call when the tenants moved in. And they were like, hey, there’s a Lexus in the garage. And I was like, oh, that’s a shocker. I guess I never walked into the garage, when I did photos, or when I did, the inspection or whatever else, I guess I was doing kind of a light touch inspection. So another example of that was, we’d lease properties in winter. And then there’d be some issue where the tenant moves in and can’t get heat turned on, because there’s no gas line or the meters removed, and we just didn’t notice it. And so hiring our first maintenance inspectors that would go through and do like 100 point inspection, they go into AppFolio, or software and they just do a full inspection, they check whether sockets or electrical sockets are working to check whether gas is on, the check whether the will function, the AC will function, etc, etc, was a huge turning point in our ability to service our tenants really well. And the problem with any small issue is that it blows up. Obviously, I’m not saying anything new here, but it blows up in your face and it stops you as you deal with that emergency. It stops your ability to handle other residents and provide everybody with quality service. So in the event that you don’t have heat in winter, for example, a tenant is calling you every five minutes. You’re calling the plumber, you’re trying to get a solution while you’re calling the plumber. And while the tenant is calling you to yell at you, you miss three other phone calls from other people that might be just trying to do relatively innocuous things. I mean, they’re calling to schedule a viewing, they’re calling to check whether you received the rent check that they paid whatever it is, but now instead of being able to handle those with a one-minute phone call, you got the missed call, the voicemail, you’ve got to call them back, you miss them, then they call you. So it’s just it turns a one-minute exercise into a five-minute exercise, multiply that by the hundreds of things that we do every day. And we get probably 150 calls on our main line every day, that now, obviously we don’t deal with individually, there are people in the business that handle those phone calls, specifically, but if you can just solve the problem on the front end, in this case, by having a maintenance inspector go through and identify everything that’s wrong with the property so we can get it solved before somebody moves in, everybody has a better experience. And that means the tenant is from the start has much more a feeling of goodwill towards Keyrenter, and as a result towards the owner, and will accept rent increases will likely sign their lease for renewal, etc.

Chad Franzen  15:40 

So who do you guys serve everywhere, anyone from one person who has a house, they want to rent to people who own major complexes?

Mat Zalk  15:47 

Totally. So our largest clients might have 95 homes, they might have 100 unit complex plus, a 10 unit plus 25 single families, literally, from the smallest person to the largest institutional investor, we’ve got tons of people, tons of institutional investor clients that add five or 10 or 15, sometimes 20 properties a month, and then they’ve got to be renovated, they’ve got to be sometimes we do Cash for Keys, we literally runs the gamut. We handle anybody that has a single family, or multifamily residential, or 100 who want it handled.

Chad Franzen  16:22 

Okay, sounds good. Hey, tell me about this podcast. Why are you starting it?

Mat Zalk  16:27 

Yeah. So, now that we’re an organization of 75, or 80, people, it becomes really important that my voice as the founder, as the visionary of the business, can cascade down through various levels of the organization. It’s important that people understand kind of how things started, like this conversation, why we started things, how things start. And we do that in an annual meeting, where we get everybody together in one room, and kind of tell our origin story, talk about our core values, give core value awards, etc. But it’s also really important that some of the minutiae of the details of why we started things, how we’ve made progress, or core value of improvement, the little things that we’ve improved over time get communicated down through various levels of the organization. In addition to that, our sales team is fantastic, they do a great job, but they don’t have necessarily all of the background, all of the history as to why we do things. They don’t have some of the hero stories that we have, that I have when I used to do sales. I could reach back into the memory bank and talk about some of our original client experiences, original 10 experiences, and explain how something today that we do was a result of a problem that we saw years ago. So I want to make sure that we’ve got both evergreen content for potential clients for the future. And also that our internal team has content that they can share with owners and understands the origin story of this business. And fundamentally, this is the best way for me to create leverage, I can’t be everywhere at all times, I can’t be in all of our markets. And as we grow to new markets, as we expect to do over the next 18 or 24 months, I want to make sure that some of the hero stories are captured for posterity.

Chad Franzen  18:04 

So who do you think the show is best for?

Mat Zalk  18:09 

I think we’re recording a lot of different episodes for different people. They’re great stories of entrepreneurs, and the fundamental the hustle and bustle that it takes to push down barriers and boundaries and borders and be an entrepreneur. There’s tons of content that we’re going to produce if you haven’t already for individual owners that want to understand how we do stuff, like how we do an eviction and when, what the timeline is, and that’s core process of what we do. How we do leasing, what websites we syndicate to, how we generated our lease and why it’s a very extensive, long lease, it’s fundamentally it’s fairly favored towards the landlord us in this scenario and protecting our owners. There’s tons of content that will be relevant for various people, people in Tulsa, Oklahoma City in Northwest Arkansas communities that are just interested in local business because we’re interviewing a lot of different business owners, entrepreneurs, and then people that are interested in how property management works.

Chad Franzen  19:09 

Okay. Hey, sounds great. I will look forward to hearing future episodes. Hey, I really appreciate you giving me the chance to talk to you today. Thanks so much, man.

Mat Zalk  19:17 

Thank you.

Chad Franzen  19:19 

So long, everybody.

Outro  19:23 

Thanks for listening to The Same Day Podcast. Tune in to a new show each week, and be sure to subscribe to get future episodes.