74 percent of respondents to a National Apartment Association survey said HR, staffing and recruitment issues were among their top three challenges in 2021.

Property managers have had a trying year, to say the least, amid constantly wavering eviction moratoriums, nonpayment of rent, dealing with the red tape surrounding rental assistance and more.

In 2021, recruiting and retaining staff was the biggest challenge for property managers, with 74 percent of respondents to a National Apartment Association (NAA) survey sponsored by property management software company AppFolio citing HR, staffing and recruitment as one of their top three challenges. Half of survey respondents also said that this was their no. 1 challenge this year.

For this survey, economic consulting firm ndp analytics and the NAA gathered responses from more than 1,000 property management professionals through an online survey conducted during July and August of 2021.

“By and large, the industry is grappling with labor market challenges regardless of type or location of rental properties,” Paul Munger, NAA’s assistant vice president of industry research and analysis, said in a statement. “And firms are embracing an array of solutions in response, from utilizing technology like virtual tours and leasing, to more traditional approaches such as cross-training or hiring more recruiters. All stakeholders can continue to learn and grow from these decisions as the industry continues to chart a path forward.”

Within the category of HR, staffing and recruitment, survey respondents said attracting new people, training new hires quickly and decreasing the amount of turnover were their biggest pain points.

Credit: NAA

“Employees are exhausted from COVID-19,” one survey respondent said. “They are demanding higher pay. Hiring is extremely challenging. Recruiting maintenance is very difficult. Salary demands are high. Morale due to short staffing and higher expectations from residents is challenging. The phones are ringing off the hook and we can not keep up with customer service and the instant gratification of wanting answers immediately.”

Operational efficiencies and maximizing revenue and profits were the next most challenging issues property managers said they faced in 2021.

Operational efficiencies were one of the top three challenges for 62.8 percent of survey respondents, and the top challenge overall for 10.2 percent of respondents. Meanwhile, at 47.6 percent, nearly half of respondents stated that maximizing revenue and profits was one of their top three challenges, and 13.7 percent said it was their biggest challenge.

On the operational efficiencies side, property managers said that finding quality vendors, finding solutions to free their team from labor-intensive tasks and reducing costs with the greatest challenges within this category.

Meanwhile, on the maximizing revenue and profits side, increasing net operating income, mitigating debt loss and creating a plan to reduce that debt, and restoring property performance to pre-pandemic levels were the top three challenges in this category.

In closing, the NAA study findings suggested that property managers prioritize tech solutions in order to standardize and streamline processes, like hiring and training, workflows and customer experience, in order to combat these pain points.

“Work and career expectations have changed,” Stacy Holden, senior director and industry principal at AppFolio, said in a statement. “Materials are growing more expensive, and profit margins are thinning. But leveraging the right technology can help counter this. While we’ve seen the impact technology and continued agility have on navigating uncertain times, there’s much we can do to support property management teams.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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