Property management: Preparing for the new normal

Business professionals everywhere — whatever their expertise — are actively assessing how and to what degree the coronavirus pandemic will impact their particular field.

My primary focus is property management — including corporate structures — and I’m already heavily engaged in gathering input and opinions from my clients, as well as from their tenants. And, one thing I’m completely sure of is that a significant amount of change is in the near-term future of commercial real estate owners and those of us who take care of their properties.

In terms of how commercial tenants will react once restrictions begin to be lifted, I think we’ll be able to separate them into two different camps. The first of these will be eager to get their employees together again, back in the workplace. They’ll embrace 6-foot distancing, wearing masks and other considerations, but their ultimate focus will be a return to an in-person working environment. In addition, they’ll be aware renovations will be necessary — with emphasis on those that will help keep the various members of their team a safe distance apart — and will be willing to make these as quickly as is feasible.

The other camp will be made up of commercial tenants who, based on their experiences during the pandemic, believe their company can work efficiently and effectively in a primarily virtual environment. So, their inclination may be to not renew their current lease in favor of downsizing to a less-expensive location. Their strategy will likely be to have some staff members work exclusively from home, while others may be scheduled to come to the office only a few days each week.

As perspectives related to working remotely and virtual offices evolve, property managers will need to help clients and tenants find a happy medium that will enable them to adjust, while continuing to thrive. My sense is that staggered schedules will become increasingly popular, both for large and small companies. These will enable all members of a workforce to make periodic visits to the office, while eliminating the type of crowded conditions that can spread pathogens.

I’m looking forward to adjusting to this “new normal,” with emphasis on supporting my clients and their tenants as they transition to whatever new business models they believe make the most sense for their respective operations. For building owners, an accomplished property management professional will be more valuable than ever. Corporate and industrial structures will have fewer people on hand at any given time, so the need for someone to serve as an owner’s eyes and ears significantly increases. Security checks will need to be conducted at more regular intervals, all equipment and systems will require closer monitoring and every contract — whether with a tenant or vendor — will absolutely need to be up to date.

In addition, the very best property managers always interact closely with tenants, to ensure they’re satisfied and have no lingering concerns. With the option of downsizing or even transitioning to a virtual business model on the mind of many people, the value of a property manager who is constantly attuned to the needs of each and every tenant will increase substantially.

As is the case with every business sector, the changes that will result from the coronavirus pandemic will present definite challenges. In my field, these changes will be as varied as the many different types of structures I manage. And, for building owners, their best chance of prospering while these transitions take place is in working with an experienced, committed commercial property manager.

Executive Vice President Marcy Gross has been with Sheldon Gross Realty Inc. for three decades and, in that time, has managed more than 1 million square feet of commercial property throughout New Jersey, including retail, office, industrial and residential facilities.

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