Property Management Tips: Enhancing Efficiency and Saving Time
Grow revenue and streamline operations with these 10 tried-and-true property management tips and tricks.
Operating an apartment community has never been easy. And in today’s market, property managers have their work cut out for them. Arguably the most important part of property management – attracting renters and maintaining a healthy resident retention rate – is an enormous task in and of itself. On top of that, day-to-day operations must be both efficient and cost-effective.
And who can forget resident satisfaction? Zego’s 2023 Resident Experience Management Report finds that 75% of apartment operators say renter expectations have increased since last year. So that means keeping renters happy is a lot harder than it once was.
With all of these challenges for property managers to juggle, how can you be successful? Here are 10 essential property management tips and advice for property managers that will make you more efficient and grow your business.
- Provide effective communication with residents
- Build community between residents
- Embrace technology and digital solutions for resident-related tasks
- Automate back office tasks to save time
- Combine rent and utilities into one statement
- Improve the employee experience
- Grow property management revenue
- Protect your revenue
- Protect your properties with renters insurance
- Stay up-to-date on industry trends
#1: Provide effective communication with residents
Did you know that resident communication is the most time consuming task for property managers? According to Zego’s Property Management Operations Report, property managers spend an average of 11 hours per month communicating with renters. This is far more than any other task.
Clear and consistent communication is key to retaining renters. So spending a lot of time communicating with renters isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, there are definitely ways to communicate well with residents while not overburdening staff.
Mobile apps automate routine correspondence
You can free up time for on-site teams and effectively communicate with renters with the help of mobile apps. Apps like Zego Mobile Doorman let you automate routine correspondence. This gives you more time for valuable conversations. Renters get instant updates about things like:
With these auto-generated notifications renters stay in the loop without having to pester your on-site staff.
Speed up important correspondence
Today’s renters expect instant communication if they have a question. If companies only have manual tactics for communicating, response times will lag, especially when communities are short-staffed. And, the conversation might not happen in the resident’s preferred communication channel. These both put resident satisfaction at risk.
#2 Build community between residents
This may seem like an unusual property management tip. But facilitating friendships between residents is an important strategy. Why? Because friendship factors help improve resident retention.
The more friends a renter has in the community, the less likely they are to move out. Bringing your renters together for social events will help to build friendships. In turn, you may see higher retention rates.
However, one of the biggest challenges for property managers is coming up with ways for residents to socialize. If you are struggling with ideas for social events, Zego has compiled 82 apartment resident events that will help you bring renters together.
Promoting these events are a breeze, too. Community apps like Zego Mobile Doorman offer custom content tiles to help attract attention to your event. Content tiles are customizable, passive forms of communication with residents that appear within your app.
Simply select “Events” as your tile type, and it’ll automatically link to your existing events calendar. Just add an image to your tile, and you’re done! Residents can click to see a list of upcoming events, and can RSVP directly through the app.
Download Your Free 2024 Community Event Calendar and Instagram Stories
Need help coming up with resident event ideas? We have created a custom resident event idea calendar chock-full of unique and seasonal community get-togethers. You can download the calendar for free, and easily promote your events with our complimentary Instagram story pack!
Bring them together digitally, too
Connecting your renters doesn’t always have to happen face to face. There are digital avenues to connect them with others in your community.
Virtual bulletin boards are a useful feature of community apps because they give residents a digital space to interact with one another. They can list items for sale, promote their small business, or invite neighbors to a party. Having interactions with other residents helps build a sense of community.
#3: Embrace technology and digital solutions for resident-related tasks
You’ll always have renters that prefer human assistance if they have a problem in the community. However, the majority of residents want to take charge of their own requests. According to a Zendesk survey of their customers, 67% of consumers would rather use self service channels rather than interact with a human.
This is why giving renters digital self service tools is one of our tips for property management. These on-demand services deliver better efficiency for both residents and community managers.
Property manager tips for digitizing resident services
With so many resident touchpoints, where does technology help the most? We recommend giving residents self-service options in the following areas.
- Rent collection & paying rent online: Submit a one time or recurring payment from their phone for payments that integrate with your accounting software.
- Maintenance orders: Renters can submit work orders through their phone, add pictures if needed, and track the status of their ticket.
- Package notifications: Renters get real-time automated alerts when their packages arrive.
- Amenity reservations: Renters can view amenity availability and make a reservation.
- Interactive move-in checklists: Digital checklists help renters accomplish all the tasks related to moving in. Communities can customize these interactive checklists so that renters can easily view everything that requires action before they move in.
- Digital walk through: Digital walk throughs save your teams from being physically present at a move-in inspection and creates a digital and trackable record of the condition of the apartment at move-in. Plus, renters can do this whenever is convenient for them, without waiting around for an onsite manager.
#4 Automate back office tasks to save time
Many communities struggle to stay fully staffed. This is one reason why automating certain time-consuming tasks is a valuable property management tip. With the help of technology, existing employees are able to use their bandwidth more effectively. They can remove lower-value tasks from their workload and instead focus on face-to-face interactions with residents.
So how do you decide which tasks to automate? We recommend starting with functions that are complex and/or are time-consuming for your team. That’s because you want your team focused on helping renters – not performing administrative tasks that don’t directly involve your residents. This also will improve the employee experience by keeping them from doing repetitive tasks.
Tips for property management automation
There are three areas that are known to give property managers headaches that are great candidates to automate. Those three are:
- Rent collections: Automating rent payments saves your team members from manually processing these payments. Plus, you will receive funds faster with digital payments versus paper-based ones. This is one of the top reasons property managers enjoy automating rent collection.
- Utility management: When performed manually, utility management is one of the most complex and time-consuming tasks for property managers. That’s why it’s a key area to automate in property management. Luckily, automation streamlines the tasks involved in managing utilities. It also helps recoup costs, minimizes vendor late fees, and provides valuable metrics about utility cost and consumption.
- Resident related tasks like communication and maintenance requests: Many resident-related tasks are often done by pen and paper. Luckily, modern community mobile apps now automate these items. Residents self-serve using their phones rather than relying on a community associate for help. Task activity is centralized in a single platform for team members to track and view.
By automating these key tasks, you can unlock efficiency, accuracy, elevate resident satisfaction, and lead to greater NOI.
#5 Combine rent & utilities into one statement
A cardinal rule of property management is to always bill renters based on their utility consumption. You should NEVER charge a flat fee for utilities or bundle them in the price of rent. Why? Because then you are vulnerable to losing money as utility prices fluctuate. And this can absolutely wreck your NOI.
But billing based on consumption also means you have to inform renters of what they owe you for utilities. The best way to communicate what they owe and collect that money is with convergent statements. Convergent statements show an itemized breakdown of each residents’ charges. This includes rent, utilities, and any other ancillary charges. Putting all of the charges into one statement has several advantages. It’s easy for renters to understand what they owe. And, it saves your team members from producing multiple invoices and reconciling all those payments.
A consolidated billing process has another perk. You’ll receive more on-time and complete payments when residents make a single transaction. That’s good for your bottom line and keeps your team from making collection calls.
Property management tip: outsource resident utility billing
Billing residents based on utility consumption is a must. But producing their statements can be time intensive. That’s why using a Resident Billing partner is an important tip for apartment managers. Resident billing partners will calculate each resident’s utility charges. From there, they import those charges along with other fees into a singular statement.
This saves your associates from performing complex calculations and doing the billing themselves. Statements are sent to residents digitally, and contain a link for them to make their payment. A resident billing partner will perform all of the following tasks on your behalf:
- Provide guidance around local and state billing regulations
- Retrieve resident data from property management software
- Calculate resident utility charges based on submeter reads or RUBS
- Generate resident statements that includes rent, utility charges, and any other applicable monthly charges (trash, parking, pet rent, etc)
- Deliver an online payment portal for residents to directly pay their property manager
- Integrate payment data into your property management software
- Provide business intelligence tools about utility usage, recoupment rates, trends, and potential leaks
- Answer resident questions about their charges
#6 Improve the employee experience
One of the most impactful property management tips for apartment managers is to improve the employee experience. Happy and fulfilled employees are far more likely to be attentive and courteous to your residents than unhappy ones. Not only that, they will stay with your company longer.
Minimizing employee turnover is important. Research shows there is a correlation between staff turnover and renter turnover. Companies with higher levels of employee turnover also have higher-than-average resident turnover.
Move from task-focused duties to resident-focused duties
When your team members are consumed with paperwork and repetitive tasks, the less fulfilling their jobs may seem. Especially when it derails their focus from the true objective of their roles: assisting residents. An endless cycle of dull tasks and falling behind gets discouraging. And for many, it’s enough of a reason to move on to a new job.
This is why technology is modernizing the roles of on-site teams. It’s automating low-value tasks so they can focus more of their time on residents. This makes their roles more fulfilling and will help lower employee turnover.
But not every task should be automated. After all, some level of human touch is essential for good customer service. Finding the right balance between technology and personal assistance is key. The best duties to automate are the most time consuming post move-in tasks.
#7 Grow property management revenue
Property management is a challenging job. But at some point you have to aim to grow your business instead of staying afloat with the regular day to day. Here are 5 property management tips for growing revenue.
- Improve resident satisfaction: When renters are unhappy with the community in some way, they are likely to move somewhere else. Research shows that ONE instance of unit turnover costs almost $4,000. And if you are seeing a high churn rate, growing revenue will be difficult. Improving the resident experience will greatly improve your retention rate so you can avoid costly turnover costs.
- Automate utility bill auditing: Utilities are a top expense for apartment communities. And unfortunately, overcharges on your bills are a common occurrence. It’s very time consuming to audit for these errors yourself. Not to mention disputing any errors with your utility provider. You can avoid paying more than you should by automating the utility AP process. This audits all of your bills and then makes a payment on your behalf. Plus, it digitizes your usage data so you can make better decisions about utility spend.
- Implement Ratio Utility Billing Systems (RUBS): We mentioned this earlier, but never include utilities in the price of rent. A way to recoup what residents owe if your building doesn’t have submeters is with a RUBS program. RUBS is a fair way to determine what each unit owes. For a better explanation how this works, read our blog, Ratio Utility Billing Explained.
- Reduce vacancy charges: Utilities can wreak havoc on revenue in another way, too. If you aren’t making sure your renters transfer utilities in a timely manner, you’re footing the bill. Services called vacant unit cost recovery prevent you from paying for charges that your renter owes. These services compare your occupancy files and utility bills to identify overlaps. Not only does this keep you from paying unwanted charges, you can assess a penalty fee to renters so you can offset the cost of service.
- Collect rent through your community app: When residents pay rent digitally, it improves your cash flow. But the key is to make the process convenient for your renters so you receive more digital payments. A community app lets renters pick up their phone and pay in 3 taps.
#8 Protect your revenue
No matter how big or small your company is, you always need to protect your existing revenue. And as a property management company, rent payments are the main driver of revenue.
But unfortunately, there can be some risks involved in this process. From chargebacks, to returned payments, delayed cash flow, delinquencies, certain scenarios can hurt your revenue. Here are tips for managing property revenue.
Implement a revenue protection services for rent payments
Transaction errors and fraud are increasingly problematic for property managers. And unfortunately, they can really harm revenue. Some rent payment providers like Zego offer revenue protection services to mitigate these instances. Here’s what you need:
- Account connect to verify bank accounts: This allows residents to securely link their bank account from their financial institution instead of manually entering the routing and account numbers. It ensures that any account a resident wants to use is valid and active for transacting.
- Balance verification to minimize NSFs: Real-time verifications confirm if renters have sufficient funds for their rent payment to clear. This ensures on-time revenue and reduces manual reconciliation work. It also saves residents from being dinged with unwanted charges that come from insufficient funds. Zego’s Balance Verification performs this audit for the benefit of both parties.
- Chargeback defense to fight returns: Chargeback Defense services assists with chargeback avoidance, protection, and recovery for all types of payments. From rent to application fees ACH to credit card transactions, Zego’s comprehensive solution gives clients chargeback protection and peace of mind.
Make sure ALL rent payments are digital
In an ideal world, 100% of your rent payments are digital. That provides the best efficiency, security, and fastest cash flow. Despite all these advantages, you probably still receive a stack of checks or money orders each month. Luckily, with a few property management tips and tricks, you can convert these payments into digital transactions. Here’s how.
If you have residents that insist on paying rent with a check, we recommend a modern lockbox solution in addition to accepting rent payments online. A lockbox solution removes paper checks from your office and frees up your on-site property managers from processing those payments.
Here’s how lockbox for rent payments works:
It’s important to note that not all Lockbox providers integrate with your accounting system so it’s key to find a provider that does so you can benefit from the added efficiency.
CashPay Solution to remove cash rent payments
Similar to checks, some residents are unbanked and make their rent payments in cash or money orders. These forms of payment are risky to have in your office because they are prone to theft. Not only that, they are time-consuming to process.
To remove cash and money order rent payments from your office, look for a payment provider that offers a solution to convert those paper payments to digital ones. At Zego, we offer CashPay. Here’s how it works:
Offer flexible rent payment schedules to minimize NSFs
Most property management companies want rent paid in full on a set day – usually the 1st of the month. But sometimes the due date isn’t what works best financially for your renters. If their cash flow is tight when rent is due, it might contribute to an NSF. Because renters usually face worse consequences for not paying at all versus having their payment returned.
Offering flexible rent payments gives renters more confidence about renting in your community. They’ll have flexibility to pay rent in installments that work best with their budgets and cash flow.
But most importantly, flexible rent payments protect your revenue. When renters set up a schedule that works best for their finances, you end up with fewer late or incomplete payments. This ultimately leads to better NOI and fewer instances of collections.
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#9 Protect your properties with renters insurance
You know that protecting your investments is a must. However, some companies put themselves at risk by not mandating renters insurance. You may be tempted to let renters insurance slide because it’s time consuming to manage. It can be a struggle to confirm that your residents have adequate renters insurance, track their ongoing coverage, and manage risk.
Or if you do mandate insurance, sometimes team members don’t follow up to see if residents actually set it up. Without help managing these audits, it’s hard to be successful.
Luckily, there are now solutions to automate this process. Working with a provider like Insurance by PayLease is a transfer of risk and responsibility. You can simplify operations with automated coverage across your community. All units are automatically opted into the policy upon move-in or renewal. A monthly fee charged to residents covers insurance requirements and offsets your costs.
Some renters may already have their own policy. So you can give residents the flexibility to choose their own provider while ensuring automatic coverage if a resident cancels or ends their policy before their lease is up.
#10 Stay up-to-date on industry trends
Market conditions and renter preferences are always changing. And if you’re not in tune with the latest property management trends you’ll miss the mark. That’s why our final property manager tip is to stay up-to-date on industry trends.
There are plenty of great resources to keep you informed. Sign up for Zego’s newsletter, The Elevator, for the newest property management tips and tricks. This monthly newsletter is always a fun read full of new articles and resources from all around the industry.
Annual reports about the latest trends in property management are a must, too. Zego’s Property Operations Report focuses on efficiency and operational trends impacting multifamily companies. Or if you’re more interested in resident-focused trends, our 2023 Resident Experience Management Report is for you. It shares trends about attracting and retaining renters.
Finally, property management industry leaders offer a wealth of updates.. Our favorites include:
Using these tips for effective property management
If you need help implementing any of these property management tips, Zego can help. Sign up for some time with one of our reps to answer your questions.
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