Senior Vice President, Investment Management at AppFolio, which provides cloud-based property management software solutions.

Pre-pandemic, many in the world of real estate looked upon the digital transformation as more of a “nice to have” rather than a necessity. Fast-forward to today, in a pandemic reality, the shift to remote work and social distancing has quickly elevated the digital transformation in real estate to a must-have. What’s more? The technology adopted in response to remote realities is not likely to go away after it’s safe to return to the office.

In property management, a segment of real estate that requires significant human interaction shifting to remote was challenging. However, new innovations in technology have helped make the transition successful these past several months. The rapid adoption of digital tools to solve remote pain-points marks an exciting new era for property management teams — and it’s only just begun. However, as these new technologies solve one problem, they tend to create another if you’re not careful. Here are some considerations for property managers to stay ahead of the curve.

Offer The Best Virtual Showings

Virtual showings (live, mobile showings with a leasing agent) and 3D tours (pre-recorded property walk-throughs) make it possible for leasing teams to eliminate face-to-face interactions while showing properties to prospective renters, keeping both prospects and leasing teams safe. The apartment hunt process can be a stressful time for prospects and their leasing agents alike — technology has the power to reduce some of the challenges that come with it.

But how to do the virtual showing effectively? A virtual tour is not as simple as holding up a phone and walking from room to room. It requires some strategy, especially around video quality, because that is all that prospects have to base their decision on when doing a virtual tour. Ensure that the unit is well-lit so that the images are clearer and use a horizontal view with the phone camera when walking through the unit — the wider angle will allow the prospect to see more of the unit during the showing.

Additionally, one disadvantage of not touring a unit in-person is that prospects don’t necessarily get a glimpse into the more detailed aspects of a unit. Do not make the mistake of skimping on the details during a tour. Make sure to highlight close-ups of integral aspects of the unit, i.e., the stove, shower, sinks and windows, so that prospects have a better idea of the condition they should expect of individual appliances or fixings as well their overall functionality.

There is also something about virtual tours that may naturally feel less personal to a prospect. Given that, it is important to be as engaged and enthusiastic as possible when trying to make that connection over the screen with the prospect. The stakes are higher in the virtual world because it is void of in-person interaction.

Improve Resident Relationships

There is no doubt it is important for property managers to maintain strong relationships with residents. Good relationships with residents often result in more lease renewals and less work backfilling vacant units. In the pandemic world, communication between property management and residents has never been more critical for maintaining the health and safety of everyone. With innovations in bulk email and text messaging, property managers are able to quickly and effectively communicate with residents. As residents get used to more frequent communications, it will increasingly become more of a resident expectation, so hitting residents with the right messages and information will help meet those expectations.

The number one piece of advice for property management teams is to be proactive in their communications with residents. Especially amid an uncertain situation, like the pandemic, you should keep residents as updated as possible to new building-wide policies, new payment plans or options, new state regulations and more. Residents will find that type of information extremely helpful, especially if they don’t have to ask for it first.

Ensure your communications carry a positive tone. Make sure to personalize certain communications depending on the resident on the receiving end. For example, is the resident elderly and in need of help getting groceries during the pandemic? Taking extra care by personalizing communications with residents provides a better living experience and ultimately makes them want to stay, which is important for any property management business. Additionally, stay in their inboxes and texts frequently to ensure that residents know you are actively thinking about them — so much of what property management does is behind the scenes, so frequent communications allow you to be more visible.

Overall, technology made the transition to remote work more effective, but it has a longevity that takes us far beyond the pandemic. As these technologies become more common, it is important for property management and leasing teams to make these efforts as personalized and effective as possible.

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The rapid adoption of digital tools to solve remote pain points marks an exciting new era for property management teams – and it’s only just begun.The rapid adoption of digital tools to solve remote pain points marks an exciting new era for property management teams – and it’s only just begun.

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