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Mitigating the Risk Posed by Self-Guided Tours

As multifamily operators consider ways to optimize the apartment-shopping experience, it's becoming increasingly clear that self-guided tours are a fundamental part of the future of leasing. Consider the numbers from the single-family home leasing market, in which self-guided tours are a more established practice. In this market, according to an Anyone Home analysis, 17.75 percent of all prospects book a property tour. Of those that take a tour, an eye-popping 76 percent choose a self-guided one while only 24 percent tour with an agent. Just like in the single-family market, more and more of today's apartment prospects also relish the chance to tour a home away from the eyes and ears of a leasing agent. Some just simply want as little human interaction as possible during the touring process, while others appreciate the opportunity to see a home without having to sugarcoat their reaction to an agent they like. But perhaps the most appealing reason to self tour is that the prospects can look at potential homes at a time that is most convenient to them, which is not necessarily during normal leasing office hours. But while home-hunters want self-guided tours, many apartment operators remain leery. This is understandable: Inviting a prospect to take an unaccompanied tour of an apartment community poses some risk. To start with, current residents may not – at least at first – be crazy about the idea of non-residents walking around their community without an associate. Next, there are the concerns about criminal activity: What if the......
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The Tide is Turning on Accepting Felons

Over the past few years, there has been a swing in the perception of felons as renters. Part of that change has been due to Fair Housing concerns of disparate impact, and now we are seeing real-time changes to company screening criteria. We recently released our 2018 Resident Credit Screening Research Report (free download), and one of the questions asked whether the responder accepted felons at their communities. The “yes” answer changed little, from 6% to 8%, but the “Yes, but only after a certain number of years” answer saw a dramatic change over the past two years, from 39% in 2016 to 57% in 2018. Clearly, our industry is becoming more comfortable with the idea of accepting felons, as long as the felony occurred a certain distance in the past. We also asked, “Do you differentiate between violent, non-violent, and sex offenses in the screening process?” In this case, we saw a clear trend towards reviewing the offense on a case by case basis rather than painting all felonies with the same brush. There appears to be an attempt to identify non-violent offenders and offer more lenience relative to a violent offender. It will be interesting to see how companies assess these changes after they obtain more data about past felons who now live at their communities. Update:  After publishing this blog, Anne Sadovsky sent me a message with several relevant notes.  She said it would be ok to share here: Companies should be using third party for running applications.These companies a......
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Is Raising Rents Really The Most Profitable Option In The Short Term?

Years ago, when I was just entering the industry and trying to understand pricing dynamics, at first I couldn't understand why strong communities ever struggled for prospects.  It seemed that a really good community would be awash in prospects because, frankly, there are plenty of really bad communities out there they are competing with.  But I quickly realized that as that strong community's occupancy went up, so did its pricing, which reduced demand.  The decision to raise rents seemed completely logical to me at the time - a great community should be able to charge more, and it would be foolish to leave money on the table by not charging more.  But what that did was put the community in a constant marketing push.  As occupancy went up, rents went up, and the pool of prospects who would/could pay that level of rent went down.  So we always had to push marketing to find those prospects who would fit that new requirement. After thinking on the issue for years, however, I am unconvinced this solution is necessarily ideal or most profitable.  See, the accepted path for the community has always been higher occupancy leads to charging higher rents.  But there is another factor that can be employed when you have high demand:  Increased selection criteria.  In a simplistic way, if a ton of people want to live at your community, you can "cherry pick" the absolute best prospects, who have the best traits.  For example, do they refer their friends?  Do......
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How to Read Credit Reports from Each of the Three Bureaus

b2ap3_thumbnail_1-7-2014-2-09-30-PM.jpgCan you say you’re completely confident reading each of the different credit reports with their key codes? If you are, this article can serve as a good training guide for your staff on the differences of each of the three credit bureau’s credit reports. Or in case your tenant screening company says they provide you with credit reports, when in reality they only provide you with credit summaries, these guides and codes will come in handy.  First and foremost: when reading a credit report, double check the person’s full name, social security number, and their date of birth. If there are any discrepancies, be sure to check with the applicant. Keep in mind that the information obtained in credit reports isn’t always perfect. The credit bureaus search for input information on two out of those three information fields mentioned above, to avoid human error. Credit bureaus can either input, or are sometimes given incorrect information.  Equifax and TransUnion Credit Report Quick Look Guide:  ·         Personal Information ·         Report Summary ·         Scorecards (if a score is given in the report) ·         Collections (if the applicant has any) ·         Public Records (if the applicant has any) ·         Trade lines (this includes both loan and revolving debt payments) ·         Inquiries (how many times a report has been pulled – and from whom) ·         Warning Messages  Experian Credit Report Quick Look Guide:  ·         Index ·         Potentially Negative Items (public records, if the applicant has any) ·         Credit Items ·         Collections (if the applicant has any) ·   &......
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How Digital Applications Drive Business Part 1

digitalapplicationsAnyone who has been to a multifamily educational conference in the last few years will have noticed a common session. Such classes go under different titles, varying in focuses on social media, viral campaigns, or even the latest and greatest apps to be familiar with, however, all promote the necessity technology is if managers wish to be successful with the renter nation of today. The demographic of tech savvy applicants is expanding exponentially by the year, forcing a shift in what works when trying to keep occupancy rates high. This is why successful property managers are utilizing online technology to simplify the approval process. They have found the benefits in: Offering Applications On a Website: For years now, the internet has become more of a necessity than just a convenience, to be successful in business. With smart phones now accounting for more than 50% of all cell phones in the country, the internet is readily accessible by significant amount of potential renters. Having a website that advertises vacancies is only a part of the equation now: Companies gain the advantage by offering their rental application online for people who don't have time due to work, family, distance, etc. Use a Digital Application in the Office: Many people still want to see a potential new home in person before they decide to make any decisions. This doesn't mean they are any less technology oriented, or even that they have more free time than others. Another way to make an office more efficient......
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Streamlining your Screening in 2013

datasecurityIn this advancing technological age, developers across the country are innovating greater, faster methods of providing information. For the property management industry this translates into the creation of a vast network of information on potential applicants, equipped with the delivery of increasing speeds and accuracy. However, the difficulty with this specific type of data is that it largely includes regulated content that is scrutinized by governing entities ( to ensure the protection of the consumer's identities and rights). The most recent of scandals is the FTC suit against Filiquarian Publishing, LLC and Choice Level, LLC. Providing an app on mobile devices which provided criminal background information, their app did not meet with FCRA compliant protocols and offered data on consumers without their consent. While speed and convenience is desirable when pre-screening applicants, knowing that the companies providing your data are liabilities to the end user regarding decisions made on their applicants. Specifically in the multifamily industry the types of streamlined application processes that should be questioned before trusting them with an organization's portfolios include: E-signature use with questions about tracking methods to verify applicants, statewide or national forms, data accuracy and any filtering or cross-referencing methods used, and website security on mobile devices. All of these products specifically aid with the consumer demand, handling the application process quickly while assisting managers in providing a full bodied background check coupled with a speedy, well-documented leasing procedure. Keep an eye out in the industry for an increase in 'all-in-one' type of packages that......
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Guns: Residents Rights or Managers Rights?

b2ap3_thumbnail_nogunsallowed.jpgThe second amendment is stated in the Bill of Rights as: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to a security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed". However, in the wake of recent, horrific events like the Cinemark shooting in the Colorado and the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, the 2nd amendment has been debated as either necessary or outdated. With more than 6 million people in the United States estimated to have "right to carry" permits, this issue is on the minds of the entire nation. The 4th amendment (giving Americans the right against search and seizure) is listed as so in the Bill of Rights. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, house, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized". While a man's home is his castle, a property owner has the right to have - or not have - control of his private property.  He may have three television sets, a Rolex watch and a strict policy against pets, cigarettes or guns because it is his property. As long as he is not discriminating, he may decide to not allow guns on it. Although the law does allow people to acquire a permit to carry a concealed w......
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How the Superbowl Can Prepare Property Managers

b2ap3_thumbnail_superbowl.jpgIt’s that time of year again where even the most uninterested individuals will tune in for the yelling, junk food, hilarious commercials, and all around epic events that surround the Superbowl.  What makes this game feel so much bigger than other national sports titles is that it all comes down to a singular game – one afternoon spanning the course of a couple of hours to show whether or not someone will be going home for the day with the big “W”. In a lot of ways, working in sales is no different: you work towards closing that deal and getting your big “W”.  Property managers especially can follow some of these time tested methods of the game that can make or break a successful deal: Prepare Before the Game – Think about your peak appointment times or when you are likely to get more walk-ins.  What day is it? What time is it? What season is it? Begin a first impression by drawing interest the moment they walk through the door.  If you live in a colder region during winter, have a basket of the $1 hand warming packets you can get from most major retailers, or hot cocoa alongside the coffee pot. Practice a Winning Offense – Showing a track record of success in itself is a motivator for people to pay attention.  If you have any positive reviews, nice comments, letters, or other feedback from present and previous residents – show it off! Have a bulletin board for people to see when ......
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Is Your Screening Company Leaving You Vulnerable?

Do you remember the days when job applicants put on a nice suit, walked into a business, spoke with the manager on duty and asked if they had any positions open? After a few questions over a cup of coffee, it was decided whether the applicant and the open position were right for one another. “When can you start?” or “I’m sorry, this just isn’t a good fit.” An apartment could be rented to the “nice looking couple” who saw the landlord putting a “For Rent” sign on the lawn. A hand shake and the first month rent moved you in. Then came forms and rules, regulations and policies, agencies and committees. Screening.  Now, hiring the right person can get an employer in as much legal trouble as turning down the wrong one.  Does the employment application ask about marital status? Was there a box offering a copy of the report? Was there a Summary of Rights attached? In Spanish? Although most people have heard of the Title VII, the FCRA and maybe even the FTC, how many people   not in the screening business actually know what they do, are familiar with the term “disparate impact”, “pre-adverse action” or the CFPB? Not many, hence, the birth of screening companies. As an employer or a landlord, ignorance is far from bliss. Not knowing about specific laws can be expensive to your bottom line and to your reputation. Most employers are not attorneys. Many do not have human resource departments whose job it......
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