Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ACH Payments & Property Management for the Little Guys

As part of my recent job hunt, I've been working on rewriting an old property management site I created back in 2005. The code is Rails 2.x, the plugins/gems are mostly outdated, there are a ton of questionable defaults and security vulnerabilities that have been discovered and addressed recently by the Rails community and let's be honest, I wasn't that good at putting out production-quality code back then, so it could do with a good revision/refactor.

That being said, some of the features I always wanted to add to the existing site were:
(a) Secure online tenant application submission and screening
(b) Secure online lease signing and document retrieval
(c) Secure online rent payments via ACH

I realize services like Rentobo, PayYourRent, etc. exist that provide some of the functionality described above, but my goal is to make something that is a standalone Rails engine that can be deployed by smaller organizations needing white label property management but that don't have the software development budgets of larger real estate corporations (something along the lines of Spree for property management)

For the most part, (a) and (b) seem like they would be fairly well served by something like DocuSign, but I've been struggling over the last few weeks to find an elegant way to get (c) working. Stripe, Balanced and PayPal are all options with API's that I looked into, but sadly, none of them are really a good white label solution for ACH payments. Stripe can make payments to 3rd parties via ACH from a Stripe account, but this means it needs to be funded initially by credit card payments. Balanced supports ACH payments, but it's a push operation, so you can't setup a scenario like collecting monthly rent payments from tenants (a pull). PayPal does support ACH payments through it's Payflow service, but there's an entire application process and there are other hoops you need to jump through to get setup, which is not very ideal for your average landlord who would just like to offer automatic online rent payments for tenants. It seemed like my only option was to implement something homegrown like airbnb.

HN to the rescue! This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find out ACH payments via API are on their way:
YC-Backed Standard Treasury Aims To Make Software That Eats Commercial Banking

I'm not sure when this will become available to the developer masses, but I'm excited to see where this goes! Stay tuned, I'll post more updates when I'm further along on my project!

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