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Rent Increases and the Petitioning Residents

My Community is located in a city that has seen an increase in job growth and demand for apartment living.  In response to this growth we were able to increase our rents by $100 for new move-ins.  We have been able to maintain an occupancy of 95% since August of 2010 and a turnover just over 65%(our normal).  Since January we have been increasing renewals 2-11% based on their lease term selected.In August we introduced the Valet Waste door-to-door trash collection service to our residents. While some where excited about the front door trash pick-up, others are upset that we would bring in a service they did not request or seek their approval. Beginning with October renewals we are increasing their rents $18 for Valet Waste and 3-11% in rent, which is about $40-$100 total depending on the renewal lease term.  We recently sent out renewal offer letters for November expirations with increases proposed as stated above.  I have just received a petition signed by 40 residents, several of which are not up for renewal at this time.  Why I can appreciate the community coming together on something, I am overwhelemed by their reasoning for no increases: 1) They did not have a say in the Valet Waste service. 2) Request for benches to be installed at playground has not been granted. 3) Our promise to provide proper house, safety and service has not been fulfilled entirely. Too many outsiders coming into the community anytime they want because there is no gate. 4) Not enough laundry machines in......
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Great Websites for Your Clients - Useful Information, Moving Assistance, Etc.!

With all the day to day stresses, time constraints and hectic schedules, we hardly have time to "stop and smell the roses."  The minutes and hours slip by and before you know it, the day is almost over.  To assist my Residents and Prospective Residents alleviate some tension,  I have put together a list of some very useful websites that I personally have found to be particularly helpful.  These sites can reduce some of the moving and relocation headaches that many of us experience.

www.moving.com

* Find Licensed and Insured Movers

* Rent a Moving Truck

* Find Local Storage Facilities and Compare Rates

* Print Valuable Moving Coupons

* FREE Change of Address Service

* Helpful Moving Tips and Reminders

 www.neighborhoodplace.com

* Review Statics for Your State and County

* Stats Include Information on Schools, Population, Cost of Living, Average Home Prices and More

 www.InsWeb.com

* Compare Insurance Quotes and Find the Best Rates and Policies to Meet Your Needs

 www.healthgrades.com

* Review Ratings for Local Doctors, Hospitals and Nursing Homes

* Note: There is a fee associated with some search inquiries

 www.schoolmatch.com

* Review School Ratings and Statistics

SPECIAL PROJECT! - Create a flyer that has these websites, as well as any others you may feel useful to your specific Community and location, and present it to your Prospective Resident during their tour, or when your new Resident is signing their lease.  These small gestures will mean the world to your Community visitors and Residents.   

Don't forget, this is also an amazing marketing tool and resource for your On-Site Team to utilize and share with local businesses, storage companies, movers and more!

I hope this information is as useful and beneficial to you as it has been for me!  Feel free to share with the Multifamily Insiders Community which websites you have found to be advantageous and why!  Thank you!

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Are You on Autopilot?

Today, I purchased my lunch at Noodles , one of my favorite fast-but-good food restaurants. And I love how the one by my house is so 'green'. I get  preferred parking, right by the front door, because I drive a hybrid vehicle. And when I pay, they always ask me if I need a receipt. If I don't want one, they don't print one. I know it's small, but I like that they ask me. Today, as my order was 'to go', my server asked if I needed plastic silverware and a napkin. I didn't and I made a very specific point to tell them how much I appreciated them asking me. I abhor waste of any kind, and oftentimes,  take out orders get a lot of 'extras' that really aren't needed.  Shortly afterwards, my name was called, I gathered my bag and left. Upon my arrival at home, I was dismayed to find  - you guessed it - silverware and a napkin in my bag. I checked the instructions written on the bag label and it was clearly marked "Silverware - Yes".   It got me thinking. The server was obviously used to adding silverware to almost every takeout order. And while she asked me if I wanted any , she never really listened to my answer. She was on remote control - my answer was irrelevant. She was going to proceed as she had dozens of time before. How many of us are on autopilot? There are literally hundreds of......
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Your Property Is Unsafe If...

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA So, we know that a landlord has to use or maintain property in a “reasonably safe condition.”  But what is a reasonably safe condition?  How do we know when a property is unsafe?  As usual, California offers some factors to consider when deciding whether a property is unsafe and if the owner/occupier/lessor/controller should have known about it. Your property might be unsafe if: “A condition on the property created an unreasonable risk of harm” The defendant “knew or, through the exercises of reasonable care, should have known about it; and” The defendant “failed to repair the condition, protect against harm from the condition, or give adequate warning of the condition.” (CACI 1003). So the property or some condition on it must create an unreasonable risk of harm.  Cut glass, holes in the floor, no handrails on the stairs, and no locking windows in a second story apartment with a toddler in it are some conditions that might create an unreasonable risk of harm.  Lots of bean bags in the basement, maybe not.  But maybe if there are too many and people cannot walk by? So the condition must pose a risk of harm.  And the defendant property owner/occupier/lessor/controller must know about it or should have found out about it.  The second factor noted above gets tricky when we discuss the clause following “or”: “through the exercise of reasonable care, should have known about it.”  So the point of this clause is to......
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Resident Retention Tips

October 1st is one of the biggest moving days of the year and it’s right around the corner!  Having a solid resident retention plan is a great way to avoid the costs associated with big moving days.  Resident turnover can cost thousands of dollars once you factor in advertising, screening, leasing office time, maintenance, cleaning and everything else associated with finding the perfect new resident.  Here are a couple ideas for keeping your residents happy and living in your community.   Encourage residents to put down roots   Whether renting or buying, people want to feel at home in their neighborhood.  Help your residents build connections in the community and invite local shops to chip in.  Try negotiating a discounted rate at the neighborhood gym or with a dog-walking company for everyone in your apartment community.  Publish an annual neighborhood guide for your residents and have the popular coffee shop, book store, nail salon, dry cleaner and restaurants provide coupons, as well as fun tips for living in the community.  Giving back is a great way to build strong ties to a neighborhood, so try organizing a community service project for your residents.  Participants from your apartment community can get to know each other by cleaning up a local park or collecting canned goods from neighbors for a food bank.  Making friends and building relationships in their community is a great reason for your residents to stay.   Provide a resource   Fulfilling your residents’ needs is a great way to......
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How Are We Screwing Up The Resident Turnover Battle?

I truly believe our industry is progressing rapidly, so I’m very optimistic about prospects in multifamily, but we still average around 60% resident turnover every year.  I think that this figure is so commonplace that people tend to forget how ridiculous it truly is that 60% of our customers take the time to move their entire life in order to leave our service.  I am particularly concerned that with the potential rising rents coming in our industry, we will lose focus on our inherent problems and just relish the changing market conditions. So I’ve started a list of elements that I believe add to the fundamental problems we face with resident retention.  Please add your own in the comments! 1)      Our contracts are designed to end – With most other subscription-type services, contracts renew forever automatically or at least last for several years, such as car leases.  In a subscription-type revenue model, you hope that the customer does not enter the “buying cycle”, because once that happens, they are actively shopping for alternatives.  With many services, an average customer will stick with a service until something forces them into that buying cycle, such as the product doesn’t work, the product is outdated, the price increases significantly, or the customer’s personal budget changes.  In most cases, competing marketing will not impact their decision to change, similar to how you don’t even notice car commercials until you are looking to buy one. However, in the multifamily industry, we are so fearful of losing......
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Prepaid Debit Cards: A Win Win

According to a Business Wire article there are more than 100 million “unbanked” consumers living in the United States today. Many banks and financial intuitions have started to offer prepaid debit cards as a method to help solve the financial needs of this large segment of customers. These “unbanked” residents represent a large portion of potential renters in the multi-family housing industry.  Before the option of paying rent with prepaid debit cards, these individuals would have had an immense amount of trouble making secure rent payments.   

Prepaid debit cards work much like regular debit or credit cards, except they are not tied to a bank account or credit account, allowing a broader range of people to use them. Below are several of the benefits that accepting prepaid debit cards can bring to a property. 

prepaid debit cards

 Benefits of prepaid debit cards for residents: 

·Pay Rent Online- Electronic payments are the way of the modern era. With prepaid debit cards residents can make their rent payments online without ever having a banking account or credit card.

·Secure Payments- There’s no need to worry about security issues when prepaid debit cards are used to make payments instead of cash or money orders. Payments are delivered securely as long as you use a PCI Compliant online payment processor.

· Avoid Check Cashing Fees- For residents without bank accounts; cashing checks can get really expensive. Taking advantage of the direct deposit feature of prepaid debit cards can eliminate this expensive and unnecessary hassle.

·No Interest- With prepaid debit cards, money is taken directly out against the balance on the card that has been previously paid for. Since no money has been loaned, there are no interest charges.

·No Debt- Since no line of credit has been extended, there’s no danger of going into debt. If there’s an attempt to use the card for more than its available balance, the transaction will be denied.

·Make Purchases- Residents can use prepaid debit cards in stores and online without having a bank account or credit account, allowing them to shop in a wider variety of places.

Benefits of prepaid debit cards for property managers:

·More Potential Residents- Accepting electronic payments, and thus prepaid debit cards, at your property opens up a much larger segment of potential residents to your business. The large portion of “unbanked” residents in the US will be able to rent at your property if they can use prepaid debit cards to pay rent and utility fees.

· Secure Payments- Prepaid debit cards are a safe and secure way of collecting rent payments from a group of residents who would otherwise use cash or money orders to make rent payments. This allows your business to collect rent securely and to not worry about the manual accounting that comes with cash transactions.

·Fewer NSF Payments- With prepaid debit card transactions, there is less worrying about non-sufficient fund check payments and the effort to re-capture the funds from your residents. There is no checking account attached to a prepaid debit card so either the money is available and the payment is processed or the card is immediately declined.

·Fewer Late Payments- Cut down on late payments by offering more flexible payment options to your residents. Collecting rent payments online will save you and your residents time and money by avoiding cash and money order transactions.

·Higher Renter Retention- Studies show that more flexible payment options give your property a competitive advantage and increase renter retention. Residents will be less likely to leave if they feel their community is doing everything to make paying rent easier.

Residents with prepaid debit cards are able to utilize many new payment options including online pay, paying by text message and mobile iPhone Apps. Plus, residents are then eligible for a variety of benefits by making electronic payments including secure transactions, paying remotely, and rent reminder emails. With prepaid debit cards both property managers and residents win. Property managers get a larger number of residents to market to and residents get the ease and flexibility of electronic payments without the worries of having credit. 

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Is the customer always right?

Is the customer always right?A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. ~Michael LeBoeuf  "The customer is always right" was coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr. for his Selfridges department store. It has been used as a mantra for millions of businesses since. It's main purpose, of course, is to give customers an expectation of the service they can expect from your business. "If a business thinks I'm always right then what can I lose?" People feel it's an outdated slogan but is it? Given the power that customers have today, isn't this slogan more important than ever? Is the customer always right? Let's breakdown what it really means. If you take it literally then it's hard to argue for its usage. The customer is not always right. They can be rude, yell, are usually wrong, smelly, impatient, and demanding. They have little clue about your company's rules and to be honest, probably don't care. Their goal is to get what they want and often times their expectations can be way off. Instead of the literal definition, I like to refer to this slogan as a mindset. At the end of the day, regardless of who has done what, the customer needs to walk away happy. Why? According to TARP: "68% of customer defection takes place because customers feel poorly treated." The key word here is feel...or their perception of being treated fairly. Customers want to feel that you are concerned for their needs and that you will solve their problem.......
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Every Customer Every Time: Customer Service Standards

When I was growing up in Ohio, we had a corner drug store called Revco, which was based out of Twinsburg, OH. I can still visualize their store signs in mind that highlighting the Revco Service Standards, “Every Customer, Every Time”. In researching this company as an example of developing service standards, I found details of how the service slogan and focus came to be. It all started with a simple question: “What do we want to happen to every customer every time in order to promote good customer service?”  It was broken down to 3 behaviors or actions: Greet customers every time they enter the store Every time a sales person sees a customer searching for a product – the employee will ask the customer if they need assistance Make eye contact with customers every time you speak to them They then developed a training guide with typical interactions and expectations and sent it out to store managers with directive to lead a team meeting to review the new standards. Each store manager was responsible for conveying the information, observing and coaching the best practice of the service standards. The next step was to send out Mystery Shoppers to assess performance of the 3 “behaviors”. The results were positive at 90% plus the number of complaints began to decrease as well as the percentage of positive feedback was on the rise! In my opinion, the keys to success of this service story are that the service standard was realistic, specific......
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You Only Need 300 People To Love Your Apartment Community

Our industry has an incredibly bad case of “one-size-fits-all-itis”, where the fear of turning even one prospect away makes us cringe.  Part of our condition is a direct result of our past and current failures.  When an average apartment community loses 60% of its customer base every year, you tend to get more and more panicked about not turning anyone away.  This constant need to fill constantly vacating apartments pushes us to make decisions that are purely short-term driven, and serve to continue the cycle of ridiculously high turnover we have all come to expect as the norm. What we tend to forget, however, is that we are a finite resource, so trying to be all things to all people makes even less sense!  If we get more prospects through the door, we literally can’t just create more apartments on that property to fill them.  We should have the exact opposite mentality when it comes to filling apartments.  When it comes to our availability, we often reek of desperation trying to get the apartments filled.  But think about your vacancies in a different way.  Instead of “I have 10 apartments to fill”, try thinking, “I only have 10 apartments to fill”.  When we think about the fact that we only have a limited amount of inventory to sell, we start rethinking our selling strategy! Let’s think about this in dating terms.  If we are scared of being alone, we date anybody we can.  But since we are not selective, these relationships......
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