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5 Tips on how to choose the best ILS for your advertising efforts

5 Tips on how to choose the best ILS for your advertising effortsWith so many online ad sources to choose from, how can you be sure which is best for you? Below I offer 5 tips for choosing a great ILS. Enjoy! Does their traffic measure up? Most Internet Listing Services (ILS) will happily provide you with their web statistics. Take the time to thoroughly review any report offered to you before you sign on the dotted line. Some smaller sites will even provide you with a copy of their Google Analytics, if you ask. Keep in mind, while most sales reps are honest, no one in their right mind will give you unfavorable traffic statistics. Alexa.com is a great, free website that allows you to get a general overview of any website’s traffic as far back as 2 years. Benchmark against other popular ILS sites for perspective.  Check whether they’re popular in your city Simply because an ILS is nationwide, doesn’t necessarily mean they have high web traffic in your city. A simple way to gauge an ILS’s regional market penetration is to google the keywords – apartments in city name, and then scroll through the search results until you see their site. Don’t just search using the city you are located in; type other city names that your prospects move from.   If the ILS isn’t on the front page of Google, you may want to find an alternative ad source. Studies have consistently shown the majority of renters look for their apartment using search engines.  Before you run a Google search: If you are signed into any Google account, logout. Also, consider clearing you search ......
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Why it's time we all learn to play nice - A plea to the student housing industry

The business of student housing isn’t exactly the most appealing industry to form a long term career in. Lacking sophisticated, elegant systems and procedures, it is still very much in the infant stage of the industry life cycle. We rely heavily on our instinct, and the ability to make well-informed decisions using ill-equipped tools. Our industry’s Achilles heel has always been the reporting systems from which our decisions are largely made from. We are overly dependent on large software companies unwilling or unable to develop tailored software from the ground up which would avoid the round-hole-in-square-peg solution. This dependency, while necessary, denies us the nutrients needed for a growing industry. My intention isn’t to imply a placing of fault on companies like Yardi or RealPage. Heck, if your needs do not surpass the ability to spit out pre-lease percentages or handle the dreaded waitlist issue, then RealPage has developed a great student housing-specific operating system in Onsite. When visiting their website, you can’t help but appreciate the lengths taken to assure us they understand our industry. They strategically use comforting industry lingo like ‘roommate matching’ and ‘waitlist’. To the right of the page you see a video freeze-frame with the word ‘Turn’! It makes me feel all warm inside. Sarcasm aside, the strategic decision by RealPage to position the company as a true student housing solution is respectable. However, the ability to divide leases by units for a future occupancy will never give our industry the insight to identify inefficiencies and apply dynamic, well informed......
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College Students Shun Traditional Advertising in Favor of Online Sources When Shopping for an Apartment

I just wanted to share with you some recent insights we gained from a nationwide survey of more than 500 college students in which we asked them about the types of information sources they use when looking for a place to live. No surprise, but Google scores highest among college students as they continue to turn away from traditional advertising – such as ads in campus newspapers – and instead go online to shop for apartments. Fifty-three percent of students we surveyed ranked Google/internet searches as most important in helping them find a place to live. Friends’ recommendations and those from parents followed at 37 percent and 27 percent, respectively. They identified Facebook, ads in the student newspaper, student activities sponsored by apartment communities and online ads/promotions as least important in helping them find an apartment.Our survey also found that 98 percent of college students use Google Search to find information online, and 71 percent of the students ranked Google as the most important website/application they use. Google was followed in order of importance by university websites and Facebook. The students said they rarely turned to Twitter or Google+, which is still relatively new. In fact, the majority of students surveyed said they never use Twitter. We also found that when looking for an apartment, few students use apartment-specific websites, such as apartments.com or apartmentguide.com. Our survey showed they prefer to simply use Internet search engines to find information about apartment communities. As expected, they also placed greater importance on digital......
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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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Social Media means having our residents market for us. Don’t be scared…

It seems like over the past five years or so, an infinite number of marketing channels have emerged. We bought pages on listing sites, then we created our own property websites.  Now web pages are generated for our property just by having a resident “check in” on Facbook or Foursquare.  Seriously!  This makes it extremely challenging for an apartment community to have one coherent brand on the web. So what’s a marketer to do? First, claim your facebook page! This can be as simple as going onto facebook and searching for your property name to see if it has already made its way onto Facebook without your knowledge. If you see your property in the search results, click on it and take a look… It probably says X number of people like this, Y number of people are talking about this, and Z number of people were here (where X, Y, and Z are real numbers). This is because everytime someone adds an interest to their profile, Facebook automatically creates a landing page for that interest. So if they like where they live… Bam, landing page!  The same thing happens if someone checks in somewhere…it will add it to an existing page or create a new one.  While it feels like this is totally out of your control, don’t worry – it’s actually a GOOD thing. It means (a) your residents like you, and (b) they’re telling their friends about your property (by virtue of publically checking in).  So how do y......
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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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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; The Apartment Developer's Dilemma

Let me begin by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. For those of you who regularly read my scribbles, you are used to some pretty meaty topics. In light of the Holidays, this one will be a bit frothier. In each blog that I write there are certain themes which remain pretty consistent. One of my favorites is that real estate development is about the coolest industry on the planet. After all, our job is to make the world a better, more usable, more beautiful place.   Often my intended audience is the real estate developer (my hope is of course that there is some part of my subject matter which translates to my non-developer audience- or at least helps you better understand those temperamental developers who constantly tell you ‘We can’t afford that.’). Today, I would like to remind us all of something that is very easily glossed over as we perform our day-to-day tasks.   No matter what our role in the industry, we have a hand in something very precious. Through our daily work (whether it is building, developing, leasing, managing or maintaining) we have a definite and real effect on people’s lives. We provide the backdrop in which our residents and neighbors work, play, rest, are made safe, fall in and out of love, have babies, spend their final years, argue and make-up, worship and congregate and pursue their individual goals. And while we don’t necessarily know which combination of these that they are ex......
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Fun Ideas for the Holidays at Your Apartment Community

With the holiday spirit all around, this is a great time of year to get your residents together and show them your appreciation.  Here are a couple fun ideas that you can do around your apartment community:   1.       Resident gifts:  A small gift for your residents is an easy way to say thank you for living in your community and the holidays are a great time to surprise them.  Order T-shirts or sustainable bags with your branding on them for each resident.  Print some festive notes to say Happy Holidays and put them in your resident mailboxes.  Each resident can use the note to redeem their gift from the leasing office.  This would also be a great time to have them update their contact information with you.  Your residents will love their new swag and your branding will be all over the city. 2.       A hot drink on a cold day:  The weather is getting colder (in Chicago at least) and everyone likes a nice warm drink on a bitter day.  Set up a table at the front gate or leasing office to hand out free coffee or hot chocolate for a day.  Make sure to promote the event, so residents don’t make their own cup that morning.  Everyone will start their day off right, thanks to you! 3.       Host a white elephant:  It can be hard to meet your neighbors, especially if you live in a large community.  Host a ‘Meet Your Neighbors White Elephant’ in your community room. ......
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Increase Occupancy via Twitter Mind Control

TwitterWhen I first created my Twitter account, I hated it.  The posts were too frequent, too confusing and there was way too much junk floating around my news feed.  For months, it sat with that infamous egg as a profile picture.  My home page would have jumped for joy at the sound of a cricket.  Just when I thought I’d never log in again, a friend planted a seed that wouldn’t stop growing.  I started out simple at first, but it soon turned into a full blown obsession.  I was determined to lease my first apartment via Twitter!  It was that obsession that now allows me to share how to effectively increase occupancy via Twitter Mind Control. Did you know that you can search for people hunting for apartments in the city of your choosing?  You can find people who might be looking for apartments but they don’t even know it yet, they’re just putting signals out there to their friends, family and anyone else who may be reading their post at that particular moment in time.  Are they looking for someone to comment and say hey I love where I live, go there?  No.  They’re looking for some kind of engagement (as any person is on any social platform) and most times, if you look at the post, they really don’t get it!  Now this doesn’t mean that you should only search apartment hunting or looking for apartments. Create a list of keywords to search daily.  The key here is not only to find those ......
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Fun Halloween Ideas for Your Apartment Community

Can you believe it’s October already?  The leaves are changing, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back and Halloween costume stores are popping up around the country.  Like other holidays, this is a great time for you to have some fun around your apartment community!  Here are some ideas to get your residents together for a spooky, good time:   1.       Lobby candy – If you have a large apartment community, it can be difficult or even impossible for trick-or-treaters to ring your residents’ doorbells.  Instead of disappointing all those little Ghosts, Sarah Palins and Hippies ask your residents to donate a bag of candy for the lobby.  Have your security guard or leasing agents greet the trick-or-treaters and hand out candy on behalf of the entire building.   2.       Scary movies – A lot of people love watching scary movies around Halloween or, if you’re like me, you prefer flicks like Hocus Pocus.  Visit a local used DVD store and stock up on classic Halloween and scary movies for both adults and children.  For the month of October, offer these DVDs for rent from your leasing office.  You can either charge a dollar for the night or ask that your residents bring a canned good to donate in exchange for the rental.  This is a great way to encourage people to have a fun night in at your apartment community.   3.       Used costume swap – Most people don’t want to spend money on a Halloween costume, so try hosting a used......
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