Why Property Managers Face a Reputation Challenge

Property managers, buckle up. The U.S. rental market continues to experience unprecedented turbulence and change in the final weeks of 2020. Renters continue to move more than they did in 2019. And the expiration of local eviction moratoriums may trigger even more movement. These market dynamics create special challenges for property management firms’ reputations.

The Headlines

  • Overall, more people are moving in 2020 than in 2019. Between February and July, 15.9 million people filed change of address requests with the U.S. Postal Service, a 4 percent increase over 2019. The United States also experienced a 27-percent increase in temporary moves, underscoring the fluid nature of housing during the pandemic.
  • Moving patterns are dynamic. Demand for higher-quality properties in urban areas and in expensive markets may cool as renters react to a challenging economic environment, according to the State of the Nation’s Housing report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. But local market dynamics can vary considerably. For instance, in New York, traditionally one of the most expensive places to rent in the United States, renters are beginning to move back to the city. That’s because the city has experienced a record drop in rental prices in the aftermath of the pandemic. On the other hand, San Francisco continues to experience an exodus.

Why the News Matters to Property Managers

  • The pandemic creates special challenges to property managers from a reputation management standpoint. Recently, Reputation.com studied 3 million+ reviews and 70,000+ properties. We found that customers have left positive feedback about property staff being flexible and attentive during the height of the pandemic. But, we’ve seen recurring criticism of maintenance staff for not practicing safe hygiene on the job. And the majority (66%) of the sentiment around leasing/payment has been negative, with residents complaining about topics such as late fees, rent amount and termination fees. (Read more insight into our Property Management Report).

What Property Managers Should Do

  • Mind your reputation. Especially if evictions increase in coming weeks, property management firms are increasingly vulnerable to an uptick in renter complaints. Now is the time for property management firms to monitor renters’ reviews and ratings closely. Be ready to respond to both positive and negative reviews. Understand how to handle customer complaints when they escalate. And learn from reviews to improve your operations.
  • Keep Your online presence up to date. It’s especially important to maintain your Google My Business (GMB) listings across every single location. We’re seeing a surge in clicks to call property managers, visit their websites, and ask for driving directions on GMB listings. The 27-percent increase in temporary moves across the United States underlines the reality that people will keep looking for new places to rent in coming weeks and months.
  • Manage the customer journey with digital. Continue to leverage digital tools to respond to how the customer journey has changed. FaceTime chats with prospective renters. Live-streamed tours of properties. Two-way messaging. Leases signed and renewed online. Those are among the digital tools that savvy property managers are mastering — quickly — in 2020 amid a dramatic shift in resident behavior. Walk-ins and drive-by visits are no longer the norm. Instead, prospects have gone online to do everything, including searching for and evaluating properties, and making a decision about where to rent. Also, share appealing images and videos that showcase your properties (including how safe and clean they are) everywhere potential tenants interact with your locations, including your GMB listings, as well as social channels, and your website.

For More Information

Read our Property Management Report for a more in-depth examination of how property managers should manage their reputations during this unprecedented time. Contact Reputation.com to learn how we can help you manage your entire reputation online.

Topic: Through Leadership
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