What’s new in tech: Retail shopping center property management

Technology is transforming the real estate industry. Across the board, industries are reshaping and adapting toward a future driven by innovation. Not only have technological advancements created the latest and greatest gadgets and electronics we use each day, these advancements are now disrupting the real estate industry, resulting in more efficient and streamlined processes for retailers and shopping center owners.

Seeking support through software

Shopping center property managers have many technologies at their disposal. The trick is to find the ones that best fit their needs. For example, managers have implemented accounting software platforms like MRI Software and Yardi to help track rent roll information and generate property reports. By utilizing automation and customization, these intuitive systems streamline the operational reporting process and provide the management company with a state-of-the-art deliverable for property owners each month. These types of software platforms are more than just accounting services as they now have the capability to manage all vital property information, from lease documents to tracking equipment preventative maintenance service schedules.  These systems also provide property owners the ability to subscribe to the program’s service and access their shopping center’s information in real time.

In addition, there are software programs readily available for property managers to conduct inspections at shopping centers using mobile handheld devices. Programs such as SnapInspect and Z Inspector provide tools for businesses to collect data, customize reports, and promote collaboration between users. Property managers can conduct inspections via an iPad or tablet, including photos, and can be instantaneously transmitted to the property’s management team, vendors and ownership. All information and notes from inspection reports are logged and can be accessed by the property managers at any time, making the process simple and straightforward.

Organizational tools for retail shopping center property managers

Collecting insurance certificates used to present challenges for property managers as they had to conduct extensive legwork to process and collect insurance information. The cumbersome process usually required multiple phone calls and letters to tenants and insurance agents to gather all of the pertinent insurance information. Now, there are automated processes that collect the data, increasing efficiency and promoting organization. Tools that incorporate insurance management into their platforms on the market today include 360Workplace by Accruent, Buildium, and Planon Real Estate Management.

High-tech lighting systems for property owners 

One way technology is making a significant impact on shopping centers is through innovations in LED lighting and lighting controls. Shopping center owners can recognize upwards of 20% savings on annual energy bills in year one for common area lighting conversions to LED systems.  And most states and utility companies are offering attractive rebate programs, minimizing owners’ upfront cost exposure. Combine these with the newest lighting control technologies, which replace old-fashioned timers and photocells, and the savings climb even higher. Annual subscription costs for these controllers are minimal (as low as $120 per year), and not only offer significant energy cost savings, but are able to interact with personal electronic devices to give property managers instant notification of mechanical problems, increasing overall shopping center safety and minimizing liability.

Why property managers should not fear automation 

Professionals in the industry may assume that technology will take over property management and leave humans with fewer tasks to complete. This thought might leave industry professionals feeling uneasy, but in reality, good property management is a customer-facing business and the need for experts in this line of work is necessary. Tenants want to get a live person on the phone. They want to see faces walk into their stores and ask, “Hi, is everything okay?” It’s not about minimizing human activities, it’s about striking a balance between improving the level of customer service while accepting the benefits of technology. At the end of the day, these technologies can make our lives easier by removing tedious processes in order to streamline efforts and minimize risks overall.

The need for tech in property management

In general, technology is still underused in retail shopping center management. If more technology was implemented at shopping centers, it would help improve the level of service for both owners and tenants and reduce expenses on both ends. For example, technology can aid in keeping common area maintenance costs low, which, in turn, keeps tenants happy and makes it more likely they will renew their leases. On the other hand, if a shopping center has vacancies, the properties will be easier to lease as potential tenants will be attracted to the technological upgrades and systems used at the property.

Metro Commercial stays up to date on the latest tech trends by going to trade shows, constantly researching and evaluating new technology platforms to add to our portfolio, and simply observing what other shopping centers and firms have implemented at their properties. Technology will continue to evolve, and we as property management experts need to act progressively and adapt to these changes, especially if these systems will cut costs and streamline our processes down the line.

Copyright 2018 Metro Commercial Real Estate, LLC