The 4 Pillars to Best Practice COVID-19 Property Management

Published 16 August 2020 by Team :Different

Customer experience has taken on a new meaning with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic affecting many people and industries. This poses a major challenge to property managers and property maintenance teams who have always thrived on close interaction with their customers, but now scramble for new solutions to keep operating efficiently.

For property investors this means one of two things: either you currently have a property manager and you need to know if they’re adapting as well as they should be or you’re considering hiring one to help you through COVID-19 and you need to know what to look for to find the best ones.

So how do you distinguish the exceptional property managers from the merely satisfactory ones?

We have pinpointed 4 key pillars where property managers need to excel to qualify for a best practice status during COVID-19. By monitoring these 4 key pillars, you’ll ensure you’re getting the best service for your money. At the end of the day, you’ll want a property manager who keeps your tenants safe and helps you minimise financial losses during COVID-19 with as little headache as possible.

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1: You Should Always Feel Like Your Property Manager’s Top Priority

Your property manager’s customer service should be stronger than ever during COVID-19.

While physical interaction has become limited, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be receiving frequent communication and updates from your property manager. If you’re feeling like you were only given half the pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, this is a clear sign that your property manager could be doing more.

Your property manager should always proactively keep you up-to-date on their procedures and responses to COVID-19.

“Your property manager shouldn’t be afraid to get on a call with you when required. They should provide you with as much information as possible from the relevant real estate institutes rather than the news, and they need to be transparent, even if the information they’re relaying is negative or not what you want to hear.”

Shannyn Laird, Head of Customer Experience

Additionally, it should always be easy and quick to reach out to ask for help or information. You should never feel like you have to drag information out of your property manager.

Warning signs to look out for:

  • Your property manager hasn’t reached out to let you know about their COVID-19 response or given any general updates. You’re forced to assume that the property manager is doing what is necessary.
  • It takes over a week to get a response to your needs or questions.
  • Your property manager is focusing on the problem instead of the solution

How :Different is keeping their owners as top priority:

  • We posted a COVID-19 FAQ to explain all of our measures and changes to adhere to restrictions.
  • We send our owners regular emails with updates about our processes and response to COVID-19.
  • Our team-based approach means that we always have a team of experts who are there for you around the clock for an instant response. This is something we’ve always had in place, which we now benefit greatly from.

How a property manager is communicating with you now is a good indication of where their priorities lie. If the customer service you’ve been receiving during COVID-19 isn’t great, it’s probably not the best you could get outside of COVID-19 either.

2: Security in stability and financial performance

Property managers should help you minimise your financial losses during COVID-19, whilst providing stability and security.

In a survey by rent.com.au, 70% of property managers said that it would take more than 6 months for the market to return to normal, and 77% said that they saw an increase in tenants defaulting on their rent. It’s only normal to feel anxious about what the future holds right now. 

However, the best property managers will help you optimise your financial results during COVID-19, and prevent your investment properties from becoming a source of stress and turbulence.

Warning signs to look out for:

  • A sudden spike in property management fees. Despite an increase in workload in COVID-19, your property manager shouldn’t be increasing the price in an unexpected manner.
  • No plan for minimising your financial losses in COVID-19.
  • Your tenants are leaving and your property manager isn’t making negotiation attempts to make them stay. In these trying times, countless owners are dealing with falling rent prices.

Our response at :Different:

  • We charge our property investors a flat $100 per month fee, which is staying unchanged through COVID-19.
  • Whilst our landlord insurance is under embargo (as are most insurance providers) all owners who sign up during this period will still be eligible for their free year of insurance once the embargo is lifted.
  • We provide rental hardship assistance so that our property investors can retain their valuable tenants.
  • We conduct in-depth market research and try our best to understand the tenant’s circumstances to prevent vacancies for our property investors. Reducing the rent by $75 a week may not sound ideal, and evicting a tenant to find a new one who'll pay the full rent might sound appealing - but you’re more likely to maximise your financial gains in the long run by compromising with your tenant.

As Laird explains, we try to help our owners understand all the financial implications with their decisions to reach an outcome that is optimal for both them and their tenants.
“I have a couple of tenants who are renting a property in Coogee, and both tenants have had their salaries impacted by the pandemic. They preferred to stay put, but would’ve been forced to move out because of their current rent. Luckily, their landlord reduced their weekly rent from $900 to $775, which made all the difference. For a landlord, making a small adjustment like $125 a week is going to be more palatable than having to fork out $900 a week towards the mortgage for a long time, while your rental agent looks for a new tenant. Provided your agent is doing the necessary market research, the price you’ll rent to a new tenant is likely going to be similar to what your current tenants were requesting, with the added costs of vacancy and leasing.”

“For a landlord, making a small adjustment like $125 a week is going to be more palatable than having to fork out $900 a week towards the mortgage for a long time, while your rental agent looks for a new tenant. Provided your agent is doing the necessary market research, the price you’ll rent to a new tenant is likely going to be similar to what your current tenants were requesting, with the added costs of vacancy and leasing.”

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3: When face-to-face is not possible, digital is key

The third key pillar is to have excellent digital solutions for when face-to-face interactions aren’t possible..

Digital solutions have become more important than ever during COVID-19, with businesses across many industries scrambling to come up with apps and online solutions to keep delivering their products and services. This is especially true for property managers, with inspections, house tours, and more now being conducted online

It will quickly become apparent if your property manager is inexperienced with digital solutions.

Here are some warning signs:

  • An app, website or similar digital solution was made out of necessity from COVID-19 and did not exist before the pandemic.
  • The user interface isn’t pleasing, and doing simple tasks takes longer than it should.

Our response at :Different:

  • We’ve had our tech infrastructure in place for several years, which has given our property investors a more smooth transition as all parties are experienced. This includes our owner app and owner’s portal, where property investors can access statements, view payments, approve maintenance requests, and more.
  • Digital solutions are meant to supplement our service and exist to make things easier. They do not replace interpersonal communication.

“Other than an increased workload due to rent relief claims and the emotional toll of managing two struggling parties to a solution, we've otherwise been quite unaffected as our business model enables transparency and work from home. We also have exceptional leaders from different backgrounds who (at a high level) are able to work with the property managers to adapt to testing times”

Property managers that exhibit the above warning signs are not keeping up-to-date with their service solutions. If that’s the case, you might be paying for subpar service, and you could be saving a lot of time and effort by making an easy switch.

4: Transitioning to contact-free delivery of service

The fourth and final pillar is the most obvious one. Your property manager should be adhering to government restrictions and COVID-19 guidelines to ensure that your tenants are safe.

You can read in detail about the measures we have taken at :Different here. These measures include:

  • Changing our process when facilitating a rental lease
  • Using online solutions to substitute face-to-face interactions
  • Setting up new processes around rental hardship 
  • Offering 3D virtual inspections for our open homes
  • Using contactless methods for lease signing and key handover

Dealing with COVID-19

The current COVID-19 situation is no doubt a difficult one for property owners, tenants, and property managers alike. How your property manager makes the best out of this bad situation, however, is key to getting through these tough times with as little bumps in the road as possible. 

At :Different, our sophisticated tech has always been a central part of how we operate. Our owners’ app has been fondly dubbed a “one-stop shop” for everything you need, from access to historic bills and statements to communications and maintenance. When you need to talk to someone, our dedicated team members are available over the phone, on email, live chat, and through the owner portal.

We have contactless processes in place for managing your property, and we’re unafraid to jump on a video call if need be. This marriage of dedicated people and intelligent tech is what has allowed us to adapt so quickly to the ever-changing situation while continuing to provide the best possible service. 

Most importantly, we value transparency at :Different. This is reflected in our $100 flat fee (with no surprises), and our maintenance tracker which keeps us accountable for our response times. We’ll make sure to stay transparent and communicate everything you need to know to make informed decisions.

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