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Pet Adoption and Fostering Can Be Therapeutic For Residents During Social Distancing

Pet Adoption and Fostering Can Be Therapeutic For Residents During Social Distancing
By nature, apartment renters are social people. They often choose their homes based on the sense of community and opportunities to interact with their neighbors. But like everyone else, renters have been left to deal with the stress of the COVID-19 crisis. They’re often alone, due to social distancing guidelines. Relegated to their apartments and separated from their friends, they could be among the first people to suffer from depression and anxiety.  Pet owners might be better equipped to navigate these symptoms, due to the Human- Animal Bond. After all, it’s tough to feel alone when a gleeful ball of fur jumps into your lap. Studies by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America have shown that animals provide their owners with a sense of meaning and purpose. This helps alleviate the depression and anxiety that can often be associated with isolation. Because of this, it is beneficial for apartment owners and operators to support and encourage pet inclusiveness for their residents during this difficult time. The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative, a research and resource development initiative that promotes access to the joy of pets in every home identifies the benefits of owning a pet. The benefits of pet ownership are physical In addition to reducing feelings of stress and loneliness, pet ownership has tangible physical benefits. The simple act of petting a cat or dog has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve heart health, according to a Washington State University study. The need to walk or run wit......
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Influx of Adopted Pets Means It’s Time to Refresh Pet Policies

Influx of Adopted Pets Means It’s Time to Refresh Pet Policies
Not all of the news has been discouraging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pet adoption rates have skyrocketed with the nation suddenly having much more time on its hands. Animal shelters across the nation are happily running out of pets and some are temporarily closing with no pets to tend to.  That equates to a strong chance that the pet population will spike to some degree at many apartment communities. While a variety of studies indicate that approximately 65% of apartment residents are pet owners, that figure could significantly increase by the time normalcy returns. Existing pet owners might have acquired additional pets, as well, which could add to the influx.  Property management teams will undoubtedly have their hands full with an abundance of logistical components when everyday processes resume, but they shouldn't ignore what could be a vastly different pet landscape within their communities. With many operational procedures soon to be updated, it is the opportune time to institute a refreshed pet policy. Here are a few things to consider in the refresh: Increase pet-related supplies  More pets mean more pet waste, so it’s worth reevaluating how many pet bags are needed at pet-waste stations. Pet space might become more constricted, as well. If your office is among the many that give treats to pets when they come through, perhaps it’s time to plan for a more robust supply. More pet goodies and toys might be needed for any pet-related residents, as well. Expand pet space, options  If your community has the......
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Some of the Leading Indicators Continue to Improve After Bottoming Out Early in Pandemic

Some of the Leading Indicators Continue to Improve After Bottoming Out Early in Pandemic
With the arrival of May, more than half of the states are starting to open up to one degree or another, with the rest making plans to do so in the near future. And as the country inches out of lockdown mode, we continue to see improvement in the leading indicators of traffic and leases.  During the week ending on May 6, both of these metrics increased on a national basis when compared with the preceding seven days, according to new data from Radix.  However, these improvements have yet to be reflected in “downstream” operating stats, as leased and occupancy rates and net effective rent all declined on a week-over-week basis. In fact, the national leased and occupancy rates declined for the sixth straight week.  With that broad overview, here are some the major specific takeaways from the week, ending on May 6: Nationally, traffic and leases were up 11.4% and 12.3%, respectively, WoW. Unfortunately, they were down 47.4% and 25.3%, respectively, YoY. The national same-store occupancy rate stood at 92.97%. That represents a dip of 0.29% from one week earlier and 1.24% from one year earlier. As for individual markets, all of the MSAs tracked by Radix experienced WoW decline in occupancy rates – with the exception of San Francisco, which saw a small improvement of 14 basis points. Orlando and San Diego experienced the largest YoY occupancy declines, with drops of 2.40% and 2.03%, respectively. The national same-store leased rate was 94.40%. That’s a decline of 0.28% from the preceding week an......
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Positivity on the Horizon? Traffic and Leases Rise in Late April

It’s been more than a month since state and local governments began their lockdowns to fight the spread of the coronavirus. And we are seeing the reverberations across all multifamily markets.  I recently wrote about apartment data compiled by Radix for the week ending on April 15. That data showed that, nationally, traffic and signed leases were way down on a year-over-year basis.  That continues to hold true. But on a positive note, these leading indicators once again have improved when compared to the preceding week as operators figure out ways to drive traffic and leases virtually. Our data indicates that for the week ending on April 22, traffic was down 55% nationally from the same time last year. However, it was up 21% on a week-over-week basis.  Meanwhile, the average U.S. apartment community signed 2.1 leases during the seven days ending on April 22. That represents a YoY decrease of 34.8% but a WoW jump of 25.4%. While the positive uptick of traffic and leases are leading indicators of improved performance, occupancy and leased percentage rates aren’t showing WoW growth yet. On April 22, national occupancy and leased percentage rates were down 0.20% and 0.29% WoW, respectively, and down 0.9% and 1.01%, respectively, when compared to the same time last year.  The average net effective rent in the U.S. was 0.9% lower on April 22 than it had been one week earlier (and 0.1% higher than one year earlier).  As the chart below shows, these national trends hold true for man......
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There's No Place Like Home: What Delights Residents During COVID-19?

There's No Place Like Home: What Delights Residents During COVID-19?
  As property teams and residents learn to operate in the new "normal," exceptional service by the office and maintenance staff is getting a huge round of applause from residents in online reviews. In analyzing hundreds of 4 and 5-star reviews which mention the pandemic, it is evident that property teams’ efforts with regards to increased cleanliness, clear communication, and practicing social distancing are getting generously acknowledged in reviews. But what really stands out is “amazing,” “friendly,” “caring,” “attentive,” and “professional” service. Bottom line, a little more kindness and understanding during this unprecedented time will go a long way in cementing strong relationships with residents in the future.  “I love living here, even during a pandemic! The staff is amazing. Very professional, friendly and caring." What are the top compliments by residents in online reviews? What can you do to delight your residents as you navigate through this crisis? Below are insights from positive reviews to excel at resident engagement and earn their appreciation.   Go the extra mile When the staff has gone the extra mile or checked in personally with residents, residents are quick to thank the staff for showing care and concern. Some actions acknowledged in reviews include: Staff members handed out pizza and hand sanitizer. When a resident was laid off, a staff member provided leads on jobs. Maintenance team was quick to fix the garbage disposal when a husband ran the disposal with a baby spoon in it. The property was complimented for being a family-friendly community. The manager ......
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Leverage Social Media During Social Distancing

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spreading COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, we’ve seen businesses and school closings, events being cancelled and in-person contact being limited. As we continue to social distance ourselves, communication, response plans and ideas on how to continue to engage with residents have likely been on your mind or already developed.   Social distancing might seem intimidating, but we are more connected than ever thanks to social media. Now is the time to take advantage of social media technology and sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.   Below are some thought starters on what to communicate to current and prospective residents plus unique ways to keep engaged with residents virtually:   Communicate Transparently and Frequently - Make sure all of your social media channels are current and include information about how you're adapting to the current environment. Update your hours of operation and how residents and prospects can get in touch with staff. Be transparent and just state facts. Communicate daily,weekly or as available to address the property’s COVID-19 response,advice,policies and protocols. Include links to FAQ guides or to authorities and external organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The World Health Organization (WHO), Johns Hopkins University, local governments and outbreak maps. Below are some examples of timely topics and updates to provide. ●      Office closures and impacts ●      Amenity space closures, adjustments and guidelines ●      Resident events ●      How to handle rents, renewals and other payments ●      Package handling ●      Maintenance requ......
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Do NOT Create a PR Nightmare!

Do NOT Create a PR Nightmare!
You have probably seen a letter that a property management company sent to its residents making the rounds on social media and the regular media lately that says,  “Despite these circumstances, you are required to pay your rent on time...While this may sound like we are being uncaring, please keep in mind that all of our expenses, including bank mortgages, taxes, insurance, etc. continue to be due and payable on time. Our policies to enforce the payment of rent remain exactly as they were before.” The letter then went on to say that residents who paid their rent late would be charged a $50 late fee. Residents who didn't pay rent in full by April 5th were threatened with the disconnection of their cable and eviction.  The letter also included the following empathetic and understanding paragraph (sarcasm filter ON!) “If you are not able to pay your rent in full, please contact the office and we will arrange a date for you to move out of your apartment."  Ouch.  This letter just created a PR nightmare for the company. Don't be the person that creates a negative PR storm! Incidentally, the company has since apologized for the letter calling it "totally insensitive" which, it was! Now was that the intent? I'm sure it wasn't! This company (like so many others) is simply trying to survive in this brutal economic environment. They wanted to remind residents to prioritize paying their rent. Because, of course, without rent, the company can't pay their mortgage, their employees and their other obligations. Without income everything comes......
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Your Guide to Not Lashing Out at Your Renters During COVID-19

“Hello?”
“Hi! Can you hear me?”
“Hi, everyone! Can you go on mute if you’re not talking?”
“Hello!”
[Slow Wi-Fi detected. Video will resume shortly.]
“Hello?”
“Hello, please mute yourselves!”

Oh, my god! How hard is it to conduct a meeting? Why is everyone still talking? This isn’t my meeting, but I should say something. I’m totally going to say something. Why can’t they take control? Everyone, BE QUIET ALREADY! Seriously, I’m going to say something.

And that, my friends, is how I almost yelled at a bunch of kindergartners during my daughter’s class’ online Show and Tell.

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Tips to Respond to Coronavirus Related Online Reviews

Tips to Respond to Coronavirus Related Online Reviews
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with stay-at-home orders in 31 states and counting, an increased number of families are confined to their homes. During such times, the on-site property teams and resources are likely to be tested. Reviewers are complaining about the property teams not doing enough to combat Coronavirus or lack of accommodations by the management when it comes to rent payment. On the bright side, residents are quick to point out positive actions such as the “manager handing out pizza and sanitizers.”  As you work frenetically to manage this crisis and the effect it may have on your online reputation, how can you effectively respond to some of the criticism stemming from your property’s handling of Coronavirus in online reviews?  Here are some tips to respond to reviews around this fluid situation. Be empathetic: The situation today is an anomaly, and many people are extremely anxious. Be empathetic while reading and responding to reviews, and reassure residents that the management is making every effort to follow guidelines from trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand the local, state and federal government to ensure the well-being of everyone connected to the community. It is critical to reflect sympathy and understanding particularly with complaints related to rent collection during this time of “economic vulnerability.” Monitor your reviews: Get your teams to diligently monitor reviews for any conversation related to this crisis. Nip any apprehensions and further gossip in the bud by reaching out to the resident directly ......
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What to do and what not to do when your resident says, "I can't pay my rent!!"

What to do and what not to do when your resident says, "I can't pay my rent!!"
I bet that you've been bombarded with emails, phone calls, messages and in-person visits (if you're still doing that) from residents saying, "I can't pay my next month's rent. What can you do??"  So....what do you do? Before I go further, I want to say that this post is NOT about whether you should offer payment options, deferred payments, waive late fees or modify your lease agreement. I recognize every situation is different and there is not a "one size fits all" option that is going to work across the board. Some owners and operators are able to take a short-term financial hit while others are already running on slim margins with not a lot of room to maneuver.  Do: Start With Connection If someone is contacting you to ask about what you can do to help them with their rent, what do you think they're feeling? They're probably scared, anxious, uncertain, angry, frustrated, and maybe even embarrassed. In other words they may be having "all the feels" right now.  So when someone connects with you, start with something like this: "Mackenzie-I really value you as a resident and I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me about this."  Whether you can help them or not, beginning your conversation with them with connection is always a smart strategy.  Do Listen Listening might be the last thing you want to do right now-especially if you already know what you can or can't do and just want the resident to stop......
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