Property management in 2020 has been like no other year. COVID-19 has affected a number of aspects of property management, and the effects of the pandemic are set to continue in 2021.
The good news is that unlike in 2020, property managers are better prepared to understand what those effects may be and to plan for the future. Despite some setbacks, property management can continue to be a growth industry.
The Need for Effective Property Management
As a property manager, you might own your buildings or you might work for the owner. Owners often turn to property managers after trying to manage a property themselves and finding out that it takes more skill and a larger time commitment than they anticipated. In 2020, this became the case even more as many property owners had to shift their focus from growth to maintenance and to looking for other ways to increase revenue. This might include offering more services to residents for a fee since raising rents overall is not feasible in many markets.
If you are an owner and a manager, you may want to consider whether a shift to hiring a professional third party property manager is the right choice for you.
Relationships With Tenants
In 2020, many property managers found themselves doing lease modifications and payments plans for tenants in unprecedented numbers. Many also took steps to meet tenants’ needs as they worked and studied from home. Tenant retention became a significant element of the role of property manager, and property managers found themselves working hard to accommodate tenants while also protecting owners’ investments.
Property Management and Technology
There are several ways in which technology has taken a larger role in property management in 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021:
- digital services
- social media
- online reputation
A rise in the need for no-contact solutions due to COVID-19 has meant that tenants are more likely to want virtual tours, and leases and other paperwork can be exchanged online. Rent can also be collected without contact.
Growth in the use of other types of digital services is not necessarily pandemic-related but will continue to increase. Chatbots can be a great way to ensure that potential tenants can get immediate answers to simple questions, such as prices or availability. These can be deployed across multiple platforms, including the property website and social media.
Social media, social listening and reputation management continue to be growing areas of concern for property managers.
Social media can be an excellent way to get the word out and communicate with tenants, but it can also represent a double-edged sword. Property managers need to keep an eye out for negative feedback online and respond appropriately.
This applies not just to reviews, which should be encouraged, but also to general chatter. Social listening means paying attention to local trends online and what tenants like and dislike about their property.
Specific COVID-19 Concerns
There are a number of specific issues property managers will need to respond to in 2021. These include
- supply and demand change
- more communal housing
Temporarily halted evictions and foreclosures may begin to move ahead in 2021 depending on whether local, state and federal governments offer further relief or allow them to go ahead. Some tenants may be facing big rent bills after being unable to pay for several months.
While eviction remains an option, this can also be a long process, and tenant replacement might not be easy due to a shift in supply and demand. Property managers may want to consider continuing to work with tenants on payment plans if the option is likely to be rental properties standing empty. Even in a relatively brisk market, turnover can be more costly and onerous due to the necessity for COVID-19 precautions.
One concern is outward migration, the movement of people in high-cost to lower-cost areas since working from home means they may no longer be tied to their jobs in a particular area. This could mean that lower-cost areas see an influx of renters. Exactly how this will play out remains uncertain, and property managers will need to keep an eye on both national and local trends to determine how best to respond.
Property managers may also see an increase in existing tenants wanting to add a roommate to the lease and growth in two, three or more people wishing to rent a place together in order to save on costs.
Adaptability has always been a key skill for property managers, and in 2020, they have needed it more than ever before. They will continue to need the ability to pivot quickly in response to changing conditions in 2021.
While 2020 was a difficult year for property management as it was for most industries, those who do excel at responding flexibly to a fast-changing situation can still expect to not just survive but thrive in 2021. For owners who do not want to manage property themselves, a good property manager will be more valuable than ever.
Whether you own the property that you manage or you manage it on behalf of someone else, you know that it is not a 9-to-5 job. With or without COVID-19 concerns, burst pipes, broken alarms and many other emergencies can happen at all times of the day and night, and when they do, your tenants need to be able to reach someone who can help. An answering service can be another solution to help you meet the challenges that 2021 will bring.
With an answering service, you don’t have to be on call 24 hours a day or hire staff just in case a call comes in after hours. An answering service that is staffed by employees with industry training can determine which calls need immediate attention and which ones can wait until your office is open again. In addition, that training can offer reassurance to clients who are dealing with stressful situations.