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Controlling the Chaos: 5 Ways to Carve Out a WFH Space

Controlling the Chaos: 5 Ways to Carve Out a WFH Space
We’ve all seen photos and memes posted across social media of makeshift work from home set ups. Everything from stacks of toiler paper, strategically placed cases of bottled water, and even ironing boards for those who prefer a stand-up desk.  Many apartment renters have had to get really creative on the fly in order to remain productive in their jobs.  Our SatisFacts COVID-19 National Renter Study found that 44.7% of renters in Round 3 said their biggest challenge when attempting to work from home is not having a dedicated workspace. Respectively, Rounds 1 and 2 were 38.8% and 36.4%.  The struggle is getting real for those renters with no end in sight when they will be returning to their usual work environment.  Let’s imagine someone living in a 1-bedroom home.  In a traditional floorplan layout, one can expect a living/dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.  If the home is without additional features such as a breakfast bar, separate dining room, recessed computer alcove, or a larger than usual bedroom, establishing a dedicated home office space may be challenging.  This pandemic has created an opportunity for our industry to reimagine how renters live in their homes today.  For those communities without additional square footage to transform into a workspace, here are 5 creative ways to make a 1-bedroom effective for those working from home.  Ditch the dining table – Traditional dining room sets may not be practical given society’s penchant nowadays to enjoy a meal while catching up on the latest episodes of popu......
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Death By Template: 5 Tips To Create Custom Responses

Death By Template: 5 Tips To Create Custom Responses
You know what, I totally get it.  With all that goes on during the workday, responding to reviews is somewhere on the priority list with eating lunch.  And in this industry, we all know an hour-long lunch break is a luxury.  Responding to reviews takes time; and for property management professionals, time, just like lunch, is a luxury. In my last article, I wrote “Many think it’s easier to have a bank of ready-to-go responses, but as renters tend to read an average of 6-10 reviews per community, repeat and formulaic responses are complete turn-offs.”  And it’s true!  We’ve been conducting conversations with renters for the past 3 months and here a few direct quotes from some of the over 100 interviews we’ve had so far. REVIEW RESPONSE: Thank you for taking time to leave a review to help us improve our community. Your feedback is important to us as we want our residents to be comfortable and satisfied with their living experience. If you wish to add any more details, please email us at XXX to discuss. QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this response? “It's nice that the manager took the time to post however I wonder if the answer is a pre-made one. Seems like a copy/paste kind of thing.” “This response feels kind of canned, very robotic.  The intentions are good but this response could apply to any review, positive or negative.” “Where are the specifics? None of the resident’s issues are addressed. A response like this would make me mad if I was th......
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Copy...Paste...Repeat: 5 Cringe-Worthy Response Phrases

Copy...Paste...Repeat: 5 Cringe-Worthy Response Phrases
It’s a typical day in the office when a resident walks in, looks you straight in the eye and says, “I just wanted to say I love living here.  The entire team is so friendly, the community always looks amazing and I would definitely recommend anyone looking for a new place to move here.”  You mechanically reply, “Thank you for your feedback. We strive to provide a top quality living experience for all our residents. Please let us know if there is anything you need in the future.”  Talk about awkward!  Reviews are merely residents sharing their experiences in written form.  How you respond to an online review is no different than if the compliment or complaint were told to you verbally.  Repeat and overused phrases may be an efficient strategy for responding but they come across as cold and emotionless.  Many think it’s easier to have a bank of ready-to-go responses, but as renters tend to read an average of 6-10 reviews per community, repeat and formulaic responses are complete turn-offs. Renters believe the quality of customer service they will experience as a resident can be determined by how the management team chooses to respond, and not respond to an online review.  As found in our 2019 Online Renter Study, when asked how does it make you feel when a management team professionally responds to a review, the most chosen answer was “they really care about their residents”.  A copy and paste approach will negatively impact a renter’s perception of the management te......
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Positive Review Peril: 5 Steps to an Authentic Online Story

Positive Review Peril: 5 Steps to an Authentic Online Story
Imagine you are planning to make a major purchase, let’s say a car for example.  You decide to check out a local dealership’s website and find nothing but 5-star ratings, hundreds of glowing reviews describing excellent service, and testimonials of loyalty from customers who are over-the-moon happy with their experiences.  At this point you’re feeling pretty confident that buying from this dealership would be a smart decision.  Or are you?  Human nature tells us a little skepticism is bound to seep in when something seems too good to be true. We’ve all been burned before; it would not be far-fetched to say in hindsight the situation at the beginning was in fact, too good to be true.  “I should have known better”…sound familiar?  Renters have also been burned before; some have spent an entire year or longer dealing with bad neighbors, inconsistent service, unresponsive management and more - none of which was depicted in the community’s marketing message.  In a previous post, I wrote people now value the written word over the actual score.  Scores, while still a prominent factor for management companies and communities, have become secondary to those seeking information.  Star ratings are following this trend as well.  According to Brightlocal’s Consumer Review Survey, 68% of respondents said they’d be willing to do business with a company that had at least a 3.5 out of 5 star rating.  Communities intent on projecting an all-positive image could be in peril.  Renters are not looking for perfection – they’re looking for authenticity.  If......
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More Than a Score: 5 Tips to Protect Your Brand

More Than a Score: 5 Tips to Protect Your Brand
I’m often asked for tips and tricks on how to improve a community’s online reputation.  Over the last year or so these requests have become more frequent, as companies are realizing a positive online presence can directly impact leasing and renewal decisions.  I think it’s great we have an expanded awareness throughout our industry and I’m happy to offer any insight and support as needed.  “Reputation Management” is now a commonplace term within our industry, so much so that it is in jeopardy of becoming “white noise”; falling into the same lane as topics such as Fair Housing.  While teams know it’s important, they also feel as though they’ve learned all there is to know.  One Community Manager once told me “Unless something ground breaking happens, or it’s mandatory, I really don’t want to go to another reputation management class.”   Wow, harsh words, but I get it – I live and breathe this stuff daily so I’m not surprised that once standing room only crowds have dwindled to half-empty rooms.  Such was the case a few months ago when I presented at a conference. My first question to the audience was “Okay, let’s be honest…how many of you drew the short stick?” While many chuckled, many more nodded.  For our industry, reputation management tends to center around percentages and ratings.  Fixation over scores is a slippery slope because in reality, scores are low on the totem pole for renters.  We surveyed visitors to ApartmentRatings, hoping to determine which components of a community’s page was most valuable.&nbs......
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All About Convenience: 5 Value Adds for More Renewals

All About Convenience: 5 Value Adds for More Renewals
I once read a social media post where a customer wrote a personal thank you to a popular grocery store.  In his post, he explained that he attempted to enter the store, not realizing it had closed ten minutes prior.  He found the entrance locked, however a manager opened the door and asked how she could help him.  The customer explained he just needed to get one item and didn’t know the store had closed.  As he turned to walk back to his car, the manager invited him into the store and told him to take his time getting the item he needed.  The man hurriedly grabbed the item and headed to the checkout.   At the checkout, he was greeted cheerfully by a cashier who proceeded to ask if the customer needed anything more than just that one item.  The man told her that he didn’t want to hold them up and would come back the next day.  The cashier smiled and responded, “You should get it now.  That’s what we’re here for”.  The customer told her that his one item was enough, paid for his purchase, thanked the cashier and left the store. As he sat in the parking lot, he felt compelled to write about his positive experience.  Not only had he arrived ten minutes after the store had closed, but he was allowed to enter the store and make his purchase.  He also was given the opportunity to continue shopping without feeling rushed by employees who were ready to go home ......
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5 Steps to Solving the Social Media Conundrum

5 Steps to Solving the Social Media Conundrum
In 2017, our Online Renter Study determined that social media was not a key influencer with renters.  During the search for a new home, only 14.1% of renters said they used a community’s social media page as a source for information.  And when asked if the community’s social media presence factored into the overall decision to lease, the consensus was “no”; placing social media at #46 out of 48 in terms of importance.  So, if social media holds little value for prospects, does the same hold true for existing residents?  Our Annual Satisfaction Survey helps connect the dots even further.  We know, based on 1.6 million survey responses, the #1 driver for resident satisfaction is perception of value.  Bottom line, residents want to know they are getting their money’s worth where they live.  But what drives value?  What are the things teams should focus on to convince residents to accept a rent increase and stay another year? Perception of value is tricky because value itself is subjective.  Consumers in general would gladly pay more for certain purchases because in their eyes, it’s worth it.  Whether that is a certain brand of coffee or the top of the line SUV, price is only an issue in the absence of value. Every 6 months we examine the correlation between the survey questions of our Annual Satisfaction Survey and perception of value. After our most recent analysis, we were surprised at the results.  The #2 driver for perception of value was social media.  What stunned us ......
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5 Techniques for Negative Reviews: Bring It!

5 Techniques for Negative Reviews: Bring It!
In the past, the world of online reviews was like the Wild West.  It was a no holds barred, every man for himself kind of environment – truly survival of the fittest.  It wasn’t surprising to see responses just as shocking as the reviews themselves. I was one of those managers who loved negative reviews.  Want to gripe about your apartment, the management team, or post an outright lie?  I'm all about it Mr. Resident.  Let's do this.  I responded point by point for each resident grievance until I realized defending my team and our honor was not the answer.  Most reviewers were either one foot out the door or already gone.  And those who weren’t simply needed an avenue to vent or finally get the management team’s attention. 5 techniques for tackling the bad and the ugly. 1. ICYMI – In Case You Missed It.  Some residents have simply misinterpreted the terms of the lease which can lead to a review that misinforms potential future residents.  Reviews about unreturned security deposits (“They stole my deposit”), additional fees (“Why is there a pet fee and deposit”) and the like are perfect opportunities to clarify your policies and educate those possibly considering your community. 2. RBTL – Read Between The Lines.  A review which spans the entire length of a resident’s 5 year stay, documenting in great detail every negative event (resolved and unresolved), almost begs for a lengthy response in return.  Don’t take the bait - it’s important to ignore such temptation.  Realize......
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Reputation Management Is Not Enough

Reputation Management Is Not Enough
Bold statement, I know.  But as someone who is embedded in the world of feedback, I witness the impact ratings and reviews have on the leasing decision every day.  In a recent user poll conducted on ApartmentRatings, we asked people to tell us their reason for visiting the site.   Check this out: •58% plan on signing a lease within 7 days •91% were visiting to read reviews before deciding where to lease •29% said their final site was ApartmentRatings •78% were basing their decision off the reviews they read on ApartmentRatings Combine these findings with the results from our SatisFacts “2017 Today’s Online Renter Study” and the picture becomes even clearer: •81% of renters researched their options online before making any type of contact with the community •71% trust online ratings and reviews as opposed to 36% who trust the community’s website When the need arises for a new apartment home, renters pick up their phones, tablets or computers and begin the search.  They collect as much information found online as possible – availability, floorplans, photos and yes, online reviews.  They also talk to those closest to them (77% trust friends, family and co-workers) to whittle down their options even further. By the time they call, send an email inquiry, or walk through the doors of the leasing center, they have a good idea where they’d like to live.  The tour merely at this point is a means of verification.  Renters want to know what they’ve seen online is true in real life.  And for ......
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I Miss Apartment Living: 5 Things Would Be Homeowners Need to Know

I Miss Apartment Living: 5 Things Would Be Homeowners Need to Know
This month marks my second year as a home owner and I truly miss apartment living.  Buyer’s remorse? More like the apartment blues.  Don't get me wrong, I love my home but I jumped into things with all of the wide eyed exuberance of a first time buyer.  I had big plans for my new home; remodeling, painting, hardwood floors – the works.  Now that all of the work has been done and the newness is wearing off, the reality of what it means to own a home is overwhelming at times. Articles abound describing the pros and cons of renting versus buying and while arguments can be made on both sides, highlighting the cons of home ownership could sway residents into staying a bit longer at your community.  Beyond the move-out calculator, here are 5 things to impart upon residents who are considering the switch. 1. Maintenance – kind of a no brainer.  Maintenance is usually our go to defense when residents talk about home buying.  But let’s go a bit further.  Do residents have a full understanding of what entails a professional service call?  Plumbers, electricians and the like incorporate additional fees such as trip charges and diagnostic testing on top of labor and material costs.  Some companies often do not have the proper licenses and insurance coverage – things apartment residents may not know to ask. ACTION ITEM: Create an itemized list of costs associated with common household repairs.  2. Neighbors – where to begin.  If there is one sticking po......
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