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The Multifamily Executive's Quick Access Guide to Artificial Intelligence

ai-guide-blogThere’s a lot of buzz about artificial intelligence (AI) these days, so much so that it’s hard to separate the reality from the hype. Add to that the fact that multifamily housing (MFH) is typically a technology laggard, and it’s easy to assume that MFH executives can afford to wait a few years to see how things shake out before worrying at all about AI. Yet AI is potentially applicable to any business process that has measurable data inputs and a complex process to get to outcomes that are also measurable—a description that matches many MFH processes. Not surprisingly, AI has been accompanied by a tremendous amount of hype, myth and confusion. To help MFH executives makes some sense of AI, we’ve put together a quick guide on the key areas where AI can (and often should) impact your operation. We highlight: Call Center & Sales Support – Provide specific feedback in real time, based on the caller’s tone as well as the content of the conversation. Marketing – Google (and Bing) don’t want us to be able to reverse engineer their algorithms. Let AI optimize these algorithms for pay per click (PPC), paid social and paid digital platforms. Learn how AI can overcome the complex challenges for customer segmentation for email campaigns and more. Influencing Basic Customer Interactions – Replace unreliable voice-activated personal assistants, associate and resident interactions with more reliable AI-driven chatbots. Let AI handle functions from service requests to much of the initial prospect inquiry phase, learning and expanding its capabilities each time it encounters a......
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What You Need To Know About Rent Concessions

  on What You Need To Know About Rent Concessions With rent concessions on the rise nationwide we need to have an understanding what giving or offering a concession can do to your property value if not handled correctly. Let’s start with the definition of a rent concession, a concession is any “reduction in price, rent or other benefit provided to a potential tenant as an inducement to lease your property”. There are many ways to give a concession, reducing the first month’s rent, reducing rents for a contracted time or maybe even upgrades the property they are considering ie: an accent wall or upgraded appliances. Your goal should be to have all scenarios have about the same amount of rent paid.  Also, if you can get a new tenant to accept an upgrade to the unit as a concession, it can be even more beneficial to you. What you need to consider as you are offering your concessions is how do these concession affect my long term value of my investment.  If you find yourself wanting/needing to refi and you begin the underwriting process you will find that lenders are interested in how much income an asset is producing and how much income an asset can optimally produce. Concessions add an additional layer to the equation. When underwriting the Net Operating Income of an asset, concessions are typically subtracted from the Gross Rental Income in order to determine the Net Rental Income — which also factors in things like vacancy and unpai......
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Don't Let the Sign Police Outsmart You- Know Your Sign Code!

We all know that sign code enforcers love to catch us trying to advertise our properties! When I leased for CLASS in the late 90's, most of our clients were under the belief that they really couldn't do much advertising with temporary signage and balloons. It was our job to educate the client and ourselves on the code and rethink how we work around what is permitted/not permitted.  Over the years sign code has closed some of the loopholes we found, but there are still some there if you are savvy enough to find them. We recommend becoming familiar with your sign code and keeping a copy saved to your desktop. Code enforcers take advantage of the fact that most properties are unaware of what their sign code says. Back in the day, we used to put a banner on our rental car and tie balloons to the antenna to attract drive by traffic. We've used bubble machines in Orlando, FL (strictest sign code EVER), purchased the largest American flags allowed by code (they could be seen from the interstate!), and lined the wrought iron fence with red, white, and blue buntings. There is a way around pretty much any code, if you just look hard enough. I challenge each of you to peruse your local sign code and come up with a few ways to advertise your community using temporary signage, balloons, sign spinners, etc. It is as easy as 1-2-3! 1. To find your code, visit Municode.com and click on the red library tab at......
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Three Things "Temps" Should NOT Do!

Three Things "Temps" Should NOT Do!
Years ago when I was a community manager I had a season of time when I relied heavily on temporary associates to maintain the staffing requirements of my office. There were many times when my “temps” made my job easier and I was so glad that they were helping me. There were also many times when my “temps” either made my job harder, or were so difficult to be around in one way or another, that I didn’t think they were worth the expense! If you’re a temporary associate now I’d like to give you some advice on what to do when you’re at you’re assignment so that the company wants to keep bringing you back-or even offer you a permanent position! Tip #1: Don’t be Bossy! I had a temporary associate who started critiquing me on how we accepted checks and thought it was a good idea to give me his thoughts on what we should have been doing when collecting checks from our customers. Needless to say, that immediately irritated me as I thought, “Who does this guy think he is??” Regardless of the experience you bring into the office, remember as a temp that the client may not need your input on things…even if it’s great input! For those of you with a great resume this may be the hardest thing to do as a temp, and it’s a vital skill. As a wise mentor once told me, “Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut!” Tip #2: Don’t Say “When I worked at…”......
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Lead Management in a Hyper-Connected World

When it comes to lead management, most apartment operators have fairly rigid standards.   Respond to all emails within 24 hours. Manage automated responses to all digital inquiries. Secure a call center that handles all after-hours calls.   But in today’s information-obsessed, instant-gratification world, that simply isn’t enough. Twenty-four hours is far too long to wait for a response. That prospect will reach out to several additional communities in that time, and the longer you wait, the further you fall on their consideration list.   Today’s Generation Z and Millennial prospects expect real-time communication options such as texting and online chat. It’s all about mobile access and speed. They can book a hotel or make a restaurant reservation at 2:37 a.m., so they expect to be able to book a tour of an apartment community at their convenience.   It’s a real challenge for many apartment operators to meet that increasing demand for immediate feedback. The more effectively a community can provide real-time answers, the better chance it has of securing leases.   Here are a few ideas to consider:   Equip leasing agents with company-issued mobile phones: Leasing teams still have to tour prospects, attend community events and solve resident complaints. But empowering them with company-issued cell phones will increase their ability to engage with prospects in real time while managing those other duties.  Just because a leasing agent is away from their desk doesn’t mean they’re tied up in a face-to-face interaction with a prospect or resident. The ability to fol......
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Marriott & Short-Term Rentals: A Key to Increasing Multifamily Housing Revenue

Marriott-and-short-term-rentalsI’m not sure how many people in multifamily housing pay close attention to the hospitality industry. Partly because I grew up in travel and hospitality and partly because it’s maybe the closest cousin to housing rentals, I’ve always kept an eye on developments in that world. Last week, I saw an announcement that could be a doozy. Marriott, the world’s largest hotelier has partnered with Hostmaker, a London-based homestay property management company, for a six-month trial of Tribute Portfolio Homes. In what can only be described as a “If you can’t beat them, join them” response to AirBnB, Arne M. Sorenson, president & CEO of Marriott International Inc., explains, “We have now figured out that we can run this business in a way that does fully comply with law. It will include payment of lodging taxes so that it’s a level playing field with the hotel business. It will very much include complying with local regulatory requirements on the number of nights that homes can be [rented] in this way.” I’ve been on the record for more than two years saying short-term rentals (STRs) represent a new demand stream that can increase revenue for multifamily housing. Yes, there are regulatory, liability and operational issues to work out; however, there are regulatory, liability and operating issues for our core business as well as other ancillary revenues. To me, it’s always been more of a question of “when” not “if” our industry will embrace the opportunity. While Marriott’s move is “only” a test, it’s portends a tectonic shift in the presenc......
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The One Customer Service Question You Need to Ask Yourself!

The One Customer Service Question You Need to Ask Yourself!
As a corporate speaker and strategist one of my most requested topics to speak on is customer service. I imagine you are not surprised by this … I’m not. After all-all businesses require customers to succeed and customers expect some level of customer service every time they choose to do business with someone. Therefore we can all agree that customer service is crucial-that customer service is important, right? I think we can also agree that most companies have some sort of customer service mantra that they proclaim to the world. Macy’s: “Macy’s, Inc. clearly recognizes that the customer is paramount and that all its actions and omnichannel strategies must be directed toward providing a personalized merchandise offering and shopping experience…” State Farm Insurance: “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There Nationwide Insurance: “Nationwide is on your side.” (Is it just me or do you hear Peyton Manning humming the Nationwide theme right now?) So, here is my question. If everyone can agree that customer service is important, why do we keep having bad customer service experiences?  Remember this epic rant of a Starbucks barista caught on video? In case you were not sure of what happened-from what I understand (and I might be wrong) the barista accused the customer of trying to steal an edible straw worth about 99 cents. (And yes, the barista no longer works there. Some reports say she was fired, the barista herself says she quit, I’ll leave it to you to decide what is true.) So, I’ll repeat my question again-why do we keep ha......
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The Quickest Way to Reduce Vacancy Loss As Much As 75bps

reduce-vacancy-lossI was recently reviewing detailed lease data for a large metropolitan market for one of my clients and saw something that absolutely fascinated me. Fully one-third of the leases had synchronized expirations at the end of the month rather than exactly one-year leases. This harkened back to the days of 1999 when, at Talus Solutions (the company I worked for back then), we were doing analysis and simulation for Archstone in the work that would eventually lead to the creation of LRO, the industry’s first automated pricing and revenue management system. One of the things we noticed was that occupancy over time had a “saw tooth” nature to it. Back then, Archstone synchronized leases to end at the end of a month so there was always a large drop in occupancy the first week of the month followed by a steady climb, followed by another drop at the start of the next month, etc. Through interviewing associates in the field, we also learned that this practice stressed make ready teams as they couldn’t possibly process units quickly enough to fill them all in the first week of the month, even if there was enough demand to move in then. The result was essentially locking in up to 75bps of vacancy loss compared to what could be achieved if expirations were spread more smoothly throughout the month. To be honest, I was stunned to see the numbers I recently saw, particularly given that this data was for a primary market and across multiple o......
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Top 5 Mistakes Leasing Agents Make

Top 5 Mistakes Leasing Agents Make
Let me start by saying, everybody makes mistakes. But the only way to correct those mistakes is to acknowledge them and work on fixing them. Whether it's a lack of training, laziness or case of the "Mondays", it's important to make sure you are on the top of your game each day. Here are the top 5 mistakes leasing agents make and how to correct them:Lack of FollowupI've seen a lot of leasing agents focus their follow-up efforts on renters who have toured the community and showed a real interest in the community or property. But not many take the time to follow-up with EVERY lead (including ones that haven't seen the community already) that comes across their desk. Sometimes that lead that requested information but never set up a tour is busy. Following up on all your leads is vitally important.Not Gathering Enough InformationSo you have a prospects name, email, move date and price range. But what about the other stuff? One fundamental selling technique is building rapport with a potential resident. Selling involves matching a renter's needs with your product. Ask questions like: where do you work? What are you most looking for in an apartment? What's your decorating style? Is view important? Do you have a pet? What do you do for a living? Get to know your prospect! Touring Only Sample UnitRenters want to see the space they are going to live or something close to it. Showing them a bottom floor unit that is staged when the......
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Chatbots & Multifamily

Chatbots seem to be popping up everywhere nowadays. And not just Alexa, but those helpful "people" who IM you on every site to help with customer service.

These are certainly not new. Back in the Stone Age when I was in college and iPods were gaining popularity, Joe Millionaire was winning over our hearts, and we were constantly perfecting our away messages on AIM, there was a chatbot called Smarterchild that we all talked to. Of course, we would just curse at it and laugh hysterically at it's "offended" response. College was a wild time.

But now chatbots are getting smarter, or at least more responsive. And people are happily using them. We're heading for Westworld-level customer service robots, people! Don't say I didn't warn you. "These violent delights have free-return-policy ends." Or something. I don't know, I'm still a few episodes behind.

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