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Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover - Or Should You?

By now, millions of people have seen the video of Susan Boyle, the 40 something wanna-be singer who appeared on the television show, "Britain's Got Talent". Virtually written off by both the audience and the judge, Boyle showed her singing chops by amazing the audience as soon as she started to sing. Why was she written off? Easy. Her appearance. Audience members were shown rolling their eyes. Even the judges were clearly expecting Boyle to bomb. Her admissions that she was 'almost 48', 'lived alone with her cat, Pebbles' and 'had never been kissed' didn't appear to help the situation.In her book, "Manners That Sell", author Lydia Ramsey discusses the importance of making a good impression:It takes a few seconds to make a negative impression and a lifetime to overcome one.  In business, if your first impression goes badly you may not get the opportunity to make a second impression. This may not seem fair, but neither is life.  "Meeting someone for the first time is like stepping into the spotlight.  Everything about you is intensified.  Studies show that 55% of how people judge you is based on what they see, 7% is based on the words they hear, and 35% on tone of voice..."Before you ever open your mouth, you create an impression of yourself in the other person's mind.  You need to be impeccably groomed and look your best at all times." In our industry, we stress the importance of appearance relentlessly with discussions on curb appeal, both for the......
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Selling Against the Shadow Market: New Info You Need to Know!

I'm constantly researching new and different ways for our industry to lease, market, retain and manage our assets. I came across this Wall Street Journal article , The New Condo Reality by June Fletcher, this weekend and the information it contained is essential to any property that fights the condo market.If you have a prospect or resident who is considering purchasing a condo because it is a 'good deal', they need to know some facts:If the building is not fully occupied: With fewer people in the building, those who are left wind up footing the bill for all of the building's expenses, from window washing and pool cleaning to big-ticket costs like roof repair and boiler replacement.If the developer is still in the picture...the need for major repairs will inevitably come. And since many developers subsidize maintenance and amenity costs to keep condo dues low and attract buyers, you should expect that these fees will rise, possibly precipitously, once the developer leaves (hopefully because he has finally sold all of the units, not because he has gone bankrupt because they didn't sell).If the building has a lot of amenities: Keep in mind that the more fancy amenities your complex has, from exercise rooms to elevators and tiki bars, the more you and your neighbors will eventually have to pay for their upkeep. Before you buy, look at the association's "reserve study"-assuming it has one-to get an idea of replacement costs for the various items in your complex. The study also shows......
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Is There a Price to Pay for "Too Nice"? You Tell Me!

I feel like I've been in the apartment industry my entire life. And believe me, I'm not complaining. It's a great industry to be a part of; we really are like family. When I speak to newcomers to multifamily, I always tell then that we're ‘huggy'. And we are. Go to any industry event and you'll see a lot more hugs than handshakes. And we've always been that way. But...perhaps all that friendliness isn't always the best when it translates into the way we do business. Maybe there's a price attached to it; ya' think?Stick with me here. In almost all other industries, companies go for it when they are advertising. They put their product ahead of all others; often in a direct or ‘almost direct' comparison. Look at the picture below and you'll see what I mean:Now I know that apartments aren't hamburgers. But wow, that ad makes a point, doesn't it? So why haven't we ever seen an ad showing a couch sticking out of an apartment window with a caption saying, "Silly Sofa; That's XYZ Apartments", while the ad goes on to further talk about ABC Apartments larger floor plans. You know why? Because most of the time, we are simply TOO NICE to do that.In this economy of excessive concessions, ‘resident swapping' (after all, there certainly isn't any job growth so we are definitely picking off other properties' residents), and layoffs trickling down to the site level, why hasn't anyone in our industry just really "gone for it" with their ads and shown......
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Give Your Renewing Residents Your Current Concessions

Yes, you read that right. Consider giving your renewing residents your current concession.No, I'm not crazy. I've always been an advocate of this ideology. And I've been severely criticized for it my entire career. I first mentioned it to some owners I worked for when I was a brand new Leasing Professional. My owners looked at me as though I was completely insane. If our industry ever needed to reconsider their ‘we don't give concessions on renewals' strategy, now is the time.Let's look at the math for a second, shall we? The average cost to turn an apartment these days is $2500, so as soon as a resident gives notice we're already at a negative $2500. So saving the resident already puts that money right back into our pocket. If we're giving away a month or two in free rent, we are probably locking the new resident into a longer lease term as well, so you're already getting the renewal resident for a longer lease term. Hopefully, you're managing your renewals with your traffic patterns so you don't end up loading some low traffic months for renewals (that's never smart).If you're watching the market and doing your rent surveys (this is assuming you are not using a revenue management software, such as Yieldstar) you have your apartments competitively priced. You're doing everything you can to stay ahead in this challenging economy. Everything but rewarding your current residents with the pricing incentives that you'll gladly give to someone with whom you have absolutely......
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I Need Your Success Stories!

Hi all!

 I am speaking at the educational conference and trade show for the National Apartment Association this June and I would LOVE to share a successful leasing, marketing or management story of yours with the audience.

I will fully credit you, your property and/or management company with the example when I show it at the conference. If you have photos, copies of ads, articles and especially STATISTICS to back up your success story, that's all that much better.

Please email me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your story. Thanks in advance! I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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How to Lease More Apartments and Renew More Residents, Now

Those of you who know me or know me by reading this blog know that I am an extremely voracious reader. It's not unusual for me to read 2-3 books a week, especially if I am traveling to the west coast from Chicago. Those flights are perfect for cranking through a good book, business or otherwise.Even if you hate to read business books, I strongly recommend that you read business biographies and autobiographies. When I read about successful people, one of my favorite things is when they tell you what has made them successful in their career and personal lives. Often, it's something that you can implement right away which can have an immediate impact on your career and personal life. Most people know about Mary Kay, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics.  A quick bio from her company website, http://www.marykay.com/:When facing new and daunting tasks, her mother encouraged her with, "You can do it, Mary Kay. You can do it." Mary Kay Ash did more than embrace this empowering spirit - she passed it on through a remarkable company that would inspire millions in generations to come. That company story didn't begin until Mary Kay Ash faced a situation all too familiar to women. After 25 years in the direct selling business, Mary Kay Ash resigned her position as a national training director when yet another man she had trained was promoted above her - at twice her salary. Her response was visionary. At first, she started writing a book that would help women......
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Couponing Can Increase Your Leases, But You Have to Do It Right

We all know couponing has increased during this recessionary economy.  I've directed you in the past to such sites as Coupon Cabin, Retail Me Not and others. But this time, I need to give you some direction on just HOW to use coupons for your particular apartment community or building. We're doing it as an industry, but unfortunately, we are not doing it well.According to a poll by Harris Interactive, 54% of Americans reduce their discretionary spending during a recession. We've seen up to 60% of individuals polled in an AdAge survey say they are giving up their designer coffee (remember what I told you; DON'T discontinue the free coffee service at your properties...keep promoting it! And give those residents logo'ed travel mugs to take your coffee to go! ) It's no surprise that Netflix and Campbell's Soup are doing well; they offer inexpensive alternatives for budget conscious people. That same Harris poll said that 63% of Americans would hesitate to purchase something if there wasn't a coupon attached. And they are less likely to search for coupons via traditional sources, such as direct mail. Where do they search for the majority of coupons? Online.So here's how to make your coupons as effective as possible:1. Give the coupons a dollar value. Don't simply say, "Present this coupon and we will waive your application fee." Add the dollar amount of the application fee. If you're waiving the administrative fees (which many properties are now doing) make sure the VALUE of the coupon......
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Great (or Horrible?) Marketing Idea...You Tell Me!

On http://www.consumerist.com/, there's a GREAT story about a pizzeria in San Francisco that has taken ‘marketing is a conversation' to a whole new level.They have taken 1 star customer reviews about their restaurant from the consumer review site http://www.yelp.com/and placed them on employee tshirts. Bold move? I'll say!I checked some of the 1 star reviews on Yelp for Pizzeria Delfina. Here's what the servers there could be wearing on their tshirts based on the reviews I read:*Never again**I will not be back**A four year old could do better by pouring some tomato sauce on a piece of bread**My wine was about as interesting as Kool Aid*As I said, bold move. But quite possibly a brilliant one. Think about it. It puts the idea of writing a Yelp review right in the face of every customer. And it probably keeps the ideas of the potentially bad reviews in the forefront of everyone's mind who works there. And it makes people talk. Like me. Like the Consumerist and who knows how many other bloggers out there.And if I go to San Francisco anytime soon, I might just have to go into Pizzeria Delfina and see if the wine really IS like Kool Aid and if a four year old could make better pizza.Seriously, though, I am liking this idea more and more! While I probably wouldn't use the lowest possible ratings, I think taking some great testimonials from AptRatings.com and placing them on staff tshirts is a really interesting idea. With summer coming up and......
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Prospects Want Perfection; Are You Giving It?

In traveling the country these past few months during this challenging environment, I've seen quite a trend that is affecting every industry, not just ours. Consumers are showing an ever growing lack of patience with anything less than perfect product and service. Think about it for a moment: A year ago or more, you might have found average service and average product acceptable. I'll bet you don't anymore. The example I consistently use is food and beverage at the drive thru. I ask my audiences of property management professionals (vendors included) if one year ago they would have accepted food and drink that was less than perfect. After all, to return to the restaurant would probably require that you park your car, enter the restaurant, wait in line, discuss the transaction with someone and hopefully either receive a refund or a replacement product. Wow, that's A LOT of work for what had been a convenience purchase to begin with, isn't it? Regardless of the amount of work involved, everyone agrees. What was acceptable a year ago is no longer acceptable, regardless of the inconvenience to the purchaser. Translation: Perfect product, perfect customer service, and perfect presentation are more important than ever before.This begs the question: Was less than perfect ever acceptable? Sadly, yes. In an industy where we have problems answering the phone (multifamily call center stats show that at least 37% of our calls are going unanswered); where we can't seem to follow up effectively (J Turner Research stats show that......
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Making Your Leasing Tour Stand Out: Create Fun and Excitement

People love unique and exciting experiences. Read the book"Rejuvenile" and you'll learn how much adults love fun. Some examples:#1 Vacation destination for adults: Disneyland and DisneyworldAverage age of online gamers: 29Cable channel with the highest adult viewership: Cartoon Network In property management, you've got the opportunity to create all kinds of energy, fun and excitement in your tours. Are you? Here are some fun and PROVEN ideas to create an interactive and memorable experience:LIVE MODELS: Hire some local theatre students, community players or just plain outgoing people to 'act' in your models. The pretend to live in the models and engage your prospects as they tour. Take my word for it - it's a blast! One bedrooms can be "Crabby Little Old Lady (or Man)". Spilt two bedroom floorplans can be "Frenemies" and one bedroom/den plans can be "Workaholic". Let your imagination run wild and create an engaging presentation.QUIZ TIME: Tell your prospect ahead of time that they can win a discount on their first month's rent (or some other prize). All they have to do is listen to your presentation very carefully and score a 75% or higher on the 'quiz' at the conclusion of the tour. Take my word for it, it's a very fun way to make a memorable tour. The quiz must be very easy and the Leasing Professional should make sure s/he points out 'quiz questions' along the way. For example: "Our building offers 24 HOUR EMERGENCY MAINTENANCE". The prospect will realize at once that it's a quiz......
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