Much has happened in the aftermath of the pandemic, all of which directly impacted real estate management. From the war in Ukraine to rising inflation, from interest rate hikes to increased rents, uncertainty fills the world.
According to news sources such as NPR and The Real Deal, the national median rent has reached or surpassed two-thousand dollars for the first time in the United States. The rental market is more competitive than ever, making it an especially crucial time for multifamily communities to focus on and achieve greater efficiency.
Strong management is non-negotiable. Not only does it help retain residents, but also the talent working with them. While the rental market is experiencing a high, so has the turnover of the operational staff. This turnover directly impacts resident satisfaction, not to mention the overall value of a property.
There are ways to increase efficiency for maximum results. The AppWork team details four strategies below, including tips on maximizing efficiency in the current work climate, plus the tools needed.
PropTech: Doing More with Less
Companies across the country are struggling to maintain enough staff for growing businesses. Nearly every sector has been affected. Scenes of long lines and excruciating wait times at check-out counters, restaurants, or even car rental pick-up are commonplace.
There are several reasons for the phenomena now called “The Great Resignation”: a hot job market, low unemployment, and runaway inflation. Firms everywhere need to do more with fewer staff members.
For the real estate sector, rental management or property technology software (such as AppWork and others) helps streamline workflows and empower employees and residents. These apps enable companies to hire fewer staff members and help those on staff be more effective.
With the right app, managers and techs can oversee multiple properties, units, employees, and work orders from the palm of their hands. Centralizing the team deepens the impact of each member. A good app also focuses on information sharing, connects the resident to the community staff, bolsters resident satisfaction, and solidifies higher retention rates.
However, alongside software tools, there are other human and emotional variables that communities need to consider to increase NOI.
Better Attitudes, Better Collaboration
In the past, many firms and their internal departments held attitudes and prejudices that resulted in a feeling of, "You do your job, and I will do mine." Nowadays, that attitude no longer works. Teamwork is not just a buzzword but a necessity for the success of a multifamily community. Residents often reflect the attitudes of staff members. Thus, the ambiance of the team affects the whole community.
When hiring, managers need to focus not only on hard skills and years of experience but also on soft skills and natural attitudes. An upbeat attitude brings incredible value to any team.
On top of that, managers must treat their staff well. Not only in terms of fair compensation but as valuable team members who have much to contribute. With the right attitudes in check, a strong team will follow. An ambiance of collaboration acts like Miracle Grow in any workplace.
The atmosphere of a rental property starts with the staff. If the team is happy and the members feel valued, that energy will flow into their work. This energy overflows into the state of the property with well-tended gardens and promptly filled work orders. People tend to do higher-quality work when they work with positive energy and care about their job.
Tenants will witness the care going into the property and notice how quickly the team resolves their issues. Residents will feel appreciated and judge the value of living on the property. Happier residents increase the value of a community. Rent increases are inevitable. When a community is well-managed with high resident satisfaction, those increases are less of an obstacle for occupancy. People pay for quality.
Above all, an emphasis on teamwork is critical. All the benefits stem from the staff, large or small, working as a cohesive unit. Managers must nurture and encourage them. Everyone needs to believe: We are all in this together. Managers should strive to lead that credo by modeling it through actions.
Managers can make employees feel valued with some easy things, like remembering their birthdays with a card or bringing donuts in from time to time. Small gestures make a big difference. Team-building events are invaluable. These events can include anything from hosting a team dinner, playing a round of miniature golf, or hiking together.
Games, in particular, simple ones like card games and board games, teach managers a lot about their staff and build bonds that feel natural. Most importantly, managers should show that they genuinely care. People crave feeling cared for in any relationship, whether work-related or personal. People want to matter. Managers have the power to make people know that they count.
If the staff knows that their work matters and when they forge bonds, their work will prosper, along with their communities.
Inspect What You Expect: Follow-Up
In sales, as in life, follow-up is everything. Property managers and maintenance supervisors set the bar for their expectations by inspecting work orders.
Supervisors will never get the results they want if they never personally inspect a technician's work. If they do not show up in person, they set a bad precedent by creating an opening for oversights to happen.
If technicians feel they are unmonitored, they start to believe the quality of their work is not important. They think it is their job, not the managers, to ensure the smooth running of the community. This thought process violates the main principle of collaboration by revisiting the old-time attitude of, "You do your job, and I do mine."
Managers are like commanders in the military. The buck stops with them. The more a manager cares, the more their techs will. Showing technicians concern about the caliber of their work helps build a positive team attitude. It lets them know that their work matters.
AppWork includes an option for residents to rate and review technicians after the completion of a work order to enable follow-up. The reviews enable community managers to see the effectiveness of each deliverable.
Of course, the more follow-up, the better. Property managers should communicate regularly with residents. They can ask about the technician's work and check in on how the resident feels overall about the community.
Managers also need to speak with the technician and ask how everything went. Most importantly, they need to inspect the work done in person.
Managers should not mistake micromanagement for caring. No one likes being micromanaged. No one. Managers need to trust their technicians and provide praise and encouragement in large doses. After following up with a tenant or inspecting the work personally, a manager should also discuss it with the service technician.
A manager can build the tech up when they are on the right track, so he stays on the right track. They can contact them and convey something like, "I just wanted to let you know that I saw the work you did in unit 301 and thought you did a great job."
Or they can say, "I gave the resident in unit 220 a call. She said you were super helpful. I appreciate you going the extra mile." Small moments of earned praise go far with staff and will encourage them to give their all.
Of course, not every work order goes as planned. Sometimes residents are unhappy or blasé about the work done. Sometimes their feelings are justified. If that is the case, the manager needs to dig in and see what caused the issue. They also need to own the problem and make sure it gets resolved.
First, the manager should communicate with the resident and show that she cares. Then, she needs to troubleshoot the issue or find someone who can troubleshoot the problem until the resident is satisfied.
A good manager takes care of what needs to be taken care of. Then they speak with the tech and give the feedback received from the resident. Both the manager and technician need to listen to the resident's feedback without being judgemental.
Sometimes, a service technician can explain why they completed the job in an unsatisfactory way. He might have personal problems, like a sick child or an impending divorce. The resident might have genuine interpersonal issues. Maybe the technician made an honest mistake and missed something.
Everyone is human and makes mistakes. A good manager both shows empathy and keeps a lookout for recurring issues. They get to the root of the problem while showing understanding to both technician and the resident. They also make sure that it does not happen again. This foresight goes back to owning responsibilities.
AppWork created a helpful checklist of suggestions for managing work orders and follow-ups:
- If using maintenance management software (like AppWork), make sure to read resident reviews. If residents are not reviewing work orders, follow up with them about the work done and encourage them to review work orders in the future.
- Even if a resident leaves a review, it is good to talk with them in person about the work order. Ask how the job went, and see if they have any other needs.
- It always helps to speak with the technician and get their take on the job. Let them know if the resident gave positive feedback, and make sure to praise them.
- Go to the unit and inspect the work personally. Nothing can replace an actual inspection.
- Some managers have found it helpful to tag along with technicians on jobs and provide a helping hand. The manager can gain valuable insight and experience by doing this. He will also build rapport with his team member.
Community managers should not reinvent the wheel with each work order. They need written standards for every type of work order and make ready task. They should distribute and discuss their standards and make sure the whole team understands (and agrees) with them.
Within a community, every technician should follow the standard procedure. Standardization drives efficiency. If every technician follows the same workflow, then the team will feel more cohesive and unified.
Efficiency increases when writing work orders uniformly, processing work orders in their proscribed method, and executing work orders in the same way across the board.
Maintenance management PropTech (like AppWork) automatically standardize operational workflows, getting every team member on the same page. Whichever method a manager uses, each team member needs to know the step-by-step process from beginning to end. They should not be allowed to deviate from or customize the process.
The AppWork team recommends the following steps to standardize workflows in a community:
- Write down and codify the desired workflow. If this isn't accomplished already, then it is time to start! Gather every manager and supervisor together in one room or over video conference.
- Brew up some coffee and provide snacks. Walk through a list of every task within the community, and take detailed notes about how the team should handle each task.
- Everyone on the team should know the answers to basic questions like: How frequently do we mow the lawn? How often do we sweep the sidewalks? On which day do the trash collectors come? When must residents pay rent? What happens if they are late?
- Get a clear understanding and consensus on the community ecosystem. Map out every step at every level, from advertising vacancies to residents moving out. Think of the property as a dance and the standardization as the choreography, with every move dictated from beginning to end.
- Create categories, put each task into the appropriate category, and then outline the methodology of each one in a step-by-step process. Revise, edit, and streamline all the brainstorming. Then create a manual.
- Create digital or physical copies of this manual. Distribute one to every team member. Teach the team about the canonized workflow and provide whatever training is necessary.
- Watch senior team members train junior team members. This dual training provides reinforcement of what they learned and also builds camaraderie within the team.
Of course, using maintenance management software makes the process easier. The AppWork team obviously recommends AppWork. It comes with a built-in workflow created by seasoned owner-operators. It also provides plenty of customization for each community.
Every task has a category. The app uses machine learning to categorize work orders automatically. The technician app ensures a uniform process across the team. Managers can build a workflow that is digital, portable, and instantly sharable.
The strategies outlined in this article (better attitudes, follow-up, and standardization) will gain value over time, like compound interest. The ultimate goals are happier residents, engaged staff, efficiently run communities, and more profit.