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Fall 2019 Updates

Today is election day and we just got back in from a nice stroll through one of the linear parks in Evergreen to our voting station at the Sylvia Fedoruk school. If you haven’t yet, stop reading this and go vote! We’ll still be here when you get back.

In the spirit of election giveaways (or maybe as an early Halloween treat), we have some exciting updates and new features on the site that we want to share with you. Maybe you’ve noticed them already? Either way, we’re always looking at ways to improve so keep that feedback coming!

What’s New

1) Recently Rented Property – Starting more or less now, we’re recording the date that property is marked as rented. That way, we can show you what properties have recently gone off the market and are no longer available (in case you’re wondering where that beautiful 4-bedroom house you were looking at has gone). Once there’s been enough time passed to populate the recently rented properties page (i.e. new and current property has been rented out) then you’ll see this appear on the home page next to the For You section. Don’t worry landlords, once the property is rented, anyone looking at the listing will see a big red banner letting them know that this listing is no longer available… and we take off the contact section (just don’t put the contact info in your listing description).

2) Apply Preferred Search Filters – You may have noticed that the main page search box allows you to instantly enable your preferred search filters so you can see the places that match your criteria on the map. If you haven’t done so yet, go ahead and Register and then, under your Profile, you can modify your Preferred Search to only show properties that would meet your needs. Still too many? Maybe not yet, but when there are, then go ahead and start adding your wants in, too.  Once you’ve done that, then number three on this list gets a lot more useful:

3) Improved “For You” Section – On the main page there is a section where you can see our Featured listings, the Newest listings, and a section called “For You.” Up until now, it wasn’t all that helpful but if you’ve created a Preferred Search in your profile, this will show you the best matches based on what you’re looking for. Eventually we will be applying some algorithms to make even better recommendations for places that we think you’ll like based on your criteria.

4) Photo Sorting – It’s now possible to rearrange your photos and caption them from mobile. We’re still working out a few kinks with the way the ordering is saving, but this is really close to completion.

5) Improved Renewal Emails – Our basic email notifying landlords that their property has expired has been beefed up! First, we send a preliminary notice 5 days before the listing expires with an option to early renew and maintain continuity right from the email. Don’t worry, we’ll add another month past your previous expiry date so renewing early doesn’t cost you any time. If the property has been rented, you can also mark it as rented right from your inbox. Nice! If you missed the chance to renew your listing then we’ll still send a second email after the listing has expired. Again, you’ll be able to renew or mark the property rented right from the email.

What’s Next 

1) Photo Sorting – While the functionality has improved from a month ago, there’s still more work to do making this as seamless as possible. A few more bugs to squish, if we’re being totally upfront about it. But hopefully that will be finished soon.

2) Virtual Tour Link – The way that we’re including virtual tours with our listings is changing. Previously, when a landlord made an edit to change a property, we would have to go and add the virtual tour back in to the property again. Once this is done, that issue will go away and landlords will be able to edit their property without fear of losing their virtual tour.

3) Standardized Introduction Form – While we have several levels of spam prevention built in to our contact forms, our goal is to help make the rental process better for everyone. With that in mind, we will be working towards a standardized ‘greeting’ or introduction form. This will allow our tenants to send some key basic information about who they are and what they’re looking for to landlords instead of writing and re-writing. A standardized introduction will help everyone save time, tenants don’t need to write and re-write introductions, and landlords get a better first impression of potential tenants than a message saying “Is this available?” So much time is wasted waiting between a basic message like that and a reply saying, “Yes, can you tell me about yourself? Question question?” and then the tenant writing another reply. Tip to tenants – if the property is listed, assume it’s available even though we know that landlords and property managers sometimes miss taking properties down. And if you DO contact a landlord that says the property isn’t available, let us know so we can get it taken down!

 

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2019 Canada Election Proposals Related To Housing, Mortgages, and Students

2019 Canadian Federal Election Parties

With the 2019 Federal Election approaching, the promises are flying fast and furious. Here is a look at some of the planks we think are going to be most important for our users, here in Saskatchewan, with an emphasis on issues related to housing, mortgages, and property ownership. As Saskatoon has a large proportion of student renters, we also included issues related to student housing, primarily around student finances, and public transportation.

So to summarize, the promises we’ve gathered below are those we feel are important for Saskatchewan landlords and tenants and related to:

    1. Mortgages;
    2. Housing construction, improvement, and retrofits;
    3. Income and taxes;
    4. Student financial issues; and
    5. Public transit

It’s still early and we’ll do our best to add proposals and platforms that fit in the above categories as they come in. We’re not advocating for one party or the other here, you can make up your own mind, the intent is just to lay out what is out there in a simple list.

 Liberal Party

  • Prioritize social infrastructure spending for affordable housing and seniors facilities
  • Eliminate all GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing
  • Introduce a 1% annual tax on foreign-owned residential properties owned
  • Free energy audit to help homeowners and landlords determine ways to make more homes more efficient
  • Interest-free loan of up to $40,000 to help finance energy efficient renovations
  • Net Zero Homes Grant of up to $5000 for homes that are certified zero-emissions
  • Institute a $15/hr federal minimum wage
  • Additional $3B/year in transit funding for cities

  Conservative Party

  • End stress tests on switching a mortgage to a different lender (i.e. rate shopping)
  • Institute a 2-year tax credit for energy-saving renovations
  • No more GST or carbon tax on home heating and energy bills
  • Lower the income tax on income under $47,630 from 15% to 13.75%
  • Restore the public transit tax credit of up to 15% on weekly/monthly transit passes

  NDP

  • Re-introduce 30-year CMHC-insured mortgages for first time home buyers
  • Double the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit (to $1500)
  • Create a 15% foreign buyers tax on purchases of residential property
  • Remove GST on the construction of new rental units
  • Target the green retrofit of all housing in Canada by 2050 using low-interest loans to incentivize upgraded better insulation, windows, heat pumps, etc.
  • Create 500,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years
  • Add $5 billion to spending on affordable housing in first 18 months in office
  • Invest $40 million over four years in the Shelter Enhancement Program
  • Institute a $15/hr federal minimum wage
  • Eliminate unpaid internships (except as part of an educational program)
  • Force equal compensation for part-time and contract workers to full-time workers
  • Eliminate interest on federal portion of student loans
  • Move away from loans by increasing access to Canada Student Grants
  • Modernize and expand public transit with an emphasis on electrification and funding

  Green Party

  • Mortgage, construction/retrofits, taxes, students, public transit
  • Get rid of the first-time home buyer grant
  • Improve Indigenous organization access to financing through CMHC
  • Restore tax incentives for building purpose-built rental housing
  • Change the national building code to require new construction to meet net-zero emission standards by 2030
  • Remove “deemed” GST when a developer with empty condo units puts them on the rental market
  • Institute a $15/hr federal minimum wage
  • Establish a Guaranteed Liveable Income program to replace various income support programs
  • Allocate one per cent of GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure
  • Appoint a Minister of Housing
  • Legislate that housing is a legally protected fundamental human right for all Canadians and permanent residents
  • Increase the National Housing Co-investment Fund by $750 million for new builds, and the Canada Housing Benefit by $750 million for rent assistance for 125,000 households
  • Eliminate post-secondary education tuition
  • Forgive existing student debt held by federal government
  • Fund the re-routing of tracks for freight and rail yards away from populated areas

 

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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