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4 Secrets for Success: Building Your Community on Facebook

SuccessAs we look back on 2011, many would classify it as the year that social media finally reached critical mass. Facebook alone amassed more than 800 million users worldwide, and with so many of your residents’ conversations now taking place on Facebook, it’s important that your community has a thriving presence there. Hectic schedules and occasional bouts of writers block impact us all, but remember the words of wisdom below, and you’ll be able to create a vibrant community as you manage your Facebook page with consistency. Secret #1: Setting Goals is the Foundation for SuccessOk, so this probably isn’t the best-kept secret, but setting goals is critical for Facebook success. And you’d be surprised at how few businesses do this well. It’s all too easy to simply make the occasional post to Facebook and call it a day. Setting goals help you avoid the Facebook graveyard – a page with no activity, few interactions and limited engagement with fans. At a minimum, set these two goals: (1) Get 100 percent of your residents who are on Facebook to “like” your page. Sure, it’s aggressive. But having involved residents is ultimately the reason why you’re even on Facebook.  Engaged fans are great for business. (2) Set goals for communicating with your residents at least once per day about topics that aren’t sales- or marketing-related. It can be as simple as letting residents know that the trees are being trimmed on Saturday, and parking will be limited. Having informative conversations creates a......
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Developing a Crack Team without Cracking your Budget: Top Ten Tips

Graduating PiggybankYou can spend thousands of dollars and hours on marketing and advertising but one negative interaction will undo all that hard work. The front-line team is the public face of your organization. If they are frustrated, harried, not knowledgeable, incompetent or rude you will alienate your customer (plus her circle of influence). Numerous retail studies have demonstrated that it is human nature to complain about our negative interactions while we rarely repeat positive ones. While we cannot completely eliminate negative interactions (or at the very least, a perception that a negative interaction has occurred), we can do our best to minimize them by effectively training our team. We talk about the benefits of training but few want to foot the bill. In fact, throughout the past few years of economic stress, the training budgets of most companies have been whittled away. However, consider the cost of one lost resident—due to a negative showing for example—and you could easily justify the cost of a basic training program. Engaging in a program of effective training results in two broad areas of benefit: improved morale and increased knowledge. Employees view education as the employer’s investment in them as well as a signal that they are valued. This results in an improved outlook towards the employer, towards the job and themselves. This morale boost results in more positive customer (as well as coworker) interactions. Conversely, when employees become stagnant their results and customer relations become stagnant. Training counteracts this tendency. An increase in knowledge is......
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The Circle of (A Property’s) Life

By Linda Day Harrison, Manager Labs, Chicago, IL There are business models in all shapes and sizes. There are retail stores, medical and legal practices, cleaning companies, general contractors, grocery stores, etc. So when you think about a business, how many business models do you know of where the business owner outsources the entire business to another party? For instance, if you visit your local grocery store, is it managed by a grocery management company? How about a retail store management company? So what makes the residential real estate investment business any different? Why are there so many property management companies and outsourced service providers to the property industry? According to a colleague of mine, the answer is quite simple, “It is not easy, there is so much at stake, and there are many moving parts.” Also, when you think about properties as investments, there are often multiple partners and joint venture groups who own the assets. In those cases, the managing partner realizes they do not have enough time or expertise to do all of the functions required of them to maximize the value of the asset. That is what outsourcing offers. As a property manager outsourced by these partnerships, the responsibility of managing that asset is crucial in so many ways. First of all you have been selected by the partner on the management of the asset. All of the actions you take as the manager or management company directly reflect onto the reputation of that partner or company......
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Social Media: Managing the Dark Side

FB Logo with Bullet HoleBetty’s a self-described ‘old-timer’. She has been through more up-and-down economic cycles than she would care to number. "Happy Days are here again!" she told me. "But you know, it doesn’t last." Way to kill the mood, Betty. She is right. Cycles are called cycles because they keep coming around. In most of the markets I visit times are good. Vacancy is down; rents are being pushed. It is time to seize the day! Increase rents, pump increased revenues back to your profit-starved investors and make those long-deferred capital improvements. However, now is the time to put on your Leader Cap: your job is to take the long-range view. What are the potential outcomes of our current management behaviors? First, review economic reality: Homeless - According to the MBA National Delinquency Survey, 4,296,018 homes were foreclosed, sold in a short sale or the mortgage was over 90-days delinquent in 2011. Of these, 1,445,000 houses were lost due to foreclosure or short sales. Each of these people moved in with friends or family, are in a shelter, living in their car or are your new residents. Unemployed / Underemployed - Bloomberg reports that while the unemployment rate is dropping (down to 8.3% in January, 2012), underemployment is hovering around 17%. These are folks who are working well below their potential. No Cushion – MSN Careers says that 42% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck while Economicrot puts the figure at a staggering 77%. Either way, there are a lot of people whose economic......
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The Top Secret Apartment Marketing Weapon: Your Maintenance Team

Hidden on each of your apartment properties is a secret marketing weapon that can help in your never ending battle to improve resident retention: your maintenance staff. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, duh Michael. Quality and timeliness of maintenance service is a key factor in resident renewals. Don’t you keep up with SatisFacts Research’s data?” Well, Duh: Based on a national study entitled, “Getting Inside the Head of the Online Resident,” conducted by SatisFacts Research in 2011, a “sense of community” and “resident events and activities” rated as having low importance when it came to their decision to renew their lease. Basic service expectations, such as quality of maintenance service and quality of customer service had the highest importance. But I’m not talking about maintenance. I’m talking about marketing. In addition to your leasing office staff, your maintenance team are also marketing your property. Let me share with you a recent experience from a stay at Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Shady Grove  that illustrates my point. On the morning of my checkout, I’m dragging my suitcase behind me down a hallway when a housekeeper came out of a room. She gave me a big smile. Housekeeper: Good morning sir, how are you today. Me: I’m well. How are you? Housekeeper: I’m fine. Are you leaving us today, sir? Me: I’m checking out today, yes. Housekeeper: Oh, did you have a nice stay with us, sir? Me: Yes I did, thank you. Housekeeper: I’m so glad. Please come back and see us again.......
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Rent Roll Buying and Selling – More Than Meets the Eye

By Jo-Anne Oliveri, ireviloution intelligence, Brisbane, Australia Recently, I have been involved in the sale and purchase of a rent roll. I had the rare opportunity of consulting for both the buyer and purchaser. Let me say, this was the smoothest and least stressful rent roll transfer I have ever witnessed! Now some might say there is a conflict of interest by consulting to both the seller and the purchaser, and yes, I would agree! I definitely had my reservations about consulting and advising to both of them, but I discussed my dilemma with both parties. They both agreed they would retain me as the consultant and adviser through the negotiation, transfer, settlement, transition and retention period. In fact, I even conducted the inspection and overview on the selling rent-roll, and prepared the due diligence report. This was a tremendous lesson for all concerned (including me)! The offer and settlement process lasted for several months. The buying agency is now in the midst of the four-month retention period. The selling agency must continue to cooperate to ensure all clients (both property owners and tenants) are happy with the new managing agent. Both agencies must not become complacent or lulled into a false sense of security until they are clear of this retention period. For all intents and purposes the first goal of the buying agent is retention! The second goal is to build on the managements that they have invested in to encourage the investor to buy more property and recommend......
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Who Stole My "Community?"; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

No matter what our role is within the multi-family industry, there is always one word which is used more than any other; “community.” Some of us own communities, some of us develop communities, some of us design communities and others of us lease or operate them. And chances are that many of us live in an apartment, condominium or townhome community as well. So then why is it that there is so little ‘community’ in our communities? When it comes down to this failure’s root cause, it can really only be one of two choices; a.       Either the management team does not expend their energies in a manner that creates a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere that encourages interaction, or b.      The developer did not guide the design in a manner that supports congregation. Now because I am an owner and developer by trade and not a manager, my expertise is limited when it comes to the nuance of property management. I am positive that I undervalue the challenges of those on the front lines. But where I do have some insights is on the development side of the industry. I have mentioned in multiple other essays that the developer has become effectively a highly functioning project manager. We have lost our intellectual curiosity about how folks ‘actually’ live. We have lessened our study of the ways that neighborhoods, communities and cities are formed, only to concentrate on sharpening our excel acumen and expand our address book of consultants. Instead, we generally......
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The Price of Engagement

And I'm not talking the married kind of engagement. (although that can be pretty pricey too)

I'm talking the price of engagement in regards to social media. I was not a bandwagon social media user. I wanted to understand how to engage and converse with our residents and potential residents before I jumped on the social media train. I also wanted to understand how to measure engagement and then translate that to value for our clients. 

For me, the  issue with social media is not the time it takes to post, blog or tweet, the issue is engagement. Are you maximizing on opportunities of engagement? Are you talking at your residents and prospects are talking with them? Having thousands of fans or followers are great but what are you doing with them?

What gives you the best engagement bang for you buck? I have included my top three.


Posting and tweeting are a marathon, not a race. If you clog up their news feed, they are sure to unfollow or unsubscribe. Studies show a post every 3-4 hours is the sweet spot.


Are you looking at your insights page? Your insights page has a wealth of information and demographics. Use that to your advantage when posting. 


Look at your most successful post (in terms of likes, comments, impressions, re-tweets, etc) and figure out your feedback score. For the posts with the highest feedback percentage, do you see a pattern of posts people engage with most... sports, fashion, decorating ideas? 

I benchmark everything. As a Director of Marketing, making sure my marketing team's time is well spent requires just that, benchmarking everything. Have we figured out the secret formula to social media, engagement and ROI.. not yet but I'm working on it. :-)

Happy posting!


Sparkle Hammond, M.Ed.  First Communities | Director of Marketing
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.century-apartments.com | www.facebook.com/centuryapartmenthomes

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A Resident's Expectations

By Steven Van Zile, Total Management, New York, NY Within the past 24 hours, here are the maintenance issues I’ve experienced at the property where I reside: the maintenance person, loyal to this building for 33 years, responds to a clogged toilet by advising us to pour bleach down the toilet. Concurrently, the intercom buzzer is stuck and won’t shut off. And, of course, the elevator renovation that started out as a one week project actually turned into a three week project, providing 6th floor tenants the opportunity to save money by cancelling their gym memberships. It’s always seemed simple to me; as residents, we pay rent, maintenance fees, or mortgage payments and the property management staff provide services for the resident. Building and trust owners hire those property managers based on their abilities to keep churn rates low, vacancy at zero, and tenants happy all at or below a budget designed to re-invest in the property. So what happens when we tenants aren’t happy? Well, in today’s age of instant knowledge and access, a lot of renters turn to rating sites like Yelp or apartmentratings.com to spitefully pen scathing reviews in an attempt warn others. These sites might be seen as a threat, but if you’re really good at your job, more transparency can only help you, and reviews will actually help your business grow. Let’s get back to the problems at hand. In the three examples I highlighted earlier, the correct response would have been to snake the toilet, send......
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Do Short-Term Rentals Make Sense for Property Managers?

Short-term rentalsA guest post by Ashley Halligan, Analyst, Property Management Software Guide Short-term rentals, of all natures, have become a hot commodity – and a controversial one at that. Short-term rentals can include vacation rentals and temporary housing, often sought by vacationers, business travelers, or people who have recently relocated while seeking long-term living arrangements. Either way, it’s become an ongoing topic of debate and an attractive investment opportunity for property owners and managers. In comparison to traditional rentals, short-term rentals can charge significantly higher rates given their nightly and weekly availabilities. Some property owners have earned as much as 25% of their mortgage in a single night. And during special events or peak rental periods in a given area, potential rental rates can be very attractive to property owners. Because of the income short-term rentals can procure, the opportunity for profit potential may be exponential – but there are several considerations that should be kept in mind. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep the added costs of maintaining a short-term rental in mind. These rentals can be subject to Hotel Occupancy Taxes in certain cities, while other cities require specific licensures and inspections not required of traditional, long-term rentals. Penalties for not abiding by short-term rental laws in your city may result in hefty fines. There can also be increased insurance costs. Additionally, the cost of regular upkeep and maintenance, including utilities, should be calculated. In order to continually attract tenants, your property must be kept in prime condition, both functionally and cosmetically. F......
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