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"NOW LEASING!!!" When are you NOT?

I have to unload a pet peeve. It is the peeviest of my marketing pet peeves for on site teams.  I feel so strongly about it that whenever I see it, I want to grab the object of my ire and rip it up in to itty bitty pieces that can never EVER be put back together.  Do you want to know what it is?A large banner, costing a lot of money, that says "NOW LEASING!!!"Yes, I'm serious.  This fills me with a sense if annoyance that is only second to being given a tour while the leasing consultant cheeks a jolly rancher.  I mean, come on.  When are you NOT leasing?  And, how much did you pay for that banner that announces what you do on a daily basis in the marketing equivalent of a Ben Stein monotone voice?  $30?  $50?  $100?  If it was more than a buck-two-five, you paid too much!  Here's a short list of things I find FAR more banner worthy:NOW RENEWING ALL LEASES!  (Just because I've never seen it before and think it would look cool!)NOW ACCEPTING NEW NEIGHBORS! (As people stay closer to home, who they live by matters more.  "Neighbors" is better to say than "renters" or even "residents" right now)IT TAKES ALL KINDS, AND SO DOES OUR COMMUNITY! (You've gotta celebrate fair housing!)DO YOU NEED NEW NEIGHBORS?  WE HAVE PLENTY OF GREAT ONES IN STOCK!WINDOWS IN THE KITCHENS, STORAGE IN THE BEDROOMS & SMILING CUSTOMER SERVICE!  (A higher level of service is......
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Resident Retention: Love You Long Time... I think

I've lived in a handful of apartments over the years, and though I might not be able to tell you what I ate for dinner two nights ago, I can tell you how long I lived in each of my apartments. There was my first apartment in a historic home. No A/C, poor heat, but I loved it. Just over a year. Next one? 1 year. Then 2 dreadful months. Then 18 lovely months. I could go on, but I won't. The 18-month place, I would have stayed for years, but I ended up moving out of state. The next long-term apartment was 2 years, and I would have stayed there longer too, but we bought a house. I remember how long (or short) I stayed and exactly why. Most residents do. However, very few property owners bother to track length of residency for their residents. They look at turnover, occupancy, traffic conversion, but not length of residency. And why not?  This one metric tells you so much. It can be one of those indicators of how well (or badly) things are going on site. Check it out: In 2008, out of more than 30,000 satisfaction survey respondents, we found that nearly 30% had been living in their apartment for 1-2 years. Over 16% had lived there for 3-5 years, and over 10% claimed more than 6 years in their current apartment. Are these residents celebrated? They should be. These are your bread and butter customers, the foundation upon which your......
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The Move-In Experience...Moment of Truth (Part I)

Once the deposit and application is received, it is the moment of truth for the prospective resident. They are thinking "Is everything I saw and was told about and promised going to come true?" If you have been on the front lines for awhile you know that the better the move in experience is for the resident the more satisfied they will be long term. Deliver a substandard apartment or don't communicate well and their trust in you and your company will be destroyed. In order to provide superior service during the resident's move-in experience we need to teach our employee's how to walk it out. Superior service is far more than just ensuring that your team is professional and courteous. It's their ability to over communicate, build sincere relationships, anticipate their resident's wants and needs and exceed their expectations. Here are some great ways to ensure that your resident's move-in experience is superior. 1. Over Communicate - keep prospective residents continuously informed and connected. Send meaningful emails, text or instant messages (for all Twitter's out there), letters, postcards or personally call them at every relevant step in the process from the status of their application and tips on moving to the readiness state of their new apartment and scheduling or confirming an appointment to sign their lease paperwork and move-in. 2. Integrate them into your community's culture by sending them any newsletters or invites to gatherings happening at your community before they move in. Introduce them to team member's and other residents whenever an opportunity arises.  3. Through genuine interest and care, one will be ......
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Customer Satisfaction Isn't Monkey Business.

   Could a Change in Behavior Mean More Revenue?You want your on-site team to provide a better customer experience than any of your competitors.  This ambition could definitely lead to a higher resident retention rate and a greater prospect capture rate. Revenue would increase. Changes may have to be made? Coaching may be required?Same Team, New MissionLet's assume that you are going to continue to work with the same team and they have been offering less than exceptional service. You will have to empower them to engage in new behaviors. The way to start moving this process along could be to first understand how your team feels when they are asked to make a change from the same old way they do things. Maybe then a strategy or process could emerge. This could be uncomfortable for the on-site team and for you.  Could it be easier  than starting over with a new team?Throw Out the Carrot & Stick                                                                       If your team member just focuses on behavior that has been identified as wrong, he or she will start developing excuses for why the problem occurs. This will not support the process of change. The "carrot and stick" approach to changing behavior does not work because it focuses attention on the problems that are causing the unwanted behavior rather than on solutions for change.Avoid the Blame Game - The brain is wired to detect "errors" in the environment. These are the perceived differences between expectation and reality. When an error is detected, it triggers the fear circuitry in the brain and......
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4 Current Trends in Housing

We’re witnessing deflation and rising unemployment, resulting in trailing decreases in consumer spending.  The movement towards thrift spending has impacted the housing market, and I am noticing a couple of obvious trends.1)  Empty nests are being filledRenting is the largest living expense and consumers are moving home to reduce that cost.  Many recent college graduates, young professions, and the unemployed will be forced to move home.  2)  Per unit occupancy is increasingBefore the recession, a typical 4 bedroom unit would house 2 or 3 occupants.  Now, residents are forgoing the luxury and privacy of living alone, and moving in with roommates.  We will continue to see a trend of more one bedrooms vacant compared to cheaper four bedroom counterparts.3)  Influx of second homes becoming rentals As downward pressure is placed on the pockets of the upper-middle class, many owning vacation homes will begin to seek additional income via rent.  With some 6.6 million units classified as “second homes”, this will results in more rentals on the market.4)  Rising vacancy, declining home purchasingWe’re seeing a positive correlation between the volume in home buyers and renters…And by positive correlation, keep in mind that I mean they are both decreasing.What does this all mean?  Simply put, increases in vacancy and decreases in rental rates.  It does not mean that the rental sector will resemble the price sensitivity of the airline industry, but we will see a push towards more affordable housing options.  Anecdotally speaking, I've seen my properties decrease 10% in rental rates yoy.How do you combat the......
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Manage...to have it all, part 1 - The budget

As the manager, one of the best tools available to you is your budget.  It provides you with the blueprint for the expectations for your property's performance in the coming year.  A budget will provide you with a guideline for the following, just to name a few:Rental increasesRenewal increasesOccupancy expectationsConcession guidelinesAdvertising programsExpense guidelinesCapital improvement planWhile I understand that a budget can be intimidating and there are many professionals out there who break into a sweat just thinking about the budget process, the more familiar you become with the budget the easier it will be to work with.  When I worked with Lane Company, I was fortunate enough to participate in a budget workshop.   During this workshop, I learned what each budget category meant, where the numbers came from, and how to create a budget.  As a result of that budget workshop, I was confident with my budget and knew that going forward the budget process was never going to be intimidating to me again.As you start your new budget year, I would suggest the following:1. Understand the chart of account category and where the number comes from. For example:Gross potential - total of all of your apartments at full market rentGain/Loss to lease - difference between market rent and lease rentReview the account categories that you are unsure of with your supervisor to better understand what they mean and where the number comes from.2. Review the budgeted income to determine the following:Is there a rental increase budgeted? If so, when and......
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Why, "One Out, One In," Doesn't Equate

I've been listening a lot for the last few months as the economy has crept along in this downward spiral that so many of us are experiencing as my clients and friends in property management talk to me about how bad the market is out there.  I always ask about their traffic and specials and how the occupancy looks because I think it is important to be pretty up to date with the market trends in the area.  (Truth be told, and I shouldn't really admit this because I'm a little embarrassed but, I do more market surveys now then I ever did as a leasing consultant.  I didn't realize how important they really were when I was on property, but I sure do now!)One of the common themes I have heard repeatedly is, "I have lots of people giving notice and virtually no incoming traffic."Now, if I had been hearing this from just one or two properties, I might think that it had something to do with their current retention efforts or customer service, but it's not one or two communities.  It's about 75% of them.75% of places are having notice given and having no traffic.  So if you've got people moving out, and they're not moving in somewhere else, then just where are they going?What we're seeing is more and more people in the roommate situation.  Mike has a one bedroom at 1000 dollars a month.  Marshall has a one bedroom at 950 dollars a month.  Mike and Marshall......
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