COVID-19 STRAINS CUSTOMER SERVICE
As 2021 roars on, watch for property management to become an integral component of sustained tenancy for the foreseeable future. Wood Partners anticipates the effective staffing of properties to be a constant difficulty for most of the industry throughout 2021. Colony Hills Capital expects delinquencies to be an ongoing problem for much of the multifamily industry due to the financial stress on residents caused by the pandemic. MG Properties Group will target existing markets in the West Coast where the company expects strong growth.
Previous pushes for top talent from companies such as Bell Partners, Morgan Properties and Sunrise Management, via internships and leadership programs, among others, will continue. However, the strain of the pandemic will shift more responsibility and expectations onto staff as tenants will expect properties to maintain safety standards and guidelines, which could drive or impact current or potential tenants if handled poorly.
Managers will be required to balance maintaining social distance guidelines while meeting customer needs. Though property managers are optimistic that the rollout of vaccines will alleviate the need for social distancing guidelines, this process will likely be long and arduous, and as such, property managers will have to approach what may be frustrating stopgaps for tenants with care and patience as the situation evolves.
Amenities and general service will also require a new focus, as more virtual events and socially distanced activities have proven to be in demand. Wood Partners alleviated some of this tension by increasing virtual events and offering gift baskets to tenants. The company predicts that the types of amenities offered will stay the same, but size and layouts will likely change, with more focus on individual spaces. Tenants may be more apt to want to relocate if they feel that service or amenities were subpar as a result of social distance guidelines or if staff poorly maintained and handled the implementation of such guidelines.
Delinquencies and collections will be a key focus for most companies. Colony Hills is keen to ensure that managers are helpful to residents that require assistance, maintaining constant communication on both sides. Colony Hills employs regional management companies and will continue to focus on customer service as a key asset. The company will expand its portfolio this year with closings scheduled in Atlanta and Houston, noting the importance of asset management and customer service in the Class B and C spaces as ways to set communities apart from the competition.
Wood Partners predicts bad debt clean up to also be a constant problem, which vary greatly in difficulty based on local city, county and state ordinances regarding evictions. The company expects this problem to persist throughout most of 2021. Wood Partners anticipates some of the difficulties faced in 2020 — such as staffing issues and changing regulations in cities — to abate throughout the year, though it notes that Class A businesses were not hit as hard regarding collections as Class B and C assets. The company solved staffing issues by employing A and B teams, splitting employees up in remote and onsite groups, and Wood Partners will likely continue that trend going forward. The company will maintain its presence in Northern and Southern California along with Texas, Georgia and Florida among other states, expanding its properties, with the potential to add another property in the Midwest later this year.
MG Properties continues to see strong demand from residents for unit upgrades, attributed primarily to the increased time inside units because of the pandemic, and expects this trend to continue. The company will be flexible regarding repositioning and upgrade plans, and though budgets will vary, it will often trend towards a range of $5K to $20K per unit.