Last modified on May 11th, 2020
By Brittany Benz
In the wake of COVID-19, many processes and policies shifted to temporarily support property managers and residents. Now many are wondering how these changes will shape the post-pandemic future and which ones will prove to be long-lasting. Here we take a detailed look back at how the real estate industry rapidly transformed, how it has surprisingly benefitted from these changes, and what the new normal could look like for property management in the coming months.
Leasing Has Gone Virtual
With social distancing, property management businesses have had to shift their leasing strategy from in-person showings and lease signings, to virtual tours, self-guided showings, and online leases. We have seen a rapid acceleration in the adoption of cloud-based technology that enables residents and property managers to carry out these processes without the need for face-to-face interactions. Based on a recent survey, 71% of AppFolio customers said the priority of virtual showings has increased, and 62% agreed virtual showings are here to stay.
While this pivot to embrace mobile technology has shaken up the industry, it has proven to be beneficial and is likely here to stay. Companies like Minnix Property Management have seen the value of innovative leasing technology. Their leasing team has been able to carry out business as usual — and even facilitate growth — with the help of digital tools, like AppFolio’s AI leasing Assistant Lisa.
“Because of Lisa, which is the artificial intelligence brought to us by AppFolio, we’ve been able to transition to self-guided tours. And we still have full schedules.” —Krickett Alexander, CEO of Minnix Property Management
Everyone Is Working Remotely
As stay-at-home mandates went into effect, the majority of property management businesses went remote. For the first time ever, many teams began to manage day-to-day operations, facilitate vendors, train new team members, provide customer service, and carry out accounting — all from home. This abrupt departure from normal office life hasn’t been easy. In fact, according to our recent survey, property managers reported “Not being able to complete tasks remotely” as their number one challenge.
However, with the right technology in place, working remotely can be just as effective, if not more than working in the office. In a recent interview with Pelican Property Management, the team shared how having a powerful cloud-based software in place has helped them maximize efficiency and team productivity while working from home:
“Because of our partnership with AppFolio, we’re basically on par with national companies from a technology standpoint… Our competitive edge is there and it’s better than ever. I see us getting out of this doing incredibly well.”—Jordan Levine, Co-Founder of Pelican Property Management
Today mobile technology isn’t just a preference, it’s an absolute necessity for the real estate industry, and those who embrace it will be able to overcome COVID-19 challenges, stay connected, and prepare for what’s next.
After working remotely successfully for an extended period of time, many property management businesses and employees are seeing the benefits it provides, like added flexibility and a better work-life-balance. As a result, this trend will probably continue to some degree in the future. Based on a recent study conducted by JLL, 60.6% of workers plan to split their work time between the office and their homes going forward.
In-Person Interactions are Now Digital
Prior to the pandemic, property managers were accustomed to interacting with their prospects and residents on a daily basis — social distancing halted this almost entirely. No longer can residents come into the office to sign their lease, pay their rent, or ask questions. In response, the real estate industry has been forced to push many of their processes online. This shift has ushered in a new wave of efficiency and streamlined many aspects of property management. For those who already had digital technology implemented, this transition has been remarkably smooth.
“Being able to operate fully mobile has been the key to our company’s success during this time. Communication is more important now than ever before. We have been utilizing AppFolio’s features to work smarter.” — Commenter on our recent survey
Property managers have also had to work a lot harder to keep residents engaged and to stay connected. Text messaging and email have become an essential form of communication for businesses to connect to their customers. In a recent survey, property managers reported the value of “proactive, frequent, and quality communication” as one of the biggest lessons worth sharing with their peers. Going forward, residents will likely prefer to communicate digitally, rather than in-person when interacting with their property management company. With the help of mobile technology, like AppFolio Property Manager, you can easily bulk text and email residents and share important documents individually or all at once.
Maintenance Operations Have Shifted
Perhaps one of the most problematic aspects of property management during social distancing has been maintenance. In the initial phase of COVID-19, the majority of property management businesses deferred non-essential repairs in order to keep their technicians and residents safe and limit in-person interactions. Along with implementing enhanced safety protocols, some property management companies developed some unique and creative ways for residents to complete non-emergency repairs themselves with step-by-step online tutorials, video calls, and doorstep supply drop-offs.
As we move into a post-pandemic world, it will become more and more essential for property managers to have technology that enables them to communicate with their residents and vendors quickly and safely. Eventually non-essential repairs will need to be addressed and digital property management software can help you resolve those issues more efficiently. Using AppFolio’s Online Portal, residents can submit maintenance requests from home and track the status, while you can email vendors or technicians within a work order to quickly adjust activities.
Over the course of just a few short months, property management has rapidly changed. With the accelerated adoption of mobile technology, businesses have been able to maintain their operations and uncover new opportunities, while keeping their residents and employees safe. This transformation has already begun to set the foundation for a new era in real estate. By making the most out of these changes and embracing cloud-based technology, you can prepare your business for what’s next and come out of this stronger than before.