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Weighing in - why accepting credit cards for rental payments might not be a good idea.

Accepting credit cardsAccepting credit cards for rental payments has been a hotly contested item in the office since Twitter published its first tweet. I'd like to get your opinion on it - not because I want to win some office bet (1/2 day off!) but because I still think this is a sticking point for some companies. Let's clear the air, check the evidence and try to figure out what we should do. Pay a convenience fee for being convenienced. Quick math. If you collected $10 million dollars a month in rents and that was all paid by credit card at 2.5% per transaction that would be $250,000 a month you'd flush down the toilet. It isn't practical for our bottom lines to write these kinds of numbers off. (Shoot if it was, I'd process the transactions using some crayons and a phone and keep the $250,000 myself). Only way you can overcome these lopsided mathematics is to charge a convenience fee. The trouble is the laws regarding the fees are pretty convoluted and require a...
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Do Short-Term Rentals Make Sense for Property Managers?

Short-term rentalsA guest post by Ashley Halligan, Analyst, Property Management Software Guide Short-term rentals, of all natures, have become a hot commodity – and a controversial one at that. Short-term rentals can include vacation rentals and temporary housing, often sought by vacationers, business travelers, or people who have recently relocated while seeking long-term living arrangements. Either way, it’s become an ongoing topic of debate and an attractive investment opportunity for property owners and managers. In comparison to traditional rentals, short-term rentals can charge significantly higher rates given their nightly and weekly availabilities. Some property owners have earned as much as 25% of their mortgage in a single night. And during special events or peak rental periods in a given area, potential rental rates can be very attractive to property owners. Because of the income short-term rentals can procure, the opportunity for profit potential may be exponential – but there are several considerations that should be kept in mind. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep the added costs of maintaining a short-term rental in mind. These rentals can be subject to Hotel Occupancy Taxes in certain cities, while other cities require specific licensures and inspections not required of traditional, long-term rentals. Penalties for not abiding by short-term rental laws in your city may result in hefty fines. There can also be increased insurance costs. Additionally, the cost of regular upkeep and maintenance, including utilities, should be calculated. In order to continually attract tenants, your property must be kept in prime condition, both functionally and cosmetically. F......
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Facebook Sponsored Stories Coming to Newsfeeds

Back in January 2011, Facebook introduced their newest advertising product; Sponsored Stories.  These ads, which live on the right hand column of Facebook, use people’s friends to endorse a brand and encourage them to engage as well.  For example, let’s say I Like Apartments.com on Facebook and then I write a status update that says “Searching for my new apartment on Apartments.com!”  If Apartments.com has purchased Sponsored Story advertising, my status update, along with the brand, will be promoted to my friends.  Essentially, Apartments.com would be using me as their brand advocate to my network on Facebook.   Starting this January, one year after their launch, Sponsored Stories will start to appear in a user’s newsfeed, instead of in the normal ad position on the right hand column. This new position will increase their visibility to users.  Although mobile users will not see Sponsored Stories with this roll-out, it’s rumored that the 350 million users will start to see ads starting in March.   The newsfeed Sponsored Stories will be the same size as other newsfeed items, but will contain a “Sponsored” link at the bottom.  If you scroll over the link, a popup will read “This was already shared with you.  A sponsor paid to feature it here”.  A select group of advertisers were selected to test the new Sponsored Stories during the roll-out and Facebook assures users that during this phase they will see a maximum of one Sponsored Story in their daily newsfeed.   Sponsored Stories could be......
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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

Let me begin by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. For those of you who regularly read my scribbles, you are used to some pretty meaty topics. In light of the Holidays, this one will be a bit frothier. In each blog that I write there are certain themes which remain pretty consistent. One of my favorites is that real estate development is about the coolest industry on the planet. After all, our job is to make the world a better, more usable, more beautiful place.   Often my intended audience is the real estate developer (my hope is of course that there is some part of my subject matter which translates to my non-developer audience- or at least helps you better understand those temperamental developers who constantly tell you ‘We can’t afford that.’). Today, I would like to remind us all of something that is very easily glossed over as we perform our day-to-day tasks.   No matter what our role in the industry, we have a hand in something very precious. Through our daily work (whether it is building, developing, leasing, managing or maintaining) we have a definite and real effect on people’s lives. We provide the backdrop in which our residents and neighbors work, play, rest, are made safe, fall in and out of love, have babies, spend their final years, argue and make-up, worship and congregate and pursue their individual goals. And while we don’t necessarily know which combination of these that they are ex......
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Fun Ideas for the Holidays at Your Apartment Community

With the holiday spirit all around, this is a great time of year to get your residents together and show them your appreciation.  Here are a couple fun ideas that you can do around your apartment community:   1.       Resident gifts:  A small gift for your residents is an easy way to say thank you for living in your community and the holidays are a great time to surprise them.  Order T-shirts or sustainable bags with your branding on them for each resident.  Print some festive notes to say Happy Holidays and put them in your resident mailboxes.  Each resident can use the note to redeem their gift from the leasing office.  This would also be a great time to have them update their contact information with you.  Your residents will love their new swag and your branding will be all over the city. 2.       A hot drink on a cold day:  The weather is getting colder (in Chicago at least) and everyone likes a nice warm drink on a bitter day.  Set up a table at the front gate or leasing office to hand out free coffee or hot chocolate for a day.  Make sure to promote the event, so residents don’t make their own cup that morning.  Everyone will start their day off right, thanks to you! 3.       Host a white elephant:  It can be hard to meet your neighbors, especially if you live in a large community.  Host a ‘Meet Your Neighbors White Elephant’ in your community room. ......
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Should Our On-Site Employees Really Be “Jack of all Trades”?

I hear the “Jack of all Trades” job description a lot regarding our on-site teams, that everybody chips in and works to get the job done.  For many, it is almost a badge of honor to be a Jack of all Trades, as it implies that you can handle anything they throw at you.  And in that respect, I totally agree!  But I also believe it is the model of inefficiency. First of all, I want to be clear that this isn’t a discussion on whether people should step up when the job needs to be done.  For example, if all the leasing consultants are out of the office or otherwise busy, I firmly believe that the community manager has to be ready to take that next prospect on a property tour.  Every person needs to be able to rise to the occasion in order to get the job done.  However, there is a difference between every person doing every job, and every person having a specific job but able to lend a hand when it is needed. Let’s look at leasing consultants specifically.  A leasing consultant has a wide variety of job functions, from leasing, to customer service, to administrative duties, such as preparing a lease.  Sales, customer service, and administrative work are all very different, and often one personality type is rarely fantastic at all three.  Years ago when I called the community office home, I can say that I was great at customer service and administrative work, but......
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The True Value of a Property Management Company

Rental agreement and a houseA guest post by Andrew Payne, Louisville Property Management, Louisville, KY Before doing business with a property management service, a property owner must feel that the company’s 8-10% management fee is valid and deserved. When you take a call from a prospective client, you must sell yourself based on what you truly offer. This article covers some key areas to explain when discussing your company’s role in the business. Responsive service. If a manager doesn’t handle all incoming rental leads quickly, you can believe that they’ll move on to the next listing. In a market where the competition for renters is stiff, you need to jump on every opportunity. Also, responding quickly to maintenance or payment issues is of utmost importance. Ability to deal with all types of tenants. Being a landlord sometimes requires less-than comfortable interactions with tenants. Your role is to serve as their liason in all dealings no matter what. At the same time, understanding and compassion is a key trait. Your company must react to each situation in a way that best reflects the interests of the property owner. Experience in marketing and applicant screening (judging the good from the bad). One bad tenant can turn a profitable venture into a money pit. Owners benefit from an established procedure that a property manager uses. Appropriate market analysis, tenant screening, and statement accounting will ensure that the property is well-managed. In most states, a property manager must be a licensed real estate agent, which means we understand the laws and duti......
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The Comeback of the Transferee Tenant

Young couple looking over moving documents with property managerBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL One area that really took a hit during the economic downturn over the past few years was the ability to lease property to employees being hired and transferred. Nobody was hiring, and it seemed that very few companies were taking on the expense of transferring their employees to other markets. Although the job market continues to stagnate, overall it does appear that in many markets companies are beginning to add staff, and once again we are seeing an influx of transferring employees and executives. Renting a property to an incoming transferee presents a few issues that need to be considered that don’t necessarily apply to local tenants. 1. Timeframes are much more rigid. When an employee needs to transfer, they need to move. They typically have a start date for work set already. They have received instructions from their HR department to secure housing and are under pressure to get things coordinated as soon as possible. These tenants have a matter of days or weeks to completely relocate their lives. They don’t have the ability to move back a move-in due to utility problems or issues with a previous tenant move-out. When dealing with a transferee, it is important make sure that everyone commits to specific dates and that the property is 100% ready for occupancy on the lease start date. 2. You may not be able to assess creditworthiness. For international transferees, it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to retrieve a cre......
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Can Your Property Rights Be Violated by Cable Placement?

Cable PlacementA guest post by Michael Gonzalez, Melrose-Sovereign, Orlando, FL When you live in a condo association, you are guaranteed certain property rights. With good property management, your rights are guaranteed in your governing documents, and one of the most important of these is the definition of “Common Elements.” These elements constitute all of the community that is not included within the units (hallways, lobbies, elevators, etc…). “Common Elements” also include easements through units for conduits, ducts, plumbing and wiring. These rights are common in most condo associations, and they are often not fully understood by their residents. We have recently come across a situation that represents this. A cable company violated a resident’s property rights by drilling and running a television cable through the closet on their balcony. The cable company said that they were given permission by the condo association board, however, the closet on the resident’s porch is not technically “common space.” The closet is considered part of the unit as defined by the association’s governing documents. The resident’s cable was violating the property rights of the unit below them and their property rights were being violated by the unit above them. When the resident questioned the cable installer about it, he simply said that the association board gave him permission to do this. This is a violation of the owner’s rights because the wiring that was being installed was obstructing the resident’s use of the closet, so they demanded that the cable be relocated. The previous television cable was run th......
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MISSING: Residents! REWARD: $$, Higher Occupancy, Better Word of Mouth!

Are your residents vanishing from your community at a rate that makes you consider putting up "missing" posters? If so, did you know that their disappearance was probably preventable? Before you contact the milk carton company, let me explain… We do an awful lot of training and spend so much money on advertising our communities to get them in the door…  but once they’re in, it’s like we change our focus to who’s next. To me, that’s utterly absurd and honestly… it’s quite expensive. ·         According to research data provided by Satisfacts, the average cost to “lose” a resident is around $4,000. Now, this can of course vary… but the least I’ve EVER seen is around $2,000… still a pretty good chunk of change and too much, in my opinion (and I'd wager that it's too much for any owner as well). What can we do differently? Well… how about providing the same level of service to current residents as we do to prospective ones? We wouldn’t dream of not following up after someone toured with us (called us, emailed us, etc…) so why are we so bad at following up after the move-in? Doing that allows us to temperature check (something I am very passionate about when I train sales) the now current resident; with regard to the move-in process, condition of the apartment, etc… setting us up, right off the bat, for a successful residency. BUT, it doesn’t stop there… inevitably; there will be a maintenance issue. How ......
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