EPMEPM: Productivity

Relax, it’s Christmas!

A bit of R&R during the festive season may well sound like the impossible dream if you are in property management. But with a bit of pre-organisation it is totally ‘doable’, says Natalie Hastings.

ARE YOU looking forward to a relaxing and uninterrupted Christmas break?

‘What Christmas break?’ I can hear the property managers of Australia shrieking. As any seasoned real estate professional knows, property management is the one department of our industry that never sleeps – regardless of public holidays, natural disasters or Santa Claus coming down the chimney. Property managers are at the beating heart of our housing economy. Their role means they must be accessible to both landlords and tenants whenever necessary. But if you are a property manager, these demands don’t mean sacrificing your life to the job; difficult though it may seem, there are ways you can plan to have an enjoyable Christmas break this year.

Not all agencies are willing or able to shut their doors over the Christmas and New Year period. If you are one of the agencies who plan on closing both your sales and property management departments down over this short period, begin preparations now and ensure you tell all stakeholders affected. A bit of extra legwork now means that your whole team will benefit from the respite of a holiday; they’ll be able to return in 2015 ready to lease, list and participate fully in your business.

Communicate with your landlords about the upcoming closure by popping a note in their end-of-month statement, informing them of the day they will be paid and your availability over the break. Likewise, advise all tenants of your closure and provide them with key contacts for repairs and maintenance. If you would like tenants to contact preferred tradespeople with any emergency maintenance during your closure period, tell these tradespeople – you’ll likely receive an extra candy-cane and referral or two into the bargain. Update your website and social media pages with your days of closure, and include a limited list of staff contact details for emergencies – these should be repeated on your ‘out-of-office’ email and voicemail, too.

Complying with legislation in relation to receipting and paying rents can feel onerous during holiday periods. Luckily, with easy-to-use software programs specific to property management, remotely sending receipts and balancing accounts shouldn’t prove too difficult a chore over the Christmas break.

If your property management team are not up-to-scratch with all the features of your software, now is the time to have them upskilled with training. Alternately, you may choose to use an outsourced trust accounting business to balance the books in your absence. To streamline this aspect of balancing the books, encourage your tenants to pay their rent in advance before going away on holidays.

No one wants to deal with a complex vacate or bond challenges just before or during the holiday break. Of course, these situations can’t be completely avoided; but you can encourage your tenants to move their vacate date around your office closure dates by alerting them nice and early.

Additionally, advise your tenants that you will not be conducting final inspections during the office closure period or dealing with bond claims, further minimising reasons for them to contact your team while you’re enjoying a little ‘R and R’.

If you’re planning on staying open over the holiday season, consider using temp staff to give your team a break. A pre-holiday handover session will be crucial to keeping your team hands-off during their break, so make sure that you have updated your systems and processes manual in relation to receipting rents, banking and maintenance requests.

Think about training your temporary staff in the basics of the property management software your business utilises – after all, prevention (training) is better than cure (cleaning up a giant accounting mistake). Additionally, employ the services of outsourced real estate trust accounting professionals to keep your books in immaculate, secure shape during your absence.

By separating the procedural functions of your temp staff from your precious trust account, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your clients’ needs are taken care of while you are having a hard-earned break.

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Natalie Hastings

Natalie Hastings is the Managing Director of Hastings + Co. For more information, visit hastingsandco.com.au.