Rent.com.au is shining a light on how Australia’s property management industry has been adapting to the changing working environment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
This series will feature key property managers and agency principals across the country in a bid to see precisely how COVID-19 has impacted their business, the strategic changes made to operate in a new environment and the positive change that has come about as a result.
This week, we talk to Martina Berry, Director of West Australian-based Professionals Rockingham.
Q: Since the start of COVID-19, what are three significant changes you made to your business?
“We implemented Facebook Live viewings to complement our virtual tours,” Martina said. “We also introduced online applications, contactless sign-ups using a sign-up video, DocuSign for leases and lock boxes for keys. Our team introduced virtual routine inspections, and we also changed our phone system to a cloud-based system.”
Q: What impact have you seen around rental pricing and demand in your area?
“Our vacancy rate has reduced significantly, and rental prices are starting to increase,” Martina said. “More people are inclined to remain in a property right now, rather than move.”
Q: What was your process for managing rent reduction requests?
“Our property manager closely monitored all instances of arrears. If a tenant fell into arrears or requested a reduction in rent, we sent them a COVID-19 questionnaire to complete. The questionnaire asked them to demonstrate that they had been financially affected by the pandemic. If they met the criteria, the property manager offered to enter the tenant into a rental agreement, and they were sent links to government assistance packages. In all that time, only three tenants entered into agreements.”
Q: What aspect of your property management procedures was most impacted?
For us, it was viewings and routine inspections.
Q: What three changes made during COVID-19 will you continue with, even as restrictions are eased?
“Online applications have improved the process significantly. It has meant our properties can be leased sooner. We’ll also continue with video sign-ups because they save time for our property manager. Virtual routines will be a great alternative for instances where a tenant is sick, or if the owner would also like to attend the inspection. We will also continue using lock boxes.”
Q: If your agency used virtual tours, what system did you use?
“We began using Virtual Tour Creator back in November (pre-COVID-19) and we’ll continue to use them for all advertised rental properties.”
Q: Did your agency use remote tech to manage routine inspections?
“Yes, we used Zoom! We have resumed normal routines now, but we’ll continue to run some via Zoom. When a tenant is unwell, the weather is bad, or if owners who don’t live locally would like to attend, we can simply invite them to a Zoom inspection.”
Q: What steps did you take to make your tenants/team feel safe during an on-premises routine inspection?
“Use of sanitiser, gloves and social distancing.”
Q: Do you have an interesting COVID story/incident either you of one of your staff would like to share?
“We had a client cough all over our receptionist in the early days,” Martina said. “We closed the office after that. When we reopened, we positioned a table in front of the reception desk to create a safe space.”
How did your team manage during COVID-19? If you would like to be featured in our series, email email@example.com