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The changing role of the property manager

To many, residential property management is perceived as simply looking after the communal areas of a development. But driven by rapid change in the property market, increasing consumer expectations and the rapid rise of build-to-rent, many developers are recognising the benefit of engaging with their property manager at a much earlier stage. With years of experience operating buildings and looking after the communities within them, property managers are uniquely placed to help maximise the success of their developments.

Property manager turned consultant

FirstPort has an in-house consultancy service designed to give our current and new clients access to our operational and commercial expertise much earlier in their planning and design processes. As experienced property managers with a breadth of knowledge spanning far more than just traditional block management, we play a vital role helping investors and developers ensure their buildings operate well and can be managed effectively for the long term.

The institutional investors entering the residential market are committing substantial amounts of money into the space. In recent years, we have seen the level of ambition for new entrants rise from an average of around 200 units a couple of years ago to one client now telling us that they want to develop 1,000 units per year for the next 10 years. With such significant investment in the UK residential sector, clients want to know that the chain from investor to developer to operator is as seamless as it possibly can be.

Not just about ‘making it work’

This means many clients are now recognising that an experienced property manager can add much more value for them and their customers than just being brought into a scheme at completion and just ‘making it work’. Instead, we are involved from the start to help factor in practical day-to-day considerations, from the best locations of amenities to ensure successful operational management, through to making sure the branding is right for the target audience. This means a building will function well day to day for residents and the property manager alike.

As such, we might now start working on a project two years before construction starts as consultants. Clients are increasingly seeking out FirstPort’s expertise as an operator because we understand intimately how buildings work and how the communities within them flourish. We offer our clients the expertise of our in-house specialists who cover a wide range of disciplines. We are comfortable providing advice on health and safety strategies, through to discussing the pros and cons of different communal heating systems and how to maintain a bat conservation area.

Extra considerations for build-to-rent

Although this integrated approach is being adopted across all residential tenures, it is particularly important in build-to-rent because of the need to ensure a long-term, reliable return on investment. To achieve this, investors and developers must ensure their properties are designed and operate appropriately for their target customers; otherwise residents can very easily vote with their feet and find somewhere else to live at the end of their tenancies.

If customers are happy at their development, carry on living there and recommend it to their friends, this helps to ensure there is as short a void period as possible.

Creating communities

Property managers are also playing an ever-increasing role in creating communities at the developments they look after. This isn’t just about organising a garden party or welcome event once a year, but helping deliver the lifestyle our clients have envisaged for this development. We take into account not just the building but the whole area surrounding it, so we consider who borders the development, what wildlife there is and how we can help connect residents to the wider community.

And it’s not just about the physical space; it is also about making residents’ lives better – whether that means training all of our front-desk staff in our dedicated concierge academy to ensure they deliver the best possible service or providing an online customer portal and digital customer enquiry forms so residents can access their account information and contact us at a time that suits them.

Property managers must continue to adapt to meet both customers’ and clients’ needs

As the residential market continues to evolve, so too does the role of the property manager. While there will be plenty of new challenges to face, the operators that come out on top will be the ones that move with the times while ensuring customer service, health and safety and operational excellence remain top priorities.

FirstPort customers

This article was originally posted in Property Week on June 14 2019