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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 fundamentally 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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Best Ways to Engage With Gen Z as They Enter the Housing Market

  The multifamily industry has spent countless hours the past several years diagnosing the tendencies of millennials. But just as the industry has started to understand this diverse generation, a new one is entering the market – Generation Z. Gen Zers are even more tech-savvy than their millennial predecessors and are the first generation to grow up exclusively in the digital age.   Members of Gen Z, born in 1995 or later, have never experienced a world without mobile devices—or texting. They grew up with Facebook and left the social media platform for better options. According to Forrester, 34 percent of teens think Facebook is for “old people.” Facebook doesn’t provide the customized or private experience Gen Zers expect from the brands they engage with via social media. They are more likely to use Snapchat and Instagram for their direct messaging and temporary content.   As Gen Z begins leasing apartment homes, marketers need to recognize these changes and communicate through the channels they use and in the ways they demand. Here are a few tips:   Text – Don’t Call Communication preferences continue to change across all demographics, but the text evolution is even more magnified for Gen Z. Think mobile first because, Vision Critical has found, Generation Z spends an average of 26 hours per week on their mobile devices.That means they’ll probably search for your community on their smartphone rather than on a desktop. Marketers should make certain that information about their communities is clear and mobile optimized. If Ge......
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11 Takeaways from the Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) Conference 2018

AIM-Multifamily-RecapLast week, I had the pleasure of attending the Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) conference. Aside from the great location in Huntington Beach (I don’t normally pay much attention to conference locations, but I’ve really come to love that particular one), the content this year was spectacular. It’s sometimes an industry sport to complain about conference content, so Steve Lefkovits and Dennis Cogbill deserve a special shout out for curating a truly great conference. The conference covered such a wide canvas of topics that I thought I’d replace my normal detailed review of 3-5 key themes from any conference for a quick tour of all the things that struck me. Here goes:   Artificial Intelligence and robotics may still be somewhat hypes, but now there’s some real work going on. I heard about results from chatbots, and even a robot being used to tour prospects (more of a “virtual presence device” as the robot holds a tablet with a video connection to a leasing agent). As mentioned above, chatbots are here for real. There are still human chat services available that are close to comparably priced, so it will be interesting to watch the bots battle the humans on this one. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have arrived, at least for many lease-ups. There were multiple VR/AR vendors present, and the cost keeps coming down. Self-showing. As I’ve written before, multifamily can take a lesson from single family rentals on this one. Self-showing allows expanded touring hours and, where tested, has similar conversion rates......
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7 Tips to Help Leasing Associates Make Sales Faster (And Delight Residents)

Focus-on-ProspectOver the last 20 years, the multifamily industry has gotten better at managing the core elements of their business. Companies are smarter regarding where they're building or buying their properties, and how they're operating them. The use of pricing and revenue management systems has become the norm, not the exception. Utilizing sophisticated property management systems, online marketing tools and so forth--again, the norm. That means we're operating more efficiently than we ever have before. With all of these improvements, there is still one area that has been (and often still is) overlooked: sales. As the demands of customers continue to evolve and liquid expectations impact their expectations, experience and buying journey, smart operators know this needs to change. At these companies, sales acumen has begun to “earn its seat at the table” as a key driver to operational performance. It's important to note that selling today isn't like what selling used to be. Daniel Pink, noted author of the book To Sell is Human shared, "Most of what we know about sales comes from a world of information asymmetry. Sellers had far, far more information than buyers did." That was certainly true in multifamily. Sellers could manipulate buyers and force them to play the game that salespeople wanted to play. That is no longer true.    Research done by Google has identified a trend called the "zero moment of truth." Nowadays, before a prospect starts talking to any salesperson, they’re going to do significant research online. They’re figuring things out and narrowing down what the......
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Preventing and Stopping Resident Fraud 101

It’s a sad fact of life in the multifamily industry.   From time to time, prospects will submit fraudulent lease applications to try to secure apartments they wouldn’t be able to get by being honest. From providing counterfeit pay stubs to filling out leasing applications with fake names and Social Security numbers, applicants use many different methods to scam the system.    Perhaps the applicant doesn’t make enough money to qualify for a lease, or maybe their rental history is marked by evictions that would be a deal breaker. Maybe the applicant has stolen someone’s identity and is using that information to apply for a lease.   These certainly are sobering scenarios to contemplate, but apartment operators everywhere must look out for fraudulent lease applications. If they succeed, these scammers can create misery for operators by not consistently paying their rent, skipping out on their leases, using their units for criminal activities like dealing drugs, or destroying property.   Fortunately, operators are far from defenseless in the face of such activity. Below are some suggestions for maximizing your community’s chances of catching a fraudulent applicant.   Be skeptical and verify Leasing teams obviously shouldn’t be hostile to applicants. But they also shouldn’t take prospects’ statements and applications at face value or assume they have good instincts about prospects’ truthfulness. Leasing teams should be fully committed to thoroughly vetting applicants and independently confirming the information prospects provide. Adopt a mindset of “verify, verify, verify.”   Operators and their screening providers should pull credit reports and re......
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The Boston Marathon, and Why You Shouldn't Pit Your Leasing Agents Against Each Other

This year's Boston Marathon was no joke.

It was cold. It was rainy. It was windy. It was in Boston! ("Boo Boston! Hiss!" said the Yankee fans.)

Professional runners dropped out of the prestigious race because of hypothermia symptoms. In April!

Desiree Linden, the winner of the women's title (and the first American woman to win the race in 33 years, which is neither here nor there in regards to this post, but is definitely awesome, and therefore worth a mention), almost quit herself. According to reports, she wasn't feeling well at the beginning. So when her teammate Shalane Flanagan had to make a porta potty stop in the middle of the race, Linden waited for her so she could help her get back to the front. (Because women always have to go to the bathroom in groups, right? I'm allowed to say it because I'm a woman.) She figured she might as well help her teammate if she couldn't help herself.

Despite that delay, Linden won. And, with her help, Flanagan secured seventh place. Not too shabby.

Look at that teamwork! Linden could have easily left her friend in the dust. Would she still have won? Maybe.

But maybe not.

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A Data-Backed Strategy to Drive 150bps to Multifamily Rent Per Unit (RPU)

iStock-637151514I’d like to take a moment to talk about a piece of the demand management platform that often doesn’t get much attention—handling the initial prospect call. Specifically, I’d like to make the case for using a professionally-run call center (full disclosure: I am on the Board of, and an investor in, Anyone Home though I like to think of that as “putting my money (and time) where my mouth is”) So as not to bury the lede, I’d like to ask you if you would be attracted to a solution with a proven track record of raising RPU (revenue per unit) by 150bps? Okay, that’s the kind of “salesy” question meant to get your attention since there’s clearly only one logical answer to that. However, those of you who know me, know that I’m educated as an engineer and I don’t make claims like that without solid, proven test data. Though not necessarily well publicized, that very specific data exists. Several years ago, when I was a senior executive at Archstone, I ran a project where we put 20 “test” communities on a third-party “all calls” platform and compared them to 20 pre-selected “control” communities. All communities were in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC metro areas (not all in the core Commercial Business Districts of those MSAs) There were roughly 7200 units each in the test and control groups The test ran for 9 months Candidly, I went into the test a bit of a skeptic. I thought “How could a third-party agent, located hundreds or......
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SEO & Apartment Marketing: The Next Step

SEO & Apartment Marketing: The Next Step
A very long time ago (circa 2008) the leasing world was a simpler place. Place an ad on Craigslist or in a newspaper, and sit back and watch the renter leads flow in. The most complicated it ever got was when you wanted to add a template to Craigslist. Those were what I would call "the good old days."  Flash forward ten years and the leasing world could not be more complicated. From ILS sites, listing syndication systems, Social Media, Blogs, Google Adwords, Remarketing and more, there are numerous marketing channels to choose from. However, there is one area that could be the most important, but seldom gets the attention it deserves, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Curiously most apartment communities either don't think SEO can have a significant impact, or are dissuaded by trying to compete with the "big boys." Whatever the reason, SEO needs to be the next step in your apartment communities marketing efforts.  What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?  Search Engine Optimization is the process of building a strong search engine presence to ensure visitors can more easily find your website amongst all your competitors online. The primary aim is to improve your websites page ranking so that renters will see your website when they type specific keywords or phrases into search engines like Google.  In simplest terms, it's getting your website to the top of search engine results for searches that your renters conduct (i.e., apartments in Charlotte, rentals in San Antonio, etc.) Why is Search Engine......
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