Even before the global pandemic hit, businesses across industries were busy transitioning to digital processes. This transition has led companies to look at ways to streamline operations to save money and better serve their customers.
After nearly six-months of COVID-19, many businesses have hit fast forward on these initiatives. This includes property management companies, who have adopted the pandemic.
According to a recent survey published by AppFolio, nearly half of property management companies are actively adopting new technologies to help prepare their businesses for the future. This includes changing their approach in the age of social distancing.
One way property management companies have adopted to COVID is by using virtual technologies to help show units, even while they are under lockdown orders. This includes virtual showings, self-guided tours, and other virtual reality enabled tools.
According to industry, nearly three-quarters of property management companies have adopted or plan to adopt these technologies in the next year. Beyond COVID, almost two-thirds of property management expects to continue these services enough after a vaccine is found.
Some of the solutions even allow management companies to host walkthroughs. Doing so allows for a one-on-one connection during the tour by answering questions in real-time and giving alternate views of the location. This can also help sales teams to follow up quickly in inquires, thus improving the chances of renting out a unit.
Going virtual has worked so well that some property managers have taken their entire leasing process online. This not only helps to reduce costs but can give them a chance to convert leads on a 24/7 basis.
Keeping in Touch
While the worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us, the need for property managers to remain in constant communication tenants and property owners has never been more critical. As such, many property managers have increased their use of mass communications tools.
One recent industry report noted that nearly 90 percent of property management companies are now using bulk emails, text messages, and even group channels to communicate with tenants. In some cases, this includes relying on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to keep tenants informed of vital information regarding the property in almost real-time.
Gone are the days of sliding leaflets under the door as tenant communications have gone digital. The upside is that property managers can communicate more effectively with tenants, and depending on the platform used, they can also check engagement. This is important where updates regarding health and safety are concerned.
An example of this is how many property managers have used digital communications to let tenants know about reopening plans, including the use, or limitation, to common areas. Ardent Residential, an HOA management company, has even focused on “proactive management” by using tools to cut problems off before they can mushroom.
Digital communications even help internally as office closures and limitations have meant that teams are often distributed. In some cases, property managers are even taking what they have learned about intercompany communications during the lockdowns to streamline operations in a post-COVID world.
Another way property managers have reacted to COVID is through tighter controls – especially when it comes to visitors. In some cases, the property managers or owners might face legal liability if a visitor spread the virus within the community. This is especially true in high-risk development, such as senior housing.
Many property managers have needed to document and screen coming visitors by performing temperature checks and logging information to help if there is a need to follow up in the future.
While some privacy groups have questioned the need for such measures, the current situation has raised the stakes for allowing visitors access.
Rethinking Maintenance and Capital Improvements
The pandemic is a tragedy, one that could have been averted. However, the situation being what it is, many property managers and owners have been forced to rethink their maintenance and capital improvement plans.
When it comes to maintenance, this means looking at non-essential tasks and reducing the costs or delaying them altogether. While this might not be a sustainable strategy, in the long run, it is necessary as property managers seek to maximize cash flow in the face of uncertainty.
In terms of capital expenditures, all but the most necessary investments have been put on hold as this will also help preserve cash. Doing so has allowed property management companies to maintain their margins while keeping service within acceptable levels.
While some of these investments will have to be undertaken in the future, the goal at this point in the pandemic is to keep as much cash on hand as possible.