Residential and commercial property managers throughout the nation are looking ahead to third and fourth quarter rebounds in the economy, and current data seems to confirm that it will happen. The second half of the year, particularly the fourth quarter, should bring a surge of business.
The way that business will be transacted, however, has been forever affected, and there is substantial uncertainty about how long social distancing and other restrictions will be in effect.
This is the time, agree property managers, to take a close look at business plans and to gear up for that surge. It may begin even earlier. According to a recent New York Times survey of economists, three out of four expect the recovery to begin in the second half of the year. At the same time, property managers must continue to monitor health concerns and respond to local safety mandates, restrictions and ongoing business concerns in a professional and timely manner.
Although this may not be the ideal time to make sweeping procedural changes, it is a perfect time to reevaluate existing policies and attempt to ascertain what procedures can be implemented to streamline the operation for the future. In light of existing conditions, future expectations and primary needs, there are a number of areas to look at.
Realities of Collecting Rents and Considering Evictions
The current pandemic, without a doubt, has created economic hardship for millions of renters, as well as for the nation's businesses. Both commercial and residential property managers must face the intertwined realities of ongoing cash flow and either delayed rental payments or non-payment. Some formerly routine procedures, including eviction, are currently regulated by government mandate, with delayed action or freezes in force. Those requirements, on their own, have created an additional burden for property managers. Response of any kind in these confusing times is difficult.
While there are no easy answers, and the solutions will differ from one situation to another, many experts agree that this is a perfect time to take stock of existing office procedures, from rent collection to checking references, from residential terms to commercial lease terms and incentives. By using this time to review existing policies and reevaluate needs, including delinquency response, late fees, interest charges and eviction procedures, a property manager will have clear guides to move forward in the future.
The pandemic will end; but periodic renter crises will continue. As a property manager, consider how your existing policies might be adjusted to allow a more flexible and understanding response to rent delinquencies. Or, consider available options for instituting a workout plan or a twice-a-month payment rather than single monthly rent. There are many creative options available, for both residential and office tenants, and even more creative options for warehouse or industrial operations. Out-of-the-box thinking now might lead to innovative and workable solutions for the long-term health and growth of your business.
Consider How to Streamline Communications Procedures
Again, a deep dive into what works well, types of improvements that would be beneficial, and outdated procedures that can be abandoned, will pay dividends in the future, both in terms of tenant satisfaction and overall ease of operation.
Tenant communication should be a primary focus for any residential property manager. If you currently have an online portal that makes rent payments and repair requests easy, then you might not have to make any changes. If your current system isn't quite up to par, now is the time to revamp it.
Update your website as well; make sure that it reflects your current business profile, and that it establishes your firm as the force that you envision in your community.
In order to establish more effective communication with tenants, enlist tenant input. Here are some ideas about how to establish greater support and address potential changes.
- Form a Tenant Panel, and solicit input on everything from lobby decor to pool hours;
- Institute a Suggestion Box, perhaps with a gift card for an idea that is implemented;
- Plan a Party;
- Support a Cause, with voluntary donations of either time or money;
- Start a Newsletter, virtual or otherwise.
Concerns About Building Repairs and Community Updates
The need for routine maintenance and ongoing property repairs is not diminished, even during a worldwide health crisis. No doubt property managers throughout the nation have found appropriate ways to schedule work that needs to be done, and to perform necessary work at residential and commercial properties.
Establishing effective and efficient means of responding to these ongoing needs, however, is vital. While it might not seem like the appropriate time to interview or add to your contractor list, or to interview new staff, the slower pace of business in the current economic climate is probably a good time to look ahead and to draft new plans and goals. The direction you take should not be made in haste. As business rebounds moving into the fourth-quarter growth that is predicted, the demands on your time may well be much greater.
No matter what kind of team have presently assembled, it never hurts to have backups waiting in the wings. Use this time to the best of your advantage.
The American Property management industry generated more than $76 billion in revenue in 2018, according to available data, with approximately 844,000 individuals employed in the industry in April 2019. The two most frequently mentioned concerns of industry professionals are efficiency and maintenance. Additional concerns related to tenant growth and boosting revenue, both related to tenant satisfaction.
With that in mind, it is certainly appropriate to spend the necessary time and energy to improve operational efficiency and expand the capabilities of your maintenance force.
With the forecast for new business just around the corner, there is every reason to believe that property managers will have a busy future as the world gets beyond the current health crisis and the calendar flips over to 2021.