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Mold: Your Silent Enemy

It’s one of the dirtiest, four-letter words in the apartment industry: mold. Unfortunately, mold is everywhere, good and bad, from the air inside our homes to places in open air. The mold that we deal with in our industry can pose potentially harmful effects to residents, employees and to your company’s bottom line. Mold can grow on any surface where moisture or humidity is present. Mold can cause permanent damage to building materials and personal property likely because of water leakage from plumbing fixtures, air conditioning equipment not functioning properly, intrusion of water or moisture inside the home from the exterior environment, flooding, or condensation due to poor ventilation. These reasons are almost always preventable with proper attention paid to preventative maintenance onsite. Prevention Mold prevention requires everyone’s involvement, not just the usual suspects in the maintenance shop and in the front office. Residents can prove to be an ally by practicing some easy tips. Residents should know to report any water leaks in a timely manner, and maintenance staff should also handle reports of water leaks in an equally timely manner. Residents should report any sightings of mold in their apartment homes to management immediately. Maintenance technicians can investigate the source of the mold and take the proper steps to eliminate it promptly. 3.       Residents can also decrease the threat of mold in their homes by: a.       Keeping the temperature in their homes between 60° and 80° Fahrenheit; b.      Using ceiling fans to circulate air in the home; c.       Keeping......
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Smart Meters: How Will They Impact Your Electricity Usage

Unless there is a new and more efficient way of generating really cheap electricity, the consumers should be more vigilant and efficient in their use of electricity or where ever they may be — including implementing ways to save energy and cut costs as well as reducing the carbon footprint to help protect the environment. One such innovation that is slowly being implemented is the use of smart meters. What are Smart Meters and How Do they Work? Smart meters or what is more technically known as the Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI is a technical advancement evolving from the electromechanical meters or the more updated automated meter reading (AMR) technologies used by electricity companies today. It is expected that within 3 to 5 years, AMI meters shall replace all installed electromechanical meters. With electromechanical meters, data concerning the end user’s electrical consumption is “read” and recorded by meter-reading technicians from the electricity company. With smart meters, this data is transmitted and reported every 15-30 minutes to the electric company, giving both the end user and electric company a visibility of how they consume electricity at particular times of the day. Aside from that, these smart meters can report power outages to the service company as soon as it happens, resulting to better and faster response times. These meters are also more technically advanced than old electromechanical meters making it more difficult to tamper and steal electricity. These meters can also be turned on and off by remote, which is a......
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Time Saving Tips

One of the biggest challenges for property managers is staying on top of all the tasks they have to do in a given day. What with unit inspections, apartment showings, incoming and outgoing payments, resolving maintenance requests, signing leases, and responding to various queries, it’s all too easy to look at the clock at the end of the day and wonder where all the time went. Following are a few tips to help you make the most of each and every day. 1. Stay Organized Sometimes it can feel like there’s no time to actually get organized. But the truth of the matter is, no matter how time-pressed you are, investing in organizational time is almost always worth it in the long run. Time saved trying to locate paperwork, contact information, financial records on your computer, or any other number of other items adds up quickly. Creating a system of organization (the more automated the better) will allow you to perform all your duties in a more streamlined fashion … which ultimately results in a whole lot of time saved. 2. Prioritize Some days you may have to choose between getting one or two time-consuming tasks done versus completing a number of smaller tasks. Whatever the case, it’s most important that you use your time wisely. Take stock of your task list and check items off not according to the amount of time they’ll take, but by which issues must be resolved most immediately. 3. Stay on Task There’s no doubt......
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Resident Retention: Maintenance Issue? Blame the Office Staff!

What??? That can't be right. And yet, that's the perception residents often have. If a service request has not been completed as quickly as the resident expects, or if something wasn't done quite right, residents will often blame the office staff rather than the maintenance team. Why?   Everyone loves the maintenance team! They are the ones who swoop in and save the day. They stop that annoying leak, put new weather stripping around the bedroom window to keep out the draft,  fix the oven just hours before the family comes over for a birthday dinner! It's more convenient to blame the office staff. As we all have experienced, however, the key to resolving service requests is approaching them as a cohesive team. Everyone plays a critical role in resolving maintenance issue:, from taking the request, to doing the repair, to cleaning up, to following up. So, what are some things you can do to bring the team together and make service request resolution everyone's super-success?Here's an idea. Format a Word document into 3 columns: 1. First Column. As a team, identify the 10 most frequent maintenance issues at your community. Every community is different, from slab leaks to mysterious light switches, to termites, to bed bugs, to aging appliances.   2. Column 2. For each issue, note whether there is a troubleshooting tip that can be offered to the resident for that issue. Example: Garbage disposal won't work. Troubleshooting tip: Have you tried hitting the reset button? It is located here......
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Develop the To Do List Habit and Get More Done

We are all looking for ways to squeeze more into each day. I can’t think of an easier or more helpful tip than getting into the habit of using to do lists. Here's how to do it. Each day, write a brand new list of what you need to accomplish on that particular day. You can be low tech and simply write the list out by hand, type it into Word, use your CRM's task manager, or use a simple online tool like done.io, which is what I use. I have other systems to manage my tasks, but they often include long-term projects and ideas. While one might argue that making a list is inefficient and duplicates systems you already have in place, I find that it's worth the extra 60 seconds, as it helps me to focus and prioritize. Next, go through the list and do everything you can get done in 2 minutes or less. This will help you feel like you are getting things done quickly, gives you a psychological lift, and creates the momentum you’ll need when tackling longer tasks. This technique comes straight from Getting Things Done by David Allen, which I highly recommend. If you are like me, items on your to do list are completed between scheduled activities. When you have a break, try to assess how much time you have to work on your to dos, and try to choose a task that will take that amount of time. Sometimes, you'll have u......
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Quick Fixes

When it comes to tiny property repairs, a molehill can very easily become a mountain if it’s not resolved quickly. Whether you’re a DIY kind of person or would prefer to have a contractor or handyman take care of your property’s repairs, time is of the essence. Not only is it important to take care of repairs and maintenance quickly for your tenants’ sakes, but also for your bank account’s. In so many cases, a little problem that goes unaddressed can turn into a big, expensive problem not so far down the line. Budget for the unexpected. As we’ve discussed before, setting money aside for those unexpected repairs that always come up sooner or later is one of the smartest moves you can make as a landlord. No matter how good your intentions are, it’s almost impossible to move on any repair quickly if the funding simply isn’t there. Move quickly, no matter how innocent an issue appears. Cracked plaster? Leaking roof? Chipped window? All of these are examples of “little” issues that are easy to set aside, but will only grow with time. Cracked plaster can easily begin to crumble, resulting in a much bigger mess. A leak can expand and run rampant, causing significant water damage. A tiny window chip can quickly spread, leaving no other option than a complete window replacement. Maintenance and small repairs go hand-in-hand. There are some maintenance duties that count just as much as repairs, and should be performed just as efficiently. Cleaning gutters......
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Is the Customer Really Always Right?

“The customer is always right.” Chances are, you’ve heard (and perhaps even doled out) this bit of advice many times over your property management career. Obviously, there’s a lot to be said for applying this philosophy to your own business dealings. Particularly in an age of automated electronic service, there is so much to be said for making each of your clients feel as though they are special and well cared for. The bottom line is that, these days, good, attentive customer service is very much the exception rather than the rule. Which is great, great news for property managers who find themselves in one of the few high-touch industries where it’s still possible to actually provide one-on-one, memorable customer service. That’s the good news. More difficult is the fact that, though property management may be a high-touch industry that affords you the opportunity to make an impact on your clients, chances are when it comes to customers, you’re juggling a whole lot of them at once. Not only are you contending with the task of keeping the property owners that sign your checks happy but, in many ways, tenants are also your customers. Which means, depending upon your situation, you may have many, many customers to please. And sometimes, the best interests of your tenants and property owners simply don’t align. So what exactly are you supposed to do when situations like these arise? After all, you need to protect your property owner’s assets, but you will ultimately fail your......
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The Property Investment Checklist

ChecklistWhen it comes to selecting an investment property, there are a few issues that every landlord must take into account. No matter how wonderful a property is or how eager you are to invest, never make a property investment without carefully evaluating the following items on your property investment checklist. 1. Calculate your profitability.Although determining the likely profitability of an investment property may seem like a given, you might be surprised how many investors find themselves in a losing situation simply because they fail to do the math. Before buying an investment property at any price point, be sure you carefully determine how much rental income you are likely to generate on an annual basis. Weigh this against not only your mortgage and property taxes, but also all of the other costs that are likely to occur over the course of a year, such as advertising vacancies and doing general repairs and maintenance. When calculating these costs, be conservative when estimating income and err towards over-estimating your outgoing expenses. You want to make sure you have enough wiggle room in your profit margins to afford your investment property payments no matter what unforeseen events may unfold in a given year. About.com’s real estate business page offers some great calculation tools that will help you calculate your risk based on several different variables. 2. Get inside renters’ minds. Sure, you’re the one who’s purchasing the investment property but never forget that you are purchasing it for the purpose of renting it out......
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Planning for Emergencies

EvacuationBetter safe than sorry. Sure, it’s trite … but it’s also true. Every property manager should consider a well thought out emergency plan to be an essential part of his property management duties. In an ideal world you will, of course, never have to use it. However, should you ever find yourself in an emergency situation, an emergency plan may literally mean the difference between life and death for your tenants and between a property making it through an emergency episode intact or not. What kind of plan do I need?Begin by carefully thinking through worst-case scenarios that could potentially strike your property. Obviously, all properties should have a fire escape plan, but you may be subject to other natural disasters depending upon your location. If you are located in California, for example, you may want to have a plan in place should an earthquake occur. If you live in the mid-West, you’ll want to have a plan of action in case of tornadoes; if you’re in the South, plan ahead in case of a hurricane. Also bear in mind that even the most prepared person can’t foresee all potential scenarios, so it may also be wise to have a general evacuation plan on-hand to prepare for miscellaneous events that could put tenants and your property in danger. What type of information should my plan include?Every property’s emergency plan will vary dependent upon the size and layout of the property, its location, the landscape of the area around it, and the......
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Top Ten Internet Follow Up Mistakes

10. Response does not provide information we were looking for. Yes, this happens all too often. The shopper requests information on a 2 bedroom 2 bath, and we are sent floor plans for a 1 bedroom. It is obvious this is a barrier to leasing if the customer cannot find what they are looking for.  9. Improper grammar and sentence structure. This is not only tacky, but also frustrating for the prospect. Make certain you use appropriate verbiage and when in doubt use spell check or consult your handy dictionary.  8. Obvious Auto Response. There is nothing personal about an auto response. What is more personal than someone’s home? It is important to customize even an auto response so that it is not the same response the customer receives from the other three properties they inquired about.  7. Spoke too quickly on the phone message. You may say the same thing 100 times a day, but the customer only hears it once. Slow down and take the time to properly communicate.  6. Brochure sent, no note. You may have the nicest brochure in your city, but it is up to you to make it personal. This means more than just stapling your business card to the brochure. Take the time to write a note and invite the guest to visit.  5. Failure to send an e-mail within 3 hours of the inquiry. The internet is all about real time information. If you wait two days to follow up with the prospect,......
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