What to Expect in Commercial Property Management Industry in 2015?
These are challenging yet exciting times for the Commercial Property Management (CPM) industry. Increased globalization, high-speed innovations and the exponential expansion of technology are changing the way people think and act, bringing both new opportunities and uncertainty to the real estate market. What then are the property industry trends for 2015 and what factors will affect the future of Commercial Property Management companies? Are there any tools and techniques that could help property managers overcome future challenges?
CPM industry market realities and trends
The global economy and the real estate market. Financial issues in Europe, wars in the East, Russia’s foreign policy, and the economic slowdown in China all have an impact on international companies, companies working at the global level and on real estate investors; this situation leads to more uncertainty when making real estate decisions and thus directly affects the climate of the property management sector. Still, the real estate market has been one of the fastest growing segments during the last 15 years, and this is reflected by the fact that CPM investment in Europe grew by 16% in the first nine months of 2014. According to the experts, commercial building construction industry revenue should increase by 8.1% in 2015.
Changing trends in demand for office space.Office demand has always been considered as closely related to unemployment, meaning that a low unemployment rate corresponded to a higher demand for office space and vice versa; however, the XXI century has brought some new rules. Working patterns have fundamentally changed. Increasing competition, more companies going global, many startups, advanced mobile technologies and new technological opportunities to work remotely – all these factors are radically changing the demand for office space despite the increasing employment rate. Technology and human resources are very important elements in office size and location decisions. The option of having the same high quality manpower not necessarily present in the office leads to businesses shifting to smaller office spaces or even to virtual offices. During the last 10 years, office space per employee has decreased by 25% in the USA and 35% in the UK. Companies are looking towards increasing efficiency and driving down operating costs; they are still compressing the size of their standards, and that affects the bottom line.
In order to satisfy the demand, office-building owners will need to re-organize existing closed office spaces into smaller ones, sharing common areas between a larger numbers of tenants and investing more in office amenities, such as open cafes and meeting spaces.
Changing trends in the demand for retail space.Online buying has grown exponentially and is taking a bigger market share than ever before. According to IBIS World, research forecasts indicate that online revenues will increase 8.6% per year over the next five years in Australia and 5.9% in the USA. Online buyers have changed the traditional shopping experience; therefore, more retailers plan to reorganize their brick-and-mortar stores and move at least part of their sales online. According to Cushman & Wakefield, by 2020, approximately 25% of all retail sales in the USA and the United Kingdom will be done online. This creates some growing challenges for shopping centers worldwide. The concerns and confusion of shopping center operators were clearly expressed during the MAPIC 2014 conference in Cannes, France – the leading event for the international retail property market.
On the other hand, studies show that 79% of shoppers still want to see, touch and try, to feel the in-store experience. Brick-and-mortar stores will therefore remain of high importance; however, retailers might need smaller store spaces in shopping malls. Meanwhile shopping-center operators will need to pay more attention to the entertainment experience of the visitors rather than to the shopping itself.
Changing trends in the demand for industrial space.Since it is easier, faster and less expensive to have a store online, the number of new online stores has been growing rapidly. The Retail Research Centre forecasted that online retailing should grow by 18,1% in Europe in 2014 and online spending should increase by 14,5% in the USA during 2014. According to Internet Retailer, USA online sales will grow by 57% by 2018! As a result of these trends, there is also a growing demand for more industrial and warehouse space.
How these trends will affect the Property Manager’s job
“Changes” – a word we hear every day. “Changes” usually mean something challenging, something one needs to adapt to. The new trends that the commercial real estate industry is facing right now are a big challenge for property managers.
Increased demand for smaller offices results in property managers having to deal with more tenants in the same building. Workload is increasing: there are more contracts, terms, billing, planning, forecasting and accounting… In order to maximize occupancy, property managers need to track more information, follow more data in order to make forecasts, deal with the lease plans, and manage more potential and current clients – a difficult job to do when one has only two hands. And this is only when talking about office space… In addition, despite the fact that online retail is growing and stores are moving to online business, some more successful online stores are also moving part of their sales back to brick-and-mortar stores, and, as current conventional stores need less space, more of them can fit within one building, a situation that needs to be managed; the demand for industrial space is also increasing.
How to adapt to the trends and stay competitive
Data literally surrounds us. With such vast databases, managing them all becomes a challenging task. In such a rapidly changing and growing environment, simple technological tools for tracking, planning and accounting such as Excel, probably still the most popular ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software, or even pen and paper, can no longer provide an efficient solution. In order to optimize their task of managing a number of properties and hundreds or even thousands of tenants, property management companies need more realistic forecasts, faster and more efficient planning and accounting, and visual tracking and management of vacant/occupied spaces.
Companies should direct their minds and efforts to dealing with the competitive landscape in the industry, instead of spending large amounts of time trying to solve operational problems. Now change has brought real innovations that can help property managers do their job more efficiently – dedicated property management software systems. With systems such as SOFT4RealEstate, one can maximize occupancy levels and manage tenants effectively, increase administrative productivity, reduce operational costs, improve budget forecasts and simply enjoy the benefits of a single unified software solution that is completely integrated with accounting, document management, and reporting tools. Cloud or on-site options are available for clients’ convenience. Giedrius Zaronskis, IT Manager of AKROPOLIS Group – the group of leading shopping malls in Lithuania, shares his pleasant experience of moving from Excel to Soft4RealEstate: “Before we started using Soft4RealEstate, we kept everything in Excel spreadsheets. It was really time consuming. Now when we’re using Soft4RealEstate, things like calculating management fees are a snap. Now I can’t imagine running our property management division without it.”
It is always easier to meet what tomorrow brings when one has the right attitude and tools in hand. Technology is one of many tools that organizations use to help solve problems. Moreover, the right software can help property management companies gain real insights and resolve issues even before they occur. There is not always enough time to go deeply into every area, especially in such a fast-changing technological environment, and it is not necessary – everyone should do what they know best, so why not trust experienced software providers? Mobile phones, social media, cloud computing, and data analytics – particularly when combined in unprecedented ways – are opening up a host of new business models. 2015 is a good year to start improving and growing a property management business, benefiting from all the opportunities offered by the brightest minds from the world of technology.
 Financial Post, “Real Estate Investing Comes of Age”, November 18, 2014
 BNP Paribas Real Estate, “Investment markets continue to grow towards the end of 2014 – November 2014”, November 26, 2014
 Statista, “U.S. commercial building construction industry revenue growth outlook from 2014 to 2017”
 Atlanta Business Chronicle, “As companies pack more employees in smaller offices, we need more answers for parking”, December 17, 2014
 The Economist, “Pressed Suits”, April 5, 2014
 Power Retail, “IBIS World: Australian E-Commerce Revenue to Reach $10 Billion”, October 17, 2014
 IBIS World, “Online Insurance Brokers in the US: Market Research Report”, July 2014
 World Property Journal, “Big Demand Forecast for Industrial, Logistics Space”, June 24, 2013
 Malls.com, “79% of international shoppers want an in-store experience”, November 19,2014
 Centre for Retail Research, Online Retailing: Britain, Europe and the US 2014
 Internet Retailer, “U.S. online retail sales will grow 57% by 2018”, May 12, 2014
 Soft4 software solution for Commercial Property Management, www.soft4realestate.com