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How Okano Properties Built a Tech Stack to Move their Property Management In-House

CHRIS OKANO

MANAGER AT OKANO PROPERTIES INC.

“Okage Sama De” is a Japanese phrase that Chris Okano, of Okano Properties, Inc., keeps front of mind. It is a reminder to be grateful to your ancestors. Be thankful for their sacrifices and take care of what they leave behind for you. In Chris’ case, that means the family business.

What led Okano Properties Inc. to change the way they were managing your properties?

George S. Okano, Chris’ grandfather and founder of George Okano Electrical Service, Ltd., began investing the profits from his electrical contracting business into Hawaii real estate in the 1950’s. He got involved in developing residential housing tracts, multi-family housing, and the headquarters of his company. 

By the time Chris stepped in to modernize the day-to-day operations in 2009, the property management was handled by third-party organizations. Looking at the assets held at the time, it was evident that each property acquired or developed by the founder was in a prime location and of superior construction quality. However, the returns were falling below the market rate for properties of similar quality.

 

What are the benefits of managing your properties in-house?

Acknowledging that, “No one cares like an owner,” Chris decided to take the property management in-house—which led to several key benefits:

  • Control over the tenant selection process
  • Building strong relationships with vendors
  • Saving time and money
  • Positioning the business for scalability

 

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How has managing properties in-house changed Okano Properties business?

Developing a strong relationship with tenants is important, but having full control and visibility into the selection process has been a game changer for Okano Properties.

“We’ve seen a tremendous advantage from managing this function and speaking directly to prospective tenants. By being selective and bringing in higher quality tenants, we’re not having a problem collecting rent because the tenants are the more financially sound ones.” 

Why are relationships so important for Okano Properties?

The importance of relationship building cannot be overstated. Okano Properties have developed valuable trade relationships by spending their own maintenance funds directly, which leads to lower costs and faster turnaround on maintenance and construction projects.

As Chris notes, “I’ve already collected the CAM, so if I hire someone to do work, why would I not pay on receipt of the supplier invoice? I’m not trying to use their cash flow to run my business.”

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This streamlined approach allows for almost unlimited scalability with real-time visibility into financial and operational data accessible from any device (mobile phone, tablet, MAC/PC), all without adding staff.
 
.CHRIS OKANO

What other benefits has Okano Properties realized by managing their properties in house?

Arguably the biggest benefit Chris recognized from bringing the property management in-house is the ability to re-invest the money saved back into the properties and business, creating a catalyst for future growth. 

Having previously worked in Silicon Valley, Chris was no stranger to leveraging technology to run businesses efficiently. By 2018, an entirely new tech stack was in place. They had moved from a traditional desktop accounting system to Xero’s cloud-based accounting platform and connected Xero with Re-Leased and Bill.com. 

“The incremental cost of this setup is fractional compared to traditional property management, allowing the savings to be reinvested,” Chris explained. 

How has Okano Properties set up their connected cloud workflows?

 Re-Leased manages the leases (including CAM validation, budgeting, lease term enforcement, and maintenance tracking) and generates the monthly invoices, which post to Xero automatically. In addition, electronic rent payments and payables are handled through Bill.com all single entry.

“This streamlined approach allows for almost unlimited scalability with real-time visibility into financial and operational data accessible from any device (mobile phone, tablet, MAC/PC), all without adding staff.”

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