Over these long 18 months, COVID-19 has knocked everyone and everything off kilter. The way we live now is so different from early last year that globally, every industry and every individual has been forced to invariably alter some aspect of their operations and life.
For the real estate industry, the pandemic has changed the way customer service is delivered. With lockdowns now a regular feature of life, property managers can no longer rely on physical meetings to communicate with clients and must find ways to circumvent these obstacles without losing existing business.
This is where we believe technology can help.
Renewed focus on communication
Perhaps one of the biggest disruptions caused by the pandemic has been the shift to home working. Physical distancing has directly changed the way people inhabit and interact with physical space, and the knock-on effects of the virus have led to a reluctance to interact with others in enclosed spaces.
As a result, physical presence in daily communication, once a key part of being a property manager, has suddenly disappeared. This has forced the real estate industry to develop other strategies to compensate for this lack of personal contact.
Because the property manager is no longer onsite, this may lead to resident concerns around a perceived lack of oversight or disengagement. As a result, property managers must work extra hard to provide clear and consistent communication with their residents and ensure they continue to feel valued.
This may include offering video chat services in addition to email and phone calls to address resident complaints; remaining available to assist with community operations from afar; and implementing creative ways to market to prospective residents.
Increased reliance on technology
As we can no longer rely on uninterrupted physical meetings and connections, reliance on technology has become an integral part of operating a real estate business.
Before the pandemic, relatively few real estate companies were actively developing or pursuing digital and advanced analytics strategies to help with tenant attraction and churn, commercial lease negotiations, asset valuation, and improved tenant experience and operations.
Yet, as the world faces an ongoing battle with COVID-19, adopting technology (especially technology designed specifically with the property sector in mind) will not only offer increased efficiencies, but also reduce costs in operational support by taking care of previously manual jobs such as reference checking, communications, and leasing handovers.
This, in turn, can free managers to focus on providing enhanced customer experience and to use technology in ways to find more clients and expand their reach.
More involvement in financial hardship processes
While many property managers are already actively involved in the financial matters of their properties, the ongoing pressures of the pandemic have introduced another role to their already busy portfolio: understanding the processes associated with financial hardship at volume.
As lockdowns bring about challenges such as increased debt collections, eviction moratoriums, and payment plans, managers are having to not only find additional ways to increase revenue to overcome shortfalls, but also to deal sensitively with their current clients while also managing their current workload.
Having a digital platform solution such as Sorted Services to help manage a menagerie of clients, liaise between renters and owners, facilitate and negotiate lease renewals, organise repairs or maintenance, reply to client and tenant inquiries can be an invaluable tool during a time when property managers have so many additional issues to consider.
As we slowly begin to move beyond the first two years of the pandemic, the smartest and savviest managers will now be thinking about how the real estate landscape will look after the crisis has passed and will alter their strategy accordingly.
Those that succeed in strengthening their position through this crisis will go beyond just adapting: they will have taken bold actions that deepen relationships with their employees, investors, end-users, and other stakeholders.
And they will do it with the help of technology, which, as it’s becoming increasingly obvious, is here to stay.
Eric Yilmaz is the CTO at Sorted Services