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Resident Retention: A Lot of Attention for Being #29

According to the 2010 SatisFacts Index, when asked what can be done to improve the community, residents ranked “Social Activities” #29 out of 30. All this hype about being 29th? Consider this scenario: Ms. Jones is going on Day 3 of being without A/C during a week-long heat wave. She has submitted her service request online and has also called the office. As she looks out her open window, desperately trying to catch a breeze, she sees the property manager directing a couple of maintenance techs on the set up of chairs and tables for this afternoon’s resident pool party. How thrilled do you think Ms. Jones is about the upcoming pool party?   Not very. She wonders, “Why is the maintenance team gathered ‘round the pool when there is an HVAC emergency at hand?” An intended perk has now become a slap in the face. Ouch.   Social activities should never be the meat and potatoes of a retention strategy. Think of them as gravy. On its own, it tastes good but is not ultimately satisfying. You miss the meat and potatoes when they are not there. In fact, you wonder where they are.   Meat and potatoes consist of the residents’ ability to a.) Communicate with your team quickly and easily, and b.) Get service requests resolved promptly the first time they report it. In fact, there is a direct correlation between residents’ outstanding maintenance issues and their likelihood to renew their lease. The more outstanding issues on a property,......
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The Value of Tenant Forums

As a property manager, you have a great resource that shouldn’t go untapped right at your fingertips: your tenants. For as well as you know your property, most property managers don’t actually live on-site. Because of this, your tenants are more qualified than anyone else to provide insights into potentially beneficial changes, improvements, and upgrades that can make your property more appealing—and perhaps even more valuable. You can solicit information from tenants in a number of ways: through an old-fashioned suggestion box either on-site or at your property management office, through an online form, or through a questionnaire for tenants to fill out upon move-out (or at any other point during their residency at your property, for that matter). In addition to all this, when it comes to encouraging tenants to share their thoughts and suggestions, property managers may want to consider taking a cue from condo associations. Hosting forums on an annual or bi-annual basis for tenants to submit ideas for changes and/or to vote on potential changes you are considering rolling out at your property is a great way to not only receive important feedback, but also to bring tenants together to brainstorm and share ideas that you may have never even considered. Though you have the ultimate say about what does or does not happen at your rental property, receiving this sort of organic feedback can lead you in the right direction, providing a lot of insight into what tenants do and do not want to see happen......
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Resident Retention: Ready, Set, RENEW!

The spring lease expiration season is fast approaching, and that means you have a prime opportunity to maximize your lease renewals. It's time to invest a little time, love and tenderness (Sorry, sometimes Michael Bolton lyrics say it best). According to the newly released 2010 SatisFacts Insite Pre-Renewal Index, 27% of residents whose leases are expiring in the next 90-120 days indicate they have a maintenance problem that still exists. That means more than 1 in 4 residents has a maintenance problem that you have not solved.Some of those issues may be capital expenditures that are not budgeted (like replacing drafty windows), and can't be resolved in the way the resident would like. But some issues may be due to a repair that didn't fully take care of the problem, or a new, related problem that just occurred. And some may be issues that you don't even know about. Yet. Pick up that phone. Call your residents. Ask them how everything is in their home. Whether you call it a warm call, a resident wellness call, or some other title  - it doesn't matter. Just call! "But asking them about what's wrong in their home will open a can of worms," you may say. It may, indeed. However, I would much rather ask my maintenance team to address the half dozen little issues in Mrs. Smith's home this week rather than have to ask my maintenance team to incure thousands of dollars in time and materials in turning the apartment because she was......
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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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Tips for Finding the Right Realtor

Getting ready to purchase or sell property? The first step to a smooth real estate transaction is finding the right real estate agent. Throughout the property selling and purchasing processes, your real estate agent will be your eyes, your sounding board, and your advocate. Here are some things to consider when selecting your real estate agent. Referrals from Trusted Sources Nothing is a better testament to a realtors ability than a proven track record. Ask friends and associates for agent referrals. It’s particularly helpful to speak with trusted sources whose situations are similar to your own. For example, if you are looking to purchase a multi-unit investment property, seeking referrals from other multi-unit investors may lead you toward a better match than asking someone who used a realtor to sell a single-family dwelling. Trust yourself too. Try visiting some open houses and meeting agents one-on-one. Open houses will give you the opportunity to meet a variety of agents and to get a feel for them, the properties they work with, and how your personalities mesh. Online Resources You can further narrow your search by doing some online research on sites like Yelp and Realtor.com to identify local realty companies and specific agents respectively. Also be sure to check out ActiveRain, a social networking platform for real estate agents that provides consumers with the opportunity to acquaint themselves with agents through professional blogs, profiles, and other online resources. Finally, keep an eye on relevant real estate transactions in your area (vis-a-vis local......
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How do I love my residents? Let me count the ways.

It’s Valentine’s Day, the day of love and courtship with the bonding of relationships through the gifts of flowers and candy. Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, sons and daughters, neighbors and property management are celebrating this Hallmark holiday all across our great land. Did I just say neighbors and property management?  Yes, I did, is there a more important relationship with those of us in multifamily communities? Not if we want to keep working there isn’t. Below are 10 of my thoughts on how to love your residents in your community and maintain the relationships because without those wonderful relationships, well, who knows where we would all be. Giving treats, coffee and donuts, at least a couple times a year, stand outside where they are leaving for the day, usually at the entrance and provide a donut and a cup of coffee as they are leaving for work. Chocolate in any size shape or form given at the mail kiosk declaring your love and gratitude that they call your property home. Excellent communication, question, your staff, the residents, everyone, find out what is going on in the community, stay current, talk with your residents, walk the property and make yourself available. You will hear all the gossip and probably more than you want to know, but at least you will be current and know who loves who. Keeping the pool clean and the property litter free is a no brainer. Nothing says I love you more than a properly maintained......
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Property Managers and Landlords – How to Inspect the Property With Your Tenants

Property Management inspecting Rental Property

Property Managers or Landlords and Tenants should perform a joint inspection of the rental property or rental unit before the tenant moves in. The objective of the inspection is to

a. identify and document the condition of the property
b. check the conditions of the appliances, security systems, heating, air conditioning systems
c. identify common areas
d. identify service areas such as trash, recycling,  newspaper delivery, mail box, club house and pool
e. provide information on utilities such as water, electricity, telephone and cable services

Property Management inspecting Rental Property

At the end of the inspection, Property Managers or Landlords and Tenants should review the check list and sign each page. Property Managers or Landlords should retain the original check list and provide a copy to the tenant. The check list should be updated as repairs are made to the unit, including what and when the repairs were performed. Both the parties should initial any changes to the original check list.
When the tenant moves out, this checklist serves as evidence as to why property management company, landlord or property manager can withhold all or part of a security deposit.


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To Sublet or Not to Sublet: A Tenant's Perspective

Throughout the course of my college and young professional years, I moved quite a bit — to new student housing, then back home for the summer, then to a new city for a new job. Throughout the course of these events roommates were shuffled and I encountered several different subletting scenarios, each of which was handled differently. For sake of better understanding a tenant’s reasons for subletting, I thought I would share a couple of the different scenarios that I encountered. Scenario #1: The Summer Sublet I first found myself subletting the summer following my graduation from graduate school. I hadn’t yet landed a job and wasn’t prepared to move back in with my parents, so I found an apartment to sublet in a condominium complex near a local University. I didn’t know the student whose room I was subletting or either of his two roommates, but the place was clean, spacious, and I’d have a balcony off of my room. I was psyched. In this scenario, I simply paid rent to the tenant whose room I was subletting. He asked for a $300 security deposit and then I mailed him a rent check every month for the duration of the summer. I wasn’t in my new place very much and was always quiet and respectful, so the situation worked out great — I even got my security deposit back. That said, I’m pretty sure the property managers had no idea that I was living in the apartment or that it......
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To Sublet or Not to Sublet: A Property Manager's Perspective

Chances are you put a lot of effort into finding just the right tenant to entrust with your unit: you run a credit and criminal background check, you verify employment, you speak with applicants’ past landlords, and perhaps you even require an additional personal reference or two. In short, you do everything within your power to make sure that your unit is rented to the most reliable, responsible tenant possible. Performing this due diligence protects your property, your financial well-being, and also generally makes your life easier by bettering the chances that you’ve selected a tenant who will be a thoughtful neighbor to other tenants on your property. Therein lies the biggest problem with subletting units: in such instances, you are typically entrusting this screening process to another party, essentially allowing a pre-existing tenant to select someone to occupy your unit on your behalf. Of course, it certainly works in the pre-existing tenant’s best interest to find a subletor who is responsible, who will take care of the unit, and who will make rent payments in a timely manner. After all, it’s the pre-existing tenant who will remain on the lease and ultimately be held responsible for any damage or financial obligations until the initial lease term has run its course. However, most tenants simply don’t have experience in property management or a complete handle on what it is that constitutes an ideal tenant. Because of this, problems can arise when subletting enters the equation. On the other hand, there are......
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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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