Property Management Trends For 2021
While many of us can't wait to say “buh bye” to 2020 there's no doubt the pandemic, and how the property management industry has had to adapt to ensure business growth and tenant safety, has altered what’s ahead in 2021. If you are looking to get ready for the upcoming year, here are 10 key trends we expect to see in the near future for property management companies:
1. The Customer is King
The key to revenue is superior customers service. It helps tenants stay longer and delivers noticeable value to owners. Throughout the pandemic, management operations have had to shift how they work with vendors as well as residents. As working from home has become more prevalent, tenant expectations have also changed. Tenants now expect to be able to use their smartphone, email or text to be able to make a maintenance request or communicate with property management, and get almost instant responses.
In the year ahead, there will be a concerted effort to deliver better customer experiences. It will be the property differentiator in 2021. Property firms will need to be able to easily handle a high volume of requests smoothly and efficiently by leaning into technology that allows them to interact with renters quickly and remotely. Portals for coordinating inspections and repairs with residents as well as maintenance teams or third-party vendors will be de rigueur for delivering seamless, superior customer service.
2. Smart Buildings = Healthy Buildings
Beyond handwashing and masks, tenants are looking for ways to “feel normal” and lower anxiety levels through a safe, healthy environment. Smart technology like the ability to regulate temperature and moisture in a unit is now seen as part of a good hygiene habit.
Intelligent tools that remove the need for person-to-person interactions, like keyless entry systems, communication portals and online payment solutions, are in demand more than ever.
3. Virtual and Self-Guided Tours
Speaking of reducing in-person interactions, 2021 will see virtual and self-guided tours, which are seen as a safer option, increase in popularity. COVID has accelerated this trend that was already happening over the last few years and taken it to a new level.
Long after the pandemic is finally over, property management firms plan to continue to offer a variety of leasing options to potential renters—including traditional tours, virtual tours and self-guided tours— to accommodate renter preferences.
4. Residents Lifestyles Have Changed
As “WFH” moves into the mainstream, tenants are using their living spaces in new ways. Property units are now a mix of home life and home office. Many companies, like Google, Telus and Microsoft, are delaying a return to the office. Some employees may never have to go into a physical office on a permanent basis again.
This societal shift means that there is a new appreciation of reliable high-speed Internet packages, socially distanced working spaces in the building, access to private outdoor spaces like rooftop decks or on-site green space.
Tenants who work from home may want to upgrade to a unit with an additional bedroom or extra space, to allow for the creation of a designated home office. We expect to see new builds include office space in the unit and co-working spaces in the property. Buildings that are near large parks may see an increase in applications as more and more people appreciate a connection to nature.
5. The New Era of Sustainability
Sustainability has been a watchword for some time now. Multifamily industry leaders have already employed greener approaches, like recycling programs, but the pandemic really emphasized the importance of sustainability.
As disruptive as the coronavirus was to daily operations and revenue, we will eventually recover as vaccines come out, and life goes back to normal… whatever normal may be. But organizations around the world are now understanding that an environmental crisis could be even more detrimental to the world and to our economies than the pandemic.
Every business must rethink their property management operations and their environmental impact. We will continue to see multifamily properties explore ways to reduce their energy and water footprint, as well as eliminating paper throughout the leasing process. We’ll also see more charging stations for electric vehicles on properties.
6. Leveraging Operational Data
Property management firms sit on mountains of data and in 2021, they need to do more with it. Data is particularly powerful when it can be brought together from across an organization to create deeper, more meaningful insights.
Whether it’s identify advertising channels with the best closing percentages to properly allot a marketing budget or it’s pulling reports regarding the number, cost and type of maintenance and repairs per property or region to plan predictive maintenance and budgeting — empirically-based decisions benefit the bottom line.
7. A Push for More Automation
Another top property management trend in 2021 will be the continued march toward automation. We’ve already seen a noticeable uptick in workflow automation in vendor and supply chain management, as well as chatbots that automatically answer common customer service inquiries. Companies will now take a hard look at their leasing and operational processes to see where they can take people out of the equation when they aren't adding any true value.
8. Employers of Choice
Despite moves towards automation, businesses still need employees to thrive and survive. As the talent war continues to heat up, attracting and retaining promising talent will be key to running and growing a successful property management company in 2021.
Factors like a collaborative work culture and work that has more purpose and meaning are key considerations to becoming an employer of choice. It’s worth noting that, by 2025, millennials will represent 75% of the workforce. As a group, they’re tech-savvy and mobile-driven. They certainly don’t want to be bogged down by repetitive or redundant work (like cutting and pasting information between systems) but to be actively engaged in more value-driven, mindful and strategic work.
9. Increased Security
Employees working from home on their own device is the new workplace reality. It opens up a whole new level of security concerns. The solution lies taking the vital measures to keep proprietary information and sensitive company (and tenant) data safe. In 2021, property firms will insist on browser-based solutions for employees that enforces PCI compliance, Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology and end-to-end encryption, so sensitive resident credit information and personal data is always secure. As well, solutions that offer permission-based reporting to make sure that only the right people have access to the information they need will be in high demand.
10. Improved Online Presence
If there’s one thing 2020 taught every business in the world it was the need to have a strong online presence with rapid response times. Particularly for the property industry, to accommodate remote workers, online tenant applications and leases, and new automated marketing technology, you must build strong digital channels.
To showcase availabilities, property websites will need to be more interactive but remain easy to use. Communication channels — from social media platforms to web- and app-based portals —should be clear, robust and reliable, with the ability to communicate to a prospect, a tenant or an employee, all with equal ease. Due to the pandemic, people are shopping online now more than ever, and shopping around for a new apartment is seen as being no different. If your vacancy is difficult to access, or inconvenient to apply for, you will be playing into the hands of your competitor.