Property management in the time of coronavirus: Weekly headlines & insights – 3/28/20

Robin Young
Robin Young | 5 min. read
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Published on March 27, 2020

As unemployment claims and cases of COVID-19 surge, property managers are holding their breath in anticipation. On April 1, the industry will get its first real sense of how many rents and mortgage payments will fall short or go unpaid.

Threats to our health and our financial security make this a harrowing time for people and businesses around the world. But even as property managers find themselves at the front lines of this crisis, there’s an opportunity to not just survive this time, but to come out stronger on the other side. Through the right combination of empathy and technology, property managers can care for their residents, staff, clients, and properties safely and effectively in this deeply uncertain time.

We know that what you need most right now is information that you can put into action right away. That’s why we’re releasing a weekly digest of the resources we think you’ll find most helpful, as well as the insights you need to put the news into context. So, let’s get right to it—here’s what you need to know this week.

Headline 1: Lost Jobs Will Lead to Lost Rental Income

3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance in the last week alone. As these numbers rise, the impact will ripple throughout the economy: Renters who lose their source of income may be unable to pay their rent, preventing owners from paying their mortgages, and potentially threatening the income of 17.5 million multifamily industry employees. Some policy updates to aid owners and renters are underway—watch for additional legislation on local and federal levels in the coming days.

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Headline 2: Rental Demand is Dropping

Last week, RealPage reported that online traffic to property managers’ rental listings was down 15% compared with the same week in 2019—a number that’s expected to drop dramatically as the crisis worsens. With more than half of rental demand occurring between April and June each year, property managers will need to find ways to serve renters who are still hoping to move during the most out-of-the-ordinary leasing season we’ve ever faced on a national level.

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Headline 3: The Focus is Shifting to Retention

The best way for property managers to protect their revenue is to keep current residents by extending existing leases; pushing out renewal decision dates for renters; and providing the best possible service under the current circumstances. Renewal demand is expected to be higher than ever; and to help this trend along, 52% of industry professionals polled by RealPage this week expect to keep rents at the same rate for residents who renew their leases this year.

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Headline 4: High Conversion Rates Could Counter Lowered Demand

Renters who are looking to move this leasing season are far more serious about finding an apartment quickly—and digitally. The availability of online leasing, communication, and payment tools makes this situation far less dire than it would have been a decade ago, allowing the leasing process to proceed fairly normally even as a growing number of Americans shelter in place.

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Property managers will get through this—and Buildium is here for you. We’ll keep gathering the most up-to-date, actionable information we can find to help you navigate unprecedented situations over the weeks and months to come.

Wondering how things have changed? Jump forward one week to 4/4/20,

Read more on COVID-19
Robin Young

As Buildium’s Senior Researcher, Robin leverages her background in social science research and interest in real estate economics to identify trends in the rental market. She combines intensive market research with insights gleaned from surveys of property managers, renters, and rental owners to examine topics like shifting renter demographics, the housing affordability crisis, and the transformation of property management during COVID-19. She's best known as the author of the annual State of the Property Management Industry Report.

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