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Your residents are social online. Is your property?

It's no secret that one of the biggest trends in the multifamily industry is connecting to prospects and residents through the Internet. So here are a few bits of information from comScore Media Metrix that you can munch on: Social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, received 121 million visitors during the month of October. To give a little context to that number, that represents over 66 percent of ALL Internet users during that time. Social networking has become mainstream and far beyond the expected 18 to 24 age demographic. So if your prospects and your residents hang out in this space, shouldn't you?
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The Evil of MySpace?

For my very first day of blogging, I had a really amazing response, with over 50 views. I did have a couple of very interesting responses, specifically saying that they would read the blog if only it weren't on MySpace. I was told that MySpace had a bad reputation and it was considered too "juvenile". Let's first talk about the juvenile aspect. I bet it would shock you that over 50 percent of users were over the age of 35 (http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1019). Granted, the data is a bit old, but that number amazed me. Second, let me deal with the issue of MySpace having a bad reputation.In the news recently, there have been plenty of stories regarding MySpace and crime, whether it be child predators or scams.  The problem with having this discussion about MySpace is that it always ultimately comes down to the argument that "crime happens everywhere." The problem with that argument is that it always seems to make crime seem like no big deal, but of course it IS a big deal if it happens to you! But ultimately, despite the crime, people don't lock themselves into a bunker every day because of the fear of the scary world around them. No, instead they become aware of their surroundings and take appropriate precautions. MySpace is just another "world" to take the proper precautions in, and it happens to be much safer than the real world in which you live! Consider this: MySpace has a "population" approximately 1/3 of the......
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The Evil of MySpace, Update 1

Today CNN.com gave me the best example of the argument I was making about how the media creates a distorted view of popular online destinations. Today it ran this headline on the front page of CNN.com:

"Craigslist used to find killer for hire"

For those who aren't familiar with Craigslist, it is essentially a free classified ad website. If you take a moment to look at the story, you'll soon realize that Craigslist didn't do anything wrong in the slightest. It reminds me of how people often tape items to light poles on well-traveled streets to advertise something, find a lost dog, etc. Now consider the absurdity of blaming the light pole if someone placed something on it that was inappropriate or illegal. I knew those light poles were no good! Tear them all down!

Ridiculous, right? But now a subconscious thought has been placed on every reader's mind that associates Craigslist with something illegal. Do that enough and guess what happens - the thought sticks.

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Farmers Branch Is At It Again!!

Farmers Branch, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, is again trying to halt illegal immigrants living at its apartment communities. As opposed to previous attempts that put the duty of verifying citizenship squarely on the shoulders of the apartment community, this new ordinance would require adults looking to rent in Farmers Branch to get an "Occupancy License" from the city. This would entail renters providing the city information regarding their legal status, which would be checked against a federal database. This new ordinance definitely shifts the burden away from the landlord, although it's still unclear if any fees would be applied to either the renter or landlord. If this ordinance succeeds, don't be surprised if other cities follow the lead!

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5465140.html

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Rent Concession Madness

So what are the costs of price cutting? This is a good article discussing the long-term impact of continuously reducing prices (http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/537141/?sc=dwtr). One of the pieces of advice: "Retain loyal customers through nonprice, value-added components, and limit discounts to entice new buyers or brand switchers."I could probably write for days about the rent concession trap, as it goes beyond just lower rents in the short term, but also severely impacts retention down the road. A rent concession is normally given in full for a new resident, right? Well, this new resident ends up having the "newest" apartment, as well, with newer carpet and newer paint. So you are giving your best product away for the least amount of money! So let's take a look at this from an existing resident's point of view: They just got the renewal letter, which is asking for a $50 hike in their monthly rent, which means they are now paying $50 more for an apartment that is yet another year "older", even though they have been a loyal customer. If they move, they can probably get a "newer" apartment for less money than their renewal rate. Considering the cost of turning over an apartment, the existing resident is also worth more than a new resident to the property. So in the end, we are giving our best product at the lowest cost to the least profitable renter. Simultaneously, we are pushing out our most profitable residents by charging them a higher rent for a less......
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