If you’re an aspiring property manager, know that the rental market has continued to evolve in major ways since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Take it from Byrdy Kelley — CEO and founder of Melan Property Management as well as REAME, a real estate tech company — who has broken through challenging barriers in the male-dominated industry. Kelley, who’s based in Bethesda, Maryland, says that vacancy at the start of the crisis was high while rent was low, but those factors are currently reversed.
She notes the national average for monthly rent is now $1,203, though property managers in metropolitan areas like New York City can command between $2,400 and $4,800 per month.
“And that’s just because the metropolitan areas like New York host large corporations and tech companies that have produced unicorns and decacorns, and they’ve quickly scaled,” says Kelley, referring to companies whose valuations reach tens of billions of dollars.
During the pandemic, technology also changed the game. Many property tours went virtual, providing property managers and prospective tenants with more flexibility and safety as the novel coronavirus spread. Video platforms like FaceTime and Zoom as well as virtual reality (VR) options like Matterport made this possible.
“It became vital because their virtual technology allowed prospective residents to see the apartment floor plan in 3D,” Kelley says. “This also allowed us as property managers to enhance the online leasing process, and it allowed for prospective residents to complete their leasing application forms online.”
The COVID-19 pandemic led to other unexpected real estate trends, such as a newfound value in bike storage as more American families sought safe outdoor activities and a way to avoid public transit.
“It’s not something you’d think of right away,” Kelley says, “but last year there was a surprise bike shortage, and that was due to sales rising to the triple digits.”
Changes in income
Nonetheless, some things in real estate haven’t changed over the past couple of years. A top priority for property managers remains finding and retaining reliable tenants who pay their rent on time. For those who don’t meet the income requirement, asking for a guarantor who can step in for extra security can be helpful, Kelley suggests. In the case of tenants who have experienced an income change and can’t pay their full rent, it can be a good idea, if feasible, to retain them if they’re willing to work out an arrangement with their landlord to pay off their debt.
“Getting something is better than nothing and then having to deal with the cost of replacing them,” Kelley says. “I truly believe property owners need to remember that their properties don’t generate optimal income while there is high vacancy.”
It comes down to talking with your tenant.
“I believe the key to increasing tenant retention and satisfaction is communication,” Kelley explains. “So how you make people feel is a key indicator of how effectively you’re communicating with them.”