Many things have changed since our Country shutdown on March 27, 2020, including how property management companies operate. Before COVID-19, our office was open to walk-in traffic, and a handshake was a sign of “nice doing business with you.” Maintenance was conducted regularly on resident occupied homes and more.
Since March, property management companies and the industry had to adapt quickly. The “old school” ways of pen and paper made their way to the trash, bringing in electronic signatures and virtual tours. Yes, some companies were already doing these things, but most were not. The adage “Necessity is the mother of invention” has never been truer than now.
So, what does property management look like now, mid-COVID-19?
Most offices are appointment only and closed to walk-in traffic. Should an appointment be needed, you are met with a bottle of sanitizer, plexiglass partitions, and a mask-wearing employee.
Marketing Rental Properties
Photos of properties were the standard way of marketing a rental home. Now with the limited access to homes, virtual tours are hitting the scene fast and heavy. Sure, some companies were using virtual tours on a property here and there, but nothing consistent. They may not be state-of-the-art production, but they are getting the job done. With smartphones getting smarter and smarter, videos can easily be recorded, quickly edited, and produced.
One scenario that we didn’t expect to see was the increase in demand for rental housing. We are renting houses on average 14-days or less, and some are even renting in 24-hours. Demand is as high as we saw in 2012. Don’t believe me? Just check out five management companies in your area… you will notice one thing in common…very few properties available.
Renting a Home
If a resident is interested in viewing a home, they need to use an electronic lockbox to gain access to the property. They are not allowed to come and “check out keys” any longer. They gain access through a unique single-use code, view the property, and return the keys. Another prospect can’t view the property for several hours.
Applications are filled out online, and application fees are paid online as well. No more filling out a paper application and paying cash for the fees. The process of filling out the online application was gaining in popularity before this, but some management companies had not fully converted.
Signing leases and picking up keys
The resident comes wearing a mask, and we conduct the lease presentation, sign electronically, and pick up the keys. Before we go into a conference room, the room is sanitized while the resident is in the office, so they know it is clean.
For residents that do not feel comfortable coming to the office, a virtual lease signing is an option, and the resident either mails or drops off the funds in the dropbox. Keys are either be picked up or left in a lockbox at the property for the resident to unlock.
Online rental payments were something most management companies were moving towards before COVID-19 for many reasons. Processing hundreds of thousands of dollars in money orders etc. leaves room for more errors, not to mention taking that size of a deposit to the bank is a safety concern for staff members.
Banks have improved their processing times for online payments, cutting them down from 72-hours to 24 business hours. This improvement allows management companies to get landlords their money quicker as well. Most management companies are moving towards electronic payments to their landlords. Often, electronic payments are much faster than using the postal system. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about the rental check getting “lost” in the mail or, worse yet, stolen.
Maintenance and Repairs
At the beginning of the shutdown, maintenance and repairs were on hold for 60-days, unless it was an emergency. Delaying maintenance has challenges of its own (link to Steve’s blog “delayed maintenance”), so management companies and residents alike started allowing other repairs to happen.
Vendors must wear masks when entering a home. Residents must wear a mask as well while the vendor is in the home. Residents must sanitize all doorknobs, handles, etc. leading to the item needing repair. The area where the repair is needed must be sanitized before and after. Residents and vendors must maintain social distancing. Residents are then instructed to sanitize all surfaces the repairman touched once the repairman leaves.
Of course, no blog on property management would be complete without discussing Evictions. Yes, some residents are indeed taking advantage of the Eviction moratorium. However, most residents are paying their rent on time. And those that are unable to are making payment arrangements. Still, there is always a bad apple to spoil the bunch.
With all the new regulations that came down on September 2, there are many unanswered questions regarding evictions. What we do know is that residents must attest under penalty of perjury that they are unable to pay their rent. Stay tuned as we learn more about Evictions in the coming weeks.
While things might look a different now than it did five months ago, there is a silver lining to it all. Property management companies are coming into the 21st century with technology, leasing practices, and more. By making these changes, properties rent faster, putting more money in the landlord’s pocket faster, creating fewer vacancies, and providing amazing homes to residents. If you are thinking about renting out your home now or soon, rest assured your local property management company will be there for you.