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How to Choose the Right Commercial Property Management Software Solution

In commercial real estate brokerage today the property management division of your business will need a dedicated and specialised property management software program to control asset performance for the clients that you serve.  There are many different software packages around, some of which are of the highest quality, whilst others are very average.

Quality is important

If you plan to provide a professional property management service across the best buildings in your town or city, then you will need a high quality software program that can comprehensively cover the needs of the clients and the challenges of the properties.  There are significant and different management requirements across industrial, office, and retail property types.

In saying that you do need to choose the right software program, there are costs associated with all of the specialised solutions available.  Most of the high quality programmes are reasonably costly although they can be easily funded by the correct management fee structure and a good size property management portfolio.

Understand the reporting solutions

If you want to attract the best clients to your professional property management services, you will need a good software solution to support your activities.  You need something that is well proven and cost efficient, and yet something that is easily able to produce the reports that the clients require.  An informed client is more readily able to make the best decisions in a timely way.

Know what you must control

Understand the informational needs of the clients that you serve across an array of activities.  Consider some of the most common challenges that you strike on a regular daily basis, including:

  • The lease documentation and updates
  • Tenancy mix details and variations
  • Expenditure activity across the various cost codes
  • Arrears controls and reporting
  • Regular tenancy correspondence and communication
  • The landlord reporting requirements and report formats
  • Property maintenance records
  • Risk management and documentation
  • Energy management and tracking
  • Environmental issues and controls
  • Income controls and optimisation
  • Rental strategies and budget expectations
  • Property budgeting for both income and expenditure
  • Premises and area detail
  • Tenant contact, correspondents, and records
  • Outgoings activity and performance
  • Cash flow projections

So these are some of the most common requirements in most commercial property management activities.  At a minimum, the software solutions that you use need to cover these and other issues effectively and directly.

The Categories?

You can see from the list that some of the matters are financially orientated, whilst others are linked to documentation, and also tenancy mix occupancy.  One software package has to cover all of the issues in an accurate way.

Choose the best commercial property management software package that suits your typical client profiles, property types, and property portfolios.  Understand the factors of growth that will occur with your property portfolio so that the selected property management solution you choose can give you the best ongoing support into the future as the portfolio grows and building complexity increases.

You can get more commercial property management tips in our eCourse ‘Snapshot’ right here.

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How to Set up a Customer Service Desk in a Retail Shopping Center

As part of the property management strategy for any sizeable retail shopping centre, you can and should develop a customer service station function and service within the property.  I say ‘sizeable’ because you need plenty of tenants in the tenant mix to pay for the customer service strategy.  The cost for operating a service desk can be quite reasonable.

So what’s the idea here with a customer service station in a shopping centre?  Try some of these:

  • It will help customers find what they want
  • It will help control problems and challenges with customers
  • You can use it as a marketing point for competitions and sale campaigns

The station should be located where it will be of the greatest use to the customers within the property and in the common area.  There are many benefits to be had by all with an effective customer service point.

It should be noted that the customer service station is a cost factor for the property that should be allowed for in building operational costs and be potentially funded from property marketing.  There will be salaries to account for and costs associated with the operations of the customer service desk.

Set the Rules

So here are some rules to the process of establishing a customer service station and operations point within any medium to large retail shopping centre:

  1. Integrate security services into the customer service location. There will be many ongoing security issues evolving from both customers and tenants.  There will also be specific factors to consider such as lost children, lost goods, injury, risk management, and personal safety.  The evacuation of the property may involve the people in the customer service or operations desk.  So the desk or customer service point will have a number of roles to fill.
  2. The people manning the service desk will need to be suitably trained and skilled with risk management and injury issues. They may also need to be trained in crowd control, customer service, first aid and safety matters.  The insurance company carrying the risk for the property will have significant interest in risk management controls and safety registers all of which will normally happen from or in conjunction with the service desk and the personnel manning it.
  3. Understand the property and common safety responses and possible risk events. Look at how customers move through the property and into the tenancies.  Special considerations will be needed when it comes to access points, car parking, common areas, and amenities.  How will customers find the customer service desk and or communicate with it in an emergency?  There should be a crisis management plan active that allows for the movement of customers, the activities of tenants, and the management personnel on site.  It is quite likely that the customer service point will be involved in that process.
  4. Lost and found services should be controlled at the customer desk. Registers of lost and found goods should be kept.  In larger shopping centres the amount of lost and found goods on a daily basis is quite high.
  5. The help desk can also guide people in the right direction when it comes to finding tenancies and the common amenities. In large shopping centres that can be a valuable service. A map of the property including all shops should be available at the desk for handing to customers as they seek to find certain tenancies and certain tenancy types.
  6. Some shopping centres incorporate gift wrapping services at the customer service points. When the seasonal sales are active, the strategy works quite well in supporting customers.
  7. Have a place at the service desk where people can lodge applications for casual employment at the shopping centre and with the tenancies.
  8. Gift certificates can be issued from the service desk. Competitions can also be promoted from that location with competition applications being lodged and collected at that point.
  9. Public announcements could occur from the service desk.
  10. A mail drop off point or parcel delivery service can be incorporated into the customer counter.
  11. A directory board should be in close proximity to the service desk. There should be a map of the property incorporated into the directory board layout.
  12. Wireless Internet Services can be made available in close proximity to the service desk. That then is a service for some customers.
  13. Wheelchairs, child prams, and motorised mobility chairs could be hired from the customer service desk.

So the idea here is that the customer service desk is a convenience factor, a communication point, and customer service in many different ways.

Understand the costs of the operations desk or customer service point and the services to be offered.  Build those costs into the marketing budget for the property.  The marketing costs should also be structured and costed into the tenancy leases as a contribution from all tenants across the property.

Tenants and customers will benefit from the establishment of a customer service desk in a shopping centre.

You can get more tips about Shopping Center Management and Leasing in our ‘Snapshot’ eCourse right here.

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Attractive Shopping Centers Create Better Customer Sales and Tenant Results

If you are a specialist in retail shopping centre leasing and management, you will understand the importance of retail property appearance and design.  Customers like to feel comfortable, safe, and happy as they move around within shopping centres and look for the goods and services that they require.

A good shopping centre experience will encourage immediate sales and repeat business.  You really do want your customers coming back to your shopping centre in a regular and ongoing way.  The benefits to both the tenants and the landlord are significant over time.

Shopping Center Facts

Consider the following facts:

  1. A GREAT PROPERTY: A successful shopping centre will attract more customers and tenants in an ongoing way. It is quite easy to see when a shopping centre is trading at successful levels; the customers to a retail property can also interpret and see those issues.  When the tenants are successfully trading within the property, the retail sales are likely to reduce both tenant mix volatility and vacancy factors.  So the focus here is to make your shopping centre visually successful in every way possible.
  2. VACANCY CHALLENGES: If you have any vacancies to work with, then do so selectively and professionally. Keep a close eye on your lease expiries coming up and your lease renewals.  Negotiate those issues early and directly with the tenants involved.  Don’t let vacant shops remain vacant for too long.  Put covers and hoardings across vacant shop areas.  Put advertising material and marketing material on those holdings.  What you want to do here is remove the visual negativity of the vacancy from the property and the customers.
  3. PROPERTY PRESENTATION: Set some standards within the property relating to retail tenant signage and shop presentation. The signage for retailers should be commonly positioned and designed.  Good signage will always help with the level of sales and the customer experience.  Signage specifications will maintain the quality and the positioning of that signage.
  4. VISUAL STANDARDS AND ILLUMINATION: Lighting standards will always help with property presentation and believe it or not sales. Most retail shopping centres today are trading at all hours and on that basis seven days a week.  The lighting strategies within the retail property, in the car park, and within tenancies should be suitably specified and maintained.  Poor lighting directly reflects in poor retail sales.  The lighting within the common areas and within the individual tenant shops should be specified for maximum retail impact and customer safety.
  5. WHAT CUSTOMERS THINK: Understand the customer experience from the very time that they enter the property. Look at how customers into the car park, how they move through the car park and into the shopping mall or shopping centre.  Look at the factors of signage, lighting, security, and common area design.  Are the services and amenities of suitable quality to encourage customer use and help them stay longer within the property?  If you can extend customer visit time, you can potentially improve the levels of sales across the tenancy mix.
  6. TENANCY FACTS: On a final note it is worthwhile recommending that you do a full tenancy review and a tenant mix study with any shopping centre on an annual basis. It is a professional service that you can provide to the landlords that you work with.  What you want to do here is understand where the threats to the tenancy mix are potentially derailing tenancy sales opportunity and or customer visits.  The right tenants chosen for the property will encourage shopping centre success over time.  Any weaknesses within the tenancy mix should be resolved or remove over time.  Understand what the customers expect and require when it comes to the standard shopping experience.  Undertake a customer review all marketing survey on a regular basis so that the tenant mix changes are driven from customer information and tenant mix performance.
  7. KNOW THE FACTS: Delve into the facts about the property. When you take a serious look at your tenancy mix, you can see the challenges, the strengths, and the weaknesses with the anchor tenants, and the specialty tenants; a full tenancy review should occur each year as part of the property business plan.  Split your tenancy mix up into desirable tenants and those that should be removed at the next leasing opportunity.  Also look for the missing tenants within the tenancy mix that you can target and find when vacancies arise.  Visit other local shopping centres on different days of the week and at different times of the day to see how they are performing from a tenant mix perspective.

So there are plenty of good things that you can do here when it comes to retail property performance and shopping centre tenancy review.  Maintain the appearance and the function of your shopping centre so that it can attract the best tenants and for customers.

The activities of customers and tenants are always linked when it comes to shopping centre performance.  As the leasing manager and or the property manager, you are the best person to develop effective and direct strategies across those issues.  Over time that means you will be help in the property performance and landlord results.

You can get more tips about Shopping Center Management and Leasing in our eCourse ‘Snapshot’ right here.

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Why Confidence is so Important in Commercial Property Management

The clients that we work with in commercial property management expect experience and confidence in the managers that they use.  Those clients like to know that the person chosen to manage their property can handle the variables of income, expenditure, tenant mix, and lease negotiations.

So why worry too much? The experience and confidence in any property manager will be important to the client service process and also to the brokerage fees charged for services rendered.

Inexperience is Dangerous

An inexperienced property manager can be a costly and concerning problem in property performance for any investor.  Invariably that is the time when errors and omissions occur with the critical factors and tenancy activities.

So the property manager needs the confidence, knowledge, and experience to know how to look for upcoming concerning issues in the leases and with occupancy, and how to position the property for better results in investment outcomes.

Every landlord and property owner will have certain unique targets to merge into that property performance equation, so the balance becomes a bit tricky.  That is where the right property manager for the asset and the client should be considered.

The complexity of many office and retail properties requires specific experience and knowledge to help the property stay on track from an investment perspective.  Errors or omissions create problems with any property and its performance.

Critical Confidence Factors

Here are some ideas to help you with this.  Any property manager should be specifically familiar with the following topics as they apply to the location, the client, and the property type:

  1. Income – The levels of income in any property will be impacted by local vacancy factors, current market rentals, and business sentiment. If a property is to grow its income base with rentals that are market aligned, the property manager really does need to have advanced skills with tenant management and property leasing.  Remembering that many leases exist for a number of years, the property manager is the person responsible for qualifying the tenant, then establishing and growing the cash flow.
  2. Expenditure – Rarely will property expenditure decline and that is why a specific budget is required to keep property expenditure under control. Energy costs, operational costs, and property usage place pressures on expenditure each year.  Operational costs within most properties are escalating.  There are seasonal factors to look into as well including climate conditions, and the associated energy consumptions.
  3. Tenant placements – When you have a number of tenants within the same Investment Property, you will have challenges when it comes to positioning, occupancy, and property use. Some tenants have an impact on other tenants around them.  As part of any lease negotiation, specifically choose the right tenants for the right location and then control them within the existing lease documentation.  Understand the businesses in each case and the types of people that will be accessing the tenant and or the property.  What pressures will happen as a direct result of tenant existence and occupation?  You may need to put certain controls within the lease document to keep things on track within the tenancy mix.
  4. Lease negotiations – Every lease negotiation should be looked at in balance allowing for current market conditions, vacancy levels, market rentals, and the locations of other tenants within the property. Some leases will come to an end within the same property at a particular point in time.  Most owners cannot afford to have escalating vacancy factors across a large percentage of the property.  Negotiate your leases so that the cash flow of rental is not overly impacted by lease expiry dates.
  5. Vacancy strategies – Like it or not vacancies will happen in any property. The impact of those vacancies can be lessened through finding new tenants, moving tenants around, and modifying the property use.
  6. Maintenance strategies and costs – During the year things will happen in any managed property. You will have maintenance issues occurring for all types of reasons, and some of those repairs will be timed whilst others will be unexpected.  You need response systems for all levels of maintenance including emergency responses.

Are you ready to improve your confidence and knowledge in commercial property management?  A successful property management division in any brokerage will bring many advantages to the business over time.

You can get more commercial property management tips in our Snapshot eCourse right here.

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Commercial Real Estate Leasing Brokers – The Additional Benefits of Working with More Local Tenants

If you are a commercial real estate leasing agent, you can get plenty of market traction if you work with local tenants and business owners.  They tell you things and that then leads to listings and better commissions with quality property transactions.

Always err on the side of leasing quality when it comes to any property listing or property choices.  Why is that?  Consider these things:

  • Quality properties create better levels of inquiry
  • The rents are higher per unit of area
  • The commissions are better due to the higher rents
  • The tenants are drawn to a quality listing
  • Modern buildings offer a level of improvement and services that most tenants require

What are the Leasing Positives?

There are some good things evolving from working in property leasing and resolving tenant needs.  Think about these:

  1. Leasing leads to Property Management – Many landlords are open to property management services when you have just solved a complex leasing issue for them.
  2. Leasing leads to Sales – A lease today is likely to be a property sale in the future, particularly if you do a great job for the landlord property investor.
  3. Tenants share local property information – Local tenants will tell you many things about their location and other nearby businesses.
  4. Landlords want help with tenant placement and tenant mix – Whilst a landlord may have a fully occupied property right now, many leases may be in need of upgrade and renegotiation at the right time in the future. As a general rule, weaknesses in leases can be negotiated away over time with better leases and rents.
  5. Rental and lease strategies are highly specialized – There are many different types of rents and leases; they can be mixed and matched to the investment requirements of the landlord and or the occupancy needs of the tenant (it just depends on who you are engaged by as a client). You can drill down into market rent strategies and leasing alternatives.  That will then make every lease negotiation more valuable for the clients that you serve.

So you can do a long way in the property market as a specialized agent or broker by starting from a ‘leasing base’.  Understand the linkages between the 5 points mentioned and build your skills and property market around them.

In closing on these points, recognize the differences between office, retail, and industrial property.  Understand the leasing opportunity in each property type, and then choose the segment that offers you the most market activity over time.

You can get more commercial real estate broker leasing tips in our ‘Snapshot’ eCourse right here.

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Commercial Real Estate Brokers – Ways of Achieving Success Through Effective Personal Marketing

The marketing process in commercial real estate brokerage should never be ‘generic’ with perhaps one exception and that is in the promotion of ‘open’ listings.  ‘Open’ listings generally waste everyone’s time, and will usually only sell or lease through some factor of ‘luck’.  You can’t base your commercial real estate brokerage business on ‘luck’.

How Are Listings for You?

Some agents and brokers will claim that they must list ‘openly’ because ‘that is the way the market is for them’ and the only way they can get new listings.  Whilst I accept that fact initially for those agents that are very new to the industry, I will say that the best agents avoid ‘open listings’.  They grow their profile and market share consistently over time so that the new clients and prospects locally will come to them to list properties for sale and lease.  That is when it is really easy to demand ‘exclusivity’.

If the client really wants the best agent then they must accept the terms of engagement that the agent is offering.  They are then your terms!  Are you ready to package your professionalism and sell it?

Are You the Expert?

If you have a comprehensive and specialised personal brand as a local property ‘expert’, then it stands to reason that people will want to list their property with you rather than some other ‘random’ agent or groups of agents.  Take a serious look at your personal marketing processes.

Taking this point further, your market share and listing conversions of an exclusive nature will largely depend on your ability to establish your brand as the ‘go to agent’ for your location and property speciality.  You can and should invest more time in building your real estate image and speciality.

Here are some rules to help you do that:

  1. Your Listings – Understanding the point that I made earlier about ‘exclusivity’, make the marketing process very special and deep with all of those high quality listings that you are bringing in. It is difficult for other property owners and investors to ignore the activities of any agent with the best properties and the best marketing ideas.
  2. Other Agent Listings – If you are stuck for current listing stock, use other agent’s listings in a location to talk to local property owners and tenants nearby to any listing. Some simple questions and conversations will help you find the next listing in the same street or perhaps a business owner looking to relocate.
  3. High end marketing campaigns – Get some traction with your marketing by seeking and converting vendor paid funds. If your advertising efforts on any quality property are of a higher professional level than that of your competitors, you should be attracting the new business leads and enquiries very easily.
  4. The personal approach – You are the marketer of your business. You sell your services well then people will choose the agent that they trust and believe has the better business and market coverage.  Is that you?

Simple marketing rules like these help you consolidate market share and listings as an agent or broker in commercial real estate.  Follow the rules and grow your real estate business.

You can get more commercial real estate brokerage marketing tips in our ‘Snapshot’ eCourse right here.