Last modified on March 26th, 2020
By Brittany Benz
The rapid spread of COVID-19 continues to impact the majority of industries across the U.S., including property management. In an effort to educate and offer best practices for the real estate community, we surveyed 3,533 property management professionals across the country to find out how others are responding to the crisis.
Earlier this week, we published Part 1 of our survey findings, which focused on health policies and resident safety.
Based on the findings, almost 90% of property management companies either already had implemented a policy related to COVID-19 or were working on it. There was no meaningful difference between California, New York, and Washington state — COVID-19 hotspots at time of survey collection — and the rest of the country. We take this to be an encouraging sign in that as an industry everyone is taking the crisis seriously, and not waiting to see a local impact before coming up with an action plan.
In addition, many were taking actions to keep their residents, associates, and vendors safe: 64% have enacted social distancing rules, 58% are disinfecting contact surfaces more frequently, and 50% are ramping up their cleaning regiment. When it comes to showings, property managers are also rethinking their processes — 77% are changing the way they handle them and 13% have halted them altogether. In addition, 27% have moved to only virtual or self-showings, something that innovative technology has enabled them to do. According to the findings, it also seems large property management companies are responding quicker than small companies. 69% of property management companies managing 500+ units have already enacted social distancing, versus only 54% of those managing less than 500 units.
The remaining findings from the survey were geared towards other policies, including evictions, delinquencies, and renewals. With many businesses closed and unemployment on the rise, the majority of impacted states have enacted regulations that temporarily suspend evictions in public housing to safeguard residents. These new mandates have already affected property management companies, as 41% of respondents in the survey said they had to change their eviction policy due to new local regulations prohibiting evictions, while 10% are voluntarily pausing evictions and 29% more are considering it.
In terms of delinquencies, many property managers are stepping in to soften the blow on residents. According to the survey results, 22% of property managers have voluntarily relaxed their delinquency policy, while 48% are actively considering it. This trend is only likely to increase as more states and localities create new mandates in response to COVID-19.
Some property managers have also made changes to their renewal policies to help keep residents in their homes. 32% of respondents reported they are now handling all renewals remotely, and 16% are holding off on price increases. Past experience has shown property managers just how important it is to focus on renewals during a downturn. However, many aren’t thinking of this far enough ahead yet, as only 7% have started offering more flexible lease terms.
Now is the time to build a strong relationship and trust with your residents by frequently communicating and showing them you relate to their concerns. According to the survey, property managers want to still be as available as possible for their residents and owners, and to provide frequent updates and high levels of customer service at this time. In addition, respondents in the survey were particularly interested in how they can keep their business running, and how they can keep staff morale and productivity up in the face of working remotely.
Thoughts & Advice From Fellow Property Management Professionals
In this time of uncertainty, you’re not alone in the challenges you are facing. Here’s what some of the survey respondents had to say about the COVID-19 crisis and what they are doing to mitigate business disruptions:
“Communicate information to everyone early and often. That includes your team most particularly — if they have questions and anxiety about the situation, reassure them that you are taking the steps that will ensure your company survives this.”
“This is new territory for owners, property management and tenants alike. We all need to practice patience, kindness, and remember we are dealing with people who are stressed and afraid right now. We can keep the human touch in our business, without physically touching.”
“We are trying to keep things operating as close to normal as possible. Our processes and use of technology have made this transition much easier than it would have been a couple of years ago.”
“With the use of video tours, remote showings, online applications, online payments, and screening tools we can continue to work. I expect to be able to assist our owners, residents, and vendors in the best possible manner through this crisis.”
As the situation evolves, we will continue to publish insights, tips, and advice to help you navigate through these uncertain times. Be sure to check our blog weekly for new resources related to COVID-19. Also, we are keeping our survey open with the goal of providing a week-over-week view into the data. If you haven’t taken it yet, please voice your thoughts and take the survey.