The multifamily industry is in constant change and more crowded than ever before with projects across all asset classes. To stay competitive, property managers must change with it. Here are 10 things property managers can do to provide increased value to owners and asset managers—and to add to the bottom line of their portfolios.
1. Get back to basics.
At its core, property management is still all about maintaining assets and their value. What’s changing, however, are the expectations of owners and asset managers. They expect more these days. So, managers need to up their game to provide added value to the clients. In addition to providing core management services, consider more sophisticated asset management functions such as serving as a liaison for real estate taxes, insurance, utility purchasing or with local political entities. Those are just a few of the ways to remain competitive and differentiate yourself from other property management firms.
2. Understand the client’s investment strategy
Managers need to understand the owner’s investment strategy and ultimate plans for the property in order to be able to optimize the use and financial results of each property. It’s imperative to read the investment prospectus for each property you manage and provide information with those objectives in mind. Owners and managers of apartment communities know how important it is to balance priorities, maximize secondary revenue streams and regulate expenses to ensure the property remains a market-competitive asset.
3. Speak the language of finance
In the past, property managers would be concerned solely with bricks and sticks. Now, they need to understand the cash flow that those bricks and sticks generate. Make sure that all staff members understand terms like NOI, cap rate, CAM and NNN. That way, all parties speak the same language.
4. Communicate clearly
It’s essential that property managers keep all stakeholders informed. After all, we are the day-to-day link to not only the property, but also the market. Managers should visit sites regularly and be in constant communication with stakeholders to keep them apprised of the condition of each asset and any actions they are planning to take. But managers need to do more than just convey information; they need to receive it as well. Being an active listener will allow you to deploy the knowledge you receive in the field.
5. Master the market
Whether it’s local rent laws, required disclosures or a knowledge of asking rental rates at competitive properties, every market is different, and a savvy property manager has to be the local expert. Asset managers and owners need to be able to rely on the actionable information and advice provided by property managers because they are the ones with local insight.
6. Triage effectively
Sure, there are a lot of things that can be improved on every project you manage. But the best property managers think about economic payback and whether NOI will be improved if they recommend a capital expenditure for repairs or upgrades. Managers should always consider whether there is an economic incentive to support their recommendations.
7. Deal with tenants or prospective tenants creatively
Anyone can post a photo to social media or enter available space into an online apartment database. By creating innovative opportunities to engage with prospective tenants through community activities, referral incentives and specialized programming that connects with your target audience, you can tailor the activities to complement the property. For example, at The Residences at Addison & Clark, which happens to be located directly across the street from Wrigley Field, we hosted an open house during the Cubs home opener for our residents and social media followers, attracting over 200 visitors to the property.
8. Create a sense of community
Residents today want not only a well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing home, but also a sense of community. Property managers can create that sense of community through social activities and engagement that binds residents to the property and their fellow neighbors. That translates into not only satisfied tenants but also residents who are more likely to stay put, reducing the costs of tenant move-outs and the need to re-lease units. At two of our properties in Chicago, for example, we planted herb gardens that residents nurture and care for. The fresh herbs can be used in cooking classes or activities in the property’s communal kitchen, as well as in their own units.
9. Provide top-notch customer service
That means providing added value to both your residents as well as to your clients, the property owners and asset managers. Part of providing customer service is to recruit, train and retain talented employees who are committed to resident satisfaction. From resolving complaints to answering questions to planning social engagements, front-line staff members play a pivotal role in providing a happy home for the renter. Empowering them to make decisions will not only emphasize their value to the team but also lead to quick resolution of resident concerns. Consider investing in continuing education for your employees and reward them for providing excellent customer service. This will help to develop, retain and nurture a superb front-line team.
10. Think like an owner
Property managers create the most value when they understand the investment objectives of the owner. Is the property a long-term hold, or does the owner plan to renovate, reposition and sell the asset? It’s easy for us to recognize the owner’s needs because our sister company, M&R Development, is an owner of multifamily properties. By understanding the value proposition, our property managers can look beyond the physical confines of the assets they manage and can make recommendations to enhance their competitive profile. That adds value to our clients.
Diana Pittro is Executive Vice President at RMK Management where she oversees all management, marketing and operations as well as capital programs for the RMK Management Corporation portfolio. She is responsible for day-to-day operations of RMK and has been actively engaged in all due diligence projects for the company and its owners.