By Cath Dickinson
Adaptability. It’s a skill that all property managers need – and, this year, they’ve needed it by the bucket-load! In no area has this been more evident than the use of technology by property managers to meet the needs of landlords and tenants to adapt to our new ‘COVID-19 normal’.
Sandra McGee, Property Management Manager at Starr Partners Merrylands and member of the REINSW Property Management Chapter Committee, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reshaped the way property managers work.
“Like many other professionals, property managers were sent home to work when the Coronavirus hit,” she said. “Yes, we’re back in the office now, but the working week has changed and will continue to change.
“Moving forward, I think we’re going to see a shift across the industry to a hybrid of working from the office and at home – and it’s a shift that we’re embracing in our office.
“The reality is that property managers have always been highly mobile, spending a lot of time out of the office doing inspections and seeing clients. The fact that they’re now also working from home is really just another step in the evolution of their role.”
According to Sandra, harnessing the power of cloud technology has been pivotal to this evolution.
“Cloud-based property management systems certainly aren’t new; they’ve been around for years,” she said. “However, for every agency that made the move to one of these systems over the last few years, there was another one that was hesitant to follow suit. With the onset of the pandemic, these agencies had to quickly implement cloud solutions to allow their team to work from home.”
Now, Sandra said, it’s the case that property managers don’t need to work from the office at all times.
“These days, as a property manager, you just can’t afford to be reliant on software that’s desktop based. On-the-spot access wherever you are is essential – now more than ever.”
Beyond looking to the cloud to solve the working-from-home conundrum, Sandra said technology has played a key role in meeting certain challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic – one of which is getting landlords and tenants to sign on the dotted line. Sandra and her team have been using REINSW's cloud-based agreements and forms service - REI Forms Live - for many years. Importantly, it works smoothly with DocuSign.
“Electronic signatures have been around for a while, but recent months have seen their usage really increase,” Sandra said. “Where possible, our property managers are now using DocuSign to obtain landlord and tenant signatures.
“There are always going to be certain circumstances where an electronic signature isn’t possible, but, for the most part, this is how we’re executing agreements and forms now because face-to-face meetings are just not happening with the same frequency as before.”
Virtual meetings are also part of the new ‘COVID-19 normal’.
“The restrictions brought about by COVID-19 ensured that it didn’t take long for the words ‘let’s Zoom’ to become part of our vernacular,” Sandra laughed.
“Like everyone, everywhere, property managers have embraced virtual meetings. Whether its Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or something else, being able to come together in this way has been really valuable.
“For us, weekly team Zoom meetings have been critical to maintaining staff morale. It’s a way for us all to be together at a time when we’re not actually together. It’s also been a good way to stay in touch with my team members and keep an eye on their wellbeing during this difficult time.”
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has presented property management businesses with a range of challenges over the course of this year, particularly when it comes to the use of technology. However, the industry has risen to the challenge.
“The role of property managers is always evolving,” Sandra said. “We had to adapt quickly over recent months and put systems and processes in place that allowed us to continue delivering on our service promise.
“It’s important to recognise that while some changes to systems and processes were put in place as a rapid-fire response to the pandemic, they will stand property managers in good stead far into the future.
“The way we work has changed forever.”
To find out more about the products mentioned in this article, go to REI Forms Live and DocuSign .