Crystal Ball gazing
Crystal ball gazing for commercial property managers. Photo – Canva.
  • The role of the commercial property manager is changing
  • Wouter Jellema makes six predictions about the future
  • These include cloud software, real-time information and relationship-building

Have you ever heard of the phrase: “the future is happening now”?

In a traditional industry like real estate, this sentence could not be more applicable.

When I entered the industry over ten years ago, the way we managed and sold property was the same as it had been for decades.

However, in recent times, things have changed dramatically. Industry professionals need to stay updated with technology if they want to remain relevant in the workforce.

Agencies need to look at leaner ways to handle the business funnel from enquiry down to settlements and lease agreements if they want to remain competitive in their stakeholders’ eyes.

Here are some of my humble predictions on how commercial property management may evolve in the future.

Prediction 1 – The rise of the property manager

The sales consultant or licensee is currently the primary contact for clients and acts as a figurative bridge, mediating communications and advocating on behalf of their clients within the agency. 

“I want to speak to my sales consultant” is a phrase many property managers used to hear in the old days.

Over the years, I have observed this mindset changing from “their client” to “our stakeholders” across many property managers teams.

In the old days, because a sales consultant leased or sold a property to a client many times over, they would remain responsible for nourishing the relationship.

This way of thinking has changed over the years, elevating property managers to the sales consultant’s level of ‘partner’ due to their expertise and caretaking role for the client’s property from the moment settlement takes place.

Increasingly, sales consultants and property managers become business associates and partners, looking out (together) for the best interest of the parties involved in any real estate transaction.

When you think about it, this makes perfect sense, as a property manager manages the relationship between a landlord and their tenants for many years, dealing with many issues, disputes, and contentious moments.

The sale or leasing of a property, on the other hand, is a transactional project with a clear start and end. As a result, the property manager may prove to be just as essential in maintaining the clients’ and lessees’ relationships as the consultant. 

Prediction 2 – Relationship-building

In this day and age increasingly, property managers need to be more than excellent administrators.

Traditionally, a property manager would be employed by an agency, given a desk to work from, and expected to maintain a clean, neat, and tidy portfolio.

When issues arose, the property managers would hand over the case to a colleague or the licensee to liaise with the clients and act as a mediator.  The property manager would then continue to focus on administration tasks.

I foresee a mindset shift where relationship-building will become a requirement for property managers in the coming years.

Prediction 3 – Marketing and personal branding

Property managers used to clock in 9 to 5 and be done with it. All the rest was left with the sales & leasing team and the executive management team.

Nowadays, property managers generally understand how building their brand is just as important as protecting the company’s brand that employs them.

In the future, we will see more property managers going to network events, becoming active on social media, volunteering to help the broader property community and other personal initiatives that will support the industry and build their credible personal brand.

The above was traditionally the licensee’s task. The person covering this role would usually go on radio, TV, or network with other professionals to create a database of contacts.

As it has become easier and more affordable to ‘be out there’, more property managers will embrace the enjoyment of building a solid relationship with other professionals in the industry. 

Prediction 4 – Software, technology, and the Internet

I remember my first mobile phone, nice and small for comfort. It allowed me to call and text friends and family, and that was about it.

Fast forward twenty years, and communication has totally transformed. The first electronic mail was a copy of the paper letter, sent electronically. Computers were taking over fast, yet we still had to print everything, including emails, for years. 

Today, property managers work in the cloud.

They use apps so that they can continue to operate when they are at a property. They no longer write reports on site, go back to the office, and then write them again on the computer.

This traditional way of working is too time-consuming and inefficient for clients who demand faster action and results. We have seen many software providers that had to be downloaded to function leaving the market in favour of cloud-based software packages that don’t rely on local servers, and can be accessed anytime from anywhere.

Rather than calling the office to get a client’s phone number, we now can take out our mobile and look it up on the system in real-time. We can upload lease contracts and provide answers to our client on the spot. The typical “sorry, I will have to check the file when I am back in the office” is a historical sentence. 

Prediction 5 – Leasing

You show up at an appointment to show a prospective tenant through – no show! – what a waste of your valuable time.

In most commercial agencies, the leasing team handles the leasing process, and the property managers focus on managing the preparation of the property during the leasing period.

However, as property managers become the consultant-partners, they can show the asset to a prospective buyer or leaser while they are nearby.

However, how often do we show up at properties, and the client does a no-show? In the future, online viewings and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools will help by sending out reminders, do pre-qualifications of the prospects, and make the whole process smoother and more efficient for all parties involved. 

Prediction 6 – Giving feedback to clients

As software becomes more critical for property managers than it used to be, it also gives your client power.

As online banking allows you to invoice, pay, and manage your account, the same will happen for your real estate transactions. Clients already login and find out their valuable asset status at the press of a button. They can check recent correspondence, current arrears, the position of the signing of documents, and many other factors. 

Thankfully, personal contact will not disappear for a long time in property management. Indeed, technology will (and already has) changed the way property managers liaise with clients. 

The future is happening now, and it will be up to the property managers to keep up with the market’s demands and modernise quickly to stay relevant in the workforce. We cannot afford to fall behind, as modernisation within our industry will be faster and faster. 

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