If you Google Royal York Property Management (Royal York), you’ll quickly learn that it is one of the most respected property and rental firms in Canada and across Europe. With real estate assets of over $4.2B and more than 10,000 properties, Royal York uses cutting-edge technology to empower its clients with 24/7/365 services that are simplifying how properties are managed and rented. Nathan Levinson, the Founder and President of Royal York as well as Mateem, his leading management software, is the man behind the company, and while Nathan is riding high on his success today and is proceeding with the company’s European expansion, he actually started Royal York from the backseat of his car when he was living homeless after graduating from college. Nathan has, as you can imagine, a unique perspective on what it takes to shepherd an idea from its conception to becoming a global business, and he sat down with us to talk about his experiences and to talk about where technology will take the property management industry.
“The foundation for Royal York was actually laid in my childhood,” Nathan begins. “I did not have the easiest time growing up, to say the least. I faced a lot of bullying in school, and I spent time in foster care. When I remember it now, I can see how persevering despite everything I was facing as a kid was preparing me for the challenges I would inevitably face when I decided to create Royal York.”
Nathan actually came up with the idea for Royal York when he was in high school. “I didn’t, however, truly get started with it until I was homeless. I had to earn money, and I was determined to do better for myself. Every morning at the crack of dawn, I would wake up in the backseat of my car, eat whatever I had, break out the cell phone, and start making cold calls. I remained 100% professional – the people I talked to never knew the guy on the other side of the line was calling from the car he lived in.”
While Nathan did not always find success with every call, what he did find was a growing network. “That was key – each phone call I made increased the number of people I knew, and I used every opportunity I had to tell them about my vision: to make property management simple for everyone.”
Gradually, Nathan found more people who shared his vision, and the company continued to grow. “I have learned a lot in the ten years since I founded Royal York,” he confirms, “but chief among them is that if you don’t have a system or established processes, you’re going to stumble more often than is inevitable. I grew relentless about keeping structure within Royal York, and that has given it the framework it has needed to expand into the giant that it is today.”
Nathan is passionate about the technology at the center of Royal York, including its impact on tenants, landlords, and property owners. “I fully respect Slack, Salesforce, and others, but they are one-issue solvers, so to speak. Why not look further down the road and create one piece of software that can do the job of the 8 or 9 other platforms that property management employees typically use every day? That’s forward-thinking, and it’s what Royal York has already done: anticipate what will be needed and then create it.”
With Royal York, tenants and landlords enjoy access to centralized services around the clock. “It’s all cloud-based, so no matter where the tenant is, they can pay rent, submit maintenance requests, take virtual tours of the property, and receive notices from the office. Staff, for their part, can do their accounting, background checks, preparation and receival of leases, and all other duties whenever they want to, even outside of office hours,” Nathan explains. “One platform provides all of this.”
He turns thoughtful when asked where technology will take the property management industry. “We are only limited by our imagination and our work ethic,” he responds. “What if we can create technology that we use in the comfort of our own home and that allows us to feel like we are walking around a unit, like we are actually there? Why isn’t that possible? I am sure it sounds crazy to some people, but the key to innovation is to dream big, then create realistic steps that will eventually get you there. No idea should be off the table for an innovator. Your idea should, instead, be backed by a realistic plan. That is how progress and achievement happen, and at Royal York, we will never stop making the big ideas come to fruition.”