Working in property management is unlike any other industry. It’s hands-on, 24/7. Every day is different, and no matter how much you plan, things are likely to change. 

Complexes run 24/7. The houses aren’t going anywhere, and neither are the owners (at least not all of them at once). 

So, as you can imagine, taking time off (any time of the year) is tricky, especially in December, when many businesses in South Africa shut down from around the 15th each year.

Planning for December is quite challenging for property managers. It’s also essential if you want to avoid everything falling apart when you’re trying to wind down from the year and catch up on some much-needed family time.

Leading up to the December holiday period is hectic. We know you’ve got your hands full (overflowing, actually), so thought we’d give you a few tips on how best to prepare.

What makes planning for December unique for property managers?

Luann Engelbrecht, office manager and administrator at Agent Direct, has been working in this industry for over five years and says that planning for a December holiday is different each year.

“I have found that planning your days and/or months in property management is not always easy because each day/week is so unpredictable. The workload is always heavy, and things happen daily that you are not prepared for. Therefore, one needs to be flexible, able to adapt to change regularly and to be prepared to work very hard. You can try and plan, but many times things don’t go according to plan.”

Because many property managers manage multiple complexes, often covering the entire portfolio themselves, there is a lot to consider.

It’s also hard to plan for things that you don’t know are coming. December is very much about attending to emergencies, and you can’t predict what those are going to be.

Top tips for being as prepared as possible 

In an industry where ‘very little goes according to plan’, it’s still important to plan (as tricky as it may be).

At Agent Direct, they usually start planning for the December holiday as soon as they finish off with the October month end. From then until mid-December, it’s all systems go!

The most important thing for portfolio managers to do is ensure that they resolve all critical maintenance related issues before companies close for the holiday period. All final meetings need to take place by the end of November/ beginning of December.

Many contractors close from around 15 December, and many of the bigger estates don’t allow contractors on-site during this period either.

Luann lists a few other ways that they prepare:

  • They arrange with their meter readers to get all utility readings/charges earlier than usual so that they can get the December and January statements out before people go on leave (by around 15 December). January readings will be estimates that are then balanced out again in the February statements.
  • They organise the complex staff by making a list of who will be going on leave and who will be working over the holiday period. 
  • The internal office staff all need to submit their leave application forms early so that they know which staff will be available over the holiday period (when/if necessary).
  • The Finance and Insurance Departments need to get all payments and claims settled.
  • Contact all contractors to find out who will be available on standby over the holiday period.

While most property management companies will close between Christmas and New Year, there must be a few staff members who are available on standby should any big emergencies happen.

Get your trustees involved

This is when it’s great to have a hands-on group of trustees in the complexes that you manage. 

Find out which trustees that live in the complexes will be available to assist with emergencies/critical issues over the holiday period. You may need to allocate additional responsibilities to each of them.

For example, if a complexes usual pool maintenance company isn’t going to be available during this time. Then allocate one of the trustees who will be around to check in on the pool regularly. The same goes for garden services and security.

Send out communication to all owners

Make sure to let all owners know early on that your office is going to be closing over the holiday period.

In your communications, it’s important to share all the essential information that they may need during this time. 

Include the below details:

  • Contact details of contractors that will be available – plumbers, electricians, locksmith’s ect.
  • Emergency contact details – ambulances, police stations, vets, security company and other helplines that they may need.
  • Information on geyser repairs and replacement.
  • Complex insurance details, including details on how to lodge a claim.
  • Contact details of trustees that will be available.
  • Contact details of standby property manager (to only be used for emergencies).

In this communication, you should also let all owners know when contractors will be closing and opening again. For example, when the last day of the garden service will be.

It’s also a good idea to share a reminder about complex rules regarding noise levels, visitor parking and use of common areas.

If you aren’t already digital, you NEED to implement those systems

If there’s anything that 2020 has taught us, it’s the importance of being able to run your business digitally. By now, most companies should have digital systems set-up. If you don’t – you need to get onto that soon (like, NOW).

“We already had all of our systems set up digitally, so when we all had to work from home during the lockdown, we were able to carry on full-steam,” says Luann. “Our maintenance department is set up on Unity, and we have other systems for finance etc.”

Going digital means that you can work from anywhere. For property managers, this means that you’re able to go on holiday and know that should any emergency take place, you’re able to sort it out quickly. All you need is your laptop and Wi-Fi connection!

If you aren’t using digital systems yet, get in touch with the team at Unity. We’re here to make your lives easier, more organised and more streamlined.