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The COVID-19 pandemic has knocked the record-breaking economic run—and most owner and managers’ plans for growth—into a cocked hat. But the day will come when the worst of the pandemic is over, and we’ll carry with us the lessons we learned.
Therein lies a key for property managers that bodes well for the industry, even as we deal with the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic. As restrictions are lifted, it increasingly falls to IREM members to ensure the health and safety of their residents and tenants.
That positions this profession as a vital component in the nation’s long road back to “normal.” It also underscores the often-underplayed value of property management, and its many benefits as a career choice.
Property management may not garner the multi-million-dollar headlines that acquisitions or mega-leases do, and in fact, the profession is too often mischaracterized as little more than a custodial or maintenance function. But, even in normal times, as Appfolio recently stated: “A career in property management offers a wide variety of tasks, making it a good choice for those who work well independently and those who don’t crave the prospect of being stuck behind a desk from nine to five. Duties—and challenges—vary each day, so you’re not likely to be bored or feel stuck in a routine. With a positive job outlook . . . property management offers a promising career path.”
And now that times are far from normal, it couldn’t be truer, as the numbers show. Bisnow recently reported, “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a seven percent growth rate for property managers from 2018-2028.” And, quoting IREM Secretary/Treasurer Barry Blanton, CPM®, the article noted that “Property managers are in hot demand.” Blanton himself is anticipating the greater need for property managers as more multifamily developments are completed.
It should also be noted here that managing spaces means much more than a custodial service. As Dustin Read, PhD/JD, wrote in Real Estate Asset Management: A Process and a Profession, a key property management function is to “provide asset managers . . . with market intelligence and serve in an advisory capacity when assessing the merits of proposed capital improvement projects, leasing decisions and asset repositioning strategies.” All of which lead to value enhancement, the driver of those multi-million-dollar headlines. 
Read goes on to say that the property manager’s role has evolved to more closely align with the strategic goals of ownership as well as the “residents or tenants they engage with.” Clearly the profession is much more than elevator maintenance. 
Now, as we slowly return to our places of business, property managers are needed more than ever. Take for instance the “Safe Six” guidelines for getting offices populated again, as presented in a recent report by Cushman & Wakefield:
Prepare the Building. Implement cleaning plans, pre-return inspections and HVAC and mechanicals checks.
Prepare the Workforce. Create policies for deciding who returns, shift/schedule management and employee communications. 
Control Access. Enforce protocols for safety and health checks, building reception, shipping/receiving, elevators and visitor policies. 
Create a Social Distancing Plan. Follow guidelines for decreasing density, schedule management and office traffic patterns.
Reduce Touch Points & Increase Cleaning. Implement open doors, clean-desk policies, food plans and regular cleaning of common areas.
Communicate for Confidence. Recognize the fear employees may feel in returning. Communicate transparently and listen/survey regularly.
Every point in the above checklist engages the expertise of the property manager. Indeed, the successful implementation of each step reflects the enhanced, post-COVID-19 partnership of tenant and building manager.
Today more than ever, the evolution that Dustin Read referenced hits right at the heart of the health and safety of tenants and residents. As such, the pandemic has become an opportunity to raise the awareness of property management as a keystone in a property’s successful operation.
Economic tides have shifted. They will shift again. In the face of rapid and massive change in how we live and work, both brought about by the pandemic, the reliance on the asset’s property manager is more critical than ever.

Written: John Salustri

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