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  • Writer's pictureColliers | Columbus

THE EVOLUTION OF PROPERTY MANAGEMENT OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS

Written by: Jeff Comerford


Jeff Comerford is a Senior Property Manager at Colliers | Columbus with over 20 years of experience in the industry. He currently manages over 1,000,000 SF of industrial flex-warehouse, office and medical space. Keep reading for Jeff's take on how managing commercial properties has changed over the last 5 years.



How has property management changed from before the pandemic? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly transformed property management.  Probably the most notable of which is Enhanced Health and Safety Protocols. Enhanced cleaning protocols have become standard practice in common areas and high-touch surfaces. Some properties have introduced touchless restroom fixtures, touchless entry systems, and increased ventilation. In addition to enhanced cleaning, common areas like gyms, lounges, and pools have been reconfigured to allow for social distancing and capacity limits, and reservation systems are often used to manage the flow of residents. This change in protocols has required property managers to increase communication efforts to keep tenants informed about COVID-19 policies, safety updates, and changes in building operations.


In response to economic uncertainties and changing work situations, employers are now looking for shorter lease terms and less square footage, as employees seek more flexibility around their work environment. There has been a notable shift in tenant preferences, with more people moving from urban centers to suburban or rural areas. 


Recognizing the economic impact of the pandemic, many property owners have implemented rent relief programs, deferred payment plans, or connected tenants with local assistance resources. While upgrading safety equipment and safety guidelines, some property owners have increased focus on sustainability practices, such as energy-efficient appliances and green building certifications, as tenants become more environmentally conscious. Property managers are now more focused on resilience planning, ensuring their properties can withstand future pandemics or similar disruptions.


Do you believe all these changes are here to stay and if so or if not then why not ?

Many of the changes in property management spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to become permanent due to their benefits and the evolving expectations of tenants. Continued focus on cleanliness and hygiene is expected to remain, as it promotes overall health and wellness. These enhanced cleaning policies and touchless systems provide convenience and reduce the spread of illnesses, likely becoming a standard feature.


I believe, at least for several more years, the increase in remote work will sustain and the demand for home office setups and coworking spaces will persist. Office spaces will also have to accommodate hybrid work models, with designs that support both in-office and remote work. This will continue to cause a demand for flexibility in lease terms, catering to a more mobile and uncertain workforce.


What are some emerging trends in real estate management? 

Emerging trends in real estate management are driven by technological advancements, changing tenant preferences, and broader economic and environmental factors.  The implementation of energy-efficient systems, green roofs, and sustainable building materials to reduce environmental impact and lower operational costs has become more prevalent than ever and with the adoption of property technology for automating processes, such as AI-driven property management software, smart building systems, and IoT devices for maintenance and monitoring, this has never been easier.  Some governmental bodies are now requiring building owners to log their energy usage so it can be benchmarked and compared to other buildings in the area.  This has caused an increasing demand for green building certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and WELL Building Standards to attract environmentally conscious tenants.


How do you stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in commercial real estate management?

Staying updated with the latest trends and technologies in commercial real estate management requires a proactive approach to continuous learning and engagement with industry resources.  I currently serve as Treasurer for our local BOMA chapter.  Participation in industry conferences, seminars, and webinars offered by organizations, such as BOMA, are a great way to stay updated on events currently affecting the industry.  I’m also enrolled in the BOMI RPA education track and once complete, I will receive my certification for Real Property Administrator. 


Other great ways to stay up-to-date include engaging with professionals in LinkedIn groups, real estate forums, and industry-specific social media channels and attending meetings and events organized by local chapters of national real estate organizations.


How do you handle tenant relations and ensure tenant satisfaction? Has this changed since the pandemic?

Handling tenant relations and ensuring tenant satisfaction are critical components of successful property management.  I keep tenants informed with regular updates about property changes, maintenance schedules, and community news. During the pandemic, this became even more crucial, with frequent updates about health guidelines and safety measures. Providing multiple communication channels—email, phone, and online portals—ensures tenants can reach me easily. I’ve increased my use of digital communication tools to maintain contact without needing in-person meetings.  Promptly addressing tenant inquiries and concerns builds trust and satisfaction. During the pandemic, I prioritized quick responses to health and safety concerns and any issues related to the new working conditions.


As a company, we conduct tenant satisfaction surveys to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement. We increased the frequency of these surveys to monitor changing needs during the pandemic. This helps show that tenant feedback is valued by making visible changes based on their suggestions.

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