Ease the peak season load with virtual assistants

Property managers already hit by staff shortages need to prepare early for peak rental season or risk driving more valuable staff out of the industry, warns outsourcing expert Tiffany Bowtell.

“In property management, more than 30 per cent of employees have left because of the role becoming so stressful through the pandemic, bushfires and floods,” Ms Bowtell explained.

“Some regions were hit three years straight. Rising interest rates and inflation are increasing rents, and there are many properties that were in the rental market two years ago that have been sold to owner-occupiers.”

Rental vacancy rates were already declining in Australia before Covid and the national vacancy rate, which measures the proportion of properties available, hit a record low of 0.9 per cent, according to Domain’s September Rental Vacancy Report. 

The shortage of homes for rent means each property is receiving a high load of applications, which requires more admin work, Ms Bowtell said.

The traditional peak season for rentals is January to March, when people move for work and study, with a high volume of rental agreements up for renewal in the quarter.

Property managers should prepare now for the crunch, Ms Bowtell said.

“The No.1 action you can focus on today is checking all the leasing agreements coming up for renewal in January through to March so that your team knows exactly what they need to handle.

“While there are more people looking for permanent work in January there are also a lot of people who will leave after the New Year break too.

“People usually leave it to the last minute to call in temp workers when someone is off sick but property managers should start talking to temp service providers now.”

A rent roll of 500 properties would typically have about 200 of those up for renewal in the first quarter, Ms Bowtell said.

“Once you know those numbers, you can put in an order now for temporary help rather than waiting until January and expecting to find a solution.”

Ms Bowtell is chief executive officer of Australian company Property Management Virtual Assistant, which provides outsourcing services for Australian property managers and sales agents.

A training consultant with 20 years of experience in real estate, Ms Bowtell saw that technology did not meet all the needs of real estate agencies.

She founded PMVA, which operates a team of virtual assistants working in the company’s office in the Philippines, and handle a range of admin tasks for the Australian real estate industry.

PMVA also provides temporary staff to help meet demand in peak periods.

“One of our clients has 800 properties for student accommodation and they have planned ahead with four temporary virtual assistants easing the pressure,” Ms Bowtell said.

“January to March is always the peak season, and yet many people I talk to in the industry don’t prepare for it. 

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Noel Mengel

Noel Mengel is a freelance journalist and author based in Brisbane.

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