How The Real Estate Robinsons scale their property business with Relay

By Corrina Allen

Technology and Finance Writer

In the span of a few years, Tony and Sara Robinson grew their short term rental property business from one listing to a portfolio of 30 properties. Scaling at this pace, they needed the right banking platform to move quickly, stay organized, delegate tasks to their team, and keep a pulse on each property. To meet their needs, the Robinsons turned to Relay. Here's why.

In this article:

The right business banking tools smooth the road to entrepreneurial success by simplifying and organizing spending, payments, and accounting. Tony and Sara Robinson experienced this firsthand as the needs of their successful real estate business outgrew the capabilities of their bank.

Watch: How the Robinsons scaled their property portfolio with Relay

Finding banking that puts you in control of cash flow

“We have 30 properties in our portfolio,” real estate investors and content creators Tony and Sara Robinson tell Relay.

Tony and his wife Sara — known as The Real Estate Robinsons — are expanding at an impressive rate. “We've been buying more than one house per month this year,” he says. “So there's definitely a bit of that snowball effect." With that, the two quickly outgrew their initial banking setup.

“We were using a non-business bank. We just opened up accounts in our personal name with the same bank we used for our personal expenses,” says Tony.

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Once the need for business banking became clear, the Robinsons cycled through multiple options, but none stuck. "Between the two of us, Tony is the finance guy. And since we started our journey," Sara says, "he came to me, several times, saying, 'Okay, you can throw all those cards away, we're now starting with this other bank.' So I was very happy once he found Relay."

Managing cash with Relay

One of the main things that sold the Robinsons on Relay was that they needed a lot of checking accounts. "This is really integral in terms of how we manage our cash flow," explains Tony.

The Real Estate Robinsons explain that they have a "separate checking account for each one of our properties. And that helps streamline our bookkeeping process — we know all the money in, all the money out." On top of that, the Robinsons also needed additional checking accounts "for our profits and our taxes and just all these other miscellaneous categories that we have."

We know all the money in all the money out - Banking with Relay - The Real Estate Robinsons

All other banking options, Tony explains, would "max out at five accounts." So finding Relay's multiple checking accounts was "like a sigh of relief." But it didn't stop at checking accounts. “We found out that Relay could give us everything that we needed,” says Tony.

Today, the Robinsons use Relay in three ways. For payments, for cash flow management, and for card management. They've settled on the platform because it:

  • Eliminates the need to juggle multiple payment platforms

  • Simplifies the time-consuming task of end-of-month accounting for multiple properties 

  • Enables them to quickly launch new rentals by delegating and managing their team’s spending

Finding the right banking setup has given Tony and Sara the tools stay on top of their finances and keep scaling.

Relay keeps the Robinsons on the money

“Relay makes it super easy to keep tabs on where we're at from a cash flow perspective,” says Tony. The Robinsons rely on their multiple Relay checking accounts (up to 20 per business entity) to monitor and organize their incoming cash. For each property they rent, the Robinsons set up a new account. At the end of the month, they know exactly how much that property has earned (and what’s been spent on maintenance and upkeep).   

Banking with Relay saves The Real Estate Robinsons 10 to 20 hours each month

Tony explains how this multiple account system saves them time each month: “Say that you have three properties,” he says. “When Airbnb sends you a deposit, it's going to lump deposits for all three of those properties together. What you have to do at the end of the month is go back and look at that deposit transaction and dissect it to see which reservations and which properties were tied to that deposit, and then go back out and separate it in your bookkeeping software.” 

Relay allows the Robinsons to set up a dedicated account for each property so that Airbnb or VRBO payments flow into their own unique account. When the end-of-month rolls around, mystery math is eliminated. For Tony, who manages the financial side of The Real Estate Robinsons, Relay’s multiple checking accounts have saved him an estimated 10 to 20 hours of administrative work each month — time that he now spends growing the business further.

Most people check Instagram in the morning the first thing we check is Relay - The Real Estate Robinsons

“Most people wake up in the morning and check Instagram. The first thing we check is Relay because we like to see where our cash is across our business. Because we're able to have so many accounts that relate to the different parts, I can see at any point in time, ‘Okay, we need to put some attention here because this property is not performing well,’ or, ‘We're running a little bit of low on operating expenses in this part of the business, let's put some attention there.’”

Getting banking for each property the instant it closes

For Sara, who does the purchasing for all of the Robinsons’ rentals, Relay has simplified spending. Virtual Visa debit cards can be issued instantly to their team of cleaners and contractors in order to delegate certain purchases.   

“We're in daily communication with our handymen and our cleaners,” she says. “Our cleaners regularly text us saying, ‘Hey, we're short on toilet paper at this house [or] we need detergent at this house.’ So we decided to just eliminate all that communication and give them access to a designated card that they can order their own cleaning supplies with. That way, we don't have to be in charge of all that every time.”

Relay multiple banking account management for The Real Estate Robinsons

Relay lets you instantly issue digital cards and set specific spending limits on each one while keeping detailed and transparent transaction records. It’s easy for The Robinsons to see how much money their team is spending and what they’re spending it on. Says Tony: “We have the ability within Relay to put guardrails in place to make sure that spending ability is in line with what we feel they should be spending on a regular basis.”

Lost time is lost money — with Relay, the Robinsons don’t have to wait

For the Robinsons, these individual time-saving expense management tools work together to help them scale their business and continue to grow. “With some of the other banks we were working with, we would create a checking account and then we wouldn't get the debit card for five to 10 business days,” Tony says, explaining how that meant that their business was actually losing money: “Our goal is, from the day that we close until the listing goes live, we want to minimize that window as much as we can. If we have to wait five to 10 business days after we close until we can start ordering stuff, we just added five to 10 business days before we can go live.” 

"With Relay, as soon as we close, we're able to start purchasing the stuff that we need on day one. And that literally saves us money.”

With unique debit cards for every account, the Robinson’s business expenses are automatically organized by property. They know exactly how much they’re spending to maintain each rental and can budget accordingly while simplifying their end-of-year accounting. Having “separate checking accounts for each one of our properties,” says Tony, “helps streamline our bookkeeping process.”  

Why the Robinsons pay all their vendors through Relay

Before they found Relay, the Robinsons had been juggling multiple payment platforms in order to pay their vendors. It complicated their bookkeeping and took up time that could be put to better use in other parts of their business. Relay’s business banking platform makes it a breeze to pay vendors by centralizing payments in a single place. For the Robinsons, this meant that they no longer had to toggle between PayPal, Venmo, and their banking accounts. With Relay, they can make all their payments directly from one account. 

“The biggest thing that I love about Relay is that we're able to pay all of our vendors with one simplified platform,” says Tony.

Tony uses Relay Pro’s same-day ACH payments to keep on top of bills and expenses. “That's probably one of the features that we use the most.”

A streamlined way to manage bills significantly cut down on the amount of time the Robinsons were spending on administrative work. “Before, we were using Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal — all these different payment platforms. With Relay,” Tony says, “all of our vendors are plugged in. We can send them payments the same day. It's much easier for us and it's directly connected to our bookkeeping platform. It’s what's been the biggest lifesaver for us.

“There are so many other high-value things we should be doing,” he adds. “Relay has given us, through the different tools and automations that are available, [the ability] to spend less time on the things that, while important, are not necessarily the best use of our time.”

Relay has your back

What The Real Estate Robinsons found in Relay was a business banking platform that didn’t hold them back or make them wait, but instead allowed them to accelerate at the pace they set for themselves which, right now, is pedal to the metal. “Relay does that for us and we highly recommend it,” says Sara.

“My advice to other folks shopping for business banking,” says Tony, “is to stop shopping and come to Relay. It shouldn't be that you have to adapt your business to a bank. You need to find a bank that can adapt to your style.”

With Relay, the Robinsons have tools that address their biggest business banking pain points as well as a platform that empowers them to grow. And they want other entrepreneurs to find the same support.

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“We recommend Relay to pretty much every other person that asks us who we bank with,” he adds. “Anytime we find a tool that works, we share it with everyone. We want to make sure that we can help other people as well.”