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Summer 2019 Updates

Sometimes you can see the changes and sometimes they’re behind the scenes, but we’re always working to make Anikio better! Here is some of what we’re doing and planning to do over the next few months:

What’s New

1) Email – We’ve improved the email that is sent to landlords when tenants fill out an inquiry form. In the past, an error in the way some email applications worked caused the Anikio logo used to get bigger and bigger as the email was written. Great as that might be for brand recognition, we’ve done away with that. Now emails look great no matter what you use to respond to them! Another small improvement is the ability to click the phone number and call a tenant back right from the email (thanks to a helpful user suggestion).

2) Easier Search – We found that some of our users didn’t even know that from the main page you could expand the selection within Saskatoon (or Saskatoon & Area) to see regions and neighbourhoods. We’ve made those arrows bolder, and easier to click for the chubby fingered. On top of that, there were a few pesky bugs with the Preferred Search not properly resetting that have been dealt with.

3) Direct Linking – In the past, when a listing was marked as rented by thje landlord, it would not be visible even if the user went directly to the address – they would get a 404 (not found) error. Now, users are shown the listing with contact information removed and a message stating that the property has been rented. Better for users, better for Google, better for all of us!

What’s Next 

1) Recently Rented Property – We’re working on a module that will let you view properties that have recently come off the market right from the home page (and evenutally as a page all its own). So that property you were looking at last week that disappeared – you’ll know it’s because the landlord found a tenant.

2) Photo Sorting – Some recent updates have created issues with our photo sorting not saving. We’re working very hard to fix this… and make it possible to do so from your mobile phone!

 

 

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Wrapped Up in Anikio Swag

Dean, decked out in Anikio swag

Last week I ordered copies of the newly completed Anikio brochure from Vistaprint. And then, probably because I was excited to get them, and because there was a special price offered when I went to check out, I decided to also order an Anikio mug. Oh! And Krystal had been saying we should have Anikio shirts made, particularly for when we go do photo shoots and virtual tours. So I ordered three of those, too, even though I knew my logo needed a bit of optimizing before I could really get it embroidered. One for me, one for Gabe (our official photographer), and one, of course, for Krystal.

They all have arrived now, an exciting moment combined with a “maybe patience is not only a virtue but could save you some money” moment. The photo you see above is me at my desk working on a few more Anikio features decked out in swag. I was genuinely excited, don’t get me wrong, but here’s what I learned:

1) RTFM – Read the $%&%@$& manual. I created the brochure in Microsoft Publisher, and at the last minute I noticed a few things missing and so I made some quick edits and reuploaded. I ordered a small run of 25 on two types of paper (thankfully I was cautious). However, on one of them, I mixed up the front and back covers, and so it folds backwards. Maybe I can use those for folks from countries where they read right-to-left? But thanks to Murphy’s law, the bad layout is on the expensive paper. I also observed that when the images snap into place on Vistaprint, it doesn’t snap to the fold like it’s supposed to. All that said, they do look pretty good, I’ve made fixes and will order more when I get through these.

2) Not on white – I don’t mind the shirts really. The small “Find It, Rent It, Love It” was removed, probably because it’s too small to embroider well, but I would’ve liked it there. The logo looks fine for not having been optimized, but the shirt is a little thin and the white is kind of plain. So I’m going to try on blue I think, when Darren (our graphics guy) gets a chance to rework it.

3) The mug looks great! I put the picture I use for the Anikio homepage on the back (which is maybe a bit homely) but I enjoy having that mug on my desk. Krystal may take it to work for some free advertising though. So I’ll have to order another. Anyone else want one?

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Major Update to Social Login

Hi all, Dean here! Some time ago, Google announced that it was ending its Google Plus social media platform. That wasn’t supposed to affect us, even though we did use it to make logging in quick. Unfortunately, in the last couple weeks, a few new users reported that they were seeing a warning message when they tried to register. It turns out that it did affect us and we had to completely redo the way that login works.

So the good news is that we have just deployed and tested, and as far as we can tell, everything is working great! There is no longer an issue for new users and existing users won’t even notice a difference. Furthermore, changes did affect Facebook login but you shouldn’t notice anything on your end either except faster login. Woohoo! The only bad news is that we no longer receive an email address when signing in with Yahoo, so Yahoo users will need to manually enter their email address when they register. Once registered, everything will work quickly and painlessly.

Concluding, everything should be running great for our existing users and new users alike. Users creating an account with Yahoo just have to enter their email address. So why the post? Because if there are ANY issues you encounter with logging in, registering, or creating an account, please send us feedback asap! It will be much appreciated.

Happy renting!

Dean

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Meeting with REIGS – Real Estate Investors Group of Saskatchewan

Back in the spring, Anikio was invited to give a presentation for a local group of landlords, property managers, and investors called REIGS – Real Estate Investment Group of Saskatchewan. It was great to be able to speak to a lot of experts in the industry and share a bit not only about what Anikio is doing, but more generally what we all can do to improve the state of the rental marketplace in this city and province. More importantly, it was great to meet such a friendly, welcoming, and genuine people. There were about 40 people in attendance (which I’m told is a smaller meeting for them) but there still wasn’t anywhere near enough time to really get to talk with everyone that I wanted to (i.e. everyone).

As for the presentation itself, I talked a bit about the headaches that landlords have in renting their property and the issues facing tenants and why I created Anikio to try to actually do something to remove or at least reduce those pain points. I also spoke a fair amount on the importance of good visuals and why it’s so important for tenants to be able to not only understand the space before arriving for a viewing, but also to feel a connection with the place, to be able to picture it as a home and feel something beyond looking at yet another empty room.

After our presentation was another presentation… about giving good presentations. It was, as you might expect, engaging and interesting and I’m for the most part glad that I went first and didn’t have to think afterwards about what “rules” I’d broken in my own presentation! Then the group stayed around and mingled and I had a chance to chat with some really great people that I hadn’t spoken with before the meeting. All in all, I not only feel that the presentation was successful at carrying our message (and hope we’ll be seeing more property on the site as a result) but also am excited to start going to these meetings monthly to spend more time in good company (And hopefully learn a thing or two while I’m at it).

I’m not sure that it’s my place to do so, but if you ARE a landlord or property manager, I’d certainly encourage you to come out and attend one of these events. Stay tuned on our Facebook page for the next REIGS event and please come and introduce yourself!

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Introducing Gabe!


Hi everyone! I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to Gabe Wong, who has joined us as photographer and virtual tour expert! Gabe’s family also has a portfolio of rental property in the city that he manages, so he’s a perfect fit! We’re shooting a place right now in Evergreen, and I have to say it’s a lot more fun talking to someone than talking to myself when I’m running around taking photos.

Shooting a virtual tour for a house in Evergreen

Gabe isn’t perfect, I admit – he shoots with Canon instead of Nikon! But despite our difference in equipment, he does great work and we’re happy to be working with him! By the way, look for this new rental to be listed on Anikio shortly!

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The Origin of Anikio

In getting the word out, I’ve called quite a few landlords. In those calls, one of the more common questions isn’t really posed as a question… it’s more just an increase in the pitch of their voice as they repeat Anikio to me. “Where,” they wonder, “did he come up with THAT name? What could it mean?”

And so, to find out, I went to the oracle, who I affectionately call my Uncle Nick. How a little rental website from Saskatoon could end up with such a name, set in place by the ancient Greeks (oops, spoiler alert) from a time when Plato had only theorized the concept of an internet, is still beyond me a bit, but I hope this video will shed some light on it for you folks!

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Christmas Light Tour

Saskatoon Christmas-Light-Map
Check out the Saskatoon Star Phoenix’s 2018 Christmas Lights Tour while you’re out looking at rental properties!

While you’re out looking at rental suites in Saskatoon, get yourself into the Christmas spirit with the Star Phoenix’s Tour Guide to some of the best Christmas light displays in the city! My favourite is always 2706 Clinskill Drive, where you tune your radio to 89.7 FM and see the lights set to music. As well, there are several other nice houses in the area that you will see. Hours for that house are from 5:30-10:30 PM 7 days/week. And of course, it’s always nice to take the family out to see the Enchanted Forest at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm if you’re looking around the University Heights area.

Here’s a direct link to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix Christmas Light Tour Map that you can keep open in your phone for your navigator on the road!

 

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Progress Report: First Two Weeks

First two weeks tenants at Anikio

We’ve officially been launched for about two weeks and it has been way busier than I could’ve expected but really great. I thought I would document some of the early-days efforts being made and things that have been happening over these past couple weeks. But first, have a look at the number of daily unique users coming to check out Anikio (on the right)! It’s exciting to have progress like this as we try to spread the word around Saskatoon about our efforts to make the process of renting a bit better.

There has been a lot of effort on my part, getting in touch with landlords, going to properties and shooting virtual tours and free photos, and so on, but I really do want to thank all the great friends, family, and new supporters that have been spreading the word to their own friends and families about what we’re trying to do here. That word of mouth has, at the end of the day, been what has really helped get us off the ground. Please keep it up and don’t hesitate to give any landlords or tenants you know my information – I will help them however I can!

Anyway, progress aside, here are some of the other cool things that have been happening these first two weeks:

 

Business Cards

Well, the first thing is I finally got my business cards printed and delivered – and I love them. It feels a little more official to have a business card now. I struggled a bit with what my title should be, though. Owner? CEO? Manager? Developer? President? His Royal Highness? You want to convey that you are responsible for the company without seemingly over-inflating your own importance. I mean, it’s not like I have a 300-person team that I’m organizing or managing. In the end I stuck with founder. Partly because I like the symmetry with “Find it.” Find it? Found ‘er!

My good friend, Darren Bielecki, created the design from his home in Kamsack. This might be a good time to talk about the logo as well. That started out as sketches that my fiancée, soon to be wife, Krystal sketched on loose-leaf when I first came up with the name a few months ago. The ‘A’ house was all her. Initially, the ‘O’ was going to be a key, but it was hard to make that look good and then it hit me that I could make it into a magnifying glass. And from those sketches and ideas, Darren created the digital version of the logos that you see all over the site today.

Virtual Differentiation

Of course I believe that having a site dedicated to the rental market is going to provide a better experience for all involved. The search filtering and listing of rental units by relevance to a tenant’s needs instead of by newest listing is, I think, a big step forward from what was being done before we came around. The next step is to make sure that the listings on Anikio offer the best possible experience for the landlords and tenants. With that in mind, I bought a 360-degree camera to shoot virtual tours of rental properties. Virtual tours let tenants get a better idea of how suitable a property is before they even reach out to the landlord, and on their own schedule. And they save time going to viewings only to discover that the space isn’t what they thought it was from the photos. This also saves the landlord (and potentially the current tenants) time by further qualifying tenants before spending time driving across town to show a suite. Of course a real-life viewing will always be needed, but the tenant should be much more serious by then.

All this is to say, I’ve shot 6 different virtual tours for various properties in the last week or so and had a lot of fun doing it and seeing the end results. (Here’s one of my favourites). Plus, I’ve got to meet some great landlords that really are looking at ways to make the overall experience better and have been very supportive. It’s quite a different thing, shooting 360 degrees, because there’s nowhere for the photographer to hide. You could make a game out of trying to guess my hiding spots or spotting a shadow here or there, or, in one case, a stack of business cards that I left on the counter. I also had to do some work to make my logo appear correctly in the 3D world by warping it as though being viewed through a fisheye lens.

Social Media Marketing

My cousin Constantin owns and operates Buy-Sell-Find New & Used Restaurant Equipment. He’s been growing that from nothing into an impressive operation over the past 2 years and was good enough to invite me in to listen to Chuck from Saskatoon UpClose talk about marketing strategies. I’m sure he’d cringe at all the text in this blog, but I’m a bit under the weather today and don’t want to subject the world to a video of that! Anyway, there’ve been a lot of good ideas and information from the first two sessions and I will have a couple more next week as well. We did shoot a few videos/snippets that I’ll start posting here as I get time to edit them – one thing’s for sure, I have more ideas than time or money to implement them!

So, that’s been a small sample of what these first couple weeks have been like. Thanks again for spreading the word! Everyone knows at least one landlord even if you don’t realize it!

Dean

 

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Preparing for Property Photos or VR Tour

When it comes to marketing your property, nothing makes a bigger impact on the first impression than the visuals you use in your listing. Photos, videos, and even virtual tours can mean the different between finding a good tenant right away or having a vacant property for 1-2 months. Anikio offers professional photography and virtual tours, but whether you’re planning to shoot your own photos or use a professional, here are some things that will make sure you get the best results possible before you take off that lens cap:

Preparing Your Property

  1. Fix/Patch – Good photos should last you through many tenants. Make sure that suite repairs, patches, and fixes are done. Just like you’re looking for a reliable tenant that will pay on time, tenants want reliable landlords that make repairs promptly. Photos of walls (or doors) with holes, cupboards missing doors, or half-completed renovations don’t give a good impression even if you are in the middle of repairing them.
  2. Don’t Forget Outside – It’s always a good idea to have at least one exterior photo. Make sure the yard, deck, and porch are in good condition (grass cut, snow shoveled, garbage bins tucked away).
  3. Replace Burned-Out Bulbs – Now that your place is patched and fixed, don’t forget to make sure that all your bulbs are installed and working. When you take a picture, what you’re really doing is capturing light from the scene. Less light, less great of a photo. And again, it speaks to how well the property is maintained.
  4. Put Stuff Away – Loose items like vacuum cleaner hoses, rags, things left behind from the previous tenant, etc. should be neatly put away in their usual storage place. This will save you having professional photos shot only to find a dirty rag sitting on top of your washer/dryer.
  5. Clean – Hopefully the suite was cleaned when the previous tenants left, but if they missed a few things (or you made some dust in the previous three steps) take the time to clean up floors, baseboards, etc. and make everything look its best. Again, it’s a bit of pain now for photos that can last many years.

Taking Photos

  1. Lights! Get all the lights on, even the ones in adjacent rooms, on the porch, etc. Light makes your place feel more warm and welcoming but it also makes your photo results better. Cameras adjust to low light by a combination of leaving the shutter open longer or increasing the ISO. The longer the shutter is open, the more likely the image will be blurry from your hand shaking. This can be combatted by using a tripod. As for increasing the ISO, what this really means is a more grainy and less clear photo. The smaller the camera (for example if you’re using your phone) the less it is able to deal with low light.
  2. Blinds! Open all the blinds. Again, you want to let in as much light as possible for your photo. This part can be a bit tricky, though. If you are shooting a scene with open blinds and the sun streaming in, the camera can think the picture is too bright and make everything dark inside so that the scene outside the window is exposed correctly. On most cameras you can adjust the exposure (for example, on an iPhone, click the light icon on the yellow box and drag up to brighten the image) so that the inside is exposed correctly. This may result in a very white/bright window. Optionally, try to shoot with your back to the window to use all that light to your advantage, or if you have a HDR-capable camera (and tripod!) you may be able to get several photos of the same scene at different exposures and put them together to better replicate the dynamic range (from darkest to brightest) that the human eye can resolve.
  3. Camera! Modern phones have better and better cameras and AI all the time. These days, with enough light, you can get perfectly acceptable photos with a phone camera and occasional use of the panorama feature. However, nothing beats a nice big wide-angle lens on an SLR camera for collecting more light in the same scene. And don’t forget about a tripod for sharp, clear, low-noise photos in even dark rooms. As mentioned above, the tripod is also critical for shooting HDR photos that extend the range between the blackest black and whitest white to allow more of the image to shine through.
  4. Action! Where possible, try to take your photos in landscape (wide) format instead of tall. This shows a more natural view of how people see the world and gives more of a sense of seeing a complete picture. Portrait (tall) photos are useful in small spaces but when used in large rooms, they can make it look like you’re trying to hide something. Photos look best on Anikio when they are cropped to a 16×9 widescreen format, but standard straight-out-of camera photos will work with no cropping also. If you know a bit about photography, you may also wish to do some post-processing of the photos, making sure the white balance is accurate, putting together your HDR photos and panoramas, and double-checking that the photos look as good and as accurate as possible.

 

 

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Renting vs. Buying: Financial Comparison

Your parents, your friends, maybe even your financial advisor – if you rent, you’ve probably heard people talk about you ‘throwing your money away’ as though you were folding $100 bills into paper airplanes… and then lighting them on fire without even throwing them. The reality is, buying a property is making an investment, and not all investments are good ones. Overpriced homes in heated markets (are we past that yet?) don’t necessarily appreciate in value and on top of it there are maintenance costs, bank interest, real estate and legal fees, and so on. On the other hand, renting isn’t an investment at all, it’s paying for a space to live! There are much more wasteful ways to spend your money! You’re also relieved of a lot of the headaches and expenses of owning, or at least renting brings its own headaches but usually much less expensive than, say, replacing a roof.

Of course what those well-meaning associates are getting at is that your rent isn’t an investment, where at least the non-interest part of your mortgage is. We experienced something unusual in Saskatchewan over the last 15 or so years where artificially low prices suddenly caught up with demand. People with $80,000 homes they’d bought in 1990 could turn around and sell those home for about double that only 5 years later. That sort of investment return is hard to forget and may be part of the reason for what might be considered a bit of excess enthusiasm.  If you’re renting, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage, or at least part of it, but if you, for example, go to a restaurant and have a meal, you’re paying part of that restaurant owner’s mortgage on their home or business, not to mention the servers, cooks, and others that the restaurant pays to provide you with that meal and somewhere to eat it. If you pay for a service, in this case, a roof over your head, what the service provider uses the money for is irrelevant and ultimately, a large business expense that if it wasn’t paid for, would mean you’d have to find a new place to rent.

All this is really preamble for a great comparison of renting vs buying by the Globe & Mail that is worth a watch for anyone making a financial plan for their future: