Adapting and evolving: How leveraging technology can better serve the communities you manage
The COVID-19 Pandemic altered nearly every industry over the last year, one of which being the property management industry, resulting in several new property management trends arising. In every aspect of property management, from homeowners and tenants to HOA board members to management companies, everyone had to pivot and alter how they communicate or conduct business to adapt to the surging pandemic. The changes that took place didn’t necessarily revert once the pandemic began to slow down.
The pandemic still remains a presence in our lives and our businesses. Management companies and property managers have begun analyzing and operating under new conditions now that they’ve had a chance to see which trends have become dominant in the post-COVID atmosphere. What COVID forced the industry into includes a much higher reliance on technology and virtual communications, complete retoolings of how management companies try to keep their communities safe, and different financial approaches for making the communities they run profitable.
What management companies can hope to find below is a much more detailed list of the four biggest property management trends they need to not only be aware of post-COVID, but the trends that look to remain staples in the property management business for years to come:
The most apparent property management trend to arise out of the pandemic was the dependence on technology, which has seemed to be gaining more and more steam over the last 18 months. It would be hard to spot an area of property management where increased technological reliance hasn’t popped up. From virtual board meetings to increased investments and budgeting in software to accounting and document-storing practices.
Although there are still areas within the industry that require human interaction, such as handling community violations and rule enforcement on the part of the property managers, even those interactions can take place virtually now. The pandemic allowed management companies to rework these interactions to remove the in-person aspects of them. In turn, the efficiency and speediness of handling these types of events have improved significantly. Technological advancements in this industry were always a certainty that management companies needed to prepare for long ago. Yet, with COVID accelerating that process, it’s time for property managers who haven’t fully adapted to get on board sooner rather than later.
One of the most impacted aspects of the COVID pandemic was everyone’s ability to gather in public spaces safely. In terms of property management, this meant that many, if not all, public spaces within communities had to either shut down or reconfigure the entire way that they operate to prevent the spread of the virus and maintain safety protocols. Although we now have a better understanding of how the virus spreads and ample time to implement strategies to support these public spaces and their overall safety, the trend of maintaining social distancing within communities’ public amenities appears to be hanging around.
Management companies need to be adjusting to this trend and looking for ways to establish long-term protocols for how communities should operate within places like an HOA clubhouse or community pool, and also plan to budget for these amenities if their usage must be decreased to protect residents. The era of amenities reservations, consistent and concise safety policies and protocols, and creating public spaces that residents feel like they can use safely is upon us, and management companies need to have long-term strategies in place for how to maintain both the quality and safety of these spaces going forward.
Although this might not feel like a post-COVID trend that would determine much for management companies, the substantial increase in homeowners deciding or being forced to work from home has a ripple effect across the industry. More residents working from home means they will begin to look towards communities, and even homes, that accentuate that experience for them and make it as accommodating as possible. This can mean for management companies looking to grow the sizes of the communities they manage. It is an opportunity to reconfigure the layouts of homes and public spaces within those communities to promote more residents moving into them.
If homeowners working from home can feel comfortable inside their homes due to better layouts that promote office space along with comfortable living, and in turn, a more accommodating community experience that might allow them to utilize public areas such as the community clubhouse, this can only be a positive for management companies. Now that plenty of workplaces no longer require employees to travel to an office, homeowners’ reliance on transforming parts of their homes into those workplaces means that management companies have a substantial shift in the community experience sitting right in front of them that they need to capitalize on. Budgeting to provide workspaces for residents within community spaces, and business development strategies for attracting new homeowners looking for those accommodations all need to be on the table moving forward.
An often undervalued property management trend in the industry, how maintenance requests are handled and carried out is a significant shift that management companies can prepare to stay for the long haul. The increased necessity for maintenance workers and outside vendors to be provided safety equipment to provide services is something that has not only sustained the quality assurance aspect of community life but has provided maintenance employees the assurance, as well, that they are being protected adequately when working within community spaces.
This post-COVID shift in how maintenance requests are implemented and carried out hasn’t just resulted in a change in day-to-day operations. Still, it has shifted the approach for all maintenance operations carried out by management companies. Management companies and residents alike now have a higher reliance on technical communications for requesting and servicing maintenance requests; property managers and HOA board members now have to take a more concerted approach with implement large-scale maintenance projects due to budgeting and safety protocols. Management companies now have to decide whether specific projects or vendor contracts are, in fact, significant enough to warrant the spending involved in communities’ post-COVID budgets.
Although there are plenty of other property management trends to be aware of following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most significant trends are the ones that look to reshape how management companies do business. Between the reconfigurations of community outreach and communications, homeowner trends, operational tactics from a maintenance perspective, and changes to public spaces, management companies have critical data and time to begin navigating around or working to accommodate these trends as best as possible.