Property Managers See Opportunity In Crisis

From Better Tenant Engagement to More PropTech, Find the Pandemic's Silver Lining.

Property managers are moving into the next phase of the COVID-19 experience: identifying opportunities stemming from the crisis. That was the subject of a recent IREM webinar, “Reopening in COVID-19: What Property Managers Need to Know,” moderated by 2020 IREM President Cheryl Gray, CPM.

Many opportunities have come in the form of tenant engagement, said panelist Angela Aeschliman. The pandemic led to communications that were “more rapid and more upfront. Even if we don’t have a particular answer, it was important to get back to tenants right away.”

Electronic platforms that were in place are being used more, she added. “We had a lot of different platforms that were electronic previous to the stay-at-home order, but they weren’t adopted at a high percentage rate. We’ve found now that we’re ticking upward near 100%.” Those increases have been in areas such as vendors uploading invoices rather than mailing them, online rent payments, and tenant work orders, she noted.

Fast Track New Tech, Protocols

“From an operational standpoint, the pandemic has allowed us to fast-forward our strategic plan,” said panelist Kevin Owens. “There are some things that have begun during this process—things like virtual leasing or self-guided tours—that are here to stay.”

How-to videos will also become a larger factor at his firm, Owens continued. “Our teams have been producing how-to videos for minor service requests or work orders that residents can do themselves, whether it’s simple things like changing a lightbulb or a toilet flange or knowing where to change air filters.”

The difficult situation has supported staff growth, said panelist Richard Forsyth. “It’s given us some time to evaluate staff—to understand our strengths and weaknesses and identify where we can [improve] for ourselves and our clientele.”

Identify Owners' Shifting Goals

The ongoing health crisis presents an opportunity to revisit owner expectations, Forsyth said. “We always like to find out what an owner wants to do with a property over the long term. [The pandemic] may change those goals.”

Gray said the industry has become more interested in proptech, whereas before, “we were a little slow to adopt.” She also thinks there’s more focus on occupant wellness and the industry’s “sustainability journey.”

For more insights from the panelists, view the IREM webinar “Reopening in COVID-19: What Property Managers Need to Know.”

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The Panelists

Angela Aeschliman headshot

Angela Aeschliman, CPM, CCIM, LEED AP

Senior vice president of property and asset management for Missner Group, Chicago

Richard Forsyth headshot

Richard Forsyth, CPM, CCIM

President of Westerra Realty and Management, Bountiful, Utah

Kevin Owens Headshot

Kevin Owens, CPM

Executive vice president of operations,
CF Real Estate Services, Atlanta

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