Blog April 21, 2020

A new normal for the UK residential sector

By Trevor Youens

How does that saying go? The only certainty is uncertainty…? A sentiment we all associate with right now. ‘Business as usual’ is anything but – and we find ourselves in the strange situation of a ‘temporary normal’. But, while the light at the end of the tunnel may seem far off, enforced social distancing, mass remote working and the virtual shutdown of the UK housing market will eventually come to an end. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-lasting effect – and rather than going ‘back to normal’, it’s becoming clear that we’ll all have to get used to a ‘new normal’. So, what might that near-term future look like for residential property managers and estate agents?

A digital-first strategy

It’s 2020. Tomorrow’s world is here today and technology is absolutely embedded in our everyday lives as consumers and professionals. Property managers have traditionally been seen as slow adopters of tech. I’d argue that’s changing, has maybe even changed already – but it won’t be a choice anymore. Businesses that haven’t adopted technology, those that see it as an inconvenient expense rather than a sound investment, will surely be left behind by forward-thinking operators utilising digital solutions to provide a better service and drive greater staff efficiency.

Customer relationship management

Going forward, it’s highly likely that we’ll see some limitations on face-to-face interactions, with encouragement to take appointments and meetings online where possible. There may be further periods of lockdown to prevent spikes in the virus that overwhelm our incredible NHS. And even without these measures, the current crisis will undoubtedly result in an initial natural reduction of in-person social interaction. Agents, operators and managers will have to find ways of attracting and retaining residents through online methods. Virtual viewings will surely become more popular, increased numbers of businesses will adopt digital tools for document storage and exchange, and prospects will expect to quickly and easily interact with companies online.

Self-service is THE service

Even if you can overcome the obstacles to bring new residents into your vacant properties, you’ve still got to find ways of maintaining the high levels of service they expect. The adoption of resident portals has grown significantly in recent years across the private rented sector, student housing, leasehold and the lettings industry. Portals can help maintain clear and consistent lines of communication with your communities, can help to build a sense of togetherness in your developments (the importance of which should not be underestimated right now) and, crucially, allow you to offer residents the option of raising maintenance requests or issues from the comfort and safety of their own home. Enabling online rent payments has many obvious benefits for customers in the context of social distancing, and it means you can potentially maintain a cashflow that might otherwise be restricted. With the right property management solution in place, you can also maintain full visibility and control of your operations if payments are being deferred.

These aren’t trends that have just emerged overnight. The demands and expectations of a tech-savvy generation of renters has been driving this gradual change in residential property management for half a decade or more. It’s now reached a critical mass.

We explored these topics in our recent webinar – Prioritising resident safety: What agents, operators and landlords need to consider in respect of COVID-19. The recorded version is free to download and available here.

A reminder also to existing MRI clients that the products you use can be leveraged for the requirements outlined here. We are here to offer our help, support and guidance as much as we can, so if you have questions or queries then our teams are ready and waiting to help.

MRI Sales & Lettings – a fully featured CRM solution for sales and lettings, with integrated property management and accounting.

MRI Engage – a web-based resident portal with self-service features such as maintenance requests and online payments.

MRI Qube PM – a widely adopted and adaptable property management software, with deep capabilities in block management, PRS and other residential sub sectors.

MRI Property Management X – an enterprise-grade residential suite that provides an end-to-end offer for the evolving UK Build-to-Rent market.

And all of our resources related to COVID-19 are available on our resources hub.

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