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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 9 months ago

Great Jones keeping up with high-tech platform

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2-year-old residential property management firm combines Wall Street tech sophistication with Main Street service.
by: Andrew Warfield Lee-Collier Editor

Great Jones, the street in Manhattan, is about 2 miles north of Wall Street. Great Jones, its namesake property management company, is closer to Main Street.

Founded in 2016 on Great Jones Street in New York City and now firmly rooted in Fort Myers, is Great Jones a tech company that does property management, or a property management company built around tech?

“The true brilliance is taking something that's complicated and making it look simple. That is hard. It's really easy to build something with 1,000 buttons. It's hard to build something with five that does what 1,000 buttons do. We're doing that.” David Diaz

“If you ask Florida you get one answer, if you ask New York you get another,” says David Diaz, one of three co-founders, who oversees Florida operations from the downtown Fort Myers office. “We are a technology-powered property management company, and as I understand it, one of the very few in the country that can actually build their own tech in a meaningful and very large way.”

That model is built on technology, with customized software allowing Great Jones to serve equally the owner of a single rental property as it does the investment partnership that owns hundreds. The model's secret sauce? It's based on modest management fees and no hidden charges, resulting in exponential growth.

In fewer than 18 months of operations, Great Jones co-founding partners Jay Goldklang, 35, Abigail Besdin, 33, and Diaz, 38, have grown the firm from scratch to managing more than 1,000 properties valued in excess of $150 million in select markets from Naples to Jacksonville. They are now eyeing the Midwest for expansion outside of Florida. 

The private company wouldn’t disclose financial information; officials say it earned 20 times more revenue in 2018 than it did in its partial first year of 2017. 

From left, Jay Goldklang, Abigail Besdin and David Diaz founded Great Jones in 2016 with a goal of revolutionizing residential property management through technology. Courtesy Great Jones

“We're taking this Wall Street approach and putting it in a format that works well for a customer with one to five homes,” says Diaz. “We have customers with 50 or 100 homes, too, and they're expecting a different level of sophistication from their management company because they are accustomed to seeing a higher level of data.”

In Florida, Great Jones has offices in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, serving areas around the southern Interstate 75, northern Interstate 95 and Interstate 4 corridors. The Fort Myers office covers Sarasota to Charlotte counties, the Tampa office Hillsboro, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties. 

Each market office is strategically located with management teams and routing configured for optimal local coverage at efficient costs to the property owner. The Fort Myers office also serves as the operations hub for the company, while the New York office provides technology, product design, marketing and some sales. Great Jones employs 25 in Fort Myers and 20 in New York.

Diaz says Goldklang, in founding the business, latched on to a key business principle: solving customer's problems requires a centralized, controlled environment. 

"What he ultimately realized was in order to fix it all, you have to control it all," says Diaz. "We want to solve the root problem for the customer, so we view ourselves as the hub, the trusted partner for that owner, and anything we bring into that equation we want to be fully aligned.”

In its first four weeks of operations in Fort Myers in summer 2017, Diaz says the company signed up 10 homes. In December 2018,  it added 260 homes to its portfolio.

“The number gets bigger every month,” says Diaz. “The average property management company itself equals just one month of our growth in numbers, and it may have taken them five or 10 years to get there. I'm not tooting our horn with that, the software allows us to absorb that volume.”

That volume business model, meanwhile, is reflected in its pricing. Great Jones charges a flat rate, 8% to 10% of the rent depending upon the type the property, but caps its monthly management fee at $149. It also doesn’t charge extra fees for services, such as repairs, otherwise typical in the industry. The software gives property owners their individualized preferred level of data, ranging from the client who wants minute detail to the professional investor who prefers to not be bothered.

“We have the day trader who doesn’t want to be called unless the house burns down,” says Diaz, “and we have the client who inherited mom’s house and never owned a rental property before. Both of them deserve the same level of service, and our system can be customized to their individual needs.”

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