Property Management and Technology: Here Today, and Tomorrow, Too

February 11, 2021
Average Read Time: 4 minutes

It’s interesting to observe that by some reports, property managers have said tenants weren’t their highest priority – until now.

In 2019, only 19% of property managers said that attracting and retaining great residents was one of their top three priorities. Over the last year, that number rose 29 points; 45% now name residents as a top priority, beating out efficiency and profitability for the first time, according to Buildium’s 2021 property management industry report.

Of course, the reason is the pandemic. The most pressing issues of the last year have focused on residents and their homes – keeping units full, rents paid, and residents safe. And that shift has been difficult in more ways than one. “It’s been extremely stressful and exhausting, trying to stay up on the ever-changing laws, while being both compassionate to tenants and fulfilling obligations to owners,” said one Buildium survey respondent*.

To help alleviate that stress for all, property managers and the real estate investors they serve are turning to technology in greater numbers than before.

Management, payment, and other digital solutions are helpful both to them and to residents, easing administration and facilitating communication during these no-touch times. All parties involved are demanding that property managers use technology to its best advantage. Managers are responding, embracing new solutions as they seek to maneuver through trying times and position their companies for growth.

Challenge Number One: Navigating the Pandemic Safely and Efficiently

According to a recent IbisWorld analysis, the $88 billion U.S. property management industry grew at a relatively steady 2.7% annually in the five years before the pandemic began in 2020, when it suddenly declined by about the same amount. Most property managers are expecting that decline to reverse in the next two years, with more than three-quarters planning to grow, according to Buildium.

There’s reason for that optimism, despite current difficulties. Property managers are used to shifting markets, and their companies usually can weather storms. When the economy struggles, demand for rental properties and their services tends to increase, and when the economy booms, commercial properties become more important to their portfolios.

So while the pandemic is a new kind of threat, property managers are adapting and powering through it. The difference is, technology has become more important than ever – so much so that it can bring competitive advantage to property management businesses of all sizes. Real estate investors, property managers, and residents are united on the need for technology – and digital payments are top of the list, the Buildium report says:

  • Renters’ second most requested technology is online payments. Every age group (except the pre-Baby Boom Silent Generation) expressed equal desire to pay electronically.
  • Property managers also put electronic payments in second place. The only item topping them is property management software.
  • Owners are even more bullish on electronic payments, saying that they are the most important technology for property managers to offer today.

Digital payments offer convenience and safety – particularly important now. Phone and Internet-based payment methods, whether from the desktop, laptop, or on a strategically located or mobile payment terminal, can serve markets of all ages. In addition, they offer efficiency to property managers, who can collect payments earlier, more reliably, and with less manual intervention.

Challenge Number Two: Attracting and Keeping Employees

A second challenge – one that predates the pandemic and continues today – is attracting and retaining talented staff members and contractors. The employee turnover rate for property management staff is significantly higher than other industries. And as property owners scale up their businesses, it becomes harder to find skilled, reliable vendors to keep properties in good working order, the IBISWorld analysis says.

One way to solve retention problems is through career advancement opportunities that keep people in the industry. The other is to make sure HR practices, including how and when employees and contractors are paid, are top-notch. Being able to pay people more frequently than the typical one- or two-week pay cycles can help them stay afloat in good economic times and bad.

With the right payment solution, you can get wages to employees and pay contractor invoices in real time, using their existing cards or bank accounts. Employees can choose how frequently they want to be paid. Such a solution eliminates the need to print and mail paychecks, easing administration and, once again, improving efficiency for property managers.

Technology for a Better Today – and Tomorrow

The pandemic increased focus on tenants and highlighted the need for technology to serve both residents and property managers more effectively. The good news is, technology implemented today, and the ease and efficiency it brings, will long outlast the coronavirus.

Weaving technology throughout the tenant life cycle can create a memorable experience for residents and keep them around longer. It can do the same for staff members and contractors. And it can help businesses grow. Pandemic or no pandemic, technology is here to stay in the property management industry.

MerchantE can help ensure your business is set up for scalable growth. Click here to learn more about our Business Essentials bundle solution or our MoneyOut payroll and expense solutions.

  

*About one-third of all Americans, roughly 107 million people, are renters, USA Today reports. Some 30 million to 40 million may be at risk of eviction, depending on the status of local, state, and federal regulations enacted during the pandemic.