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Limitations in Construction Fair Housing Claims

Great news for multifamily developers: That statute of limitations for fair housing issues relating to construction and development are now limited to 2 years following a project's completion. http://www.multihousingnews.com/multihousing/content_display/industry-news/e3i7b7c9db010011facebb7686524233c21
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New Facebook Group

Since more and more multifamily insiders are jumping into Facebook, I went ahead and started a new group there.  Check it out! http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45902715371
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The Inevitability of Social Networking

It's interesting to see how the perception of social networking changes so drastically from person to person. Of course, this is the case with any major shift in business practice (I'll note later why it is a "major" shift). It is inevitable that this is the type of change where there will be a host of people who try to "fight back" against the coming tide and those that embrace it and ride the wave. Fighting back ultimately leads to frustration, anger, and failure if the change is destined to be permanent. And guess what? Social networking is permanent. And I'm not necessarily referring to MySpace or Facebook, as you might imagine. Those are two large bastions of social networking, but the trend is continuing throughout the Internet on different levels.Those who get trampled by new business practices either don't understand how it affects their business or don't take the time to adequately address it. For the former, social networking affects your residents, your prospects, your employees, and your investors. Pretty much your whole business, right? And for each of these groups, you can use social networking to either guide the conversation or use the existing conversation as a tool to improve your business, often in the customer service arena.Let me take a step back, prior to social networking. Let's say you have a painting company and a customer tells her friend, who is also needing some painting work done, that your company did a bad job and she was not......
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Getting Proactive with Social Media

In the many conversations at the few (although innovative) property management blogs, we've talked about using social media in different circumstances - in this case, using social media to monitor your company's reputation, reacting to those posts to provide excellent customer service, and even leading the conversation in a positive way when it comes to your company. This article is great about discussing two out of three of these uses: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/services/2008-05-20-online-reviews_N.htm
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The Risk and Reward of Previously Foreclosed Residents

Multi-housing News put out a great article today showing that there is actually less risk from renters, even after the foreclosure crisis (http://www.multihousingnews.com/multihousing/content_display/industry-news/e3i1752bc99a224d58049587d86107de9a2). In other words, undoubtedly many of those who have experienced foreclosures have entered the rental market, and yet the risk of nonpayment for the market actually went down during that time span. I had written a month or two ago questioning whether these type of renters were inherently risky, as evidenced by their foreclosure, or if they had really just gotten caught in a bad circumstance. Trust me, I'm not an apologist, but I do look at things economically, and it seems to be showing that it makes sense to actively pursue this market.

Another interesting quote from the article was, "Renters-by-choice is the fastest growing group in multifamily." This is huge as these renters are more attracted to the lifestyle and specific benefits apartment living brings. Therefore, they will be less price conscious. Of course, that also means you have to provide a differentiated living experience to realize those price benefits.

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Should the Multifamily Industry Split In Two?

There was an apartment-related story in the Houston Chronicle today, but the interesting aspect wasn't in the news, but in the comments below. They were incredibly anti-apartments with comments like, "There goes the neighborhood" and "NO MORE APARTMENTS!" The interesting aspect is that a significant chunk of this new construction is Class A properties that cost more than the houses those readers live in. When your average rents are over $1,800, it is definitely not a situation of "there goes the neighborhood" (at least in Houston). In those communities, it is a choice to live in an apartment, whether it be to have less worries about maintenance, better location, or more amenities, these apartments attract a fairly strong clientele and it is their choice to live their versus owning somewhere else. So when more communities enter the scene and the response is overwhelmingly negative, it is obvious that the multifamily industry has a branding and image problem. I would say that there are three major factors that lead to this image problem: 1) On the whole, apartments will have more poor residents, just by virtue of the fact that it is easier to get approved for an apartment than it is to get a loan. 2) It's all about perception in your neighborhood. If you have a more spread out single family housing development with the same number of units as an apartment community, it is less likely that residents will be aware of any problem that happened several streets away.......
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Apartment Community or Personal Accounts in Social Media

I want to throw something out there and get some opinions on how you think apartment communities should deal with their residents/prospects through social media. Specifically, should the contact be made by the community or the staff members within the community? For example, do you want to hear from "Heather, Manager at XYZ Community" or do you want to hear from "XYZ Community"? I'm torn on this concept, although I have admittedly not spent that much time pondering the issue.By having the account be of a specific staff member, they can create much stronger connections with the prospect/resident. If just the community name is used, even if the recipient knows an actual person is behind the correspondence, does it feel a little less personal? Also, the recipient might not always know who they are talking to within the office, which creates a strange, uncomfortable aspect. On the flip side, if a staff member leaves, that means creating a new connection with a new account, if individual accounts are used. If one community account is used, however, that transition can be much more smooth. I hope that made sense.I think I recommend a mix of the two. Have a corporate account plus individual accounts. Maybe that's cheating, and is probably more work, but it just makes sense. You have the stable account plus the more personal connections. Besides, we are always taught that prospects lease because of the leasing consultant more than they lease because of the community. If that's the case,......
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The Ugly of Supplier Consolidation

I am admittedly way behind on my industry reading, so I just finished going through December's Units magazine. Near the end of the magazine, I found an article that discussed finding "savings in supply chain management." One of the big suggestions was to use one vendor across multiple needs, which could potentially lead to higher order volumes and bulk discounts as well as reductions in expense due to fewer cut checks. Wilmar Industries' David Record noted that the cost to cut a maintenance-related check totaled $35 to $90 in staff and admin expenses! That number shocked me, as it should you, too. Admittedly, there might be some sort of controls involved with inventory management that take time, but there's no way it should take that much expense to cut a check. That's especially true as more payments move online in a more streamlined manner.

In the end, that cost better reduce because the article does not discuss the negative of supplier consolidation. Let's take a supplier that is great with product/service A but does a marginal, although not horrible job at product/service B. I've seen companies go ahead and combine the two functions for some sort of supply chain management benefits, even if they ended up getting a substandard product. As the costs with dealing with a separate supplier decline, hopefully this type of supplier selection will disappear, as well.

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Twitter, Presidential Campaigns, and the Multifamily Industry

Considering many of you are on MySpace, Facebook, and of course, Multifamily Insiders, you are essentially on the forefront of technology when it comes to the multifamily industry. Some of you might have heard about the latest and greatest social networking tool/site out there called Twitter. For those of you who aren't indoctrinated into Twitterland yet, here is a quick summary: Twitter is basically a quick post of 140 characters of what you are doing at this very second. Instead of taking the time to email someone or even making a blog post, posting a "Tweet" gets the word out to your network of what is going on in your world. Here is my Twitter page, as an example.So now that you have an idea of what it's all about, I read an article a few days back that made a great point about the use of social media by non-individuals. In the article, it specifically talks about candidates' use of Twitter, as Obama, Clinton, and Edwards all had accounts. What was interesting is how the three used their accounts and how those lessons can be applied to the multifamily industry.In Twitter, you can choose who you "follow", which essentially means whose life you are reading about. They, in turn, can follow you back and read about your life. For Obama, he (or his staffers, more likely) follow back everybody who follows him. Now, Obama couldn't possibly keep up with 27,000 people's Tweets about their daily life, but sometimes perception is......
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Watch This And Imagine Showing Floorplans This Way (without the dog, though)

Imagine showing interactive floorplans with furniture you can move around!



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