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Technology that Increases Collaboration and Efficiency—And it's not an Organization Tool

Technology that Increases Collaboration and Efficiency—And it's not an Organization Tool
Multifamily organizations often clamor for ways to expedite processes. Finding ways to increase efficiencies, particularly with the abundance of available tech tools, has become a primary objective. Yet for most companies, that pursuit ends with a communication tool such as Basecamp or Slack. While having a comprehensive list of projects and rapid-chat capabilities certainly helps, it doesn’t push the boundaries of how technology can genuinely make a difference.  That’s where data visualization comes in. A spreadsheet contains an abundance of information, but it’s without context. It might contain every possible detail about an apartment’s location, type of finish, proximity to the dog park and the views it offers. But if you cannot see it, you can only envision it based upon a written description. When onsite teams can observe those details on an interactive map—and pass it along to prospects—that’s when it truly transforms from an organizational tool to a business intelligence tool.  Here are a few examples of how visualization can provide key insights that cannot be found in text-based information:  Assessing value of various types of homes  During lease-up, apartment operators tend to begin with a straight-up approach. Most floor plans are priced the same, with the exception of those with well-apparent benefits, such as larger closets or balconies with desirable views. But as the leasing process unfolds over several months and years, microtrends begin to emerge. Certain homes might be more attractive for subtle reasons, such as proximity to a parking space, distance from the elevator, a quieter location or m......
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The Problem With Better: A How-To Guide For Disrupting The Property Management Software Industry

The Problem With Better: A How-To Guide For Disrupting The Property Management Software Industry
  The June announcement of Property Solutions’ new management software offers interesting possibilities for disruption. Entrata, currently still in BETA, is a one-stop-shop for operators and boasts a single platform development. Features include resident screening, portal, and CRM. Just to name a few. What seems to set the software apart is its open API, which would, in theory, allow owners and operators to customize the code to their specific needs. Entrata sounds even better when you hear the price for its "core suite" - Free. While it is still unclear what, exactly, comes with the free edition, Entrata is sure to ruffle some feathers with its new pricing model. The decision to move towards an open source, freemium model make Entrata a prime candidate for a disruptive technology. It's clear Property Solutions intends to steal away market share by simply providing a better service with better pricing. When you consider the current state of property management software, you can't help but root for Entrata to knock out the established firms. Unfortunately, "better" doesn't always convince the masses. And it certainly doesn't last. Why Better Won’t Work The problem with better is it can always be made better. Theres nothing special about better. Software teams ship better all the time - better reports, better apps, better code. Better gives no real advantage to the little guy. Better is how the established firms compete and, in all likelihood, they can ship better a lot better than an entrant firm could hope to. Different, however, is, well, different. The rules for......
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Renting to Mary Jane

I want begin this post with the observation that there is absolutely no connection between the facts that (1) I have not posted here at MFI for a while and (2) this post is about marijuana. Sometimes I just can’t think of something that is truly relevant for you to read, but then my muse does her thing (and this time my muse is DJ Ryan with the law firm of Kimball, Tirey & St. John, LLC). Speaking of relevancy, this post is for the California folks only… Medical marijuana has been legal in California for many years and if you have communities that you own or manage there, you do need to have a policy about its use on your property by residents. (BTW – I have been told that a California case precludes employees from using medical marijuana on the job.) Many California communities are smoke-free now, as result of landlord preference or local laws. Smoking is smoking – cigarettes, pipes, cigars, hookahs, roaches. You can forbid it all, but if because of a disability someone asks to be allowed as a reasonable accommodation to smoke their medical marijuana, you will need to consider that request. It is likely that unless such use becomes a nuisance (in the legal and lease sense, and be careful here in coming to that conclusion), or if it conflicts with someone else’s disability, you will need to allow this to happen. This is a complicated topic – does the smoking of marijuana leave residue beh......
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Licenses and Furthering Education

As a professional in the multifamily industry, I want to take my career to the highest possible level. I am getting in gear to begin a graduate program, working on becoming a licensed Real Estate salesperson, and doing as much as I can to learn and stay active. My position right now is not directly in line with property management (but closely tied), however I have worked as a leasing manager, assistant property manager, and property manager in the last 3 years.

My question to those experienced professionals out there: What source of education, certifications, and licenses do you believe to be most helpful in the world of multifamily management? How do you decide what educational institutions/programs to pursue? Any suggestions for a young professional looking to grow and become a leader in the industry?

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What's New in Resident Gifting

What's New in Resident Gifting
There have been a lot of interesting products to come on the market since my last post about ideas on creating a great tenant gift basket concept using travel sized toiletries.  I thought I'd post an update on some interesting products that we've seen multi-family building owners and operators putting in their custom kits that we've been designing for them: 1. Individual use laundry detergent: It is a great way to get someone started before they have a chance to get to the store for the full size, and it can be often done with a fun brand that might be different than the usual (like an all natural one, or the brand new one that is in a single use packet from GrabGreen... pictured above!). 2. Poo-Pourri: If you haven't heard about this brand, you should check it out. You spray it in the toilet bowl before using it, and it seals in the scent.  It is a great conversation piece that tenant can put out in their bathroom for their guests to use. 3. All natural disinfectant wipes: With the natural/organic trend on the rise, it is also possible to get travel sized cleaning items that are all natural as well.  The popular all natural cleaning brand Clean Well recently released a travel pack of wipes that is quite popular in a starter kit. 4. Stain remover: You can provide the latest with Tide's all new "to go" version of their stain eraser wipes. 5. Less items, but higher en......
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Communicating with Residents...Maybe it's Time for a Reality Check

  Communicating with Residents… Maybe it’s time for a reality check   Not all that long ago my planning calendar was my daily road-map. It would give me a good idea about how my day was going to go… what I needed to do. That’s no longer the case.   Thanks to the technology that allows us to instantly communicate with others, others can in turn instantly communicate with us! And with this high level of contact, comes high expectations of quick responses. Yet we all seem to be adapting to this spontaneous flow of just-in-time communications as we blast through our days checking in, reacting and responding.   So how can property managers make the best of this new normal? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how you communicate with your residents. Maybe it’s time for a reality check.   ·Newsletters are a colossal waste of time and money – and often outdated by the time they’re delivered. Don’t even think of starting one. ·Flyers are costly litter. ·Bulletin boards have limitations – they’re OK for general information, but not everyone will get the message. ·Websites work for seekers – don’t rely on residents to log on to retrieve important announcements. ·Email works, but it’s hit or miss for time-critical messages – not everyone spontaneously retrieves their email. ·Phone calls work, but can eat up staff time – if the timing isn’t right, your message may be forgotten. ·Text messages work – In my experience, text messages are picked up more frequently than voice or email messages. P......
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Renters Predict 2012 Presidential Election Results

Renters Predict 2012 Presidential Election Results
Could renters be the ones to call this upcoming presidential election? If history repeats itself, they most certainly will. Four years ago, Apartments.com visitors were surveyed on the 2008 presidential election and more than half said they were voting for then-candidate Barack Obama. As the countdown to the 2012 presidential election winds down, we reveal the results of a similar survey where nearly 70% of respondents say they are backing a President Barack Obama re-election over Governor Mitt Romney. When comparing the two surveys, we noticed some interesting trends in how the attitudes among renters about certain aspects of the election and how their political activity fared from 2008 to 2012.  For example, the number of survey respondents who said they are registered to vote fell 10% from 2008 to 2012, and more than 40% described themselves as very politically active back in 2008 in contrast to the 22% who consider themselves that way today. In addition to the serious stuff, we wanted to have some fun with our respondents by asking them about some hypothetical situations involving the candidates, in the context of living in an apartment community. As a result, we discovered that three quarter of renters would prefer to fold President Obama’s laundry over Governor Mitt Romney’s if left in the dryer, and would rather have Obama as their landlord. Only time will tell—less than four weeks—if the apartment hunters who took our survey will predict the 2012 presidential election once again, but in the meantime, we hope you enj......
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We're Moving? Tips on the Transition

Whew! We’re now coming through another heavy leasing season for those of us in the multifamily industry, anyway. We’ve grabbed and garnered leases left and right. We’ve been able to hold onto a lot of current residents. We’ve gotten leasing bonuses and everyone is finishing up vacation time, even though we are secretly trying to harbor a couple of days to use at Thanksgiving for Black Friday or the holidays.   For me, I have noticed that the hardest “sells” have been those families with school age children. Honestly, it brought me back to the time when my husband was rapidly moving up the corporate ladder, which necessitated many different moves all across the country. I remembered that apparently my husband’s preferred method of informing his family that we were moving was to take us to a restaurant and make the announcement. It seemed his favorite restaurant to do this in was Pizza Hut. Probably because the kids loved the pizza there (and he did, too.) However, after the fourth time it happened, it kind of ruined the idea of going to Pizza Hut for me and the kids.   It has occurred to me that the actual moving experience does not have to be horrendous. It’s the fact that, if you are not the decision-maker, it can be very stressful. After all, if you’re the child, you really get very little input in the decision. Most of the time, your parents make the announcement and start discussing all kinds of......
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The Boom of the Next Generation of Renters

Call them what you will—Millennials, Gen Y, Generation Next or Echo Boomers—they are all descriptors for the next generation of renters hitting the multifamily housing industry. A key characteristic of this demographic (who were born between 1982 and 1995 and are either the children or grandchildren of Baby Boomers) is that they are the most informed prospects that you have likely ever encountered. These potential renters are approximately 80 million strong, range in age from 16-29 and are highly educated as well as technologically savvy. Before stepping foot on your actual property, they will already have a good idea of what it looks like from photos and videos online—some of which have been posted by prior or current renters, some of them possibly posted by your company. Members of this next generation know the amenities your community offers, how much rent will cost them each month and they have unprecedented access to communication with your past and present residents via various social media avenues like Facebook and Twitter. They will most likely find out about your property through the Internet by using a laptop, iPad or Android, Web-enabled mobile device like an iPhone, and even more likely, a combination of all of the above. When they come to visit, they will have specific questions based on all of the information they have gathered, and they will want amenities and features that are quite a departure from your current, standard apartment fare like Wi-Fi, cathedral ceilings, limited floor plan options and possibly......
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Extending to Your Extended Market

We all have our existing market.  The demographic (age, income level, etc) that exists, currently lives at, and already (by means of word of mouth) visits our communities.  But, we always are searching for the extended market, the next step up from those who are already here and walking in the door.  This is how to do just that. If your current market is working, but could just use that little extra oomph to take you to the next level, then your job is quite simple.  Don't fight it, thrive with it.  Base your brand around it.  If your current market is young business professionals, give your community that vibe.  Then go after the extended market that would work in.  In this instance your extended market would be longer standing residents, as these would generally have an average  lease turn of 3 years, after which they would mostly be leaving for home ownership or job transfer.  Be sure to keep them until that happens.  Your extended market is the niche that clicks with your existing crowd.  This crowd will most likely end up being 40-50, recently single, business professionals.  The great news is, the marketing campaign to follow will still apply.   If your current market isn't working, and you need a change of scene, then change your scene first, and work one your extended market second.  This generally applies to new community purchases, looking to sink their teeth into a C+ or B community, turn it into an A, increase......
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