How the residential property manager's role is evolving

To many, residential property management is seen as just looking after the communal areas of a development says Paul Atkinson and Martin King from FirstPort.

However, 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.

We now have 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.

Large, professional investors are entering the residential market, committing substantial amounts of money into the sector. 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 ten years. With such significant investment into 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.

From property manager to consultant

This means that many investors are now recognising that an experienced property manager can add much more value for them and their customers than just being brought in to 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.

In many cases FirstPort might now start working on a project two years before construction starts as consultants. Investors are increasingly seeking out FirstPort’s expertise as operators 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.

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, but 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 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.

As the residential market continues to evolve, so too does the role of the property manager

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

About FirstPort

FirstPort has over four decades of experience as a full-service residential property manager. They have been awarded a Five-Star rating from the British Safety Council for the third consecutive year, and are the only managing agent to have achieved this. Their 3,200 employees support nearly 200,000 homes across the UK. Find out more at www.firstport.co.uk