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Team Building (part deux); The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

In the first installment of Team Building, we discussed the three key predictors of a developer’s success; the Get It Factor, Communication Skills and a History of Success. For those of us who are used to trying to isolate more tangible items in an interview, this concept can seem a bit too touchy-feely.  But truth be told, it is the touchy-feely items that are actually critical for success in a strategic role. You have to agree that we cannot attribute the success of Donald Trump, Mack Pogue, Trammel Crow, Jorge Perez, Robert Tishman, etc. to their abilities at running excel spreadsheets. Equally clear is the fact that the ability to generate pivot tables has had virtually no effect on your career’s trajectory either. So then why is it that we use this as an entry requirement into our profession? Sadly, the most obvious answer is also the most truthful- we do it because we are lazy. If we, as the leaders of our organizations, would simply accept the notion that the role of developer was ALWAYS a strategic role, then it would be inconceivable for us to rely on tactical skills in the hiring process. We must begin to respect and understand the entirety of the candidates’ potential, if we want to choose folks who can grow into developers that we want to have on our teams. Each of us has a couple of components that make up our potential (I call this potential our ‘toolbox’). The toolbox is comprised of......
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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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Team Building; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

One of the great challenges in development team building comes down to composition. We ask ourselves; What are my immediate and long-term needs? What skills are important in my new hire? How do I find and choose the best candidate for my organization? The reason that these questions are more daunting in development than other careers is because of the vastly diverse set of skills that must be present in order to create a ‘successful’ developer. It’s not like hiring an accountant. At first blush, we might say that hiring for a new team is very different than hiring for an existing one. The reason being that with a new team, we know that need a comprehensive skill-set (an A to Z guy), whereas with an already operating team, we might feel that we can simply hire to address our immediate need- what I call a ‘fill the hole’ mentality. For those of you familiar with my blog and the School for Development concept, you already know that this is the exact wrong solution. We cannot continue to make tactical hiring decisions for development roles because a developer is always a strategic position. When we don’t approach our strategic positions strategically, we increase our turn-over and consequently add chaos to our organizations.  So what should we look for when evaluating a candidate? In my experience, there are three primary qualities that are essential predictors of success for anyone who embarks on the developer’s path. And I choose these three because being......
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It's Hard to Say No to New Property Management Accounts

Dilapidated apartment buildingBy Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA Property management is all the buzz these days, as it is becoming the saving grace of the real estate industry. Across the country, real estate agents and realtors who are unable to maintain consistent listings and sales have turned to property management as a steady income stream until the market “picks up” again. This increase in competition for property management accounts by quasi real estate agents/managers has lead many who want to build their property management portfolio to take on any and all assets. Many new to the industry agree to manage dilapidated properties from slumlords at management rates sometimes as low as three or four percent, and welcome the unrealistic rental rate demands from new investors trying to cash flow on properties that never will. However, by far the most common mistake made by these new entries into the business is taking on accounts that are located just too far away from their own area of operation or expertise. We have all seen the marketing signs before – “Countywide,” “Citywide,” or “We service all areas.” Now, please understand that many well-structured property management companies large and small can accurately market this way, as they have the means, systems, and staff available to handle distant accounts across larger serviceable areas, and do so in a professional manner. That’s not always the case for single parties handling a few accounts here and there. Saying “no” to a potential account, or offering to ......
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Focus on Profitability over Volume Lends to Successful Property Management

CalculatorBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL One of the most important and difficult things to do as a professional property manager is to honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses and build your business around the part of the business that you do best. For those outside of the industry, a property manager is a property manager, and few people can or care to make any distinction between an HOA, multi-family, or single family manager. There are also few who make any distinction between competent professionals and slum lords. It is not surprising that the general public can’t grasp these differences. What is surprising is that many of us as property managers and landlords can’t even make this distinction within our own companies and portfolios. I’m not pointing fingers here, as my company was as guilty as any other only a couple of years ago. Our management portfolio consisted of hundreds of single family units, multi-family buildings ranging from the worst of areas to the best, multiple commercial properties, as well as some associations. We had spent years building up our volume of managed properties without any regard for the type, quality, or location of the properties that we were taking on. We were happy that our unit count was growing steadily, but no matter how many units we added, it seemed that we were not making any additional profits month over month. It was frustrating, to say the least, so we made an effort to find out what the is......
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Always Good Decisions To Be Made; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

Not long ago, I toured an apartment complex with two friends; one was the architect who designed it and the other, the developer who built and owns it. The exterior was gorgeous and appropriate. The amenities were unique and clever. The units appeared to be attractive and reasonable for the market…that is until we entered the kitchen. This room was comprised of dark hardwood floors, rich wood cabinetry, stainless appliances and a builder-grade white laminate counter (that stuck out like a sore thumb). I winced. I looked to my architect friend- who gave me the ‘this isn’t the time’ slight head shake. We continued the tour.  Later, I took the architect aside and asked ‘What the [email protected]*k was that?’ He explained that there were originally granite counters spec’ed, but that they were lost in the V.E. process. To me, this was yet another example of the bad results of not training our young developers to know the difference between a good and a bad decision. It’s the problem of not teaching them that development happens in the real world- not on a spreadsheet. Which brings me to our theme; ‘Whenever there is a decision, there is always a good decision to be made.’ Now I’m not saying that every decision has an option which is ideal, just that there are always better and worse choices. When, as developers, we accept the opportunity to reshape the world around us, we also take on the responsibility to understand the ramifications of the decisions......
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Thank you! Sincerely, Your Ad

My Dearest Management Company,

This is the time of year to reflect back on what we are thankful for and to reach out to the ones we appreciate.  You do so much to keep me updated and looking wonderful, I wanted to write you this letter of thanks.


Thank you for the professional photos you had taken!  I get so many happy renters visiting me daily because of my eye candy.  The fantastic lighting in my community room photo has made me the envy of all the other ads.  Not to mention the full list of amenities you keep updated.  It’s hard to stand out in a crowd and that nice long list of amenities helps everyone narrow down their search to me.  You really do know how to keep me happy.  My Check Availability button is a flutter every time you update my pricing!


Your attentiveness is unmatched!  Every renter who calls my leasing office does so within the hours of operation, because you keep it accurate.  The true testament to your professionalism is your response rate to Live Chats.  Instant Answers should really be your middle name and I respect your live chatting game.


I consider myself the luckiest ad in the world to have a property management company like you!




Your Online Advertisement

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A successful property tour is so much more than follow the leader

Years ago when I had the task of putting together my first leasing guide, I relied heavily on the advice of a good friend, a supervisor with years of experience and obvious selling chops. One terrific tip she shared with me was that a leasing agent needs to become adept at finding the things in each room of an apartment home that the prospect was not likely to see. She suggested that we require each leasing agent to go into all rooms of an apartment, even the baths and closets, and find at least two things that were not obvious and explain what those features meant and how they could benefit the prospect. In the years since, I have used that great idea as a cornerstone in my training. Think about it. When a somewhat less engaged leasing agent does a property tour, they usually spend a lot of time on pointing out the obvious, if they are even interacting at all. I cannot count the number of times I have walked into a furnished model with a leasing agent I was “shopping” and been lead to a room with an oval table and six chairs while the leasing agent offered “this is the dining room.” What a master of the obvious! Why do we even waste the time and energy if we are only pointing out things that are clear to just about everyone. I have had leasing agents fall this up by steering me into the kitchen and ......
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The technological evolution of multifamily: Are you in it or overdoing it?

Punchcard"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons." ~ R. Buckminster Fuller  Our payroll person often tells the story about how, back in the day, she used to enter employees' time in the computer system using punch cards. 30 years later that story, of course, is hilarious. Punch cards? Oh man.  Now? Properties enter their information into our intranet portal. Much fancier, less holes. Despite 30 years of progress there's one thing that hasn't changed. Filling out a time sheet. For you to get paid, you have to tell your employer how many hours you've worked. Technology isn't reinventing the time sheet, it's just making it easier. Our payroll lady appreciates it but at the end of the day she is still tasked with making sure everyone gets paid. The multifamily basics still remain. The evolution of multifamily technology is astounding. We now have systems to record and playback phone calls, fancy analytics with cool graphs, Craigslist posting tools, social media, web apps, mobile apps, damnyouautocorrect, portal sites, online applications, leasing using your iPad, ILS's, websites, check scanning, document management systems, smartphones, and angry birds. As new things come out, it's easy to want to rush out and find where you can make it fit. It's important though that you take a breather and think about how these new technologies influence the basics: Drive and convert leads. Give good customer and maintenance service. Keep your residents renewing. Technology is tools. It's not really renting you more apartments,......
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