Property Management Trends from the IREM symposium
Inside Dropbox’s Offices

That’s what they say about fashion and food anyway. But after having the opportunity to attend and participate in the recent IREM Asset & Property Management Symposium in San Francisco, it may just have some truth for real estate as well.

In what was a terrific and extremely well-attended event at the beautiful St. Francis Yacht Club, local real estate owners, managers and service providers came together to share ideas, insights and best practices.  What jumped out most to me from the conference was the impact of the technology sector and millennials on everything, as well as how (understandably) creative approaches to energy management are an operating and management requirement.

Legislation such as Assembly Bill 1103 (and the drought) drive the sustainability efforts in California, and San Francisco in particular. But what came through clearly throughout the day was a sense of commitment and passion about the effort. Panelists felt that the efforts were important to them personally – as well as to their tenant base – and work together with their service partners cooperatively in the effort. Other regions around the country can certainly learn from this approach.

It was also eye opening to see the impact of the incredibly hot technology sector on both the commercial and residential markets in the Bay area. If you think housing is expensive and in short supply in Boston and New York, you haven’t seen anything until you go to San Francisco. They are running out of places to put all those very well-paid software engineers. And they better be well-paid to afford the astronomical rent or to buy something. I heard that six people sharing a two-bedroom is not uncommon. The other interesting item addressed in a couple of the panels and key note discussions were the requirements for design and amenities. Free, 24×7 gourmet (organic) food; full bars with themes; nap nooks; quiet/unplugged libraries; “play areas;” gyms; yoga Rooms; and bike storage are just a sampling of the common items required in offices. Add to that an over-the top design element and you’ll see why the area is truly unique.

The rest of the day’s panels were focused on:

  • Building Operations
  • Innovation & Technology
  • Leadership & Career Development

I was fortunate to participate on the Rocket Fuel: Best Practices in Maintenance & Operations  panel, moderated by Darren Merritt , President & CEO, Boardwalk, with Paul Richards, Director of Property Management, Wilson Meany; Mark Smith, Director – Property Management, Sobrato; and Tawni Sullivan, Senior Director – Asset Services, CBRE/SF (a Building Engines client!). Our panel had a lively discussion focused on the changing role of the property manager (more asset-focused) as well as managing the demands and unique requirements of millennial-dominated technology firms.

Having gone to a number of CRE events around the country this year, it was extremely interesting to listen and get the West Coast perspective. I learned a lot and certainly have a number of things to think about in terms of how we can support their needs as well to share with our clients and colleagues on this side of the country.