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Statewide Rent Control in California

The California legislature recently passed a bill called Assembly Bill 1842 designed to enact rent control and protect tenants. Despite its intended purpose, many believe the new law will be detrimental to tenants, owners, developers, and the national apartment industry.

California Statewide Rent Control

The new law, Tenant Protection Act of 2019, outlines a cap on annual rent increases at 5 percent plus inflation for any and all buildings 15 years or older, determined by the property’s initial certificate of occupancy. An estimated two million additional apartments are expected to be impacted by rent control as a result of Assembly Bill 1842 passing.

Other key provisions include:

  • Does not contain vacancy decontrol provisions, so units can return to market rent prices when vacated
  • Beginning January 1, 2020, requires landlords to have just cause in order to evict tenants
    for tenants who have occupied a unit for at least 12 months, or up to 24 months when an
    adult tenant adds onto a lease (change in roommates)
  • Requires landlords to provide relocation assistance via one month’s rent or rent waiver for no-fault evictions within 15 calendar days of serving notice, and to notify tenants of the relocation assistance.
  • Contains a 10-year sunset, so the requirements in the bill will expire in 2030.

See this California Rental Housing Association Rent Control Fact Sheet for more information on Assembly Bill 1482.


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Apartment List’s Renter Confidence Survey

Recently, Apartment List, a home-finding service that offers apartment recommendations based on personal experiences and preferences, released results from its third annual Renter Confidence Survey. According to Apartment List, the Renter Confidence Survey “is the largest survey focused exclusively on renters, providing unique insight into what states and cities must do to meet the needs of America’s 111 million renters.”

The survey is based on 45,000 survey responses gathered between October 1, 2016 and December 6, 2017, to determine the best/worst cities for apartment renters. Survey respondents gave their cities an overall score based 11 rating factors such as safety, affordability, job opportunities, weather, taxes, and more. Below is a graphical representation of overall renter satisfaction by state: 

Click here to interact with the graphic above

Here are some key overall findings from the Renter Confidence Survey:

  • Overall, the top four rated cities for renters are Plano, TX, Huntington Beach, CA, Scottsdale, AZ, and Cambridge, MA.
  • Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Raleigh, NC, Boston, MA, Virginia Beach, VA and Minneapolis, MN earned the top scores for renter satisfaction. The lowest-rated cities were Detroit, MI, Oakland, CA and Tucson, AZ.
  • Small to mid-sized cities tended to receive higher ratings than large cities. 38 percent of small to mid-sized cities received A- or higher compared to large cities’ 24 percent.
  • States rated most-highly by their renters are Colorado, Alaska, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Idaho. States with the lowest ratings from their renters are Arkansas, Lousiana, Mississippi, Wyoming, and West Virgina.
  • Millennial renters love Boulder, CO, Madison, WI, and Arlington, VA.

In addition to overall ratings, renters rated specific factors that have a direct impact on their renting experience. Important takeaways include:

  • Markets with the most unsatisfied renters based on job opportunity are mostly southwest cities hit hard by recession such as Santa Ana, CA, San Bernardino, CA, Glendale, AZ, and Mesa, AZ.
  • Based on safety, renters rate Plano, TX, Boulder, CO, and Irvine, CA the highest.  Renters feel the least safe in Stockton, CA, San Bernardino, CA, New Orleans, LA, Memphis, TN, and Newark, NJ.
  • It’s no surprise Colorado and California have the highest-rated weather. Cold weather cities in the Rust Belt and Northeast have the lowest-rated weather.
  • Renters gave high ratings to college towns such as Boulder, CO, Ann Arbor, MI, Raleigh, NC, and Madison, WI for their social life.

Other important findings:

  • Only 38 percent of renters are satisfied with the cost of living in their city.
  • The top three factors renters are most satisfied with include commute time, pet-friendliness, and recreational activities.
  • The four factors that are most indicative of overall renter satisfaction are safety, job opportunities, social life, and recreational activities.

NAA Report Points to Orlando

Every quarter, the National Apartment Association (NAA) partners with RealPage to produce a Market Momentum report, which surveys industry executives across the country to reveal the most desirable markets for investing, rent performance, and resident retention.

While there are many varying opinions about what markets are desirable in the current economic climate, according to the most recent Market Momentum report, industry executives see Orlando being a hotspot for near-term multifamily investments.

“Market Momentum survey respondents rank Orlando as the top choice for increasing near-term apartment investment, said RealPage Chief Economist Greg Willett. “Supporting this choice, RealPage stats reveal tight occupancy, solid rent growth and comparatively moderate ongoing building in Orlando. Seattle and Washington, DC remain favored metros, while Sacramento and Los Angeles are moving up the list. Miami, Dallas and Atlanta, markets that previously were viewed favorably, have dropped from the top-rated list.”

NAA President & CEO Robert Pinnegear attests to the value of Market Momentum, noting the wide-range usage the report and the timely data it provides to industry investors and NAA members.

Click here for the full National Apartment Association article: www.naahq.org/orlando

For access to the full Market Momentum 2017 – Q3 click here: NAA Market Momentum

To learn more about NAA member services and sign-up: Member Services

Suburbs More Viable Than You Think?

In a recent article for Multifamily Executive, author Mary Salmonsen discussed what she learned from the MFE Conference in Las Vegas and why some suburban areas across the nation could provide favorable investing conditions for investors, asset managers, and developers.

Despite some fundamental differences and the inherent unknowns that come with penetrating a new market, multiple industry pundits believe the risks might not be as bad one may think.

“I’m convinced that, even at this point in the cycle, you can go to the suburban categories, the right kind of suburbs, and not add any risk to your investment strategy, but actually also achieve a better yield and save a risk-adjusted return,” said Jay Parsons, vice president of MPF Yieldstar, in the opening section of his panel presentation “The Nation’s Strongest Under the Radar Markets,” held Sept. 19 at the MFE Conference in Las Vegas.

Parsons didn’t overlook the obvious advantages of investing in dense, urban areas. He noted factors like construction incentives and more willing investors as main reasons why urban areas are so attractive for multifamily investments and developments. But at the same time, Parsons lists those same urban market strengths as potential barriers as well, due to the cost of investor capital and the extended time it takes to build.

On the other hand, suburban areas have their own barriers to entry. In many cases, suburban cities have more restrictive zoning laws against multifamily properties. Furthermore, suburban locals might show ‘not in my backyard’ resistance to multifamily construction. Having said that, those who can bypass suburban barriers could be in line for better yields with little to no added risk.

Zillow senior economist,  Aaron Terrazas, followed Parsons by taking a more detailed look at the flucuation of rent growth in the country’s strongest metros and cross-examining his findings with Zillow’s ZIP code-level rent appreciation data. He accredited market rent growth to specific local factors like Atlanta’s infrastructure and lifestyle investments or Sacramento being a satellite market to the Bay Area. In summary, Terrazas found that each smaller market that experienced growth had a unique factor that could make it a more attractive to investors and developers than a broader, national report might suggest.

“The reality today is everybody has to do their homework,” Terrazas said. “There’s no single national narrative. Things are local, the story’s local, and you have to look at the whole data to understand what’s happening here. You can’t just take a single national line.”

Click here to read more from Mary Salmonsen and Multifamily Executive

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The Power of Branding

When it comes to branding, most people instantly think of a logo, which is a testament to how powerful a unique brand can be. Maybe it’s the Nike swoosh, Facebook’s “f”, or the golden arches of McDonald’s, when people see these logos they automatically know what the brand is and what it stands for. Having said that, a brand is much more than just a logo.

A complete brand has three important elements: what, how, and feeling.  What does service does your property provide, how is it provided, and what feelings or emotions does your property evoke? For property owners, these three elements act as a blueprint to creating the customer’s perception.

For multifamily properties, the what is straightforward: a place to live. In the eyes of a customer, a property’s how is the special and unique way it delivers its what. The how is where a property can create a competitive edge by providing unmatched service, which leads to the final, and arguably most important element of branding, feeling.

Only the most successful brands convey the feeling element of their product or service. In most cases, people will not give you their business if they feel like they will be treated just as a means to another rent check.  If your property creates a laid back and inviting feeling with a friendly staff and fun community, that should be echoed through the branding. This will attract tenants with similar values and motives, ultimately improving the property’s environment.

Attached is a segment of a TED Talks seminar by optimist and best-selling author, Simon Sinek, who does an excellent job explaining how the most successfully branded companies use the aforementioned blueprint to their advantage. 

Simon Sinek’s Ted Talks Segment

Implementing this blueprint will create an effective brand that will prove to be one of the most powerful assets in differentiating a property from its competitors while setting the standard of excellence in the market.

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Unique Marketing Techniques

The success of an owner’s property is largely dictated by marketing efforts. A property can offer the best units and newest amenities in the industry, but without effective marketing, potential customers will never learn of what they are missing out on.

In an article from AM Digital, author Alex Middel compiled a list of 40 creative marketing strategies multifamily owners and managers can take advantage of to educate potential customers on the benefits of their property and its community.

The first 20 ideas are offline strategies that are effective in reaching the surrounding community that may not spend as much time online as others. The latter half of the list is comprised of techniques tailored to reach prospective customers through the internet whether its via social media, search engine optimization (SEO), or visual content such as pictures or videos.

Click here to see all 40 strategies and learn some innovative ways to attract new, potential tenants.

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Tenant Incentives

Like any other business, multifamily properties have to provide desirable incentives to obtain and retain customers. And with competition being so high as of late, every property is looking to stay one step ahead of the others in the area. Having updated units and new amenities isn’t enough anymore, so properties have started offering various types of incentives to new and current residents to combat lower vacancy rates. Here are a few effective incentive programs to gain and keep quality tenants:

Early Payment Discount

Make paying rent attractive by rewarding tenants with a discounted rent for early payment. Even if it’s a small amount like $10-15 off their monthly rent, proactive tenants understand the discount can add up to a nice sum of cash at the end of the year. In addition, the early payment incentive helps lower delinquencies and attracts residents that are more likely to pay rent on time. It’s nice collecting extra cash from late fees, but that’s not the type of revenue, nor the target audience owners should rely on. Allowing tenants to pay rent online provides extra encouragement to pay early as they can send in their money electronically from the comfort of their home, or on the go.

Another fun way to reward early-bird payers is a monthly raffle. Anyone who pays their rent early gets their name added to the raffle, and at the end of the month the name drawn wins. Prizes can range from dinner and a movie for two, to gifts cards, or a free car wash. Furthermore, if it’s the holiday season, some popular prizes are a free turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, or a HoneyBaked ham for Christmas eve. The raffle program can be fun for everyone involved, engages the community, and is a great incentive for residents to pay rent early.  

Referrals

Tenant referral fees are an excellent way of bringing in qualified residents while saving money on advertising. A tenant referral program offers numerous benefits. Renters are motivated to act as ambassadors for their property by spreading the word of the advantage of their living community. Also, good tenants tend to know reliable people. This may not always the case, but there’s a high chance a tenant who regularly pays rent early or on time will not refer someone they deem unqualified or untrustworthy. When a tenant refers someone who signs a lease, their reward can come in the form of rent credit, unit appliances like a television or microwave, gift cards, or even cash.

Lease Extension  Once a tenant has proven to pay rent on time and take good care of their unit, the next step for management is to retain that tenant for as long as possible. Offering a reward for lease renewal is one of the most effective ways to achieve high rates of tenant retention. In general, tenants prefer monetary incentives, so lowering their rent will give them most motivation to stay. If there is no wiggle room on rent rates, giving tenants unit upgrades is a good substitute. Returning tenants often like to move into a newly renovated unit, but if there aren’t any available, upgrading their unit with brand new appliances has proven to suffice. Also, if the unit has the necessary connections, provided washer and dryers are in very high demand. Ultimately, management should do everything they can without breaking the bank to keep their best tenants.

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Mastering the Make-Ready Process

There are so many moving parts when a unit undergoes the make-ready process, execution can be stressful and overwhelming for an unprepared management and maintenance staff. If that’s the case, the make-ready process will cost a property excessive capital in maintenance and upgrades while losing important revenue due to extended vacancies. But with the right tools and tactics, a make-ready can be a smooth and efficient transition that will ultimately be well worth the dedicated time, money, and effort. Listed below are some excellent  tools and procedures to optimize the make-ready process. 

Technology

Lease expiration management plays a crucial role in the make-ready process. Being able to efficiently monitor and manage current and upcoming vacancies will largely dictate how efficient performing a make-ready will be. There are an abundance of revenue management/lease expiration software programs on the market property managers can use to simplify lease, revenue, and market monitoring. That being said, it is always important to maintain a human element when using technology, as the software should be viewed as a tool, not an employee replacement.

Click here to see a list of accredited lease management software programs. 

Walk-Throughs and Preventative Maintenance

Management should be regularly performing walk-throughs to monitor the state of each unit.  The walk-throughs offer a number of advantages. First, management can bill tenants for any damage done to the unit and maintenance can make the necessary repairs that may have prolonged the make-ready period. Second, walk-throughs allow maintenance teams to make any repairs  that would otherwise become a larger problem as time passed such as leaks, mold, or structural  irregularities. In the end, proactive management and maintenance shortens the make-ready to-do-list and reduces a unit’s vacancy duration.

The make-ready process begins the instant management sends out a notice to vacate the unit. In addition to consistent walk-throughs, performing inspections prior to a unit becoming vacant will help understand what is needed to complete the make-ready. Furthermore, pre-inspections will minimize unexpected maintenance problems, prepare the renovation team to execute the make-ready processin a single, efficient effort, and ultimately reduce the total time the unit is vacant.

Staff Incentives

Having a proactive maintenance staff is one thing, but being able to combine that with a knowledgeable, well-trained management team is what turns a good property into a great one. If the property staff is running like a well-oiled machine, cooperatively working towards a common goal the make ready process should be a breeze. A good way to ensure everyone is on the same page is offering the staff incentives based on how fast a make-ready is completed along with the quality of their execution. With everyone’s bonus being tied to each other’s performance, the staff is encouraged to excel as a team. Additionally, the cost of incentives is minimal compared to the loss in revenue from having a vacant unit on the books for too long.

Bonus Tip

Sometimes a staff has to start multiple make-readies at the same time, which can be overwhelming, even for the most prepared of staffs. One way management can get a head start on the make-ready process is having leases expire on Mondays. When leases expire at the beginning of a week, often times tenants will move out over the weekend. This reduces the number of days a unit is vacant, as it allows management to begin the make-ready process a few days early while the tenant is still paying rent on the unit.

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Tenant Retention

Property owners are always looking for a competitive edge when it comes to the never-ending battle of attracting and retaining good tenants. Naturally, having a clean property, attractive curb appeal, desirable amenities, and a convenient location are all major factors in bringing in new tenants and filling vacant units. But what does it take to get the best tenants to sign on the dotted line when lease renewal season rolls around? 

It’s a combination of a property’s physical amenities and the quality of service provided by a management team that motivates a resident to move out or renew their lease. We think it’s more about the intangibles, rather than the physical attributes the property offers that keep tenants coming back. If a property has a friendly, inviting community with a management team that prioritizes honest relationships and high-quality service tenants that value these characteristics in a property will be encouraged to remain a resident for, ideally, many years to come.

In an article from Multifamilyexecutive.com, author Melanie G. French, the Executive Vice President of Operations of Cortland Partners, offers a well said explanation on what it takes to retain tenants, build trust and cooperation among the community, and the importance of a property’s staff to demonstrate genuine care for the needs and wants of their tenants.

Click here to read French’s article in its entirety.