The future of property management
When I started writing this article I decided that in order to write about the future of property management I needed to study the past. In doing so something rather worrying hit me: as an industry, things have got worse not better!
If you look closely you will see that, despite there being a myriad of improvements to professionalism, systems, processes, qualifications and compliance, fundamentally things have got worse.
If we go back 15 to 20 years property management was the poor cousin to surveying, where those working in it did so by accident, ‘snail mail’ was preferred as it meant no one expected an instantaneous response, solicitors still wanted leasehold enquiries packs via fax (remember those?), H&S compliance was practically unheard of and producing year end accounts was something you might get, if you asked for them of course.
Thankfully we have come a long way since then. We have various ways to communicate now - client portals, electronic site visit apps and better accounting systems – and we take our responsibility for compliance very seriously. However one thing hasn’t changed at all - we are still a people intensive industry.
We need people to answer phones, open post, bank cheques, liaise with contractors, do site visits, meet clients, pitch for business, manage the property, oversee major works, pay invoices, produce accounts and everything else in between. We probably have double the amount of people doing the job than we used to yet we still charge a similar fee, in real monetary terms, despite doing considerably more.
So what will the future look like?
I believe we must look after our staff. One of the biggest complaints I hear about managing agents is the constant churn of their assigned property manager. Yes, the role of a property manager is difficult but as employers we have a duty to look after our biggest asset. Remuneration is only one part of the equation – the office environment, benefits, training, having a good manager (there is a saying “people don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers” – I couldn’t agree more), flexible working conditions etc are all part of that. We should find ways to promote talent within the industry otherwise we will find more and more going ‘client side’.
We should also help to educate the customer about what we do and the time involved in managing a property. To do this properly the industry needs agents to stop competing on price and compete on service instead. Ultimately this will not only benefit the customer but also help raise standards within the industry.
And finally, I think we must recognise we no longer just manage buildings – we manage people and their buildings. We should look for ways to add value for the customer and use technology to complement how we do that. Technology has radically changed the way we work and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a reality, helping us make efficiencies and free up people to provide a better level of service. What’s important though is that we use the time savings to add value rather than give property managers with more sites to manage.
As time goes on we will end up doing more, that’s a given, but we can do things better. We can collaborate more, provide flexible working, eliminate bad practices, gather more data or think ‘bigger picture’ – it’s up to us. So perhaps the future of property management isn’t so much in what we do but how we do it.