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China Daily: How efficient property management shapes lives

Property is an important asset for most people in Hong Kong. It is closely linked to virtually every aspect of daily life. Where there is a property, there is a need for the provision of property management services, particularly in a city densely packed with properties of different types and complexities. With rising expectations from the community, property management has transformed from traditional work into a profession.

Efficient property management provides a safe, convenient and comfortable environment for the occupants. It also improves the value of properties and helps strengthen the property’s durability and lengthen its life. With a better physical environment, it will enhance a sense of belonging in the neighborhood and help develop social harmony.  

It’s common for us to associate property management with the provision of cleaning and security services, as well as maintenance of the property and its facilities. Indeed, the physical condition of the property can be kept at a high standard if there is a good property management service. Timely and frequent collection and disposal of waste will keep the environment hygienic and clean. With regular examinations of the essential systems and facilities (including fire services, electricity, ventilation, water supplies, drainage, elevators, slopes, public amenities, etc.), potential risks and problems can be identified and rectified at an early stage. Deficiencies can be addressed and repair work carried out before it is too late. Maintaining the physical condition of the property will enhance its livability and extend its economic life.

Safety and security go hand in hand. Security measures provided by efficient management including installation of access control and CCTV cameras at appropriate locations can provide a deterrent against illegal activities. With a high standard of security, property users can have peace of mind when they enter their homes or workplaces, which will enhance their sense of security and belonging in the neighborhood.  

Apart from physical and safety concerns, maintaining hygienic conditions of a property is of paramount importance, and this was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A good physical condition of properties, and a high level of safety and security in the neighborhood will help improve the social environment of the community. The quality of the social environment commonly refers to social relations, neighborhood support and a sense of belonging. Many property management companies nowadays focus on the provision of customer-oriented services, and property management practitioners are expected to have the skills to handle and mediate in neighborhood disputes, organize social activities and provide diverse services that suit the ever-changing needs of customers. A satisfactory customer experience will enhance attachment and commitment to the community thereby strengthening social harmony.

Efficient management of properties will help enhance Hong Kong’s overall city management, and the wide use of innovation and technology in property management will contribute to the upgrading of Hong Kong into a smart city.  

The implementation of a licensing regime for property management services under the Property Management Service Ordinance (PMSO) represents a substantial challenge to the property management industry to excel and upgrade itself to become a profession capable of providing quality property management services. 

However, without good discipline, professionalism cannot be enhanced. Under the licensing regime, licensees are regulated by the Property Management Services Authority. They have to comply with the requirements set out in the PMSO. If a licensee fails to comply with the requirements, he or she may commit a disciplinary offense. In this connection, the PMSA is empowered to issue Codes of Conduct and Best Practice Guides to help enhance the competence and professionalism of the sector.

Technological innovations are changing our everyday lives, enabling more comfort, convenience and choices. The wide adoption of cloud technology, the internet of things, combining with artificial intelligence and big data in the property management industry (property technology), is driving the trend. Top goals for engaging property technology are improving efficiency, lowering cost, assisting in decision making, enhancing customer interaction and improving asset performance.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated the development of property technology in response to changes in market demand and customer expectations. For example, the provision of a contactless environment is a key safety measure to help fight the pandemic. Robots have also been widely used to carry out high-risk or labor-intensive assignments like mandatory body temperature monitoring or thorough cleansing of venues.  

With the advancement of technology, it will transform the model of building service operation and property management services. For property management practitioners who are not technologically savvy or reluctant to change, they will soon face severe competition and great challenges. It will also be a great opportunity for them to upgrade themselves which will drive the profession to reach a new level.

Environmental protection and sustainability are not new to Hong Kong. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the property management sector, consisting of massive energy consumers, has a crucial role to contribute to transforming Hong Kong into a greener and a more sustainable built-up environment. For example, by using high efficiency lighting, it will lower electricity consumption with the same luminance output, and with better heat dissipation resulting in less air-conditioning loading.

Indeed, the property management profession plays a key role in shaping the day-to-day habits of property users and occupants. By reducing waste generated from building operations and providing more recycling facilities, property management companies could readily observe a coherent waste management principle, i.e., the “Three R’s Principle” — “Reduce”, “Reuse” and “Recycle”.

Ageing is a major problem around the world and Hong Kong is no exception. By 2036, the number of people aged 65 or above will be around 2.37 million, or one out of every three. There is a higher incidence rate of chronic diseases and physical deterioration among the elderly. These are crucial matters we need to address in our property management work.

The SAR government has been advocating “Care for the Elderly” and “Ageing-in-Place” in recent years, and senior residents are encouraged to continue residing in an environment they know well. To achieve these objectives, society has to strive to create an age-friendly environment for senior residents. As early as at the building design stage, barrier-free facilities for the elderly and wheelchair users should be developed. On the other hand, property management companies will be instrumental in carrying out modification works for elderly users on the premises. Apart from the services traditionally rendered by government agencies and non-governmental organizations, it is high time that the property management industry explored and expanded the role it plays, particularly in providing tailor-made elderly services and promoting a caring community for the elderly. 

Hong Kong also faces the challenge of rapidly ageing properties. The number of private buildings aged 50 years or above has doubled to 8,600 over the past decade. Coupled with the dilapidation of more than 5,000 so-called “three nil buildings” (no incorporation of owners, owners’ association or management company), the situation of aged buildings has become alarming. Many of the aged buildings require imminent maintenance and repair works. 

Building maintenance often involves large sums of money; as such, it is a lucrative business and has led in the past to collusion involving some parties. An undesirable situation occurred in previous years when bid-rigging in building maintenance works was rampant, and some syndicates even colluded with owners’ corporations and staff of property management companies to manipulate the tendering process to the detriment of property owners. To combat such illegal activities, more building management training programs and seminars on the prevention of bid-rigging should be provided.

Property management work is likely to become increasingly complex and challenging. Property management practitioners are expected to possess multidisciplinary knowledge and skill sets, including technical, financial, asset management, legal knowledge, management and organizational skills, plus strong communication capability. 

All in all, efficient property management will bring substantial benefits, but the sector also has to face significant challenges, which bring considerable opportunities for it to thrive.