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5 Keys To Successful Multifamily Asset Management During The Pandemic

Founder of Vive Funds, a unique multifamily investment firm specializing in curating high-quality assets for our investors.

Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic bore disastrous effects on a multitude of industries—with travel, hospitality and food particularly affected. Government programs alleviated these effects to some extent, but the pain felt by businesses and their employees was palpable. The coming deluge of pandemic-related problems was an obstacle owners and operators of multifamily housing could not ignore. Amid all this, the underlying reality emerged that it was especially people gravely affected by the pandemic who would find themselves in need of housing.

Drying sources of income had a major effect on the multifamily housing space. But early recognition of upcoming problems paved the way for quick action that resulted in at least partial mitigation of damaging effects.

As soon as the pandemic started working its way through the general population, it became evident to my company that no geographic area in the U.S. would be spared. All strata of society would be impacted, and our asset portfolio of almost $600 million would also be affected. In line with our singular investor-centric focus, it behooved us to prevent or minimize risk to our investors’ investments or confidence in us.

Our actions were manifold but implemented equally across all our assets regardless of geography. Onsite managers were appraised of these steps, and we had a weekly meeting to ensure all actions were completed correctly and on time. In addition, investors were kept abreast of these actions and concerning issues through pre-established communication protocols such as emails, newsletters, etc. Two years later, we are still here.

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Our successful response was due to implementing the following five strategies:

1. Gathering Data

One of our first and most pressing concerns was determining the delinquencies that would arise due to job loss. Fortunately, all our assets had already standardized the collection of details regarding residents’ current employment as well as work histories. From this data, it was possible to estimate with an acceptable level of certainty and accuracy the level of delinquency we could expect. For example, one of our properties had a significant number of people working in the food industry, so our forecast was projected accordingly.

2. Prioritizing Actionable Messaging

We closely followed legislation in congress, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, stimulus payment plans and others. We communicated relevant information to residents (some who had already been laid off) and pointed them in directions where they could receive governmental assistance. By designing our messaging in an empathetic and proactive way, we ensured that when benefits were received, paying rent took priority. Thus was the increase in delinquency at all our properties minimized.

3. Instituting Health Prevention Measures

Contemporaneously with data collection, we instituted several health protocols. All CDC and local health guidelines were implemented. Signage regarding social distancing, handwashing, etc., was prominently displayed. Access to common use areas was limited. These areas were frequently sanitized per health authority guidelines. As the scientific understanding of the pandemic increased, health alerts issued by the CDC were carefully monitored and new plans were executed. Vaccine information was prominently displayed or sent to each resident, including testing and vaccination sites. We also asked residents to inform us of any infections, and these units were isolated to whatever extent possible. Assistance, such as shopping or in a few cases meals, were also provided. All our assets are run with a “we care” motto, and these actions were an extension of that. My company is convinced these actions have a positive effect on resident retention and referrals.

4. Monitoring Updates In Government Assistance Programs

The U.S. and state governments realized they were dealing with a catastrophic unfolding situation. Regardless of political affiliation, the government came together with several loan and stimulus packages, including forgivable loans, direct payments, tax credits, grants and expanded unemployment benefits programs to ensure the economy would not implode. These programs had a significant positive effect on the economy as a whole. We monitored and applied for all pertinent assistance to ensure we could continue employing staff and mitigate losses from delinquencies.

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5. Prioritizing Staff Well-Being

Our staff played a critical role during these difficult times. They too had challenges to overcome, including children learning at home, childcare, family sickness and isolation. These and seemingly every other imaginable obstacle were overcome by our employees with fortitude and aplomb. They were true “frontline” workers in our eyes, and we treated them as such. There can be no “one size fits all” solution to disasters, but we worked diligently to assist in surmounting them. Small adjustments can go a long way in ensuring you have staff who works like champions to protect and grow your asset. Never take your management responsibility toward them lightly, and lead with a human-first way of thinking.

Lessons For The Future

It has been a trying time for all of us, and my company was no exception. But with the right attitude and forbearance, we proved obstacles can be conquered. Future times of crisis will no doubt again call for such balances between quick-thinking and careful strategizing. In striking such a balance, you elevate your business to a higher level, to the benefit of residents, staff as well as investors. They deserve it.

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