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Resident Retention: The Heat is On

Apartment maintenanceTemperatures are slowly dropping across the country, and that means residents will be turning up the heat in their homes - which means a fresh round of service requests for our maintenance teams!    So while they are proactively asking residents to check and test their heating systems, ovens and stove tops before the holidays arrive, it's a great time to "turn up the heat" on the little graces and courtesies that encourage the residents' love for your community to Burn, baby, burn!- When it comes to service requests, T.M.I. does not apply! Write the most detail you can to set up maintenance teams for success!- Maintenance teams: smile and greet residents by name whenever possible. They'll feel like V.I.P.'s and will spread the word on your personalized service.- Wear shoe covers when entering a resident's home. This is a physical sign of respect for their home and can reduce the amount of dirt or precipitation that you might track in during the winter months.- Leave the work area as clean as or cleaner than you found it. When the work area is spotless, residents have greater confidence in the quality of your work.- If the repair will be delayed for any reason (i.e. super short staffed for the week, part needs to be ordered, warranty issue, outside vendor needed), notify the resident and give estimate of when work should be completed.- Follow up on completed service requests to ensure everything was completed to their expectation.Remember that "Quality of Maintenance Services" as the......
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Watch Out for the Non-Renewal Trap!

Countless times over the years I have heard “We do not have to give a reason for a non-renewal of a lease”.  And for many of you, depending on your state and local landlord/tenant laws, that is technically the case.  (And if you do not know what your state and local landlord/tenant laws say about renewals, then for Pete’s sake, find out.)  But here is the fair housing trap, which can loom large and with teeth, just waiting to catch unsuspecting you in its formidable jaws…   …While perhaps you do not have to give a reason, you darn tootin’ better have a reason that is documented. And here is why.  Let’s say that Mrs. Fahed did not pay her rent on time for 3 of the 12 months she has lived at your community.  You have also had several noise complaints (which you independently verified) and her young son broke windows at the community on three (count ‘em) occasions.  Does it make good business sense to consider and decide on a non-renewal of Mrs. Fahed’s lease.  Of course!  Does it make good business sense not to get into a dialogue about this with her.  Of course!  (Because she will argue with you or promise to pay on time, be quiet and lock her child in the closet in order to convince you to renew her lease.)  But while you may not have to share with her these reasons for the non-renewal, your records should reflect the late payments, the noise......
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Student Retention: We're Not Gonna Take It

college kidsIt may come as no surprise that students generally score their satisfaction with rental housing a full quarter of a point lower than the average renter. Those who manage student housing can attest to students (and their parents) having higher expectations and being more vocal about their opinions.  This makes sense, as this may be the first time a student is away from home and their parents are not caring for the home. Many have no idea what housing in the real world is like! And while school may be out for the summer, there are many students (and their parents) who are finalizing their decisions on where the student will be living next fall. Here are some standards to put in place in order to position your community to be the student's home away from (mom and dad's) home.1. Be courteous and professionalAccording to the SatisFacts Student Index, students give their property management office team an "Average" rating when it comes to basic courtesy. Students are people too! What you may be interpreting as entitlement or rudeness may be a cover for insecurity and misunderstanding. Use every interaction as a positive opportunity to educate them on what they can expect from the property team, the best way to go about submitting work orders, what the timeline for resolution might be and why. Just as parents aim to shape their children to be self-sufficient, confident members of society, Student housing providers can aim to shape students into responsible, educated renters.2. Communicate - their wayStudents,......
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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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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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Do Short-Term Rentals Make Sense for Property Managers?

Short-term rentalsA guest post by Ashley Halligan, Analyst, Property Management Software Guide Short-term rentals, of all natures, have become a hot commodity – and a controversial one at that. Short-term rentals can include vacation rentals and temporary housing, often sought by vacationers, business travelers, or people who have recently relocated while seeking long-term living arrangements. Either way, it’s become an ongoing topic of debate and an attractive investment opportunity for property owners and managers. In comparison to traditional rentals, short-term rentals can charge significantly higher rates given their nightly and weekly availabilities. Some property owners have earned as much as 25% of their mortgage in a single night. And during special events or peak rental periods in a given area, potential rental rates can be very attractive to property owners. Because of the income short-term rentals can procure, the opportunity for profit potential may be exponential – but there are several considerations that should be kept in mind. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep the added costs of maintaining a short-term rental in mind. These rentals can be subject to Hotel Occupancy Taxes in certain cities, while other cities require specific licensures and inspections not required of traditional, long-term rentals. Penalties for not abiding by short-term rental laws in your city may result in hefty fines. There can also be increased insurance costs. Additionally, the cost of regular upkeep and maintenance, including utilities, should be calculated. In order to continually attract tenants, your property must be kept in prime condition, both functionally and cosmetically. F......
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MISSING: Residents! REWARD: $$, Higher Occupancy, Better Word of Mouth!

Are your residents vanishing from your community at a rate that makes you consider putting up "missing" posters? If so, did you know that their disappearance was probably preventable? Before you contact the milk carton company, let me explain… We do an awful lot of training and spend so much money on advertising our communities to get them in the door…  but once they’re in, it’s like we change our focus to who’s next. To me, that’s utterly absurd and honestly… it’s quite expensive. ·         According to research data provided by Satisfacts, the average cost to “lose” a resident is around $4,000. Now, this can of course vary… but the least I’ve EVER seen is around $2,000… still a pretty good chunk of change and too much, in my opinion (and I'd wager that it's too much for any owner as well). What can we do differently? Well… how about providing the same level of service to current residents as we do to prospective ones? We wouldn’t dream of not following up after someone toured with us (called us, emailed us, etc…) so why are we so bad at following up after the move-in? Doing that allows us to temperature check (something I am very passionate about when I train sales) the now current resident; with regard to the move-in process, condition of the apartment, etc… setting us up, right off the bat, for a successful residency. BUT, it doesn’t stop there… inevitably; there will be a maintenance issue. How ......
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Slow or No Reaction Time… Costs Your Business!

For those of you who’ve met me or taken one of my classes, you know that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I talk the talk and I walk the walk. I tell it like it is (professionally and with care, of course) but If it has to do with not sugar coating things, I’m your girl (of course, I’m not referring to using “visit us” or “live here” words during leasing… then a little fluff is just fine). But in normal every day dealings onsite and at the corporate office… I don’t see the point in wasting time beating around the bush, because TIME is MONEY! There have been numerous occasions that I am aware of, sadly, that a property manager has not filed an eviction on a resident who hasn’t paid rent by the time it’s due. Despite the action being spelled out, very clearly, in our policy and procedures manual (and common sense if you’ve spent any time in the business). The manager will have a wide range of reasons as to why they won’t… but the last time I heard the excuse, I nearly fell out of my chair (seriously). She said “Well… I needed the occupancy numbers”. WHAT? What good is a high occupancy percentage if you’re not collecting any rent? She didn’t know the answer. Turns out, this person was a habitual late-rent payer and eventually ended up skipping out… owning an absurd amount of money to the community. ......
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The Dreaded Renewal Conversation

You want to raise my rent how much? I have been involved in quite a few renewal conversations, and what always makes it difficult is when residents are taken by surprise. Renewal conversations are difficult enough, and to have a resident come into it angry is not a good start.  I think if they knew what to expect from the beginning (move in or even during the initial tour), life would be easier on everyone. Of course, this is easier said than done.  Many prospects that I have toured asked about renewal rates while looking at apartments.  This is most likely because they’re coming out of a community that surprised them with an increase, or they’ve had a bad experience somewhere along the way. This is an ideal opportunity to begin the conversation about what they should expect at renewal time.  I don’t think being honest is going to kill the opportunity for a lease here.  No matter where this prospect goes, chances are rents will be raised at renewal. What a great conversation to have with your team at the next team meeting.  How do they answer that question?  How are they dealing with residents at renewal?  And what can you do throughout the year to prepare your residents for renewal? Here’s one suggestion: Total Transparency What if you posted to residents (online or in social media) how much rents were raised on average this month?  You could even just post the fact that rents are increasing and why.  Do......
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8 Tips to Increase Rent for New and Renewed Leases

Our friends at Vaultware have been tracking rents and report that rents are increasing in each region of the country when compared to rates last year. It seems everyone is doing it! Are you raising rents? Don't let your apartment community get left behind and leave money on the table. Here are 8 tips to help you increase rents. (Click on this link for the Vaultware Rent Increase Study) 1. Set yourself up for success. You can't pull a rent increase out of thin air because people are going to want to know why rent is increasing when it seems the country is still in an economic crisis. In this email you will see charts tracking rent increases across our country. The apartment industry is recovering faster than other sectors of the real estate industry. Be prepared for this conversation as there is certain to be pushback from the renter who, based on sluggish economy reports, is not expecting a rent increase. In fact, they may be looking for a concession!2. Prepare your team for this question "Why are rents going up?". Have a response that everyone understands and is comfortable delivering. Educate your team as to why rents are increasing and prepare them for this conversation with residents. Remember, every member of your team should understand this strategy and what to say to a resident. Your service team spends more time with residents compared to us. Do they know why rents are increasing and how to discuss this with customers?3.......
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