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Worse than Drug Dealers?

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA What do you call 50,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? “A good start.” No doubt many of you have heard this joke or a variant. Well I am a lawyer and I am here to tell you that I am also a human being. I have a wife. I have three children. I have the same hopes and dreams for them and myself as you do for you and your family. These jokes are insensitive, unkind, and hurtful. What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand? “Not enough sand.” Hey! Now wait a minute. No one seems to like lawyers. Especially those who have done well for themselves. Entrepreneurs and business persons, who frequently excel in the world of business often lament the presence of lawyers. “Lawyers only take my hard-earned money,” is a common refrain. “Lawyers add no value, all they do is slow me down,” is another. Why does California have the most lawyers and New Jersey have the most toxic waste dumps? “New Jersey got to pick first.” Why I never. It is also true that not a lot of people like landlords and real estate developers. Ever hear the one about the tour group in Egypt? The tour guide is describing a crypt within a pyramid. “This crypt is over a 1000 years old. It has not been touched, altered or upgraded in any manner in those 1000......
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Minimizing the Cost of Vacancy

By Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL As a professional property management company we have found that one of the most difficult concepts for rental property owners to grasp is the true cost of vacancy.  Investors who have been in the rental game for a while understand that in almost all cases the greatest expense they will experience over the life of their investment property will be the cost of vacancy due to lost rent and preparing the property between tenants.  100% of our managed properties have or will go through a vacancy and prep period.  Based upon our experience in managing this process literally thousands of times we provide the following advice to our property owners to help minimize the costs associated with turning around the property and to expedite the placement of a new tenant to begin collecting rental income again. Get started now.  The worst thing that can be done is to wait for any particular task to be completed before starting on the next.  The game plan should be in place the day the tenant vacates the property.  Vendors should be ready to come in and provide quotes, marketing efforts should be getting put into place, and a firm deadline for completion of the necessary clean-up/repairs should be determined. Get your utilities in order – Make sure your utility accounts are in order as soon as your tenant leaves.  Nothing is as frustrating as having the carpet cleaners or painters show up to an empty......
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Should I Allow Tenants to Make Unit Upgrades?

Every now and then, a tenant offers to make repairs to the unit he’s living in. Often, such offers are made in exchange for rent (in other words, the cost of the repairs is deducted from the monthly rental rate). In other instances, the tenant simply wants certain upgrades in his unit (a new paint job, removed carpet, etc.) and offers to do them himself. The argument for this is that the tenant can enjoy a place that “feels like home” and you reap the rewards of these upgrades once the tenant vacates the unit. Clearly, there can be benefits to this sort of situation: You receive property upgrades at a reduced (or negated) cost, and your tenant gets to customize the unit to his own preferences. Unfortunately, though, there can also be some pitfalls. All too often in these scenarios, tenants are not qualified to complete these upgrades or updates up to par. The result is unfinished or sub par work that ultimately becomes your responsibility to rectify. Not only this, but such deals can also result in sticky financial situations and—in extreme situations—legal problems. Let’s say that one of your long-time tenants wants to repaint his living room from the standard white all of your units are painted in to a more colorful rustic red. You agree that the color would suit the space well and tell your tenant can deduct the price of paint and labor from his next rent payment. When the first of the next month......
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What Experience Are You Offering At Your Apartment Community?

We often get so wrapped up in what amenities we are offering at our apartment communities, that we often simply overlook the experience we want to create!  So instead of offering a unique lifestyle at our communities, we instead often offer a bland one size fits all experience.   If your only plan to create an "experience" at your community is to label it as "luxury", you might want to reconsider how you plan on making your residents fall in love with your property!  This video went a little longer than I anticipated, so sit back with a cup of joe and enjoy!  (or not enjoy, if you think I am crazy...)

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Welcome Spring to Your Property

Though it may not seem like it quite yet depending on where you live, believe it or not, we’re officially a couple of weeks into spring. Over the past two years, we’ve blogged about winterizing on an annual basis. As with the winter months, you’ll want to welcome the spring season with a bit of property maintenance and some minor adjustments (and repairs, if necessary). Happily, the transition from the cold months to the warmer ones tends to be far more simple than getting ready for winter. Throw open the windows. Welcome the sunshine by opening up those storm windows, which have been shut tightly during the winter months. When the storm windows go up, the screens should go on—make sure that screens are installed properly and are in good repair. While you’re working on the windows, check for rotting along the window sills and make any necessary repairs. Check air conditioning units. Before you know it, it will be time to kick the air conditioning into high gear. Take care of preparation work now by making sure all air conditioning systems (whether it’s central air or window air conditioning units) are serviced and ready to go so that when the first heat wave rolls around, you’re ready for it. A word about window air conditioning units—they can be a bit tricky to install properly (and safely). With this in mind, consider sending out a memo to let tenants know your maintenance team will take care of installations to avert over-anxious......
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Can you hear me now? Will you hear me later?

So often, we take for granted the very people who pay our paycheck.  Truth is, it’s not the owner of the company or the head of your payroll department you should be brown-nosing, it’s your customer.  Without them you would have no paycheck.  It is important to take time for yourself so I’m not saying you should become a workaholic robot, but you should consider taking your level of customer service up a notch. Jen Piccotti’s recent blog got me thinking.  As a paying resident, what do I expect? Some people believe that having emergency maintenance is enough.  I don’t think that’s the case.  Instant gratification is no longer a luxury, it’s an expectation.  When I have a question, I want an answer! On site professionals know that being available isn’t always the bees knees.  Residents know where you live and some don’t hesitate to impose.  What if they could just send you an e-mail knowing you’ll respond?  They would probably rather do that anyway, but they have been trained to believe that office hours and email responses end simultaneously so they seek out other methods for a faster response. If your community has a Facebook page, you may have noticed this already.  Residents don’t get an instant response from sending you an e-mail so they make their complaint public.  The Apartment Expert - Lisa Trosien posed the question "Do you think people use Facebook while browsing and shopping for an apartment?"  -  Probably not intentionally, but word of mouth marketing is huge. People retain ......
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Is Your Face Costing You Leases?

I often listen to a local radio show on the way to work.  Today, the host was talking about his recent trip to Europe and something called "face control".  This sparked one of those dangerous brainstorming sessions...you know the ones you come out of wondering how you got from point A to point B without crashing.  Then, because that wasn't bad enough, I called a good friend of mine for some input.  She had never heard the term either so I looked it up.  To my surprise, it wasn't at all related to any of my brainstorm tangents. From "feis kontrol", a Russian klub colloquialism of the English words "face control." Your "face" is your level of wealth, beauty, power, social standing, and overall desirability. - Urban Dictionary Deep right?  Here's how I see it... How does this apply to the multifamily industry, specifically your leasing office?  You might...no should be...familiar with the importance of body language and its effect on prospect buying tendencies.  So what about your face?  Could your facial expressions be losing you leases?  Are your facial expressions a violation of fair housing?  Very possibly yes. We have gut reactions to many things and people are no exception.  The way someone smells, the clothes they wear, piercings or tattoos they have, something they say or just their overall appearance can cause gut reactions - very visible ones at that.  This is not to say that you should become desensitized to appearance, but just gain control of your reactions.......
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Renovation vs. Rejuvenation

To generate more rental income, it’s sometimes necessary to put a little work into your property. If a potential renter is comparing your property to a similar, less expensive property, the renter will need to be able to easily identify those aspects (whether it’s aesthetics or features) that make your unit worth more than the competition’s. Depending on where you’re starting from and where you want to go, upgrades may consist of as little as some simple “rejuvenation” projects or, alternatively, some larger-scale renovations. Generally speaking, your bathroom and kitchen are two key areas that play a large role in making or breaking the value of your rental unit as compared to competitors’. All other factors being equal (such as size and location), chances are most renters will select the unit with a nicer looking or more upgraded bathroom or kitchen. Many renters will even be willing to pay a bit more if there is a noticeable difference or greater utility in one or both of these two rooms. In other words, these are the first places you should make improvements if you want to command additional rental income for your property. What does this mean exactly? Let’s take a look. Renovation There’s not really any way around it—complete renovation of a bathroom or kitchen (appliances, lighting, tiling, fixtures, etc.) will cost you a few thousand dollars. However, it will also likely pay off in the form of a higher rent rate. Consider a renter who is looking at your apartment......
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Staff Versus Software for Property Management

There’s no doubt about it—of all the business problems you could potentially have, being too busy is certainly not a bad option. However, being too busy can become a problem if you lack the bandwidth to stay on top of things. If you consistently find yourself putting off certain tasks or letting them fall through the cracks altogether, it’s time to make some changes. Being overloaded can result in a slip in the quality of the service you provide or oversights, both of which may guarantee you’re not so busy for long. The obvious answer to too much work is bringing more hands on deck. But, of course, just because you’re busy doesn’t necessarily mean you have the budget to hire additional employees. Property management software may give you the extra help you need at a lower cost than an additional salary. Multi-tasking Functionality One of the great benefits of property management software is that it essentially acts as an office generalist. For example, hiring extra staff to take care of accounting work may alleviate that workload, but that same person can’t necessarily take on other tasks such as advertising. Modern property management software, on the other hand, handles a diverse variety of functions. It does accounting, allows tenants to make rent payments online, provides an advertising platform, runs credit and criminal checks, creates reports, and keeps records. Cost-effective Investment Property management software requires only a nominal investment when compared to hiring new staff and adding an additional salary to your......
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Putting a Spring Back in Your Step

rosesFor those of you who live in the colder climates, as I do, you are more than ready for spring to be here! If we are ready so are your prospective residents and your current residents. Here are some great ways to brighten your community for spring and retain residents as well as appeal to new prospects: Brighten up your curb appeal. Think outside the box and get creative. Curb appeal is so important and what is better than bright vibrant colors to attract new buyers as well as giving a shiny hello to your current residents! It may be too early to plant flowers but you can always brighten up things with new signs, flags, and pinwheels. Welcome Home America has great spring ideas! Brighten up your office.  There is nothing more welcoming then entering a room with fresh cut flowers!  At a minimal cost you can put spring right in your office with simple bouquets purchased at your local grocery store or flower shop.  Some local flower shops will give you discounts or free flowers if you promise to advertise their flower shop in your community newsletter or if you allow them to put promotional material in your office.  A win for everyone! Dress in bright colors.  As property managers we tend to dress in more neutral colors, or at least the majority of the ones I know do, so update your closet with some great colors for spring.    Add light pinks, blues, greens, and my favorite lilac!  ......
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