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COVID-19 challenges are shared with multifamily managers industry-wide

COVID-19 challenged everyone who manages real estate. But how did the 2020 experiences of IREM members measure up against those of members of the National Apartment Association (NAA)? You can find out by looking into NAA’s recent poll of C-suite executives and onsite building staff. The survey, conducted by J Turner Research, went to 1,651 participants. Here’s a sampling of the findings.

Rent concessions soared in 2020, says NAA, with 66% of respondents posting giveaways--a stark contrast to the year before at 13%. In fact, last year ended a gradual U-shaped decline in concessions that began at a high of 82% in 2009, during the Great Recession.

By contrast, concessions reported anecdotally by IREM members seem to be very region-specific, and some managers reported heavy requests while others had to deal with only a handful. The value of those concessions was placed at under $400 by 22% of NAA respondents. Values of $401 to $750 were recorded by 18%; and 11% put the value at between $751 and $1200. Concessions in excess of that have been doled out by 15% of the survey takers, and 34% provide no concessions.

Akin to concessions is the issue of eviction moratoriums--a problem all managers, no matter the organization or region, share--and 74% of respondents stated they have properties under that restriction.

Not surprisingly then, the moratorium issue also ranked as one of the top three challenges to coping with COVID, tied with rent collections at 74%. Only “Managing Resident Expectations” ranked higher, at 78% of respondents. Also unsurprisingly, those fighting the daily battle . . . the on-site personnel . . . rated the “Expectations” question higher than did the C-Suite respondents, with 83% of the former finding it a hassle compared to a significantly fewer 60% of those in the C-suite.

That wasn’t the only challenge rated higher by on-site personnel than C-suite denizens. These include:

  • Closing and opening amenities (71% and 55%, respectively)
  • Securing Safety Equipment (30% and 22%, respectively)

Layoffs and furloughs are issues that need to be handled both on-site and in the corporate office, and so responses tied at 16%.

By contrast, issues that seem more in the wheelhouse of the C-suite include adapting to CDC and government guidelines (71% to 65%); eviction moratoriums (84% to 70%); and employee schedule management, including work-from-home policies (60% and 30%).

Beyond COVID

Of course, there are issues that transcend the pandemic, such as hiring talent, which was one of the top three non-COVID concerns of 30% of respondents, along with reducing operational costs.

Amenities sought by prospective residents also are evergreen issues for property managers, and high on the wish list is in-unit laundry, reported by 45% of the total. Pets were next on the list, with pet policies tying with upgraded appliances at 31% of overall respondents.

The choice of amenities listed in the survey ranged from the online reputation of the property, and fitness centers, to covered parking and a pool. Only two received votes in the single digits: smart home technology (4% overall, 7% from the C-Suite, and 2% from the on-site staff); and a pet yard.

Clearly, whether the issue is driven by COVID-19 or is longer-term, there is unity in numbers, and real estate professionals across the board have much in common.

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