It’s big news for the firm: The project represents the largest-ever single-building property management and facility services assignment for Cushman & Wakefield Dallas. It’s the latest contract in a highly successful year for the team. In 2019 alone, they have added more than 5.3 million square feet to their property management portfolio, including nine office buildings and seven industrial properties.
In the midst of a busy year, Christy Means-Vasiliou, Managing Director of Asset Services in Dallas, took a moment to share her insight on the ever-evolving role of property managers, plus the health of Dallas’ office market in the face of a potential economic downturn. Christy’s comments were featured in a recent Commercial Property Executive article titled “Managing Megadevelopments: An Insider’s View.”
How has new technology disrupted property management?
Technology has made the property manager’s workload more efficient. We can approve invoices, timesheets, and conference room requests – all from our smart phones. Building maintenance teams can diagnose mechanical issues on their tablets instantly, as well as process work orders from their phones. Technology will continue to improve the efficiencies in our workforce.
While proptech companies are replacing the need for a real estate agent in residential real estate transactions, there are a myriad of responsibilities that a property management team does that could not be replicated by technology. Property managers interface with tenants regarding operational issues, tenant-related matters and financial disputes, among other issues. While technology can help make the commercial property manager’s job easier, it cannot replicate the hands-on experience of property managers—professionals who are versed in the finance, operations, construction and sales strategy of a building.
What role should a property manager ideally have before an office development is complete?
We always appreciate the opportunity to get involved early into a development, to help catch items that would otherwise be an afterthought. In my experience, our team has helped catch errors such as forgetting to add a mailroom to a multi-tenant building or not adding a water source for the janitorial rooms on a multi-story building. The fact that our teams were engaged early enabled us to help guide decisions on finish-out that resulted in cost savings for future maintenance.
Additionally, our maintenance team can lend their expertise on mechanical decisions that help ensure the buildings are properly air balanced for the future. Being active and engaged early on in the development process tends to lead to fewer costly errors in the future.
What can a property manager do to ensure the stability of an office portfolio?
Tenant retention is a key element of a stabilized office portfolio. Today’s tenants crave more amenities and hospitality-based services than years past. They want to be engaged and be part of a community. So, they like cornhole games, ice cream socials and tenant events and activities that draw people together and activate the use of the outdoors.
They also expect a certain level of service from everyone they encounter, from the security guard to the day porter. The expectation is friendly, customer-centric service. Consistency in service level is key. Even if the answer to a tenant request is no, we always try to come up with recommendations or suggestions on how to get what they want, without a harsh response. Tenants appreciate that you care and try to make the effort. It really does affect their attitude about the building and their long-term goals to stay. This ultimately results in a more stable office environment.
While Dallas is currently the picture of real estate health, how exposed is the metro’s office market to an economic downturn?
Dallas is a diversified economy, and we are blessed to have learned from past mistakes by not placing all our eggs in one basket. Dallas has been smart in attracting new business that not only diversifies our market but strengthens our economy by bolstering other service lines. Since the last downturn in 2008 and 2009, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro has seen an influx of companies moving from states such as California, including Core-Mark, Jamba Juice, McKesson, Mede Analytics and Toyota.
And we are far removed from the savings and loan fiasco of the 80s, thanks to myriad new industries in DFW such as retail, auto, medical, health care, energy, real estate and finance—and the list goes on. Dallas is well poised to not only survive the next downturn but to be a strong force to contend with for future economic growth.