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Fill the Void: A Multifamily Housing Discussion

Multifamily Space
Mar. 03, 2021

We recently hosted a webinar featuring several talented executive leaders in the multifamily housing space.  The conversation led to many timely and useful insights that we’d hate for anyone to miss.  We’ve decided to share the highlights below.

The Effects of COVID-19 on the Industry

In the times we’re living in, you can’t have a conversation without discussing the obvious impacts that COVID-19 has made on all of our lives.  Here are the major points we discussed around the pandemic during the first half of the webinar.

The way we work has changed and will continue to change.

On-site tours have come to a halt, but property management teams have adapted to the new normal by conducting virtual tours and keeping in touch through phone calls and video chats with prospective clients.  As for the corporate office, many of our panelists agreed that we’ll see a hybrid model moving forward, in which employees will come into the office 2-3 times per week.  Many are rethinking the square footage of their current offices and plan to downsize. Another factor to consider is where your office is located.  For instance, if you’re located in the center of the city but most of your employees are located in the suburbs, it may make more sense to set up smaller, more cost-efficient satellite offices closer to home.

Virtual meetings have proven to be more productive and beneficial, especially in cases where travel was required in pre-COVID times.

Kevin Finkel, EVP of Providence Real Estate in Chicago, stated: “Time and travel has disappeared. We’ve been able to capitalize on meeting face-to-face, instantly.”  What he meant by that is that we used to be accustomed to hopping on a plane and flying to another city, sometimes another country, all for 1-2 meetings in which there was no guarantee the other party would show up.  The amount of time and cost savings we’ve gotten back since travel has been paused is substantial.  Although we may have to wake up earlier or stay up later to meet across time zones, many of us have learned effective techniques in making meetings as productive and beneficial as possible.

Logistics have become increasingly difficult for many on-site activities.

Collecting rent has become a struggle for many property managers as renters continue to face financial hardships.  While some cities have created pilot programs to help landlords reach out to tenants, other cities aren’t as lucky and have had tenants go months without paying rent. Some of our panelists chimed in with solutions to this issue citing successes in the creation of payment plan programs and sitting down with tenants one-on-one to go over their rental agreements and find a unique solution that works for their current situation.  Essentially, property managers need to work with tenants to find what works for them personally.

PropTech: A Double-Edged Sword

In 2020, the number of connected devices per person nearly doubled.

Residents are excited to be able to handle day-to-day activities like fitness center bookings, rent payments, package deliveries, etc. from their devices, but many aren’t happy when they have to use multiple applications to do so.  Tacking-on to this issue, when something goes wrong, residents have to reach out to multiple vendors or a management team who might not have the answer. This not just a problem in some cities but across the US, as a whole.  It will continue until we have more integrated solutions for these services and the properties where they are offered.

Focusing on Diversity & Inclusion

On a recruitment level, initial outreach is where diversity and inclusion should begin.

Belinda Gillett, Director of Human Resources at Lighthouse Group, provided a lot of insights from her own experience in creating a more diverse and inclusive culture.  She alluded that D&I efforts should begin at the recruitment level and should include small details such as featuring diverse photography on social media pages and your company’s web presence.  She believes that inclusivity is arguably even more important than diversity because members of your team need to feel that they are safe and that they belong.  Actions employers can take include providing floating holidays that employees can use to observe their religious beliefs and being more understanding to recent mothers and offering amenities to meet their needs.

Start the conversation.

Many of our panelists admitted to feeling vulnerable and sometimes fearful of starting a conversation around diversity and inclusion due to a lack of knowledge.  However, after starting these conversations within their workplace, team members began to feel more engaged and like their voices were being heard.  Now more than ever, it’s important to simply start the conversation about diversity and inclusion and let everyone’s voice be heard.

Attracting and Retaining Talent

Finding skilled talent has become increasingly difficult.

Our panelists discussed the important role that maintenance plays within property management.  Skilled talent is hard to find, and now, with the construction boom, these types of workers are able to demand higher pay.  A common bottleneck in attracting and retaining talent on both the maintenance and leasing agent side is lack of career growth.  Moving forward, we need to work harder to create career paths for new hires in property management so that they are more likely to stay for many years.

We highlighted a lot, but there were a lot more points of the discussion made throughout the webinar you’ll just have to see for yourself.  To watch the full Fill the Void discussion, sign up for the link here.


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