Today, July 24 is National Property Managers Day, a day the national industry celebrates the hard work and tireless efforts of real estate’s quiet achievers. In this article, we share the first-hand account of two property managers on how their teams have adapted during COVID-19.
The inaugural National Property Managers Day is the brainchild of the REINSW and supported by the REIA and all other state and territory Real Estate Institutes. The initiative was launched to recognise the phenomenal efforts of residential and commercial property managers Australia-wide as you have all adapted your business practices through unchartered territory during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You have navigated lockdowns and working remotely, you’ve had to work out how to safely conduct property inspections and organise repairs in a safe manner and you’ve had the extraordinary challenge of managing tenants and property owners where one or both may be in financial difficulty due to the pandemic. With the non-eviction period rapidly coming to an end, there will be further challenges to navigate, but judging by the past few months, you will manage the next ones with the same focus, resilience and professionalism as you have so far.
REIA President, Adrian Kelly referred to all property managers as the “unsung heroes of the pandemic”, commending you for working at the coalface to find the best solutions for both landlords and tenants during the most challenging time the industry has ever faced.
Here at Maintenance Manager, we were excited to learn about this national day to celebrate property managers. As service providers to the industry we have always known how hard property managers work and have made it our business to make your professional lives easier and more efficient through smart technology developed specifically for the industry. We have spoken to so many of you during the past few months and are incredibly proud to be part of an industry that cares so much and has taken everything in its stride.
We interviewed a few property managers from around Australia to learn how they have coped and adapted during this unprecedented time. In this article we share the responses of two of those property managers. Karen Hansen is the Property Investment Manager at LJ Hooker, Browns Plains in suburban Brisbane, Queensland. She has worked in property management for 24 years. Michelle Graham is the Property Investment Manager at The Edge, Coffs Harbour, NSW. She has worked in property management for more than 25 years. Below are their responses to 5 questions we asked them
1. How has COVID affected your business?
Karen said workload has increased with the additional need to help tenants and owners in financial distress by pointing them in the right direction for assistance and answering so many questions when they didn’t have all the answers, especially at first. Michelle said COVID-19 caused fear and uncertainty within the agency at first. Each property manager (there are 10 on the team) worked out their own way of conducting routine inspections and OFIs. For instance, one used Facetime while others requested photos and videos from tenants. They also conducted virtual tours for all OFIs. She said, “We have been really busy. We had a few difficult tenants saying they were COVID affected to get rent reductions when they weren’t. But on the positive side, some landlords called as soon as it (COVID-19) started saying, ‘Whatever my tenants need just give it to them’. Property management is always challenging but I found that things have gone quite smoothly here at The Edge. In fact our agency has been so proactive that we have picked up many new managements during this time.”
2. What procedures have been implemented to adapt to the current environment?
Both offices closed their doors and were operating on a strictly appointment only basis. They also began conducting virtual routine inspections and implemented digital signing for all new leases. Karen said, “We arranged video inspections for all vacant properties, which were great because we found a lot of people were still moving during that time. Our sign-ups did not decrease at all.” Michelle said, “We really pushed DocuSign, closed our doors for 3 months and installed a lockbox for all tradies. All tenant applications were completed online and we required 2 week’s rent upfront plus bond on approval.”
3. What procedure will you be keeping post COVID?
Karen and Michelle said their offices will be maintaining the digital lease signing process and will continue doing as much as they can digitally. Karen, who admitted to being a bit “old school”, said she now can’t understand why she resisted going digital at first because “it saves so much time”. Michelle said they will continue the requirement that tenants must pay 2 week’s rent upfront and that all payments must continue to be done online. They will also maintain the digital signing of leases, virtual tours (especially on all new managements) and ZOOM meetings with landlords, including the many overseas landlords they have on their books.
4. If there was a second wave as there has been in VIC, what would you do differently?
If there is a second wave in Queensland Karen said they will have to push the virtual routine inspections and continue with video inspections for vacant properties. Michelle said she would try to create a more uniform process for routine inspections throughout the office. She also said she would try to have “a bit more patience” with some tenants, who tried to have their rent reduced without a valid reason. “We now know a lot more about the new legislation. We know what documentation has to be supplied, which helps a lot in those situations,” she said.
5. How has Maintenance Manager helped throughout this time?
Karen said, “We have a lot of people using the Maintenance Manager app now, which has definitely helped us cope during this time and the customer support has been amazing. I love how you can personalise it and with Maintenance Manager everything is documented in writing remotely. We don’t accept anything verbally. Having all the insured trades in Maintenance Manager has also been fantastic. We switched over to Console Cloud earlier in the year so having the two interacting with each other has made it even better.” Michelle said that she is “the biggest advocate for Maintenance Manager….I couldn’t live without it because I like to know where I am up to with everything,”.
We hope your management team is spoiling you and your team this Friday to celebrate your efforts. Congratulations from all of us at Maintenance Manager! #nationalpropertymanagersday