Property managers were seen as the frontline of real estate for much of 2020, as they helped both landlords and tenants deal with the industry “turning upside down” due to COVID-19.
Right Choice Real Estate’s Linda Gulabovska acknowledges that such responsibilities came with some tough tasks.
In a recent episode of REB’s Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, she shared the worry and concerns she initially felt in the pandemic’s early stages: “I have a lot of owners that are self-funded retirees. So, how would they then survive, given the tenants that were made redundant overnight? I have commercial properties as well, so I was faced with the gyms that had to close, the massage parlours that had to close, beauty shops that had to close.
“Nobody knew what was happening from one minute to the next... Everything was thrown up in the air and you basically just had to catch whatever you could on the way down and work through it all.”
But being a seasoned professional, the property manager knew “there was no problem that didn’t have a solution”.
Having since been named as the winner of the Property Manager of the Year – Metropolitan at the REB Awards 2021, Ms Gulabovska said it was “teamwork” that got her, and her team, through the first few months of the pandemic, when everyone had gone into “panic mode”.
She conceded that “it was really, really hard, but we just had to put our heads together, work out payment plan options and think about how we would move forward, how we would get through this”.
Changing the dynamics
Ms Gulabovska said she and her team adapted to the changes brought forth by the pandemic by listening to the needs of their customers.
Initially, the main concern for most investors was the longer time to lease properties, which was largely the result of lockdown measures, including the ban on property inspections.
If people couldn’t come to the property, why not bring the property to the people?
“Nobody wanted to leave their house or they didn’t think that they could leave their house to view properties and whatnot, so then we went into doing virtual inspections so that people still had the opportunity to have a look through the property,” Ms Gulabovska said.
Ms Gulabovska expressed the belief that property management became more focused on the people and not just the process over this period — and made property managers both better at listening and more capable of strengthening relationships as the market transformed.
Over this time, Ms Gulabovska and her team also shifted from server-based to cloud-based systems. She said this enabled the team to be more available to their clients even when they were required to work from home.
One of the more unique ways the property management team went about ensuring continued service and efficiency was by working more closely with tenants, too.
She explained: “The routine inspection process changed for a period of time there, where tenants were actually helping us out in taking their own photos and videos of the properties, so that we could send those onto the owners.
“So, our owners still had that sense of security that, while everything was shut down, their tenants were still doing the right thing by them.
“[And the tenants] were actually excited that they could be house-proud and show the property to their owners, to say, ‘Hey, this is how we live… Even in a panic-stricken society, we’re still looking after your investment property for you.’”
At the end of the day, the property manager and her team really just went back to their roots: Making sure they were doing their best to protect what might be considered as their clients’ biggest assets.
“I love helping people, and if I can find somebody a place to call home… or help an owner select a good tenant, that is self-satisfaction for me,” Ms Gulabovska concluded.
Listen to more of Linda Gulabovska’s learnings from the pandemic here.