Colliers Capital Markets recently sat down with Karen Whitt, President of U.S. Real Estate Management Services, to discuss the shifting dynamics within property management. 

Karen Whitt (KW): The biggest change has been the adoption of hybrid work models. Most offices have lower daily occupancy than before, and many tenants have committed to partially remote positions. Managers need to find ways to identify how heavily a space is being used, such as monitoring keycards, to help determine appropriate service levels while maintaining flexibility. There are also security concerns due to lower foot traffic, but it all stems from the shift away from the traditional nine-to-five schedule. 

KW:  Artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining a foothold in property management by automating tasks to optimize the efficiency of operations and assisting with routine procedures like rent collection and monthly reminders. We are starting to see the use of chatbots for tenants to create service tickets, answer common questions, and schedule appointments with property managers.   

Incorporating new technology comes with risks, too. Measures like Digital Rights Management are crucial in safeguarding clients’ branding rights in the emerging mixed reality era due to the increasing significance of digital signage. 

Financial fraud is evolving as rapidly as technology. Even with tools implemented by Colliers, like Positive Pay, fraudsters are quickly adapting to these safeguards. In addition to spoofed contact information, social engineering, spear phishing, and other threats, bad actors are using voice-imitation tools (AI) to sound like client contacts. Our teams are spending significant time identifying and preventing our clients from being defrauded. 

KW:  Property conversion presents an exciting opportunity for creativity and innovation. While it’s usually expensive and not straightforward due to fixed infrastructure, there’s still room for speculative projects. In addition, municipalities generally support these initiatives, as they diversify business sectors and contribute to tax revenue. One spa in the Washington, D.C., area has taken over a suburban former government office building. Another office in Arlington, Virginia, has focused on micro gardening, and there are even office-to-data center conversions in some special situations. 

KW: Cash flow becomes a significant focus when we notice signs of struggle. Owners must shift from capital investment to monitoring essential spending, and lenders may get involved if the situation becomes severe. Detailed financial management then becomes an intensified part of the services we provide. Generally speaking, occupiers should not be concerned by a landlord’s financial distress.  

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.