With the increasingly sophisticated demands and expectations of tenants, property management and facility management services are playing an ever more central role in the operation of office centers.
A number of building service companies are now providing property services to building owners and the major consultancies have dedicated PM and FM divisions. Service companies and landlords are faced with balancing the needs of staff and sustainability issues on the one hand with energy conservation and controlling budgets, for example, on the other.
As with other sectors of the real estate industry, PM and FM suffers from a shortage of skilled labor, partly as a result of which technology is increasingly utilized and “PropTech” has developed into a dedicated specialist market sector.
The traditional hierarchy in terms of managing commercial properties is asset management, followed by property management and then facility management according to István Rézsó, head of business development for asset services at Cushman & Wakefield Hungary.
“FM in this context is mainly focusing on the technical management, daily operation, planned preventive maintenance, and occasional repairs. In many of the cases, FM operators are also responsible for providing cleaning, security/reception services, and sometimes they are catering providers as well,” he says.
As the sector is evolving, FM providers are widening their service offerings, being involved in workplace strategies, building information modeling technologies, PropTech solutions and the like.
As the boundaries between the three above mentioned management schemes are not that strict anymore, in the case of less complex properties and ownership structures, FM companies will also take up some PM activities such as tenant liaison, or invoicing. The role of PM and FM is, therefore, seen as overlapping in some respects.
“As for PM, it is rather like being the mediator in the landlord-tenant-provider triangle. The service provisioning covers securing the conditions of a smooth operation through the selected service providers, maintaining a continuous contact with the tenants to respond to their needs and ensuring that all of their obligations are also kept and guiding the asset through its full life cycle for the ownership,” Rézsó says.
“Our property management teams have to have technical experts, a strong management accountancy support for all the financial matters and a property/building manager who is acting as the main contact either for the client as well as for the tenants. Our work can be as diverse as the FM providers. In some instances, we are taking up asset management responsibilities for the clients, or in the case of certain properties we are responsible for the FM coordination through an integrated PM-FM platform,” he explains.
The company is currently managing over 200,000 sqm of office buildings.
Asset and property management services provider Gamma Properties describes FM as a complex service/activity, which contributes to maximizing the value of the property through professional technical and infrastructural services that are adjusted to the property’s life cycle.
“PM is customer-focused property management, which supports the property’s daily operation with an owner-mentality and professional activities. Also, in addition to covering the main technical and infrastructural areas, FM must include energy/environmental management, budget-planning and skills in higher-level reporting,” says the company.
With regard to the operation of an office complex, Viktor Nagy, country manager for operations at Immofinanz Hungary, emphasizes that a client-oriented approach to tenants’ sustainable thinking, customer-oriented communication and a problem solving attitude are seen as the most important aspects.
“For example, an important factor of our success is that the company is constantly working and asking for the needs and expectations of the tenants and, based on the results, introduces new services for their convenience. To highlight a few examples, these new services include the ParkL service launched with Park and Go which offers available parking space to the guests, or the recently opened myplay, which is a daily child care service at myhive Atrium Park,” Nagy explains.
Landlords are faced with balancing staff expectations and budgetary concerns. “Our most important priority has always been the tenant. The PM and FM teams’ focus should always be tenant satisfaction. I can hardly understand how many landlords still seem to expect these services to run on a low budget and save on costs, even though the service charges are paid by their clients,” said Csaba Zeley, head of asset management at ConvergenCE.
Third party sustainability accreditation organizations such as BREEAM, LEED and WELL have basic requirements for PM and FM. Certifications are seen as providing only a framework for a sustainable real estate sector; the behavior of facility management and end-users is even more important if significant effects are to be demonstrated, according to Zsombor Barta, president of the Hungarian Green Building Council (HuGBC).
With an increased emphasize on interiors placed by WELL, employees in a building are increasingly prioritized. “It has always been a basic rule of thumb that the tenants represent the true value of commercial properties. Now the trend bends towards satisfying the specific needs and inhouse wellbeing of the occupiers,” Rézsó comments.
“In terms of office building projects, this is reflected in creating an inviting atmosphere, a fast and clear response to tenants’ requests. As PM providers, we are continuously monitoring the market for the most up-to-date solutions, striving to find efficiency in the operation. Most of these initiatives would create a cost, however, so it is the landlords’ discretion whether they are willing to allocate the funding for them,” he adds.
The growing use of technology is not expected to replace the need for labor and a “human touch”, although the shortage of skilled practitioners remains a problem for the industry and the wider real estate sector.
“Property and facility management ensure a fundamental role in the successful operation of the building and the well-being of their occupiers,” says Christophe Boving, general manager of Codic Hungary.
“New developments may nowadays be equipped with smart IT-supported management systems, yet the human presence and relationship between the building management and the occupier remains essential. We, therefore, continue to dedicate areas for social space and facilities for the performance of onsite property and facility services in our developments,” Boving adds.