Last modified on June 22nd, 2020
By Megan Eales Monroe
In the immediate aftermath of the first COVID-19 emergency orders, property managers were forced to pivot quickly to protect their residents and staff and ensure business continuity amid lots of uncertainty.
To find out what changes they made in the short term, we conducted an initial survey with over 3,000 property management professionals
Since then, many property management companies have made more adjustments to adapt to the “new normal,” and have even begun to look forward and plan for the post-pandemic future. As a follow-up, we reached back out to survey respondents for a second time to learn more about how their priorities have shifted as a result of the pandemic, how they see the future outlook for their business, and what changes they believe might be permanent.
During the month of April, we heard from over 1,000 property management professionals. Check out a few of the most notable takeaways from our survey results in the infographic below, or scroll to the bottom for the full summary.
Property Management Companies Are Making the Most of Remote Work
At 81%, the vast majority of survey respondents indicated their companies had at least some staff working remote. Of those businesses, about 50% of their staff is working remotely.
About 50% also shared that their companies have increased their dependence on remote working technology, such as video conferencing software.
However, transitioning to digital processes has not been without its own unique challenges.
When asked about their top challenges surrounding technology, all three of the most popular responses were issues that affected their team’s ability to work remotely.
Not being able to complete tasks remotely was the top challenge, with 17% facing this issue. Key business processes not being digital was second at 16%, and an overall lack of defined processes and workflows was in third with 15%.
Many technology-related inefficiencies which companies were able to deal with before the pandemic have now become critical issues for business continuity. Workarounds are no longer an option, and many companies have actually taken the opportunity to re-examine these business processes. Many have even uncovered opportunities to streamline their workflows and keep remote teams productive by providing access to the tools and information they need to get work done from anywhere.
Virtual Showings Have Become a Top Priority
Although social distancing requirements have created new challenges for leasing teams, they have turned to new technology solutions to keep leasing operations underway.
71% of survey respondents said their priority for implementing virtual showings has increased. In addition, 53% have already increased their dependence on this technology.
But property managers view virtual showings as more than just an immediate solution to a short-term problem — 64% of survey respondents actually said they believe virtual showings are here to stay, even after the need for social distancing subsides.
Property Managers Are Looking to the Future
In addition to taking action in the short term to overcome obstacles in their path, property management companies have also begun planning a new path forward to sustain their business in the post-pandemic future. Here are a few of the most interesting ways companies have begun to look ahead.
Virtual showings are not the only new technology here to stay after COVID-19. When asked which changes they believed would be permanent, 87% chose bulk email/text messaging. Mobile data access was also a popular answer at 84%.
Steps to Prepare
The steps that property management companies are taking now to prepare for the future have also shifted due to COVID-19. Many companies are seizing this time of disruption as an opportunity to make their technology and business processes more efficient, as the shift online has exposed challenges in their business that they can no longer afford to work around. The most common step they are taking to prepare for the future is streamlining and automating business processes — 48% plan to do this. 46% will adopt new technology, and 28% will retrain or cross-train their staff. All of these changes will lead to greater efficiency long-term.
Changes to Business Priorities
Along with the increased priority businesses are placing on virtual showings (71% increased this priority), a few other areas have also emerged as new priorities. 50% of survey respondents said they have increased their priority on expense control, 43% have increased the priority of resident retention, and 43% have increased the priority of paperless leasing.
The only area where respondents had noticeably decreased priority was hiring — 30% said they are placing less priority in this area.
Now that COVID-19 has changed so much for the property management industry, the definition of success has shifted as well. The top three outcomes that survey respondents were focused on include increasing or stabilizing occupancy (27%), collecting rent (21%), and leasing vacant units (16%).
Overall, Property Managers Have A Positive Outlook for the Future
For the most part, the property management professionals we surveyed were cautiously optimistic about the future of their businesses. 66% said that they had either a positive or very positive outlook, and only 4% were pessimistic. This is due largely to the ingenuity and innovation that property managers have shown in recent months — by leveraging new technology quickly to adapt to the new normal, they have continued to provide excellent service while prioritizing the health and safety of their residents and staff.