14 Must-Know Industry Trends for Property Managers in 2021

Johann van der Merwe

Managing Director @ WeconnectU

A complex chain of events over the past 12 months has been driving new trends in the Property Management Industry. It is requiring greater workflow efficiency, improved online transparency and improved communication, as well as more marketing power to gain market share.

2020 has certainly brought about its fair share of problems and challenges. Compliance, Manageability, Scalability, Profitability and overall efficiency are more important than ever before – and 2021 will require us to raise the bar even higher.

Growth (being perceived to go hand in hand with an increase in overheads, staff complement and other resources) may seem an unattainable outcome for some Property Management companies in the current situation. In reality, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 (and beyond) has created amazing opportunities for those willing to adapt to the “new normal” and embrace the changes we have seen. It has also created an opening to add more value as property managers.

To capitalise on these opportunities, property managers should be focused on improving their skills and using the power of technology to add real value and become more profitable.

At WeconnectU, we’ve seen first-hand how Covid-19 and 2020 have affected our clients, and we’ve witnessed the emerging trends that are shaping the industry. Below, we explore the main ones we expect to influence the industry over the next 12-18 months. You’ll notice one thing they all have in common: tech-enabled property managers will always be better positioned to adapt faster and capitalise on the opportunities the current situation is creating.

Covid-19 is not going away

As we transition into 2021, the effect of the pandemic is still felt and will be felt for some time to come. The lockdown, “payment holiday movement”, UIF TERS payments, Covid-19 waves, financial pressure and retail shutdown have all had an immense impact on property owners, investors, BCs, HOAs and tenants in 2020.

Will the uncertainty, volatility and other real threats just disappear? Not likely. 2021 will probably bring about even more change and spring a few more surprises on the unwary.

Most of the property management industry has been rapidly adopting and embracing technology to become tech-enabled and deliver their value in a new and more efficient way. Property Managers and Rental Portfolio Managers that have been left paralysed instead of adapting will soon be forced to face the truth: adapt fast or face dire consequences.

Understanding industry trends can strengthen or erode your business and competitive advantage

Our Must-Know Property Management Trends for 2021 are shaped by the economic crises, social trends, new software and tech advancements. They also take into account the changing needs of our clients – Property Managers, Rental Asset Managers and stakeholders like Trustees, Directors, investors and tenants.

In our world, the economic recovery (or measure of recovery) will be the big story for 2021, but technology and the use of it will remain the driving force behind property management success. In other words: Better Compliance, Better Manageability, More Scalability and more Profitable Businesses will be key.

Keeping your finger on the pulse, eye on the industry trends and improving your overall business efficiency should be a priority in 2021. It’s vital that you as Property Manager and Rental Asset Manager understand the trends and pain points they highlight in your clients’ lives.

Remember: it’s not so much the services, apps, etc. that matter; it is how you manage the changes and the changing needs of your clients.

Property Management Trends for 2021

1. Doing more with less (efficiency)

Reduction in turn-over, cash flow and even staff, paired with a rising in overdue levies and rent receivable, means you likely have to run your property management business with a smaller, more pressurised budget. The property management software you use, and how you use it, can help improve efficiency to meet your targets.

2. Cloud-based property management software is now non-negotiable

While cloud-based property management software has been a trend in the past 3-5 years, it was still often perceived as a convenient “nice-to-have”. When the pandemic hit early in 2020, most property managers had to scramble to bring all of their processes online.

With many staff members, teams and clients working remotely to reduce social interaction, tools and systems now have to be online, real-time, and accessible to all stakeholders to optimise information sharing, workflows and efficiency. Cloud-based solutions are no longer “nice-to-have” but a “must have”.

3. Tech-enablement will lead to 3 core advantages

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology in everyday life and business. This is also true in our industry. More and more of your clients – whether trustees, investors or tenants – require and appreciate a more tech-enabled solution.

Tech-enabled Property Professionals will gain three clear advantages:

  1. Increased efficiency that ultimately leads to stronger and more profitable businesses
  2. Increased transparency and
  3. Increased communication that adds value and reduces risk to and for staff as well as clients.

4. Software Eco-systems will improve manageability and scalability

New software technology integrating with property management software is offering amazing opportunities for improved manageability and scalability. We like to refer to it as property management eco-systems.

Integration of various functions of property management into one system (e.g. online meetings, time management, utility billing integration, tenant screening, online or debit order payments, bank integration, property maintenance and inspections, and property management analytics and reporting) will ultimately enable the Property Manager to enjoy greater manageability and scalability.

Your choice of Property Management Software will become more and more pivotal in creating greater efficiency through these integrated services – and in adding more value to your clients.

WeconnectU is launching a number of exciting and powerful integrations during the course of 2021 – all aimed at benefiting the Property Manager and keeping to our promise of being the leading end-to-end property management eco-system in South Africa.

5. Get your (POPI) Act together

By now, you should be well aware of the fact that Community Schemes, HOAs and their partners have just a few months left to ensure that their record-keeping systems and those of their Property Managers are compliant with the POPI Act. This becomes effective on 1 July 2021, after which any business or legal entity that is not compliant is risking prosecution and a high fine.

This means Sectional Title Trustees and HOA Directors need to be proactive to ensure that their scheme – and any third parties such as the managing agency or other parties acting on their behalf – is gathering, storing and using personal information correctly, or currently upgrading their procedures and systems to ensure that this information is protected.

All eyes will be on the Property Manager to assist each community in putting their Privacy Policies in place before 30 June 2021. At the same time, the Property Manager must also ensure that their own Privacy Policies and procedures are in place and that they comply with the POPI Act. Schemes and Property Managers that wait till the last minute will do so at their own peril as it requires setting up documentation, changing workflows and processes, and training staff.

Look out for a series of WeconnectU articles and webinars where we will assist and guide the Property Manager on POPI Act compliance.

6. A greater demand for effective arrears and bad debt management

Economists forecast that the real effect of the lockdown will only be felt in Q1 and Q2 of 2021. Trends show that bad debt will gradually increase as owners and tenants struggle to meet their financial obligations – including that of levies and rent.

As such, there will be a greater demand on Property Managers to manage arrears, debt collection, bad debt and comprehensive age-analysis reporting more effectively. We foresee that Property Managers will be exploring more creative and convenient payment arrangements (e.g. debit order integration, payment communication and pro-active arrears management) to add value to each community and give Trustees, Directors and Landlords the peace of mind that cashflow remains healthy.

WeconnectU has a powerful pre-legal and debt collection module to assist with effective arrears management and debt collection, as well as comprehensive reporting. Keep a look out for our series of Webinars to improve arrears management efficiency, as well as our Partner Webinars (with leading debt collection legal experts) in Q1.

7. Online and Hybrid community meetings will be become the new normal

2020 has brought about the adoption of online meetings via Zoom, Teams or Skype. This creates wonderful opportunities for the Property Manager with regard to AGMs and other community meetings.

The benefits of online or hybrid meetings are enormous: time-saving, convenient, increased involvement from owners (which will assist in reaching quorum), online voting, and reduced admin and costs. Meetings will become shorter, more structured and more efficient, and we foresee a great response from owners as a result.

WeconnectU will be launching a Meeting Module at the end of Q1. Watch this space!

8. Unlocking additional value from your Property Portfolio

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed our vulnerability with regards to revenue streams, target markets, service offerings and add-on services. For example: if your income source was primarily through rental asset management, the past 8 months would have been challenging with many tenants requesting payment holidays and struggling to pay rent.

To boost resilience, we are seeing more and more Rental Agents add property management to their portfolio and Property Managers adding rental asset management to their property portfolio. Unlocking this kind of additional value from your property portfolio has become critical. As such, it is important to implement strategies for growth and utilise property management software that supports your efforts to achieve this expanded potential and value.

WeconnectU offers Property Management software solutions that allow for Community Management, Rental Asset Management and Inspection and Maintenance Management – a truly end-to-end solution.

9. Review, adapt and manage your legal documents

The pressure on BCs, HOAs and Rental portfolio asset managers will increase as owners and tenants struggle to make payments of levies and rent. They will likely be more sensitive to (your) costs, add-on services and admin fees.

As margins are already under pressure, along with the pressure of compliance (e.g. the POPI Act), we recommend that Property Professionals review, adapt and manage legal documents like agreements, contracts, policies, and other compliance documents. Update and clearly communicate your fees, additional charges, other “hidden” costs, as well as relevant policies and procedures. Proactive value communication is critical in 2021!

10. Demonstrate your value by stepping up communication and sharing valuable insights

In these uncertain times, communication and transparency can create clarity and peace-of-mind. With the world moving online, Property Managers need to be on top of their game regarding planning, execution, feedback and reporting – your clients are expecting it.

Your Property Management Software should equip you to communicate in bulk, send out personalised communication and simplify and speed up communication and feedback. It should also enable you to do comprehensive financial and operational reporting – even have it ready on demand. You cannot afford to be a mere administrator. Instead, become the Asset Manager that you are.

WeconnectU’s Intelligent dashboard and professional Business Reports enable Property Professionals to communicate and demonstrate their real value.

11. Guidance around annual maintenance and the 10-Year Maintenance Plan

We have seen that many BCs, HOAs and landlords have neglected the maintenance of buildings and common property, mainly due to the extended lockdown, budget constraints, poor planning, and complacency. Some have simply held back on maintenance projects.

We recommend Property Managers make a concerted and proactive effort with new, incoming and existing Trustees/Directors, early, with regard to the maintenance projects they plan or need to do in 2021.

12. Develop strategies for business growth

Covid-19 has highlighted the value of a clear understanding of the business of property management. The property professional of the future is more strategic and figures out the right balance between specific growth goals, tech enablement, empathy for their customers, workflow efficiency, effective and more aggressive marketing and strategic partnerships.

On the other hand, un-tech-savvy property managers (who cling to outdated systems and old processes) will struggle to scale and grow as legal and financial regulations increase and profitability becomes more difficult to achieve.

13. A demand for greater transparency from Trustees and Investors

Trustees, directors and investors will become influencers in the decision to use the best property management software solutions for their communities and assets. Their need for greater transparency, comprehensive reporting, better management of day-to-day activities, greater compliance, and advice on asset management, will distinguish the end-to-end property management solution from the “one-trick-ponies”.

WeconnectU’s end-to end property management eco-system will equip you to be the property manager of the future.

14. Big data for better decision-making

2021 will see Property Managers and stakeholders value, understand and utilise industry data to track trends, anticipate red flags and make strategic decisions to adapt and to grow their businesses. The key to this data will be its quality, consistency and cost.

We foresee industry players joining hands to give stakeholders access to quality data that essentially belongs to them. Your Property Management Software should also give you, as the business owner, access to real-time data around KPI’s.

WeconnectU will keep focusing on and developing industry leading intelligent dashboards that enable business owners and stakeholders to see how their assets are protected and are growing over time.

Make the most of 2021

WeconnectU remains committed to equipping Property Managers and Rental Asset Managers with the leading end-to-end property management software in South Africa to help them be more Compliant, Manageable, Scalable and Profitable.

We want to help you make the most of the opportunities and overcome the challenges that 2021 will bring.

We are planning a big year, with big developments to create a truly integrated property management eco-system. Through our industry-leading software, seamless take-on and ongoing training and support, our clients will be empowered to make 2021 their best year, ever.

Partner with us to transform the business of property management – one unit at a time.

Book a comprehensive WeconnectU demonstration here or visit www.weconnectu.co.za for more information on our solutions.

We'd love to show you how you can level up maintenance and inspections in your business