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The Circle of (A Property’s) Life

By Linda Day Harrison, Manager Labs, Chicago, IL There are business models in all shapes and sizes. There are retail stores, medical and legal practices, cleaning companies, general contractors, grocery stores, etc. So when you think about a business, how many business models do you know of where the business owner outsources the entire business to another party? For instance, if you visit your local grocery store, is it managed by a grocery management company? How about a retail store management company? So what makes the residential real estate investment business any different? Why are there so many property management companies and outsourced service providers to the property industry? According to a colleague of mine, the answer is quite simple, “It is not easy, there is so much at stake, and there are many moving parts.” Also, when you think about properties as investments, there are often multiple partners and joint venture groups who own the assets. In those cases, the managing partner realizes they do not have enough time or expertise to do all of the functions required of them to maximize the value of the asset. That is what outsourcing offers. As a property manager outsourced by these partnerships, the responsibility of managing that asset is crucial in so many ways. First of all you have been selected by the partner on the management of the asset. All of the actions you take as the manager or management company directly reflect onto the reputation of that partner or company......
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Social Media: Managing the Dark Side

FB Logo with Bullet HoleBetty’s a self-described ‘old-timer’. She has been through more up-and-down economic cycles than she would care to number. "Happy Days are here again!" she told me. "But you know, it doesn’t last." Way to kill the mood, Betty. She is right. Cycles are called cycles because they keep coming around. In most of the markets I visit times are good. Vacancy is down; rents are being pushed. It is time to seize the day! Increase rents, pump increased revenues back to your profit-starved investors and make those long-deferred capital improvements. However, now is the time to put on your Leader Cap: your job is to take the long-range view. What are the potential outcomes of our current management behaviors? First, review economic reality: Homeless - According to the MBA National Delinquency Survey, 4,296,018 homes were foreclosed, sold in a short sale or the mortgage was over 90-days delinquent in 2011. Of these, 1,445,000 houses were lost due to foreclosure or short sales. Each of these people moved in with friends or family, are in a shelter, living in their car or are your new residents. Unemployed / Underemployed - Bloomberg reports that while the unemployment rate is dropping (down to 8.3% in January, 2012), underemployment is hovering around 17%. These are folks who are working well below their potential. No Cushion – MSN Careers says that 42% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck while Economicrot puts the figure at a staggering 77%. Either way, there are a lot of people whose economic......
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Reach more renters where it counts…their inbox!

Here are three quick tips to help your email messages reach your subscribers’ inboxes, avoid spam complaints and maintain your status as a reputable sender: 1)     Ensure you are sending relevant messages to subscribers who have expressly opted in to receive your emails. For example, if a prospective renter signs up to receive property listings, the last thing they’ll want to see is an advertisement in their inbox about the latest weight loss trick!  There are many people out there who want to receive promotional emails, provided that you give them exactly what they’ve asked for. 2)      Don’t send to lists that are too old. While a subscriber may enjoy reading your emails when they first sign up, there often comes a point when they simply no longer wish to hear from you -- and that’s okay!  Perhaps they no longer have a need for your service or your message doesn’t apply to them anymore.  If you send to subscribers who signed up for your program years ago, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of spam complaints and bounces.  You may find many of these folks are no longer using the same email address or have completely forgotten they opted into your program way back when. 3)     Send your messages at an expected rate. While you don’t necessarily need to tell subscribers exactly how many emails they should expect to receive, a little common sense and the golden rule can go a long way.  You don’t want to bombard them w......
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Rent Roll Buying and Selling – More Than Meets the Eye

By Jo-Anne Oliveri, ireviloution intelligence, Brisbane, Australia Recently, I have been involved in the sale and purchase of a rent roll. I had the rare opportunity of consulting for both the buyer and purchaser. Let me say, this was the smoothest and least stressful rent roll transfer I have ever witnessed! Now some might say there is a conflict of interest by consulting to both the seller and the purchaser, and yes, I would agree! I definitely had my reservations about consulting and advising to both of them, but I discussed my dilemma with both parties. They both agreed they would retain me as the consultant and adviser through the negotiation, transfer, settlement, transition and retention period. In fact, I even conducted the inspection and overview on the selling rent-roll, and prepared the due diligence report. This was a tremendous lesson for all concerned (including me)! The offer and settlement process lasted for several months. The buying agency is now in the midst of the four-month retention period. The selling agency must continue to cooperate to ensure all clients (both property owners and tenants) are happy with the new managing agent. Both agencies must not become complacent or lulled into a false sense of security until they are clear of this retention period. For all intents and purposes the first goal of the buying agent is retention! The second goal is to build on the managements that they have invested in to encourage the investor to buy more property and recommend......
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Do Mystery Shops Need to Just Go Away? (part 1 in a 2 part series)

I've had clients asking me  this very question for years. Are shops really valuable to a company? Is there a better way? Let me give you some reasons why  mystery shops just might not be the answer you're looking for at your company. For the sake of this discussion, we're limiting this to phone and in-person shops. 1. Shoppers have bad days. Just like Leasing Professionals, shoppers have 'off' days, too. And this is reflected in the shopping report  that describes the Leasing Professionals' behavior. I once worked for a company who so strongly believed in this that they made sure their employees were shopped TWICE on the same day. That way, if one shop was horrible and one was good, they could throw the bad shop out (chalking it up to a bad day for the shopper).  2. Shoppers have to remember how you behaved on the tour. Having been shopped numerous times in my career, I can tell you that sometimes shoppers get their facts confused. I have had shopping reports that accused me of failing to show all of the amenities on the property to the shopper - and they listed the ones I left out. The  problem? The property didn't HAVE the amenities I supposedly overlooked.  3. Perception is skewed. How I view something can be completely different than how you view the very same thing. While I may think a Leasing Professional is fabulous, you might think that person needs some work. The same holds true......
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Get over your vanity metrics. Social Media channels are Marketing and Leasing channels

So, you've read through countless fun blogs from within and outside the industry and yes, you've smiled to yourself as you've had to thumb through silly posts about the author's dogs or sunglasses and/or other gimmicky things to keep you reading. And yes, you've gone a step above and read through more authoritative beats like Mashable or TechCrunch or HBR to yes, still find yourself having to smile and get through gimmicky articles on social media.  And in that time frame of lost minutes  (and yes, hours), you were trained over and over to think that social media was about #fans #followers #tweets #comments #posts and other "measurements". Well, guess what they were wrong and you were wrong to believe it. These vanity metrics simply don't add up to leases or renewals. At the very stretch, they are ONLY good for brand lift, which you likely will ONLY consider once you can DEMONSTRATE you have a handle on building true marketing and leasing ROI. Otherwise, I give it to your boss to tell you to eat it and find something else better to do with your time. And the reason is simple, we as an industry need to spend the very little time we do have to market (how many of you truly have a full-time dedicated marketing manager on site???) on getting a return from it.  So, here is how to do it.  Break your social media into two sections Customer Service and Employee/community recognition (which leads to brand lift......
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Is All Social Media Engagement Created Equally?

It’s the question every property manager and industry partner wants to figure out: just how much does social media help build our brands, improve services, save money, and create new revenue? I think it’s especially difficult to calculate social media’s rewards because they flow into many different buckets. I’m not implying this means we should shirk the responsibility of measuring ROI—but remember that there are benefits beyond leads, like branding, customer service, and SEO lift to marketing pages with proper social media integration. It can take a long time to see that social media is generating leads, leases and sales, so we naturally try to justify our investment with other data, including increased page views, inbound traffic generation, SEO, and engagement. Some consider engagement to be the key to social media success. But does all engagement lead to equal return? Believe it or not, donuts made me question this. Our strongest post in terms of engagement (measured by likes and comments) was the  question, “What is your favorite donut?,” which we asked on National Donut Day. Now, our CFO loves donuts, so the question reflects our corporate personality—but does it make anyone more likely to buy our products? On the other hand, I’ve crafted many long blog posts that get plenty of page views, but almost no comments or mentions. Judging by comments alone, I’m wasting my time. But my clients and peers let me know they do read them, so the benefit is there, even if I can’t quantify the......
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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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What Makes Your Residents Actually Want To Stay At Your Apartment Community?

Some communities struggle with great maintenance and customer service – this blog is not for them.  Instead, I’m speaking to those communities who already do a fantastic job at customer service, have low response times for their apartment maintenance, and overall have the “fundamentals” down pat. Let’s say you live at a community with horrible service, and that is why you are leaving.  Well, that is going to be at the top of your “must have” list because it is a struggle you are having at that moment.  But if you are living at a community with solid service, then you aren’t as focused on that aspect because it’s not a concern.  And if you tour a community that talks about their great service, there is a chance you will take their word on it.  In other words, you don’t understand the importance of what you have until it’s gone.  (I’m pretty sure there is a love song in there, somewhere) So in a strange sense, your strong customer service and maintenance program may not be appreciated until they have already moved out and learn first-hand what they are missing.  It might feel nice they they are missing you now, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have already left your community.  So when you residents are making that renewal decision, there are two aspects to their decision:  1) Are there things that are driving them out of your apartment, such as bad maintenance, and 2) Are there things that......
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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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