The tech effect on property management

Debra McCracken

New software enables property managers to spend less time sorting data and more time acting on information

Love it or hate it, technology has certainly changed the world of business, blurring personal and professional lines and transforming industries. Indeed, technology’s profound impact has affected even the most traditional of businesses, including property management.

I’ve been in property management for more than 25 years and I still remember the enormous impact of using a typewriter with a small memory feature. Even the fax machine radicalized business, replacing how overnight mailing and courier services provided a competitive edge. Today is no different as it seems that property management is now consumed through email chains, text messages and accounting software. Data is streamlined and funneled into searchable property databases, digital document storage and automated budgeting programs, all accessible on the cloud. Face-to-face business now competes with gaining LinkedIn contacts through a business card’s QR code. In an overwhelming digital age, property managers are tasked to balance a brick-and-mortar reality with ever-evolving tech expectations.

Already there is a sharp contrast between today’s property managers versus a mere decade ago. Most notably there has been a drastic change in accessibility and a bombardment of information, which is only equaled to demands for an ‘instant response.’ As such, it may seem impossible to simultaneously manage everything with each property’s idiosyncrasies and needs. After all, technology has only increased connectivity, and thereby client expectations. Though mobile communication is advantageous at times, the property manager is at the mercy of competing priorities. This can prove especially frustrating if boundaries are not in place.

Increased accessibility also feeds the assumption that a property manager is readily available. With immediate confirmation notifications for read and received emails or texts, there seems to be little patience for delay and increased pressure to react. Property managers must assess what is of greater priority – speed or quality – and proceed forward. The emphasis on immediacy isn’t limited to a property manager’s response time either. As technology imposes quicker timelines for sales, leases, maintenance and improvements, property managers must also cope with shortened deadlines. Again, exercising pragmatism and investing in client relationships are often the best practices to cope with such demands.

Yet, technology is not without its remarkable benefit to property management. New software enables property managers to spend less time collecting and manually sorting data and more time acting on the information. More efficient tools have improved upon time management practices, which can boost property performance and revenue, eradicate redundancies, provide strategic actions and plans, and enhance building systems. Impactful environmental measures are also easier to implement with digital document storage, inventory management, paperless billing and sustainable energy saving improvements. Building maintenance dispatching is also quicker and more convenient to tenants. Additionally, delivery services are improved with ordering and tracking, and security needs have expanded to include information systems. Lastly, instant communication can help strengthen client relationships and mitigate any unforeseeable challenges with the property.

However, even with these modern amenities it can still be difficult to keep apprised upon the most profitable programs. It’s also challenging to carve out time to adequately learn the newest upgrades. As such, continuing education in commercial real estate is vitally important. Not only does it help keep property managers current, but it creates a resourceful community amongst colleagues and peers. After all, the keystone of property management has always been relationships, and this is a great opportunity to use both skills together.

Today’s technology undoubtedly excels at bringing people together, which is at the very heart of property management. No matter how it’s redefined in the years to come, property management will remain firmly as a people business.

Debra McCracken is a certified property manager and has handled portfolios of over one million square feet consisting of office, retail and industrial properties throughout the Vancouver metropolitan area at NAI Norris, Beggs & Simpson, a real estate brokerage and asset/property management company. Contact her at 360.852.9630 or dmccracken@nbsrealtors.com.

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