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Helping the Homeless: Don't Limit Your Good Deeds to the Holidays

It's Thanksgiving week and hopefully that means you'll be spending lots of time with family and loved ones in the days ahead. Of course, this week is also the “unofficial” start of the holiday season. During this time, when the weather turns cold and people focus on helping those less fortunate, the plight of the nation's homeless is perhaps more prominent than it is during the rest of the year. I hope that we in the multifamily industry are doing everything we can to extend a helping hand to those experiencing homelessness during these next six weeks. Volunteer at or donate needed supplies to local homeless shelters. Spend a day working at a nearby soup kitchen. Make a financial contribution to the countless organizations that are working every day to provide housing and job training. But when the holidays are over, I urge you to please not forget about the many individuals and families in our country experiencing homelessness. They're still there, and they're still suffering. All those activities suggested above, please find a way to do those throughout the year as well. Just a few of the many homeless-focused organizations deserving of your time and support include the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Our Troops. It won't take much research to find a suitable organization in your community. Better yet: make a commitment to hiring individuals experiencing homelessness and even providing them with an apartment hom......
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What goes into Employee Background Checks: The OFAC Patriot Act Search

Snap66  Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the lengthily named “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act,” commonly known as the “Patriot Act.”  This piece of legislation was aimed at arming law enforcement with tools to both detect and prevent acts of terrorism.  While the Patriot act has had both supporters and nay-sayers, it has become of great value to employers.  One of the services included in theRRD’s employment screening packages is the OFAC Patriot Act Search.  This tool screens for individuals and groups associated with terrorism.  By screening your employees with this service, you’re helping to prevent potential terrorists from receiving an income for their terrorist activities.  You’re also helping to ensure the safety of your own employees. History Of OFAC During the administration of President Jimmy Carter in 1977, Congress enacted the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). This law authorizes the president to regulate commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual or extraordinary threat to the United States from a foreign source. The provisions of IEEPA are administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the Department of the Treasury, which publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific.  Collectively, such individuals and companies are called Specially Designated Nationals (SDN......
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Massive Change to Facebook Marketplace: Rentals Are Now Here

Facebook  Facebook Marketplace Rentals vs. Craigslist! ...and your ILS. Oh, and maybe even Google too.  Facebook Marketplace Rentals just happened. And it's about to get real for Craigslist first, but also Internet Listing Services (ILS). Heck, Facebook could even bite into Google's piece of the pie if users really go for it.   First, let's back up a bit. If you're an owner/property manages of a small to mid sized portfolio, then you needed to get the best return on their small marketing budget. So Craigslist, being free (and pretty clunky), was an obvious initial go-to option for many.  But Craigslist can take a lot of time, and depending on your target demographic, maybe didn’t even return that many quality leads. Then you got entangled with a pricey ILS contract. Hopefully that's doing something useful for you. And now you've heard about advertising on Google and on Facebook. But which would work better for you?  It used to be a no brainer for us.We'd pick Google for your budget first every time. That's because the difference between the two is that Facebook is "interest" based and Google is "intent" based.  Interest vs. Intent and Why it Matters If you're looking for a Mexican restaurant or a new dentist - you went to Google or Google Maps.  That's intent. (It's also making me hungry for tacos and slightly nervous to make that appointment I need) Facebook was just for expressing which movies, books, sports, etc. you loved. That’s interest. Most people who ......
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Social Media Strategies for Apartment Communities are Evolving

We recently released our Social Media Strategies Report, and some of the responses highlighted a shifting landscape in the use of social media for apartment communities.  The Changing Approach to Facebook With each passing year, apartment communities are accepting of the fact that with Facebook, they must pay to reach their audience.  Gone are the days where organic reach from their Fan Pages is effective, with the percentage of communities who pay to advertise increasing from 66% in 2015 to 82% in 2016, and all the way to 92% in 2017.  The adoption of Facebook advertising is truly staggering, but we have also seen one other interesting trends:  The rise of personal Facebook profile use for business.  Over the last two years, the use of personal Facebook profiles in a community's social media strategy has increased from 55% to 66%. Instagram Takes Hold; Twitter Wavering; Google+ Falling Use of Instagram by apartment communities has increased from 34% to 55% over the past two years, climbing to the second most used social media platform.  Twitter seems to be slipping, however, as it drops from 53% use by apartment communities in 2016 to 46% use in 2017.  Although still relatively high in use, this drops mimics the perceived drop in interaction seen on the platform by many.  And lastly, Google+ use continues to fall from 52% in 2016 to 40% in 2017.  Frankly, even use that high is surprising at this point. The Fundamental Goals of Social Media are Shifting One of the......
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Apartment Chatbots: AI-Assisted Human Interaction vs. Human-Assisted AI

  There’s no denying that artificial intelligence is changing the way apartment communities interact with prospective renters.   But while AI-powered apartment chatbots are capable of performing tasks such as answering questions about amenities and floor plans, making apartment tour appointments, and sending rental applications, we don’t yet have the technology to remove humans from the equation if a question is posed that the bot can’t answer. There are two primary ways that leasing staff and chatbots can work together to give potential renters the kind of smooth and helpful interactions they expect: AI-assisted human interaction and human-assisted AI interaction. What sets these two approaches apart are how the messages are received and how the messages are responded to. 1. AI-Assisted Human Interaction This service is primarily operated by property managers, leasing agents, or other staff, who are supported by AI. Here’s one way this could work: A chatbot is the first point of contact. It uses AI to look for keywords to figure out what the prospective renter is asking. For example, the question, “Are dogs allowed?” might trigger keyword “dogs,” which falls under the bots understanding of the pet category. It walks the prospect through a set of pet category questions: “Are you asking if we allow dogs or cats?” The answers and the bot’s replies are received by human customer service agents. The bot suggests answers that the agent may use: “Cats are allowed” or “Dogs are not permitted.” The agent can approve the bot’s responses, or the agent can take over if the a......
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Top 6 Tips When Staging Your Property

A cost many landlords don’t take into account is their loss on lease or vacancy.  Think of the effect on your net income.  The loss of one month revenue can equate to over 8.0% of the annual rent.  What can you do to lease your property sooner, and avoid the loss of revenue?  Many landlords now are staging their properties.  Studies have shown when you bring an available property to the lease market, take the time to stage it (even minimally), it will lease quicker than a property which is not staged.  Most attribute this to the fact a staged property gives the potential renter some vision as to what their furniture will look like in this space.   Here are some helpful tips to consider when staging. 1)      Use neutral colors as they don’t create such a distraction from the home. 2)      Don’t over furnish the home or use pieces which are too big for the space or room. You don’t want it to look crowded. 3)      Place artwork in a few places only ie: above the couch in the living room, at the end of a long hallway (with lighting), the dining room and master bedroom should be plenty. 4)      Good, bright lighting is a must. 5)      Have a focus on the entryway, as this the first thing seen. Make the area welcoming and bright. 6)      Once they are in the property, you want them to see a staged dining room, living room, kitchen, patio/porch and master bedroom at a minimum......
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A Brief Overview of NAA Assembly of Delegates Meeting -November 2017

Just a week ago, we journeyed to the land of big hair, BBQ and cowboys to attend the National Apartment Association’s Assembly of Delegates meeting in Fort Worth, TX. If you aren’t familiar with the NAA Assembly of Delegates meeting, it is essentially a large business meeting and gathering of all NAA and NAAEI boards, committees and task forces. In order to attend you must be an NAA member, but that’s it! We decided to attend to take part in the conversation of how we can work together to further improve the multifamily industry. And we did just that. We attended as many committee meetings as we could fit in our schedule, soaking up all of the information we could listen in on. We especially liked the technology committee meeting and wanted to share with you some of the topics that were discussed there.   Digitizing Leases There is a big focus on digitizing the lease process and forms across all NAA member apartments. There are over 2,100 forms in leasing across the apartment industry so the task at hand is an enormous undertaking. In order to change over all of these forms, the leaders of this task force are asking property management software companies specifically to integrate with Blue Moon Software using their API so the process is quick and succinct. The goal is save properties time, money and increase ROI with the click and lease program. More info: https://www.bluemoonforms.com   Multifamily Information & Technology Standard (MITS) MITS is a multi......
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Understanding the Impact of Late Rent

How is a property affected by late rent? Unpaid rent obviously affects a property’s financial performance. It’s lost or at least delayed revenue. Expense related to unpaid rent are filing fees, court costs and attorneys.  The impact on the property exceeds these financial costs. Legal Expense From Late Rent The cost of late rent collection is not limited to the legal system and filing fees. The amount of time dedicated each month by the onsite team to collect late rent is a huge drain on a limited resource. Time. Proactive efforts to remind residents to pay rent and avoid late fees require time, whether it’s email, phone calls or posting notices. Follow up calls securing commitments for unpaid rent, again absorb time. Knocking on doors, posting notices, sending emails, or leaving voice mail messages for outstanding rent balances require hours of time each week. Adding Up The Time For everything household that fails to pay rent by the due date, the leasing team will dedicate a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes per household encouraging, reminding and counseling residents on the importance of submitting their required rental payment. On a property with 200 apartment homes, if 80% of the residents pay on or before the first of the month. That leaves 20% for follow up…40 household..Preparing, and executing those calls..with a 10 minute expectation; that’s 400 minutes, over 6 hours. The extended collection process for slow, and unpaid rent that lingers past the late fee deadline requires repeated calls, notices eventually copying documents ......
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Resident Retention Tips For Property Manager & Landlords

Resident retention in the real estate industry is a critical part to an investor’s success.  Several factors go into the cost of acquiring residents, marketing, and make ready costs. There is also lost revenue from vacant units, making it a key part of your ROI. We put some tips together to help you retain your residents. A key factor in a resident staying is they feel they belong to a community. Their apartment should be more than a place to sleep and eat. Create a social media presence for your community. Try to get your resident to utilize your page to talk about the events you hold on the property. Talk about your staff and the community. Look to create experiences within the community. The day a new resident moves in, you should have a nice welcome gift waiting for them. Something they can use in their new place. Also, a popular idea is a gift certificate to a local restaurant for takeout or pizza. After a long day of moving, it’s nice to order some food and relax. Creating events for your property can give your residents a sense of community, and allow them to get to know each other as well. Fun events like cook-offs, BBQs or events for their children are usually big winners. An added benefit is once your residents get to know one another, they become more vested in the community, looking to better it, and taking a pride of ownership mentality. Training your staff in t......
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Screening in a Soft Market

After a historically good run, the multifamily sector has shown some recent signs of softening. The national occupancy rate declined for five straight months before rising slightly in February to end the month at 94.5 percent. But that number is still less than February 2016's mark of 94.7 percent. Additionally, the national effective rent grew by 2.3 percent on an annual basis in February. One year earlier, the growth was 4.1 percent. Of course, context is key: the apartment industry is still very healthy. But softening fundamentals should prompt operators to consider how they may relax their screening standards for new residents to keep occupancies up in a sluggish market. One thing is certain, though. Regardless of how an operator reduces its thresholds for factors like credit scores, employment history and income, it needs to incorporate rental payment history in its lease-application evaluations and to share the payment history of its residents with other apartment managers.  Put simply, doing these things is critical to determining just how risky a prospect is and to recovering bad debt should a resident skip out on a lease. Expanding on the Credit Score Picture Loosening your screening standards is often a necessary tactic for navigating a downturn in the market. But if you do so, you should have a crystal-clear view of the risk an applicant poses.  Generally speaking, credit scores are highly predictive of likelihood to default on rental payments. However, in certain cases, a high credit score doesn’t equate with a likelihood to p......
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