The 2019 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has now become a global crisis, affecting the lives of many. Businesses are feeling the strain brought about by the pandemic as cities are put on lockdown causing physical offices to be shut down and employees quarantined at home.
But despite growing uncertainties, life – and work doesn’t just stop. For property managers, a highly transmissible virus poses a challenge in a job that thrives on human interaction and connectedness. So how can property managers work efficiently in the time of quarantines and social distancing? Here are tips to get you back on track in the midst of a crisis.
Staying productive while working from home
Working from home has now become the new reality for many property managers during this crisis and staying productive just as you would in your office is important. Maintaining the same routine you do when you go to work in the office, like dressing up for work and showing up on time, is a good start. But more important is ensuring your systems and tools are easily accessible online so you can still work efficiently even when at home.
Property management software is essential for working through daily tasks and keeping your business running smoothly. A cloud-based solution can help you transition smoothly from the office to your home office without having to manually transfer files or setup servers. All data within the software is stored in the cloud in real time, accessible whenever and wherever you log in on any device. A virtual dashboard in the platform also allows you to monitor business and team performance which is especially important during these critical times.
If you're using a desktop application like Rest Professional, you can still access it from home through a third-party remote access software like Team Viewer. Keep in mind that it is always best to consult with your IT service provider first to help you determine the best way to access desktop applications remotely.
Remember to also follow work from home best practices to ensure you and your team stay productive and motivated during this unprecedented time.
Rent and other Tenant payments
As most people cannot leave their homes during this time to stem the spread of the virus, tenants will more than likely prefer to pay their rent and invoices digitally. Ensure that your agency's system has a direct debit facility that enables you to transfer funds from an enrolled tenant's bank account to your trust account, either as payment for rent or other invoices. In Rest Professional, you can setup a Tenant Direct Debit to allow this transaction. Property Tree also has a Direct Debit facility that provides your tenants a convenient way to make payments.
Furthermore, you can also automate receipting and reconciling for these funds that have been direct deposited to your account by downloading files of the transaction from the bank. You can read our knowledgebase articles to learn more about Tenant Download in Rest Professional and Tenant Download in Property Tree.
Reducing rent and providing rent-free periods
Loss of jobs or reduced income as a result of the pandemic can also be a cause for more flexible rent arrangements or application of rent free periods in line with Government advice or requests by the landlord. Be prepared and familiarise yourself with processes that can help you administer these changes as efficiently as possible.
Communicating with customers
Containment measures for the virus has forced us to limit physical interaction but that doesn’t mean communications will be less effective. Take advantage of digital means of communication like SMS and email to send important messages and notifications to your customers quickly. Automated communications offered by most property management software also allow you to streamline your communications, so you send the right messages to the right people at the right time using just one integrated platform.
As the impact of the coronavirus continues to change legislation and processes in property management, keeping your customers regularly informed of your agency's operations is considered best practice. In Property Tree, you can send bulk communications for a more efficient delivery of messages to all your customers, and also add notes on auto communications like statements and inspection notices. Similarly, Rest Professional will also allow you to do an email merge or sms merge and add a global comment to an owner statement.
Property Tree also provides you an option to turn off automated communications on arrears to comply with rent flexibility measures as advised by the government.
With more and more people staying indoors and spending time online to keep updated, your marketing efforts should now focus heavily on digital and social media marketing – if not already. Content like blog posts and videos about topics that your audience can relate to can drive more potential customers to your business. Widen your reach through social media channels, which are always a great place to promote content and start people engaging with your business.
With quarantines and social distancing measures taking place, routine inspections are going to be a challenge, especially in properties with tenants who are immunocompromised. Consider virtual routine inspections in such cases, where tenants can use their mobile phones to walk you through the property via video chat - following your instructions for you to be able to conduct the inspection thoroughly. Even in properties without vulnerable tenants, it's important to practice social distancing and hygiene standards - maintain distance, avoid touching things (wear gloves if it is necessary) and consider a mask.
There will be circumstances when you cannot perform inspections whether physically or virtually for a time. In these situations it will be best to reschedule them. To save you time, you can bulk update inspections to another schedule or status. In Rest Professional, you can bulk update through Inspection Planner and Inspection Follow-up. Property Tree user? Read this step-by-step guide for bulk rescheduling inspections.
Unlike virtual inspection, a virtual house tour is not an entirely new concept for agents and property managers. But if it is something that your agency just occasionally does – consider it to be the new norm for some time due to travel restrictions and increasing fear of exposure to the virus. Familiarise yourself with tools you’re going to need to conduct a successful virtual house tour. If you have the budget, consider using a HD camera rather than mobile phones. It will give your audience a much better resolution and help in making them look professionally done. Facebook live is a great option for conducting virtual tours in real time, while recorded tours can be posted in Youtube as well as shared on your social media channels to attract more views and generate more leads.
The virus outbreak has caused rapid changes that can often lead to panic and confusion, but it is important to note that you can always leverage available technologies to make a less than ideal situation work for you. Just remember to take it day by day and keep calm - and always wash your hands!
More tips when you watch the webinar
To know more about dealing with COVID-19 as a property manager, watch the on-demand webinar in partnership with Inspired Growth Training in which we discuss more strategies to help you start taking control of your situation.