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The Impact of COVID-19 on Multifamily Employees

The COVID-19 pandemic brought schools, commerce, commuting, travel, and more to a halt, and it changed A LOT of how we operate apartment communities - nearly overnight! And yet, while many things changed for most of the U.S., multifamily employees had the challenge of figuring out how to continue to provide service and support for residents who were now home 24/7 for months on end. In our Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Impact Study, we explored how multifamily employees were feeling and faring during so much change. Here are some of the highlights we found: Employees feel well-informed More than 85% of multifamily employees agree they feel well-informed, and nearly as many feel they are getting the information they need that is relevant to their jobs.  WARNING! Many executives, upon hearing this great feedback, shared they were considering pulling back on the volume and frequency of communication. The theme we heard from employees loud and clear was that they still need and want that level of communication. As different cities and states consider re-opening, re-closing, or limiting amenities, services, events, and more, there is still a lot of information to share. Keep talking! Employees are listening.  Companies are taking care of their residents Employees overwhelmingly agreed that they were confident in the support provided to residents. While there were - and are - logistical challenges, such as office closures and emergency work orders only, employees felt companies were providing information and creative options to keep residents comfortable in their homes. New ......
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Keep Talking. Employees are Listening.

       As we look toward entering a new phase of management during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to survey multifamily employees to see how they are feeling about the ever-evolving situation. Data from the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey shows that employees' feeling of safety in carrying out their responsibilities tracks with the level of communication and leadership visibility they are experiencing. In other words, the more leaders communicate directly with their teams, the greater the employees' feeling of safety in completing their work.  In speaking with leaders of 30 property management companies, there is a universal perception that it's time to take the foot off the gas pedal regarding company communication, now that we're through the initial tidal wave of change that arose due to the pandemic.  "We're turning into Zoombies!" commented one employee, which perfectly represents the fatigue many team members are feeling in regard to the volume of meetings we all seem to be having. However, while I may agree that the quantity of meetings may need to be toned down, the quality of communication is still critically important. Polling conducted with hundreds of multifamily employees during webinars over the past few weeks shows a shift from general feelings of uncertainty to concerns about how their communities are addressing or planning to address re-opening. In addition, beginning on May 18th, the data from the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey has shown the rating trending downward on the topic of, "I feel well-informed ......
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Leadership by Transparency

        We hear you loud and clear, multifamily employees: you want your leaders to be loud and clear! Over the past 6 weeks, more than 2,600 rental housing employees have responded to the Swift Bunny Covid-19 Employee Check-In Survey.  In that span of time, we've seen a significant increase in employees expressing that they Agree or Strongly Agree that their company is providing important and transparent information that is relevant to their job. What started out in early April as an industry average of 4.27 out of 5 has grown to 4.47 out of 5! Increasingly, we see employee comments such as these: "I think our company has done a great job communicating policies and keeping its residents and employees safe." "I feel that upper management has been very supported throughout all if this.  The emails have been uplifting.  We are feeling well-informed." The topics of "transparent communication" and "leadership visibility" have been tracking incredibly closely over the course of the survey, which is a message that executives need to hear. This tells us that employees not only crave information that is relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities and the state of the company, but they crave hearing it from the top. This is a lighthouse moment that we're seeing more and more successful leaders embrace. However, while we're seeing a positive trajectory on transparent communication and leadership visibility, we're seeing the need for a different kind of information and support at every level of the organization. Increasingly, ......
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Value Over Risk: Increase Revenue By Evaluating Pets on an Individual Basis

Value Over Risk: Increase Revenue By Evaluating Pets on an Individual Basis
As a property manager, it’s only natural to think of things in terms of risk. Whether it's the new diving board at the resort-style pool, the transition to a keyless entry system or a modification to the types of pets allowed at the community, you can bet the associated risks don’t easily evade the property manager’s mind. But while considering risk is part of the property management ecosystem, sometimes a modified approach can yield better results. For instance, viewing pets on the basis of value rather than risk can serve the dual purpose of generating revenue while enhancing the resident experience. Tech advancements have made it possible to evaluate each pet with a household-related risk score based on its individual behavior history and that of its owner, as pet owners sometimes play a significant part of the pet-risk problem in housing. The risk score creates a much more sophisticated way to determine which pets can be allowed at the property. Rather than restrict based upon breed, weight or any other preexisting characteristic, communities can establish a value-benefit analysis of the pet based upon its all-encompassing individual risk assessment. Here are some ways this can benefit onsite teams:  Sliding-scale pet rent The riskier pet scores on the risk-scale, the higher premium for it to live at the community. Low-risk pets receive benefits in the other direction in the form of baseline pet rent. This is not only a plausible concept—it is already practiced at numerous communities across the nation. Revenue management teams have cr......
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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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When it rains, it pours...

…but do you take a prospect to tour the community?  What if there is lightning or thunder, a tornado warning, or high winds?  What if it is getting dark?  What if the humidity is high and your hair will get frizzy?  And of course, the age-old (at least in property management) question, what if the prospect is scary?  What if the prospect is really scary – as in Ted Bundy or Hannibal Lecter scary?    Well, the answer is, “it depends”.   And ere I be accused of equivocating, let me elaborate (I love to elaborate).   No one in the fair housing world really cares what your policy is.  But there are good risk management steps to take to be sure you do have a good one…   Think it out.  Based on staffing, risk tolerance (both of the company and/or owner, as well as the leasing staff), local conditions (usual weather – no hurricanes likely in Iowa; blizzards less likely in Florida), time zone and the like, establish a policy for when and how (photo IDs?) you show apartments that makes sense for your operation. Write it down.  Once you have figured out the when and how you show apartments, create a written and dated policy for your records.  “Put it in writing” is a good idea here. Follow your policy.  Hey, you thought it out and you created a policy; it would be really smart now to adhere to it. Document that you do in fact follow your own......
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Pool: Most Attractive Amenity, or Attractive Nuisance

Apartment Community Pool

Apartment Community PoolHow can you make sure your pool stays an attractive amenity and does not turn into a risk filled nuisance? 

Apartment operators and developers spend a lot of capital to make their pool inviting and attractive to prospective and existing residents. We purchase colorful furniture/umbrellas, install fabulous hardscape and vegetation along with ensuring the water is crystal clear. This is all designed to make the pool an attractive amenity.

We post signs, paint depth markers, and install drain covers to meet the required safety codes and comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act to keep residents safe and mitigate risk. Our pools are self-policing. It is rare to see a life guard. So what action can we take to assure that our residents, aka ‘volunteer lifeguards’, can at minimum recognize a drowning person?

Mario Vittone’s article “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” is a highly recommended article for residents to read in order to spot a fellow resident in need. We should do all we can to be certain that pool safety is a priority. Consider also that our maintenance staff spends considerable time maintaining our pools. Perhaps a combined pool maintenance/certified lifeguard might be a good investment. During times when nobody is using the pool, they can make sure your “most attractive amenity” stays that way and is not “an attractive nuisance”.

Ward A. Katz, CPM, CEO of M-fishency, www.m-fishency.com
Blog: www.multifamilypropertyevaluation.com

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