PROPERTY MANAGEMENT IN A PANDEMIC
Written by: Colliers | Columbus Real Estate Management Team
The Colliers | Columbus Real Estate Management team has more than 20 professionals that manage over 18.8 million square feet of commercial space in the Central Ohio region. Our property managers have an average of more than 10 years’ experience in commercial property management. Keep reading to hear our team’s insights on managing commercial properties during a pandemic.
What precautions have you been taking at your properties to mitigate the risk of tenants contracting COVID-19?
Social distancing signage in common areas and restrooms
Additional cleaning of common areas and high touch surfaces
Providing information per CDC and ODH guidelines
Requesting masks to be worn while inside building and common areas
Installation of touchless fixtures in restrooms
One way entrances and exits
How have you been handling property showings during this time?
While showings have been minimal during the pandemic thus far, our leasing team has worked diligently to ensure showings that are scheduled are communicated to property management teams and the appropriate social distancing precautions are followed to ensure the safety of current and future occupants.
What have you been doing, or what do you plan to do, to show tenant appreciation during this time?
In the past, we have coordinated to have an ice cream truck come to the properties to serve scoops. However, due to the pandemic, we are looking into other options such as individually packaged treats, purchasing coffee and donuts and delivering to individual tenant suites. We’ve also considered postponing the summer events and doing something extra special during the holidays. At the moment we are showing our tenants how much we appreciate them by going above and beyond to maintain a clean workplace, implementing protocols to keep employees safe at work and continuing to check in on them and help in any way we can.
Has your team’s handling of these procedures/changes been different for different property types? If so, how?
The biggest impact has been on the office sector of the industry. This is where the majority of our operations have been affected and have required implementation of new processes and procedures for all aspects of building management. The biggest impact on retail, industrial and flex properties has primarily been that the majority if not all of the communication we have with our tenants has switched to virtual correspondence. Prior to COVID-19 there would be periodic tenant visits where we would stop by the tenant’s suite, check in and see how things were going. Today we are checking in with tenants through email, phone calls and periodic surveys to ensure they know we are here to help even if we can’t be there in person.
Technology has been a hot topic in how property managers have had to adapt recently. Is this digitization something you are noticing in property management?
Absolutely, property management is a very personal industry. Prior to COVID-19, managers, maintenance and support staff would regularly meet in person with tenants and attend site and general business meetings with contractors and vendors and now almost all interaction is virtual. At the beginning, the instant effects on the way we normally conducted business felt overwhelming at times. As time has gone by, the property management teams have had time to adapt and implement new and existing technologies in order to continue to provide the same level of service while keeping themselves and others safe.
Property managers are creatures of habit, with the chaos thrown at us each day, sometimes, it can be difficult to be open minded to new technologies as this can be seen as just another thing that we have to wrap our brains around and overcome. Even with clearly outlined and proven benefits, it can still be daunting for some. Looking at the situation in a positive way, the need to adapt and fully digitize our daily operations has most definitely brought to light inefficiencies in how we conduct business. For example, we noticed meetings that could be zoom calls instead, allowing participants to collaborate without the loss of time due to commuting to the meeting spot. We also now understand the importance of keeping electronic files updated and realize that even if you can’t be somewhere in person, there is technology available to ensure the job still gets done.
What other things do you anticipate being big changes to property management in the future due to this pandemic?
With so many unknowns, it’s difficult to understand the large-scale effects of this pandemic on the property management industry. No matter what the outcome, commercial buildings will still need dedicated property managers to attend to repairs and maintenance of the mechanical equipment, engage with tenants, handle emergency issues as they arise and attend to the overall care of the asset. We foresee more streamlined electronic procedures being implemented, from the way we handle new tenant move in’s, work order requests, meetings with vendors, etc.
We will continue to monitor all informational outlets in order to stay current and educate ourselves on any new building regulations that may become necessary to implement based upon the current status of the pandemic, including news stations (local, state and federal), resources from our educational partners (IREM/BOMA), Colliers corporate communications, etc. We’ll also continue to develop and implement streamlined communications with owners and tenants on all necessary levels, from day to day operations to overall asset performance.
Again, looking through a positive lens, this pandemic has highlighted the dedication and problem-solving skills that property managers and maintenance teams possess. No one could have been fully prepared for something like this, but this is what property management is made for – evaluating a situation, creating a plan of action, and implementing that plan to the best of our abilities, all while continuing to monitor the outcome and adjust course as needed. No matter what the future holds, we know property managers will be ready to adapt and continue to aide commercial property owners and tenants to help ensure businesses continue to succeed no matter how different the path to success may be.