By: Laurie Mega
According to the 2022 State of the Property Management Industry Report, the number of renters living in single-family rentals has risen steadily for the last several years. And further fueled by the pandemic, it’s no secret or surprise.
This trend, combined with changes brought about by the pandemic, like the demand for rentals with more space in less-populated locales and owners becoming more investment-minded, has had a strong impact on manager-owner and manager-resident relationships. Owners look to property managers to help them navigate myriad new laws and restrictions, while calming fears of income loss from delinquent rents. Meanwhile, property managers are working more closely with residents to keep them in their units despite income loss.
As the economy slowly recovers, many of the management service trends that appeared in the last two years most likely won’t fade with the headlines. Single-family property managers we surveyed for the Property Management Industry Report agreed.
“Even when the pandemic is over, I think our client base will not be willing to switch back to 'normal.' They will expect us to continue to provide the same online and convenient services,” commented one property manager based in Oregon.
Here are some of the most important rental owner and resident service trends property managers across the country expect to stick with us in 2022.
On the Owner Side
Rental owners, overall, looked to their property managers to take on a larger role, beyond rent collection and maintenance. In response, property managers turned to tech to help them customize and centralize management.
Where once many single-family rental owners may have been Accidental Landlords—landlords that have come to own their property unexpectedly, such as through inheritance—now many are looking at rentals as an investment business. Since 2018, the number of investors in our survey has increased from 67 to 71 percent. Institutional investors are also starting to take notice and are quickly entering the space.
As a result, owners put more value on property managers who can do more than maintain properties and handle rent. They want firms with local market expertise who know where the best investment opportunities are. If they’re looking to expand outside of their current market, they want a property manager who can do the market research for them.
They also need more reporting on their current properties to understand how they're performing in the context of the broader local market.. Their reporting requirements are becoming increasingly more granular and market-focused.
One owner from our survey puts it this way: “We work with a management company who creates quarterly presentations about the region we own property in. This has been super helpful to provide insight into areas to purchase rentals in.”
Property managers should also be able to advise their clients on improvements and amenities that will add value to their current properties, allowing them to attract their target residents and increase rent.These can include private yards and extra space for pet owners, or even a whole host of other amenities that are piquing lifestyle renters’ interest, especially in build-to-rent communities.
“[The pandemic has] highlighted the need for knowledge around current and legislative events in their local markets,” a property manager in Denver told us. “Landlords and tenants need to know their current rights, and there are so many that don't.”
But eviction moratoria and local restrictions to curb COVID are just the latest legal concern for owners. In recent years the revival of rent control in some major cities have also gotten the attention of rental investors.
More recently, good cause eviction laws, which would limit the reasons an owner could evict a resident, have gained some traction in places such as New York.
Owners are looking for property managers to stay on top of these laws and restrictions as they arise and help them navigate the compliance issues that accompany them.
If they are looking to expand their portfolio, owners may want property managers to help them steer clear of markets where restrictions would make it difficult for owners to turn a profit.
While consulting legal professionals is almost always the best course of action, property managers should still be familiar with these trends so they can anticipate clients’ requests and refer them to the right professionals in their network.
An Increased Role as Adviser
Because there are so many new issues to consider with rental investments, owners want their property managers to advise them, not only on legal and investment matters, but also on creating value for current and prospective residents, as well as on effective marketing strategies for their properties.
According to our report, rental owners have been grateful for property managers that are both personable and provide expertise in their communities on regulatory changes, property finances, and local market conditions. They’re also looking for an attention to detail when it comes to managing maintenance and residents.
Proptech for Owners
Digital property management tools were already trending before the pandemic, but the need for enhanced reporting and more communication without in-person contact further drove property managers to adopt technologies that made this easier.
Owner portals, for example, give property managers a place to store all client-related documents, provide real-time analytics on properties, and communicate with owners more regularly without having to pick up the phone.
Property managers can keep tabs on vacancy times, turnover rates, and any other statistics important to them and their clients, making these portals even more effective than many traditional ways of communicating with owners.
With a property management software solution like Propertyware, property managers can even set up customized dashboards for owners. That way, owners see only what they need to see to make the best decisions for their investments.
On the Resident Side
In many cases, relationships between residents and property managers grew stronger over the last two years. Meanwhile, property managers worked closely with residents who couldn’t afford rent after a job loss or reduction of hours.
Maintenance and Repairs
Residents now expect more immediate results when they request maintenance and repairs. The pandemic has also reinforced this trend as renters, who were home much more, requested maintenance and repairs more often, and expected much more communication from their property managers. The challenge for property managers moving forward will be labor shortages and supply chain issues, two problems that currently plague many sectors of the U.S. economy.
On top of that, the increased price of certain supplies and materials, which economists predict will continue into 2022 and beyond, can lead to some tough decisions about how to handle those expenses and to what extent they’ll be reflected in management fees.
In-person tours of vacant units became impossible for many property managers in 2020. So, they turned to a service trend that was already growing before the pandemic: virtual tours.
Now that people are used to them, they’re likely not going away. A 2020 survey by Zumper and Matterport, for example, found that 95 percent of renters were more likely to rent a property listed with a 3D tour.
As you well know, virtual tours allow prospective residents to conveniently screen properties before they contact property managers, saving themselves time from visiting units that don’t meet their needs. Property managers, in turn, save the time it would take to show the unit to someone who isn’t the right fit.
Virtual tours also give prospective residents who are relocating the opportunity to see properties without making a big trip.
Proptech for Residents
Younger generations of renters already expect to conduct most of their business via mobile app. They want to be able to shop and apply for rentals, request maintenance, communicate with property managers, and make payments on the go.
In fact, our survey found that online payments, email and text communications, electronic rental applications and lease signing, and online maintenance requests are now considered the industry standard among today’s property managers, renters, and rental owners.
Couple that with the ongoing need for contactless interactions, and it’s no wonder property managers are turning to technology to provide more comprehensive service to their residents.
Software solutions also allow property managers to keep tabs on their properties, store important documents, and set up customized and automated processes, such as responses to applications, welcome packet delivery, and lease renewals.
Propertyware is one such solution. It allows property managers to customize their workflows, communicate on the go with residents and vendors, and even pull outside vendors into their process.
Everything about single-family property management has changed in the last two years, from the demographics of both owners and residents to the services they require. If you haven’t already, tune into what your clients and renters are looking for and make the changes that will matter most for your own business.