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Things you need to know as a property manager that they won't teach you in a classroom

For those of you who know me or have read my blog, you know that I am a huge proponent of professional development and industry education. However, there are just certain things that you are not going to learn in a classroom about the multifamily management business. The following are meant to be lighthearted so I hope no one takes offense. 1) You will need to set a limit as to how many times a disgruntled person can drop the "f" bomb on you before its time to end the conversation2) If you have a property with 1 or more lakes you could end up knowing more about swans and geese and their feces than you ever thought appropriate3) You no longer will have a "normal scope of vision" you will find yourself looking at buildings and properties in which you have no affiliation and find yourself making "punch lists" in your head4) You will at some point have a conversation with someone about dog poo that may or may not end in a threat to DNA test said poo. 5) Someone will call you and tell you that there is a ghost living with them and actually expect you to "resolve" the issue........ I recommend calling an exterminator. 6) You will hear every excuse in the book as to where the rent check got lost...."the dog ate it" may be one of the most believable7) You will start to annoy yourself after the two hundredth time you have quoted the......
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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

For more visit Apartments.com/blog.

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Do You Work Better Alone or in a Group Setting?

Do you work better alone or in a group setting?   Well, do I have a choice????   You may find yourself in this position of choosing, especially if your company has decided to take advantage of the new surge in the rental market, thereby decreasing the number of staff and eliminating any excess expenses.   During the downturn of the market when concessions were given out right and left, several management companies laid off their “extraneous employees” and insisted everyone else take up the slack. This happened from the top tier of the company down to the office, maintenance and housekeeping staffs. And forget about hiring any contractors to help with the turnover completions. Perhaps it happened to you and you are faced with perhaps working alone or semi-solo, or you are at a smaller management company that handles fewer than 500 units.   Should you decide to become a Team of One, here are a few pointers to consider. It is vital that you understand and KNOW how you work. If you work alone, day after day, you may become prone to experiencing loneliness and suffer from feelings of severe isolation. When you work alone, you are the sole decision-maker for planning your day; therefore you must be committed to becoming organized. You will need to anticipate the needs of the property and the business and act accordingly. You will need office coverage for 6-7 days a week. How will you handle this? One strategy is to work Saturday, take......
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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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Do You Have A B2B Marketing Message?

By Linda Day Harrison, theBrokerList, Chicago, IL As property owners and managers we need to change our thinking about marketing. For instance, do you have a B2B (business to business) marketing message or do you just focus on B2C (business to consumer) marketing? I would guess that many of you have B2C messages down pat, but fail to focus on B2B. The reason the real estate management industry does not look at itself as playing in the B2B world is due to a myriad of things, but the most pertinent being our training and how we’ve been taught to present ourselves to the marketplace.     For instance, a typical business report about the economy focuses on consumer spending, retail, housing starts, home buyers, and the stock market. There is no mention of the terms we are familiar with, such as number of units, total square feet, vacancy, occupancy, tenants, building improvements, and leases signed. There is no connection to our industry metrics and benchmarks. Our data and statistics are not tracked due to the nature of our business model. It is as if our industry is a forgotten piece of the economic pie. For this reason, I think there is a disconnect in how we really fit into the picture. My intent is to turn the tables and give you some tips on how to improve your B2B marketing messages by giving you the confidence to realize that we are vital to our communities. The B2B marketing message you create......
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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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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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College Students Shun Traditional Advertising in Favor of Online Sources When Shopping for an Apartment

I just wanted to share with you some recent insights we gained from a nationwide survey of more than 500 college students in which we asked them about the types of information sources they use when looking for a place to live. No surprise, but Google scores highest among college students as they continue to turn away from traditional advertising – such as ads in campus newspapers – and instead go online to shop for apartments. Fifty-three percent of students we surveyed ranked Google/internet searches as most important in helping them find a place to live. Friends’ recommendations and those from parents followed at 37 percent and 27 percent, respectively. They identified Facebook, ads in the student newspaper, student activities sponsored by apartment communities and online ads/promotions as least important in helping them find an apartment.Our survey also found that 98 percent of college students use Google Search to find information online, and 71 percent of the students ranked Google as the most important website/application they use. Google was followed in order of importance by university websites and Facebook. The students said they rarely turned to Twitter or Google+, which is still relatively new. In fact, the majority of students surveyed said they never use Twitter. We also found that when looking for an apartment, few students use apartment-specific websites, such as apartments.com or apartmentguide.com. Our survey showed they prefer to simply use Internet search engines to find information about apartment communities. As expected, they also placed greater importance on digital......
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Can Your Rental Property Become a Day Care?

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA In a recent notice received by our legal counsel addressing this very issue, apparently if you own rental property in California the scary answer is yes! The great state of California is widely known as a pro-tenant state when it comes to tenant-landlord related issues. Many cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles are saddled with pockets of rent controlled areas making investment opportunities less attractive. They also have unfavorable statewide eviction laws that allow deadbeat tenants to continue residing in properties months after defaulting on rental payments. So this should come as no surprise that according to state law if the tenant is licensed by the California State Department of Social Services (DSS) it only takes a thirty day written notice of their intent to legally start and operate a day care center without the permission of the landlord if the total number of children under care, including the children of the tenant, is limited to six. In fact, permission from the landlord is only necessary if the tenant chooses to increase the total number of children under care to eight. The licensed provider does need to have adequate insurance or be bonded. They must simply provide each parent, in writing, a notice that states the landlord’s insurance will not cover any issues should they arise – how reassuring. In fact, the landlord’s only recourse is that they can require the tenant to increase the security deposit to......
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