The pandemic has made things a bit harder for property managers, but technology is making the job more manageable
- The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for property management companies
- The lack of in-person interactions is one of the most significant issues
- Technology and innovative strategies are providing solutions
- Getting your vendors and technicians on the same page is key
The world is considerably different than it was two years ago. Concepts like social distancing, quarantining, and lockdowns weren’t at the forefront of public consciousness in early 2020, and public mask-wearing wasn’t happening.
Everything changed in March 2020, however, when we started keeping distance from others to stop the spread of the virus. The result was an increased reliance on technology to keep the workforce and economy running.
The property management industry was hit hard by this change because so much of the job involves personal interaction. It’s up to property and association managers to keep in touch with homeowners, staff, and vendors to ensure their communities continue functioning and residents have everything they need.
Residents’ needs are ever-changing and owners and managers must keep up-to-date with shifting priorities. Here’s a look at some of the most significant property management challenges managers are seeing during the pandemic and what they can do to overcome these issues as they continue through 2022.
Few aspects of property management are more important than communication, as staying in touch with residents is an essential part of managing a community. The pandemic created communication problems when it started since managers stopped interacting in person as much, either within the community or in their offices.
Many residents couldn’t visit their property management company’s office to pay rent or sign documents, and posting notices in clubhouses and other common areas also became less efficient because residents couldn’t use those facilities.
Social distancing led to increased digital communication, like emails and text messages, that have streamlined the way property managers and residents interact. Many property managers are now using automated bulk messages to keep residents informed, and an AppFolio survey reports that 87% of these individuals will continue using group emails and texts indefinitely.
Communication has changed a great deal for property management firms, but the normalization of bulk messaging tools could positively influence efficiency moving forward.
2. Remote employees
Many property management firms adopted a work-from-home model early in the pandemic, and there’s evidence this trend could continue for the foreseeable future.
The Harvard Business Review suggests that more than 90% of employers are adopting hybrid models for their knowledge workers, which will bring an increased reliance on technology. The idea is that workers will head to the office sometimes while being free to work from home when their presence isn’t necessary.
Property management firms that have a hybrid work model will have to schedule daily tasks, provide customer service, and manage teams and properties without being in the same room as many employees or vendors. Fortunately, cloud-based technology allows everyone to be on the same page when scheduling tasks and addressing residents’ concerns, while Zoom and other telecommunication services make remote meetings feasible.
In the coming years, using cloud technology to schedule employee tasks and vendor appointments could become the norm for property management leadership. The result is a streamlined process where managers can automate many day-to-day tasks that were formerly time-consuming.
3. Filling vacancies
The remote workforce creates challenges when filling building vacancies in residential and commercial settings. For starters, there’s less demand for office space in some parts of the country because many employees are working from home. In addition, having interested parties visit your office to schedule an in-person showing isn’t always possible because of social distancing requirements.
While there’s little that property managers can do to drive rental demand, using technology to conduct virtual tours and self-guided showings eliminates one barrier for potential leasees. These methods also show that property managers can still provide outstanding customer service when working remotely.
Online leases are another way property managers can adapt, as you can get new tenants into your communities without a single in-person meeting. This use of technology could save time and improve efficiency in the future, even as we return to normal in a post-pandemic world.
4. Maintenance issues
One of the most significant property management challenges you could experience is handling repairs and maintenance while adhering to COVID-safe policies. Residents in your community likely don’t want strangers in their homes in the middle of a pandemic, at least not without adequate safety protocols in place.
When maintenance is necessary, many property managers provide social distancing rules to residents, technicians, and vendors, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Asking residents to keep their distance from technicians while requiring repairpersons to wear masks and gloves are some protocols property managers might implement.
Communicating these protocols and ensuring your vendors and residents understand them can make the process far more manageable. Many managers convey this information through cloud technology or bulk email and texts.
Delaying non-emergency repairs was a consideration early in the pandemic, but we’re far enough in now that deferring them further likely isn’t possible. Some property management companies provide online tutorials and video calls to instruct residents on how to handle these repairs themselves. They’re even dropping off tools and parts, so residents don’t have to source these items themselves.
Finding COVID-conscious contractors
Of course, property and association managers will have to locate contractors and other vendors who will follow the protocols they have in place to keep residents in these communities safe. It sounds like a simple concept, but vetting these vendors beforehand can eliminate many concerns while ensuring the procedures you communicate are followed.
VendorSmart is an innovative vendor management platform that remotely connects contractors with HOAs and property managers. Vendors sign up for an account and go through compliance vetting before bidding on jobs. Property managers can select from a list of local vendors providing their required services while making COVID protocol compliance part of the job.
Contact VendorSmart today for more information on our services and see how we can put you in touch with vendors you can trust.