When it comes to technology and how it’s impacting property management, a survey of IREM members in the United States and Canada indicates that much has changed over the last two years — and much has remained the same.
IREM’s technology survey, first conducted in 2019 and repeated in 2020, asked members to rank their top challenges from a list of more than 20 concerns. In both 2019 and 2020 — even with COVID-19 — document management was the top concern.
As property managers and their teams seek to deliver or retrieve paper reports, grab a lease out of a filing cabinet, or print out a document to be signed, the pandemic revealed that the infrastructure to digitize and manage documents was sorely lacking. Overnight, document management went from being important to urgent.
Beyond document management, what else did the survey reveal about challenges property managers are facing? The table below compares the top challenges from 2020 to where they ranked in 2019.
|What are the top 5 challenges you are facing now?||2020||2019|
|Conducting mobile property inspections||2||4|
|Capturing and managing data||3||2|
|Managing operating expenses||4||3|
System integration also remains a large hurdle for those companies that have implemented technology solutions recently. When asked what could make the biggest difference to property management in the next three to five years, one survey respondent said, “Better integrated systems. The key will be smaller companies with products that integrate, not one large user solution.” Others spoke of their desire for fully integrated property management systems so they can get away from multiple sites with multiple log-ins. Improved integration would also enable them to reduce or eliminate spreadsheets that are prone to error and are labor intensive.
As one respondent indicated, there’s a craving among property managers for “technology that gives property managers all the information pertaining to their portfolio at their fingertips and connects with real-time data — leases, income, expenses, assets, asset performance, smart dashboard — and allows all of the planning to be done in one single tool.”
So, if the key challenges facing property management remain largely the same, what’s changed? The answer is COVID-19, which has had a momentous impact on the work of property managers and forced management companies to quickly embrace new technologies.
“Virtual” became a common theme when referring to technology adoption. Respondents cited virtual showings, virtual leasing, virtual training, virtual meetings, and virtual communications with all stakeholders from tenants to vendors to employees as technology they would bring on in the next few years.
Other disruptions caused by COVID-19 also surfaced in the survey. Property managers anticipate that they’ll increase their technology spending this year and that flexible working arrangements will be adopted by most companies as we continue to live with the virus. They also expect that tenants and residents will be looking for newer technologies in their residential communities and in their offices.
|Do you anticipate that . . .||Yes||No||Don’t Know|
|Your company will increase technology spending over the coming year due to COVID-19?||56.18%||19.09%||24.73%|
|Your company will continue remote work in some form post-COVID?||60.82%||22.74%||16.44%|
|Tenants and residents will require newer technologies (e.g., touchless devices) post-COVID?||60.49%||12.07%||27.43%|
The IREM technology survey was conducted with guidance from IREM’s Technology Advisory Board to assess where property managers find themselves and their companies in terms of technology adoption and satisfaction; identify major pain points they are experiencing that could find solutions in technology; and identify the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on technology adoption, usage, and investment.