By Albert Nguyen (MultiFamilyExecutive.com Article) —
As spring approaches, it’s crucial for property management companies to prepare for the industry’s busiest season. Approximately 70% of moves take place in spring and summer, with both purchase and rental markets heating up alongside the weather, and as schools and colleges close down.
Preparing for success during this annual rush means property management companies must make sure there are as many units available as possible to meet the demand of the season. And because supply tends to be limited, the key is effectively managing the move-in and move-out process to ensure each unit is occupied for as many days as possible.
This takes careful planning and coordination; property managers must conduct resident walk-throughs, ensure payments are collected, and complete unit upgrades and third-party vendor work, while also maintaining up-to-date vacancy listings. Turning around properties quickly is key to ensure each unit is rented out for the maximum time each year, and effective management of each of these processes and tasks can help make this possible.
Traditionally, many of the tasks that property managers handle, including those involved in the move-in and move-out process, have been managed manually. This means spreadsheets and paper documents like checklists and contracts. These documents tend to be distributed across computers, throughout offices, and in filing cabinets.
Paper documentation is not only needlessly inefficient but much riskier than digital documentation. A 2016 study revealed that over 70% of businesses would fail in just three weeks if they suffered a major loss of paper-based records because of an event such as a fire or flood. This could be particularly hard-hitting for those in property management and real estate, where contracts, financial records, maintenance, and other key documentation is critical to day-to-day business.
Collaboration and Coordination
Excluding major losses from flood or fire, there’s still a range of issues that can result from the inefficiencies of standalone records and files. For example, if there’s improved communication between the property management team, maintenance tasks can be better coordinated and result in a single call to a plumber or electrician who may be required to work on multiple suites.
In a 2018 survey, 48% of real estate firms expressed that keeping up with technology was one of the biggest challenges facing their firm in the coming years. With this in mind, it’s important that when a firm begins their digital transformation journey, it starts in an area of the business that will benefit the most.
Efficiencies in Digitizing the Move-In and Move-Out Process
As discussed, the move-in and move-out process is crucial to ensure that units are turned over in an orderly and efficient fashion. For example, the inspection process can be easily automated by digitizing the inspection checklist and making it available on a mobile device or tablet. This means that inspection forms can be completed on-site and data can be immediately transmitted back to head office without having to manually input the data at a later time. This data can also then be used to inform other necessary processes, such as repairs, so delays in the time it takes to input information is reduced, and any required follow-up actions can be scheduled more quickly.
The Biggest Challenge
The biggest challenge faced when implementing a new digital system isn’t generally the complexity of the technology itself, but rather preparing the team and company culture for a change in operating procedures. If staff have been trained throughout their career to complete a task in a spreadsheet or printed document and manually input the information into another system, transitioning to a fully digital platform can be challenging. But once staff become familiar with the systems, they’ll notice that their workload has been reduced while their speed and accuracy has improved.
Systems used to manage properties and vendors, such as contractors, electricians, and plumbers,can be combined in a single digital system to close the gap between management and maintenance. Digital work orders, approvals, and team communication can be centralized and automated to reduce lag time and improve communication.
Connectivity and Integration
One argument that may come up when the decision is made to digitally transform is the concern over whether new applications have the capability to work offline when cellular service is low or unavailable. Modern applications can indeed be used in areas where other systems might not work, and the data is uploaded as soon as connectivity returns.
Second, if a property management team is already using some form of software, many digital applications also offer the capability to integrate with other popular property management systems.
By speeding up the process of turning over properties as one tenant moves out and another moves in, property managers can earn a higher return on their investment of what is otherwise a finite resource. In order to be prepared to make the most of the spring and summer seasons, it’s key to ensure that all internal systems, digitized or otherwise, are designed to provide efficiency and accuracy.