Like so many other sectors of the economy, residential real estate management has changed and evolved since the turn of the millennium—and like those other sectors, much of that evolution is directly linked to the development and adoption of technology. Yet the essence of the manager’s mission remains the same: one of close interpersonal interaction. Technological advances may have sped up response times and analytics in many situations, but good, old-fashioned personal contact still remains the keystone to effective management.
The Game Changer, for Better or Worse
What seems to have changed the most in the last couple of decades is the manager’s work hours. Daniel Wollman, the CEO of Gumley-Haft, a management firm based in New York City, explains that years ago, his job—while not a traditional 9-to-5 position—was more or less limited to regular business hours. Particularly during the summer months, the pace of work would slow as many people in the industry went away for long periods of time, often as much as a month or even the whole season. With the advent and adoption of email as the primary means of communication between managers and their client communities, that’s definitely changed.
“Email changed everything,” Wollman says. “Thirty years ago, there wasn’t an internet. Now I get north of 300 emails daily. This isn’t a criticism, but we now communicate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Email has substantially changed my life. Where we were virtually dead during the summer, now people fire off emails while sitting at the pool sipping a pina colada. People can contact you all the time from wherever they are.”
Scott Wolf, a managing partner with Brigs, LLC, a New England-based real estate management firm, concurs. “I’d like to get rid of email,” he says. “Everyone’s expectation is an instant answer—but there’s something to be said for actually picking up a phone and speaking with people. With direct contact it may be easier to resolve an issue a little faster and more easily.”
“The internet has changed the focus of how we communicate with people,” says Wollman. “Fewer people use the phone or talk face-to-face. Where I used to get 10 calls, I now get 30 emails. The thing is that in our business, there are many times when a problem is better handled in a more personal way than email provides for.”