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The History of the Fair Housing Act

Lyndon Baines Johnson signing Civil Rights Bill, including Fair Housing Act, April 11, 1968The month of April is designated as Fair Housing Month, to commemorate Congress passing the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which includes the Fair Housing Act. The multifamily industry knows the importance of complying with Fair Housing rules, spending considerable time, resources, and money to ensure compliance across all aspects of rental housing. Yet, few may realize that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) fought an uphill battle before being passed and that the early days of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were not without controversy. Both overcame numerous hurdles in the civil rights era of the 1960s to form the groundwork for today’s critically important multifamily housing policies that prohibit discrimination. The History of the Fair Housing Act The beginning of the FHA ultimately rests with the formation of HUD, a Cabinet-level agency created in 1965. President John F. Kennedy proposed the agency in 1961 to restructure U.S. housing policies that dated to the 1937 U.S. Housing Act, and waged battles with Republicans and Southern Democrats who opposed the formation of an agency. It wasn’t until after his assassination that Congress approved the plan. President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill to form HUD with Robert C. Weaver, the first African-American to be appointed to a Cabinet position, at the helm. A Harvard scholar and former vice chairman of the New York City Housing and Redevelopment Board, Weaver was administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Administration (HHFA). With HUD under way, the administration sought a law that w......
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Amenity Madness

Apartments.com Amenity Madness

In the spirit of March Madness and, of course, all things data, I thought it would be nifty to craft a visualization of actual Apartments.com data in tournament bracket style.  With the help of our very talented Senior Graphic Designer, Laurie Genzlinger, we put together a data driven visualization that illustrates the top 16 user searched amenities on Apartments.com. 

To make this happen, we seeded each amenity, one through four, based on total searches and broke them into four conferences.  We then took this search data and let it solely dictate the outcome of the matchup, advancing the amenity with the higher relative search volume.  In short, our final four top searched amenities consisted of: Washer/Dryer in Unit, Parking, Dishwasher and Air Conditioning.  After a grueling round of matchups, Washer/Dryer in Unit and Air Conditioning moved to the finals, with Washer/Dryer taking the title.

I like this visualization because it illustrates the importance of each of these amenities, relative to another, in the eyes of the renter.  For example, hardwood floors may be important to renters, but next to high speed internet it falls short.  Taking that a step further, the same included high speed internet is a really nice feature, but relative to parking, parking takes the cake.

This was fun to put together and hopefully serves a useful visualization of some of the user search behavior we track at Apartments.com.  As a property manager, which amenities do you find to be the highest in demand?

Apartments.com Amenity Madness

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My Promotion...NOT "All That"!

Wow, one would think that a promotion from Property Supervisor to Regional Manager on a partnership track would be the epitome of property management ladder climbing. Honestly, for the fifteen years that I have been in this profession, I have only dreamed of such a moment. All I can say is…be careful what you ambition for. I was an excellent leasing consultant because I was great with residents and prospects. I had (and still have) a talent for smooth resident relations, and I could literally anticipate the needs of the potential residents that came to my community. I can relate to people and I have been told that I have a genuine style that is seen as sincere and honest. Leasing came easy to me because that is who I am. I did not have to alter who I was in order to do my job.  Stay with me… Because I excelled at leasing, I was promoted to Assistant Manager then Property Manager and finally Property Supervisor. I enjoyed being a Property Manager and Supervisor because it was like my leasing position, less the paperwork the manager would have me do.  I had all of my previous responsibilities, but now I had decision making power! Again, I was an excellent manager and supervisor because it felt natural to me. I loved speaking with the residents and solving problems, I also loved working with and training my team, so the added management responsibility was just icing on the cake of upward mobil......
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New ACH Rule Makes Electronic Payments More “Personal”

A day in the life of a property manager is never boring. Between answering phone calls, showing units, following up on emails, managing service requests, and dealing with move-outs and renewals, there is never a dull moment. Smart property managers are always on the lookout for new ways to improve efficiency and free up time for important tasks. Converting paper checks to electronic ACH payments is a great way to boost productivity by eliminating daily trips to the bank. Over the last decade, more and more property management companies have recognized this opportunity and deployed electronic payment solutions at their sites. By scanning paper checks to process as electronic ACH debits, on-site staff finds more time to serve residents, fill vacant units, and increase revenue. Perhaps the only drawback to check conversion has been the requirement that residents deposit their checks in a drop box, rather than simply delivering them personally to property staff. ACH transactions are governed by NACHA, the Electronic Payments Association. One of NACHA’s requirements for these Accounts Receivable (ARC) transactions was that only checks delivered securely – such as through the mail or at a drop box location — may be scanned and converted to electronic ACH payments. So, when residents brought checks into the leasing office, the staff had been required to direct them to a drop box. This extra step can interrupt the flow of customer service and depersonalize interactions with residents. Thankfully, a recent revision to NACHA rules eliminates this requirement and expands ......
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The Secret is Out: Your Apartment Property Maintenance Team is a Valuable Marketing Tool

Plumber Working on a Bathroom SinkLast month in the article “The Top Secret Apartment Marketing Weapon: Your Maintenance Team,” I shared my positive experience with a hotel housekeeper and how it made me wonder about the effect a maintenance staff can have on marketing an apartment property. Curious to learn what others thought, I posted some questions in a couple of multifamily LinkedIn groups and Multifamily Insiders: Does your maintenance staff greet your residents? If so, is it in a warm and friendly manner? Does the maintenance staff take the time to learn names of residents, family, and pets? Does your maintenance staff ask residents if they are experiencing any problems? Is your maintenance staff empowered to create a service request or, better yet, fix the problem on the spot if time allows? Based on responses, the bottom line is that property owners and managers view their maintenance teams as important and effective marketers. According to those who responded, maintenance employees can offer a “warm fuzzy” to residents (in some cases they can be considered like family) and “can make or break your asset’s performance.” One even suggested offering tours of the maintenance facility when showing around potential residents. Consider this hypothetical example from one online respondent: Let’s say an apartment property averages six service requests per unit each year. If we assume that the average apartment property has 200 units, a maintenance staff could potentially interact with residents at least 100 percent more than the leasing staff. Think about that. With that amount of ......
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Questions Are Nuggets Of Gold

By Linda Day Harrison, theBrokerList, Chicago, IL When managing your property staff, encourage them to ask as many questions as possible. In general, people are afraid to ask questions because they think it makes them look less qualified. However, you must listen and treat each question like a nugget of gold. As a property manager you need to train your staff on the ins and outs of your business, but if they are not sure about something, encourage them to ask questions. Otherwise, acting without direction may have serious ramifications! Hearing questions before an action is taken should be like music to your ears, when compared to hearing about a mishap or a mistake made because they didn’t ask. For example, would you want to risk to an employee’s safety because a team member failed to ask a question about proper safety procedures? Also keep in mind that when something takes longer to do or makes your staff work harder, don’t scream at them for asking, “Why must it be done this way?” and respond with an “it’s my way or the highway” type response. Instead, explain that it is for the greater good of the property, the building ownership, or that it is a requirement of the insurance policy. Make it clear to everyone involved why there are certain processes and procedures in place. In so many cases, if people do not understand the reasons, it can create confusion and problems. Life is hard enough without being caught in the......
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Telling Tall Tales; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

When recently asked about which skill I felt was the most important for a real estate developer to possess, I was stumped for about thirty seconds (which is an eternity when someone is staring at you and waiting). My mind raced. How could I not just rattle-off something well thought out and brilliant? Shouldn’t this be a question that every developer must be able to answer without flinching? Well- I flinched. But at the end of that short eternity, my answer was ‘They must be great storytellers.’    I say this for one simple reason: At his most basic level, the developer is a master salesman. We sell our visions and dreams to our investment committees, the communities in which we work, municipalities, equity partners and debt providers, and eventually to the end user.   So what makes someone a great storyteller?   1.       VALUES. More specifically, understanding what your audience values. Unlike a Dr. Seuss fairytale, the developers’ story is intended to illicit a response. It is designed to excite and sway the audience to allow us to build, help the designers understand our vision, invest in our project, lease or purchase from us, etc.  Our story will only connect with the listener if it appeals to what they value. For instance, telling a County Commissioner about how much money you stand to make will not excite them…hearing that same story, your equity partner will be quite pleased. 2.       FOCUS. A good storyteller understands that they are only providing a framework......
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The Circle of (A Property’s) Life

By Linda Day Harrison, Manager Labs, Chicago, IL There are business models in all shapes and sizes. There are retail stores, medical and legal practices, cleaning companies, general contractors, grocery stores, etc. So when you think about a business, how many business models do you know of where the business owner outsources the entire business to another party? For instance, if you visit your local grocery store, is it managed by a grocery management company? How about a retail store management company? So what makes the residential real estate investment business any different? Why are there so many property management companies and outsourced service providers to the property industry? According to a colleague of mine, the answer is quite simple, “It is not easy, there is so much at stake, and there are many moving parts.” Also, when you think about properties as investments, there are often multiple partners and joint venture groups who own the assets. In those cases, the managing partner realizes they do not have enough time or expertise to do all of the functions required of them to maximize the value of the asset. That is what outsourcing offers. As a property manager outsourced by these partnerships, the responsibility of managing that asset is crucial in so many ways. First of all you have been selected by the partner on the management of the asset. All of the actions you take as the manager or management company directly reflect onto the reputation of that partner or company......
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The SOPA & PIPA Breakdown-Will the Multifamily Housing Industry Be Affected?

Dark Virtual Storm Still on the Horizon? It was a dark day on Wednesday, January 18, 2012—for some of us more than others.  Murphy’s Law was in full effect the moment my feet hit the ground that morning, and the string of mishaps continued when I got to work and turned on my computer. I opened Google to check my email, and I saw a thick, black bar covering the logo at the top of the page. Thinking my computer had a virus, I opened some of the other websites that I commonly use. The WordPress homepage was dark, and the site looked like it had been abandoned. Same thing occurred when I went to Wikipedia. I asked my coworker if she was experiencing problems with the Internet, and she told me it was because of SOPA—an answer that left me more in the dark than ever. A cursory search on the Internet led me to understand that SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act. I dug into it deeper to find an answer to my next question: What was up with this Internet blackout?  The Scoop on SOPA and Its Cohort PIPASOPA is a House bill introduced in October that would give federal prosecutors the authority to crack down on foreign online piracy sites that trade in counterfeit music, movies, software or other U.S. copyrighted products. SOPA isn’t the only acronym swirling around this news story that stormed in our lives last week. Protect IP (Preventing Real Online Threats......
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The Top Secret Apartment Marketing Weapon: Your Maintenance Team

Hidden on each of your apartment properties is a secret marketing weapon that can help in your never ending battle to improve resident retention: your maintenance staff. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, duh Michael. Quality and timeliness of maintenance service is a key factor in resident renewals. Don’t you keep up with SatisFacts Research’s data?” Well, Duh: Based on a national study entitled, “Getting Inside the Head of the Online Resident,” conducted by SatisFacts Research in 2011, a “sense of community” and “resident events and activities” rated as having low importance when it came to their decision to renew their lease. Basic service expectations, such as quality of maintenance service and quality of customer service had the highest importance. But I’m not talking about maintenance. I’m talking about marketing. In addition to your leasing office staff, your maintenance team are also marketing your property. Let me share with you a recent experience from a stay at Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Shady Grove  that illustrates my point. On the morning of my checkout, I’m dragging my suitcase behind me down a hallway when a housekeeper came out of a room. She gave me a big smile. Housekeeper: Good morning sir, how are you today. Me: I’m well. How are you? Housekeeper: I’m fine. Are you leaving us today, sir? Me: I’m checking out today, yes. Housekeeper: Oh, did you have a nice stay with us, sir? Me: Yes I did, thank you. Housekeeper: I’m so glad. Please come back and see us again.......
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