advisers during the crisis and first point of contact
“The Corona crisis has once again shown that in crisis situations, property managers are the first point of contact for owners and tenants”, says Bernhard Hofer, Head of Real Estate Management at OTTO Immobilien. Given the situation, property managers have been asked to do more than usual as service providers: “There has been a significant increase in requests from tenants and owners”, says Hofer. He adds that it is important to be realistic in terms of what can be expected from the property manager as a problem solver and to use tact as always in communicating this to customers. Other than that, the work of property managers during the Corona crisis has been the same as before. “We just had to work outside of the traditional workplace and get used to the fact that our work is not tied to a specific location”, says Hofer.
Many requests: from rent to cleaning
Hofer and his 16-member team were confronted with a broad range of questions related to Covid-19 on matters such as rent, house rules (social distancing and conduct), cleaning and disinfection in houses. “The crisis has led to a significant increase in requests for rent reductions due to government-mandated access restrictions and lockdowns or employer-mandated home office regulations across all sectors and types of rental property”, explains Hofer.
For the property management of Otto Immobilien, active on the Viennese market since 1956, it is therefore important to monitor the latest developments and give owners and their tenants timely, practical and reliable recommendations and information on areas such as rent reduction, an admittedly unpleasant subject. Contact with specialised lawyers is also essential in these matters, says Hofer. "When it comes to rental properties, there are many different configurations, be it the food service industry, retail in commercial premises, educational institutions, shopping centres or offices, and this has not made it any easier to manage the key concerns of those affected.”
Mediation for joint solutions
Mediation is the best way of working together to develop solutions that will be acceptable to both owners and tenants. “During this period, property managers have been acting as advisers in the interests of the owners they represent. This has allowed the owners to make practical, informed decisions on a case-by-case basis, supported by sound legal advice from a lawyer specialised in real estate law”, says Hofer.
Shift toward digitisation
In order to cover these areas in addition to all the other ongoing activities and obligations of a property manager, it is absolutely necessary to have standardised procedures in place for handling concerns and requests. “The corona crisis has shown how important digitisation is for the work of property managers as modern service providers”, says Hofer.
Particularly in extreme situations such as this, modern communication channels such as apps, company websites and social media allow different people to be reached as quickly as possible and are therefore an important criterion for today’s property management. “Anyone who had not thought about digitising their company before has now been forced to reconsider the existing procedures and perhaps change or adapt even ingrained patterns of behaviour. There will never be a better occasion than this to rethink these options”, says Hofer.
Orderly, secure, transparent
But digitisation in the property management sector does more than just ensure that the concerns of owners and tenants are processed in an orderly, secure and transparent manner. Scanned invoices, the use of tablets for handovers or takeovers, or record keeping using electronic form templates make it even easier to work from anywhere.
Moreover, business mobile phones and laptops with full access to the company database ensure that real estate service providers are able to access modern industry software. “The use of modern home office solutions for our employees has also shown that we can rely on a paperless office in many areas without having to sacrifice the quality of our work”, says Hofer, who believes that the crisis has further promoted the paperless office trend across all sectors.