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Safety...A Dirty Word?

Just a few days ago I was stunned by someone’s perception of our community. A little background - We are located just steps from a large University.  Students get more privacy and freedom without compromising location, security features or the college experience.  Leasing is per bedroom and you must be a student to live here.  The community features were designed with that in mind.  Anyway, here’s what happened.... Parents and students often express their concerns about the safety of off campus housing.  It would then stand to reason that describing the precautions we have taken would be a good thing…right?  In this case we were wrong!  This particular prospect graciously declined to lease because “I found another option…in a safer area.”  After staring blankly in disbelief at the e-mail, I started formulating a response. “Dear Mr. Doe, I’m sorry to hear that!  Your feedback is very important to us.  Is there anything in particular that gave you the impression our location is less safe than others? Thanks, Angela” I figured that repeating our security features would be useless without additional information.  Not expecting a detailed (if any) response, I went about my day.  Unfortunately, this was one of those moments you just can’t shake.  It ate at me.  I wanted to know why!  Just when I thought I would never have an answer I received this – “Angela, I really respect the heightened security.  It's just that the electronic locks and the 2-out-of-3 inaccessible (electronically secured) rooms left me feeling both A. t......
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Four Ways to Triumph Without Berating your Competition

Competition is everywhere.  Your co-workers compete for promotions or the next atta-boy.  Companies compete for the newest and best product.  Apartment communities compete with other communities, condos and homes.  That’s all fine and good, but shouldn't it be friendly competition instead of cut throat?  Granted, we all want to end up on top, but what does it say about you if you lie, steal and cheat to get there? When a prospect asks you about the neighboring communities, what do you say?  “We’re better than them?”  “What other communities?”  “You’ll have to find out on your own”?  WRONG!  Creating value for your community doesn’t have to end with amenities or price.  Information can add an immense amount of value to a prospect. Now don’t go giving a list of the neighboring communities and their phone numbers, do your due diligence and provide information about what you’ve done differently.  Names need not be mentioned.  If your prospect is truly interested in finding out more information, they will find it.  When they do, make sure what you’ve described is correct!  Here are four ways to manage the competition mayhem. Market Surveys: Do you do them?  Are you asking the right questions?  It’s not just about occupancy, price and unit size anymore.  With an increasingly demanding society, you need to know everything about everyone.  Compile a list of amenities and find out who offers what.  (Again, names need not be mentioned.  Use ‘another local community’ instead.)  Include unusual ones like dry cleaning pick up, bark parks ......
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Can you hear me now? Will you hear me later?

So often, we take for granted the very people who pay our paycheck.  Truth is, it’s not the owner of the company or the head of your payroll department you should be brown-nosing, it’s your customer.  Without them you would have no paycheck.  It is important to take time for yourself so I’m not saying you should become a workaholic robot, but you should consider taking your level of customer service up a notch. Jen Piccotti’s recent blog got me thinking.  As a paying resident, what do I expect? Some people believe that having emergency maintenance is enough.  I don’t think that’s the case.  Instant gratification is no longer a luxury, it’s an expectation.  When I have a question, I want an answer! On site professionals know that being available isn’t always the bees knees.  Residents know where you live and some don’t hesitate to impose.  What if they could just send you an e-mail knowing you’ll respond?  They would probably rather do that anyway, but they have been trained to believe that office hours and email responses end simultaneously so they seek out other methods for a faster response. If your community has a Facebook page, you may have noticed this already.  Residents don’t get an instant response from sending you an e-mail so they make their complaint public.  The Apartment Expert - Lisa Trosien posed the question "Do you think people use Facebook while browsing and shopping for an apartment?"  -  Probably not intentionally, but word of mouth marketing is huge. People retain ......
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Is Your Face Costing You Leases?

I often listen to a local radio show on the way to work.  Today, the host was talking about his recent trip to Europe and something called "face control".  This sparked one of those dangerous brainstorming sessions...you know the ones you come out of wondering how you got from point A to point B without crashing.  Then, because that wasn't bad enough, I called a good friend of mine for some input.  She had never heard the term either so I looked it up.  To my surprise, it wasn't at all related to any of my brainstorm tangents. From "feis kontrol", a Russian klub colloquialism of the English words "face control." Your "face" is your level of wealth, beauty, power, social standing, and overall desirability. - Urban Dictionary Deep right?  Here's how I see it... How does this apply to the multifamily industry, specifically your leasing office?  You might...no should be...familiar with the importance of body language and its effect on prospect buying tendencies.  So what about your face?  Could your facial expressions be losing you leases?  Are your facial expressions a violation of fair housing?  Very possibly yes. We have gut reactions to many things and people are no exception.  The way someone smells, the clothes they wear, piercings or tattoos they have, something they say or just their overall appearance can cause gut reactions - very visible ones at that.  This is not to say that you should become desensitized to appearance, but just gain control of your reactions.......
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Overcoming Objections that are really not Objections at all.

Training directors, leasing experts, property managers and even owners ask me how they can overcome a particular objection on their community.  I want to say this up front though, I do not try and jam a circle prospect into a square apartment.  Yes, you may close them, but many of them cancel and many more will be unhappy after they move in, as they have been sold not guided.  On the other hand, let’s say a prospect said she needs a balcony and you do not have one.  Ask a qualifying question.  For example, I was doing a lease up at a community that did not have balconies, and everyone told me they lost a ton of leases because of this.  I said, really?  At the end of the lease up I only lost one because of this.   Many people are in love with the idea of having this or that, but let’s be honest, many times we never use it.  I had personally rented a 7th floor apartment south west exposure with a huge balcony in brand new luxury high rise located in Atlanta, GA.  I rented that particular apartment because of this balcony and in the two years I lived there I walked out on the balcony a couple of times for a few minutes, never put any furniture out there either.    So when the lack of a balcony at our lease-up came up as an objection, I asked them if they were in love with the idea......
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Facing Failure: Why Excuses Never Lease Apartments

OWN IT At some point in my career I realized that owning up to my mistakes made sense.  I am a perfectionistic over-achiever so this was not an easy thing for me to do.  I always want to do it right and to be seen as doing it right—there is a fair amount of pride attached to that. However, I saw that covering mistakes or covertly fixing them after-the-fact involved more blood, sweat and stress than I was comfortable with.  Invariably, when I admitted my omission or mistake, my boss would offer direction or advice.  (Both of these responses helped me grow.)  Rarely was it anything to cause my boss’ blood pressure to rise.  In fact, it would allow for constructive dialogue and open communication. I also realized that when I failed at something I had to face the failure head-on.  I had counseled employees that failure is a course in the University of Life.  We pay the tuition, learn from our mistakes and move on.  In addition, as a supervisor/mentor/coach I couldn’t help my team if they didn’t bring the problem to me.    REFRAIN FROM THE BLAME GAME Another great temptation is to play the blame game.  “I didn’t get that report to you when you wanted it because accounting didn’t deliver the revised numbers on time.”  “We didn’t hit our occupancy goal for March because traffic is slow/the ads are bad/no one is qualified.” No one is to blame except for me.  Conversely, no one can fix it......
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Having excellent customer service skills can increase your closing ratio!

      Have you ever been excited to go shopping only to leave disappointed? That's how I felt today after leaving a department store where I was looking for a new television. From the moment I stepped into the store I was greeted by a sales associate who assured me that all of the associates had over 200 hours of product training. The problem was not with how I was greeted or how knowledgeable the sales associates were. The problem was when I went to look at all the new HD televisions.  Now picture this, you walk into the electronics section ready to drool over all the different size televisions an crystal clear picture quality of all the latest an greatest goodies that modern technology has to offer, finding only to your disappointment that all of the televisions are all showing the same Non-High Definition broadcast, Which roughly translates into the formal wear section of the Miss America pageant being down-graded to T-shirts an jeans. None of the TV's were showing off their true potential. The sales associate wasn't even interested in trying to sell, or even acknowledging the presents of anyone other than a rather affluent looking gentleman who was clearly annoyed by him. Needless to say the only thing I left with was disappointment.    This got me to thinking how can I make sure no one ever leaves my community feeling this way. Even the thought of one of my prospective residents leaving feeling as neglected an unappreciated as I did upsets me, considering we are here to provide quality homes and make our communities prosper. No one cares how knowledgeable you are......
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How Bright is the Light at the End of the Tunnel?

“Area Rents Up, Vacancies Down” can be heard across the land as the new census statistics come out. Vacancies are down and rents are on the rise HOORAY! For a moment the excitement is heard across our industry as the communities that have suffered immensely from the recession see a light at the end of their long journey. Suffice it to say, rents are up and vacancies are probably down, but what have we all sacrificed in the past few years to get us through the dark days. During this time of struggle our industry strengthened a trend that we were hoping to make extinct which were the rent concessions, the lavish giveaways, and in some cases lower rents. Our industry as a whole has opened a door that cannot be easily shut. Due to the fear of high vacancies we have allowed the prospective residents to take control of an industry that was once controlled by quality apartments, great curb appeal, and luxurious amenities and turned it upside down to an industry that thinks it needs to survive by "outgiving" other communities. We have all seen the enticing ads in the newspapers, Craigslist, or Apartment Guide, “First Month Free Rent” or “Rent today and receive a $100.00 off your rent”. The oversaturation of these deals has changed the way prospective renters think about leasing. Five years ago, it was highly uncommon for a prospect to call an apartment community and ask for something free but today it is the norm.......
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Property Management New Year's Resolutions

New Year's property management resolutionsAs 2010 draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on lessons from the past year and apply them to the future. As you prepare to move into 2011, be sure that you know not only what didn’t work in 2010, but also what did. After all, the goal is not to create a cycle of constantly tweaking systems and procedures but, rather, to find methods that work optimally for you and your tenants and stick with them. For an overview of where 2010 leaves you, begin by honestly asking yourself the following two questions: What was the highlight of my property management year? What was the lowlight of my property management year? When you’ve answered both of these questions, you should have a good idea of where you stand. Say, for example, that the highlight of your year was filling 40 percent of your available vacancies throughtenant referrals. This indicates that you are doing a great job of keeping your units in good shape and keeping tenants happy—in other words, in both of these realms, you’ve already found a formula that works. Though you may want to make little adjustments in these areas here and there, for the most part, you should continue doing exactly what you’ve done in 2010 on into 2011. Conversely, once you’ve come up with the lowlight of your year, you’ll want to determine why it happened and what needs to be changed in 2011 to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again. Let’s say, for example, ......
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Finding the Right Multi-Family Property Investment

In many ways, the current economic climate makes for a great time to purchase a multi-family investment property. The prominence of short sales and foreclosures has given way to good purchase prices in many areas of the country. Add to this the fact that there are some incredible interest rates out there right now (even for investors) and the fact that many former homeowners have now found themselves back in the rental market, and there’s a very valid argument that this is a good time to get into the multi-family market. If you are considering making a multi-family property investment of your own, following are a few things to consider before taking the leap. Know what you’re looking for Before you even begin to look at properties, have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to put into a property, both financially and in terms of your time. Of course, this is always subject to change if you find just the right place, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go into the house-hunting process without a fairly narrow baseline in mind. Aside from basics like location and size, you also want to have know whether you’re looking for a “fixer-upper” or a “as-is” property. Look at the whole package Looking for a multi-family investment property is different from looking for a single-family home and requires a bit more of a discerning eye. Remember that you will be renting multiple units out to different tenants. To......
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