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Resident Appreciation Week: What's Your Take?

Dear Abby:I have a question that I hope you can answer. I live at an apartment community and my place is celebrating something they call "Resident Appreciation Week". It's got me kind of confused.When I left my apartment last Wednesday morning, all of the staff was outside passing out breakfast as I went to work. Now, I had already eaten and I wasn't interested in getting anything, but I took it anyway so I didn't hurt their feelings. I threw it away when I got to the office. I don't drink coffee and a packaged sweet roll wasn't anything that appealed to me. I got home from work on Thursday and there was a bag of Junior Mints hanging on my doorknob with a note that said, "You're worth a mint to us." Yes, I suppose I am based upon the rent that I pay to them. I still didn't get what was going on but it appeared all of my neighbors had the same thing on their door. Even the guy across the hall who's always noisy and whose balcony looks like a garage sale year 'round.Friday I had a reminder about Saturday's "Pool Splash" or something like that. I don't know what it was and I don't care. I have no interest in going to events like that so I threw that note away, too.Today, there was that breakfast thing again and then when I got home there was a small plant outside my door with a note that said......
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What do you know about Web 3.0? Pain or Passion?

 Are you frustrated or excited by the number of communications from groups, links, invitations to join and requests to be a FAN? Have you joined in? When will you join in? How far behind are you already? What do others know that you don't know? Can you afford to wait another day to understand Web 3.0 Social Networking? Information is changing DAILY and a lack of vision today, may leave you devastated in the future.  I just completed the most extensive research project of my career and I am astounded by the discoveries. If knowledge is power – this new phase of online communication is NUCLEAR! We are experiencing dramatic innovation and communication changes in the middle of a deep economic recession. As parts of the world stand still, communication and online technologies are moving forward at light speed.This year is different – this market is unique – this time it’s important to have the right plan! Make a note, Fall 2009 - the plan you use to navigate these new waters WILL greatly affect your success!Have you seen the changes in: Sharing your availability? Advertising & lead generation? Traffic sources? Marketing your leads? Consumer decision-making tools? Communicating with and managing your leads? follow-up? Showing an apartment? Sharing your area? Pursued the consumer? Outreach marketing? Village marketing? Resident discount programs? Celebrating your community Lifestyle? Resident Relations? Communication tools with resident? Managing events & social activities? Marketing resident referrals? Providing resident referral selling tools? This the first in a series of blogs o......
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"We hope you'll understand...even though we know you won't."

 I'm sure that there are worse things that can happen on a property.  Fire.  Flood.  Occupancy rating of 55%.  No doubt.  These are probably way more scary than having to close your pool in the summer.  But personally, I'd say it ranks right up there with the stress toll it takes on your staff and the obliteration of your renewal numbers.  In the summer, your leasing staff is hopefully completely slammed with new tours and potential residents.  They can deal with the current resident issues as they come in, but usually the main focus for these folks is on new leasing.  A busy, excited pool filled with happy residents is one of their most powerful sales aides on a hot day, but if you're like a lot of communities in Washington state right now, you might have just a pretty pool sitting behind your cabana, devoid of people and the appearance of community.  Instead, we have many leasing consultants who are taking more calls and walk in complaints each day than they normally would in a two week span."When is the pool going to open?""How come you guys never get the pool opened on time?""Do you know how HOT it is out there?" And for the less confrontational, there's always ApartmentRatings.com.  And we take the Word of Mouth bullet right in the shoulder for something that we have little to no control over.People are having trouble getting their pools up to the new codes set forth by the Brady Law.  The blame......
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Resident Retention: Forever Yours... Faithfully

SouthwestThe NAA Education Conference was a whirlwind day trip for me. I was only able to fly in on Friday morning and fly out that evening. It was a great experience! I got to match many names with faces and have a some great conversations. There were very positive comments flying around about how impactful the conference had been for the attendees as well as the exhibitors. As you can imagine, knowing that I only had 1 day to dive into the conference, I had to put tremendous faith in the airlines. There was no room for delays or flight cancellations. Knowing that I could not allow for any margin of travel error, I chose to fly Southwest. They are known for their great track record for on time departures, and when it comes to Las Vegas in particular there are no other airlines that can even come close in the reliability rankings. I don’t care for the “cattle call” although they have improved that process somewhat. I am a bit tired of the “no frills” peanuts. But I can count on them, and they did not fail me on this trip. There was a twist however. I arrived safely home on Friday night, and in the morning I found an email waiting for me from Southwest. With all the emails – both personal and junk mail – I receive on a daily basis, this actually did stand out. There was nothing more to the message. Just this thank you, with......
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Tenant Eviction Tips

GavelFor obvious reasons, most landlords dread evicting tenants. But for as stressful as evictions can be, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of a positive outcome. Following are some tips to keep in mind should you find yourself in a position where evicting a tenant becomes necessary. 1.    Have Sufficient ReasonFirst and foremost, it’s absolutely imperative to ensure that the law recognizes your reasons for eviction as valid (be sure to check your specific state and local laws before beginning any eviction). Despite the fact that it’s your property, tenants have rights too and any deviation from what is required by law may ultimately result in a lot of legal grief. Generally, valid reasons for eviction include continuous lack of payment (eviction does not usually result from a single month’s missed rent), the end of a lease term, or a broken lease clause. 2.    Know Your Eviction Time Lines Although you may be tempted, it’s never okay to move a tenant’s belongings out of his apartment without serving the eviction through proper channels, all of which require a certain time frame that will be dictated by state or local law. Also, make sure that the grace period included in your rental agreement (the time the tenant is given to pay you in full) has passed. But once you’ve carefully ensured that you are following the proper procedures, do make sure that you stick to the time lines imposed on the tenant in question. Mike......
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Resident Retention: Boys (or Girls) of Summer

  Summer is here, and we’re all waiting to see what levels of turnover will occur. Our typical summer experience, especially where our maintenance teams are concerned, is an increase in turnovers and the increased focus on getting newly vacated apartments ready for potential new move-ins. The result?  Existing residents may have to wait a little longer to have a service request issue resolved. It might take a little longer to hear back on the status of an ordered part or a scheduled vendor. But wait! Doesn’t it seem strange that we would prioritize empty apartments above our rent-paying customers? It’s almost as frustrating as standing in the check-out line, money in hand, to buy the perfect prom dress, but the clerk is busy dressing the mannequin in the store window and can’t be bothered. Something’s wrong with this picture! We see the cycle. We know the cycle. There are times of the year that typically bring an increase in turnover, and times of the year that typically experience less turnover.  Knowing this, what if we did something radical – something that turns what has been the norm in our industry for years and years on its ear? What if we reduced or retired our monthly resident events (that may draw a handful of attendees) and shifted those dollars to that time of year when we know turnover is traditionally heaviest? What if we shifted those dollars to hire temporary, part-time maintenance help to ensure our existing residents were never aff......
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A Vendor's Perspective on Resident Retention.

It's interesting that in a down economy, there are so many low-cost opportunities to "wow" residents.  I'm noticing that residents are responding especially well to community-building "interactive" amenities much more so than the usua

l "physical" amenities like pools, fitness centers, and business centers.   It's really shown me the value of more community-building types of amenities as a cornerstone of resident retention and leasing strategy.
In talking to property managers, they all share the same complaint in these economic times.  Old tenants are moving out, and new tenants are not moving in as quickly as they used to.  How are their management companies responding?  Many are slashing marketing budgets and lowering rents.  I don't see this strategy as working well for them, however.  It's a bit of a Catch-22: they need visibility, but they can't afford to buy it.  We're seeing that our most successful customers are actually increasing their budgets for small-ticket items that pay off in big ways, and they are still charging among the highest rents in their territories.

I think the a big reason so many communities keep lowering their rents in a recession is that they get into a bidding war, because they aren't making themselves stand out.   Many offer the same types of "physical" amenities like gyms, business centers, and pools, so that they become relatively indistinguishable and compete mainly on location and price.  But in fact, residents tell us time and again that they are more likely to sign or renew their lease

s, regardless of location or price, when they feel emotionally connected to their communities by getting to know neighbors with similar values and interests.  What they want more than anything is to meet other residents more often, and in the right way!  You might call this a demand for "interactive" amenities, rather than "physical" amenities.  We also notice that some physical amenities, such as clubroom areas, kitchens, or certain outdoor spaces, go largely unused, just waiting for managers to turn that dead space into a profit-generating "interactive" amenity.  The great thing is, creating these sorts of amenities is extremely quick and easy to implement.  Best of all, it's incredibly inexpensive, since communities already have a multifunctional space, and they already have the residents!  All managers need is to pull them together with the right activities and a little creativity.

We always tell our customers to think of their clubhouse as the neighborh

ood's town center or social hub.  Imagine residents filling those empty areas socializing in small groups each week, really getting to know each other, and making friends in the neighborhood.  Those beautiful clubhouse areas are specifically designed for group gatherings!   By organizing such gatherings, managers finally put those spaces to good use and tap into their biggest marketing asset of all - the residents themselves, waiting to meet each other around interest-based activities.  We've seen many types of community-building activities flourish, including:

  • Volunteer Groups - organize a group of neighbors to participate in a charity walk, or create a bake sale fundraiser.  Get the staff involved!
  • Book Clubs - get residents together to read and discuss bestsellers.
  • Gourmet Cooking Classes - bring together residents with a hands-on, live cooking show with a professional chef.  This is an ultra-p opular, high-class amenity at little cost.
  • Wine Lectures - have a vivacious wine expert bring together your residents for a trendy, upscale "happy hour."  It's like a night out at a wine bar with friends, but on-site!
  • Group Fitness Classes - bring in professional fitness instructors to host after-work pilates or yoga classes once a week.
  • Intramural Sports Teams - organize a community softball team to participate in local intramural leagues.  This increases pride in the community.
  • Mom-and-tot Play Groups - Buy some inexpensive toys and games for the kids, and host a morning coffee-and-muffin indoor play gathering in your clubhouse.  Moms can relax on sofas and chairs while kids play in a safe space.  Or, organize a bring-your-own lunch outdoor playgroup in a grassy area or playground.

These are just some of the things that we've seen work at our customers' communities over the years.  But especially now, they are really hot!  And we're getting strong feedback that the monthly cooking class and wine lecture program is their number one most successful amenity.  They even use this event as a marketing tool in their "For Rent" magazine ads, on their property tours, and even announce it when new residents are "on hold" when calling in.

Anyway, today I just wanted to talk a bit about this idea of interactive amenities helping communities create a real in-group mentality and a lot of b

uzz among their residents, since it requires a bit of a different mindset.  Next time, I will touch upon some of the challenges we face in dealing with different property management styles, and maybe some of you will be able to offer some insight on that.

I look forward to meeting more of you in the weeks and months to come.

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Preparing Your Properties for Summer

Summertime means it’s time to head outside and enjoy all the activities the season has to offer. And if your property provides amenities like a pool or grills, chances are your tenants are particularly happy at this time of the year. However, with these amenities come additional risks and hazards, many of which can be easily prevented with clear policies and a little bit of enforcement. Read on to find out about some simple measures that will help keep your tenants happy and safe during the summer months. Pool Policies Chances are at one point or another in our childhood, all of us were sternly told to “slow down” or “don’t run” by the pool. And, sure, it may have cramped our style a little bit but it also kept us safe. As a landlord, it’s your job to remind tenants about smart poolside practices—and to protect yourself from litigation that may result from pool-related injuries. Make sure that rules and regulations for pool use are highly visible and that all your tenants know what is expected of them. Along with posting pool rules around the swimming area, you can also include the policy as a lease addendum to ensure that all tenants sign off on your property’s rules and regulations from day one. This addendum can include everything from basic rules to (if applicable) expectations on how tenants are expected to maintain the pool and surrounding area. A sample of this addendum can be downloaded here. In terms of pool......
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Unlawful Detainer

Unlawful Detainer by Attorney Tamara Cross Many community owners and managers have been through the unlawful detainer process. Not all of them, however, have encountered just how different and difficult one unlawful detainer action can be from another with regards to time frames, discovery and even trial. If you are lucky, your encounter with an unlawful detainer action took approximately three to four weeks and ended nicely in a default judgment without the need to go to court. This article will walk you through the non-default unlawful detainer action and address some of the options that resident/tenants have to delay the process and to make the unlawful detainer action a long, expensive experience. In discussing the difficult unlawful detainer trial, this article will address the delay tactics taken by residents and their attorneys, the defenses raised to complicate the issues, and finally, suggestions on how best to avoid these delays.  Summary proceeding The unlawful detainer trial was intended to be a “summary eviction proceeding,” which means it was intended to be a quick and limited proceeding in comparison to the general civil litigation matters. For example, in a general civil lawsuit, the defendant has 30 days to answer the complaint, but only five days to answer in an unlawful detainer action. Also, the trial in a general civil lawsuit may take over a year to be heard, where the unlawful detainer trial is required to be set within 20 days of the tenant’s answering. The issues in an unlawful detainer action......
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EX vs. UPS: Service Wins!

I'm going to air a dirty little secret here.  My name is Heather and I am a postage procrastinator.IT'S TRUE!By my front door, I have what I like to call "Heather's guilt pile."  You see, I'm very good about remembering people when I see items I think they "have to have," but I'm not so good at the dispersement of said items.  So the boxes stack by my door.  And they stack and they stack and I feel more and more guilty every time I walk by them because lord knows I don't get off work in time to go to the post office, and I know that, once again, this week, they aren't going to get mailed.  The road to hell for most people is paved with good intentions.  Mine is paved with these boxes.  I had a box there of Chuckar  Cherries for my grandmother in Florida. I actually did send it once, but then it came back because I'm dyslexic and transposed the Zip Code.  I put it on the pile and I remember thinking, "Okay, I'll just take this back to UPS tomorrow." That was two months ago.  Alan decided he was going to "help" me get that package mailed and so he put it in my car.  It then sat in the back seat of my car for the next month.Well, yesterday, I decided it was time to make time to mail that package.  I was out doing site visits, so I told myself that I......
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