Property Management

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What Your Employees and Residents Need to Know About Pests

Allowing a property’s pest problem to go unaddressed can quickly spiral out of hand. Informing employees and residents how to prevent and detect pests can save everyone involved a substantial amount of time, money, and frustration by stopping the infestation before it occurs. So, who’s better input than that of a certified entomologist? 

In an article for multifamilyexecutive.com, Hope Bowman, a technical specialist and board-certified entomologist with Western Pest Services, covered some basic facts for employees and residents to keep in mind when preventing/detecting pests:

1. Poor sanitation can lead to pests
Pests such as rodents, flies, and cockroaches are often drawn indoors because they detect a food source. Maintaining a clean space and taking out the trash daily can help deter them.

2. Water attracts pests
Pests need water to survive, so have residents report or fix leaky faucets, empty any bowls and cups collecting water in the sink, and remove any other sources of standing water in their units.

3. Cleanliness doesn’t prevent bedbugs
It doesn’t matter how clean one keeps one’s space; bedbugs can survive anywhere they can find a blood meal—and they prefer to feed on humans. So ask tenants to stay vigilant, especially when returning from a trip out of town. If they suspect they or their belongings might have been exposed to bedbugs while they were away, tell them to contact the maintenance staff before bringing suitcases and other trip items back into their apartment.

4. Pests can spread from unit to unit
Apartments share walls, noise—and pests. When one unit has a problem, other units are often affected too. That makes it even more critical to educate all your residents about taking the proper precautions, and periodically reiterating that message with friendly reminders.

5. Management should be notified early and promptly whenever a resident detects a problem
If pests aren’t reported, they can quickly lead to an infestation. Encourage your residents to report any pests as soon as they spot them.

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Preparing for Peak Leasing Season

Peak leasing season generally takes place during the second and third quarter of the calendar year. It’s also when a multifamily property should be performing at its highest level by bringing in revenue and attracting new tenants at a higher rate than slower months of the year. Being ill-prepared for peak season can almost guarantee a property playing catch-up for the rest of the year chasing lost revenue dollars, and as a result, negatively affecting overall returns on investment.

In a recent article from National Real Estate Investor, author Scott Wickman, regional vice president of Western National Property Management, highlighted some essential techniques to use before peak leasing season that can boost a property’s performance in terms of value, revenue, and tenant retention/attraction.

Click here to see the entire National Real Estate Investor article and learn how to take full advantage of peak leasing season

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Over 50,000 New Apartments to Come in DFW Area

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been a hotbed for real estate construction for many years, and is set to stay on the rise as the first quarter of 2017 comes to an end. According to a recent article from The Dallas Morning News, DFW has experienced a 95% surge in new-construction starts in the first two months of 2017. The spike in new builds is estimated to result in 50,000 apartments with 30,000 of them hitting the market before year’s end.

Most of the new construction is taking place in the Frisco-Prosper and central Dallas areas. Frisco-Prosper is in the process of adding about 6,400 units to the market, and central Dallas has started construction on an estimated 5,700 new apartments.

The recent growth in new construction has been easily absorbed by the job growth in the DFW area. A large portion of the tenant base are relocating to the Dallas area for work, as the region adds about 100,000 jobs to the market every year. Furthermore, Drew Kile with Institute of Property Advisers forecasts the North Texas population increasing by 780,000 people in the next 5 years, so demand is projected to remain strong.

Click here to check out the full article by The Dallas Morning News. 

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Managing Online Reputation

Not long ago, reputations were formed through direct experiences, word-of-mouth, and paid advertising. But since the emergence of the internet and social media, a person or business’ reputation can change as fast as someone can hit ‘send’. On one hand, society’s constant connectivity can be very beneficial, as it allows people to reach large audiences faster than ever before. But just as easily it can bring a company to new heights, the speed and scope of the internet can run even the best reputations into the ground with one wrong misstep. Here are a few tips to avoid ending up on the negative side of online reviews. 

“Google” yourself. A business can’t manage its reputation effectively without understanding the status of its online perception. That understanding begins with a simple search on any and all search engines, social media platforms, customer review sites, and user forums. A simple Google search won’t suffice with such an abundance of online outlets that can directly affect a business’ reputation, so thorough research is critical.

Monitor online reviews. We’ve all heard the cliche, “The customer is always right”, which is, to a certain extent, true. It’s especially true with services such as Yelp!, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, and many others, where customers can describe their positive or negative experiences with businesses behind the safety of their devices without an uncomfortable, personal confrontation with owners, managers, or employees.   One bad review can have a snowball effect, and before long, acquiring customers can seem impossible. That said, there will always be an unsatisfied customer, justified or not. Monitoring review sites allow a business to understand which aspect(s) of their product or service needs improving. In addition, if they have the ability to do so, business should reply to as many reviews as possible. It demonstrates pro-activity, a touch of personal care for each customer, and a desire to satisfy customer needs.

Maintain an active social media presence. In most cases, a business can’t reach its full potential without a social media presence. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter offer excellent opportunities to interact with and advertise to customers at little to no cost.  In addition, social media is often an accurate indication of current and upcoming trends among customers, so businesses can stay updated with their customers’ needs and adjust business strategies accordingly.

Keep it professional. Unless a business has an established focus on a specific political or social cause, it’s usually prudent to separate such opinions and stances from the business environment. Also, business’ should carefully consider the context of any created content available to the public. One offensive tweet or distasteful Facebook post can disrupt customer approval ratings, or even permanently ruin a business’ reputation.  These are just a few initial steps any business can take to harness the power of the internet to maintain or improve their online reputation. A good reputation has to be earned. It requires constant focus tobuild, and even more discipline to maintain. Ultimately, a company’s strategies and tactics can only take their reputation so far. Demonstrating excellent service and maximizing satisfaction will inspire customers to express their positive experiences to others and generate invaluable word-of-mouth no amount of marketing dollars can buy.

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Tenants Experiencing "Sticker Shock" in Dallas

In a recent local news report from Channel 8 News, Dallas, TX, renters in the area described their experience with a pattern of frequent rent increases.

According to the news report, “The newly published April 2017 Dallas Rent Report shows prices across the city remain above the national media. On average, one-bedroom apartments were leasing for $1,260. Two-bedroom units were renting at $1,760.”

While property owners gladly invite the increase in rent prices, tenants are finding it difficult to keep up. Despite new apartment complexes springing up across the city, the demand for apartments in one of the many trending areas of Dallas remains constant; which could be contributing to rising rent rates.

Click here to read Channel 8’s full article, and to see a quick video of local tenants and realtors offering their experience and expertise with rising rents in Dallas.

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The Good and Bad of Owning A College Town Property

College towns create a unique opportunity for property owners and investors. Similar to any other market, owning property in a college town has its pros and cons. But if an owner can take advantage of the pros and mitigate the cons, a college town property has potential to be one of his/her best-performing assets. Listed below are a few of the positives and negatives of a college town real estate market.

Pros

Large Pool of Tenants:
In our previous blog post, we highlighted a study that examined 21 cities where renters outnumber homeowners. Many of the cities mentioned in the study are homes of major universities with a large population of students in need of housing, consequently creating a consistent flow of current and prospective tenants.

Low Vacancy:
While they are not a guaranteed cause and effect, there is a definite correlation between large pools of potential tenants and low vacancy rates. Each semester, a college town experiences an influx of new students and employees who replace the seniors, graduates, and transfer students on their way out. That said, in most cases, the only reason a property would have high vacancy rates is poor management, or a bad reputation throughout campus and the community.

Stable Rent:
With the demand for rentals being so high in college towns, rent rates remain relatively stable. In addition, many students get their rent paid for by their guardians, so there may be many opportunities for higher rent prices.

Market:
When you own property in a college town the area sells itself. The university and the activities it offers attracts people from all over the country. Whether it’s athletic events such as football or basketball, culture or entertainment like art exhibits or concerts, or renowned food and shopping destinations, each college town offers a unique environment that cannot be experienced anywhere else.  Cons The pros of owning property in a college town are certainly enticing, but it’s important to consider the cons as well, as they can make even the best owners regret their investments.

Tenant Turnover:
We’ve established the excellent potential a college town’s large renter’s market offers. The problemis not finding potential customers, it’s retaining tenants for an extended period of time. Best case scenario, a property retains a student tenant for their entire college career, which averages four to five years. This is a rare situation, and with many students moving multiple times during college, it’s hard to get them to extend their lease, especially when it’s for a two-year period.

Wear and Tear:
Maintenance expenses are notoriously high for college town properties. There multiple factors that contribute to high amounts of damage college student inflict upon their living space. The combination of immaturity and high alcohol consumption by student tenants often leads to a lack of respect for their living space. Furthermore, when a student’s rent is paid for by their parents, it can sometimes remove the tenant’s sense of accountability. A thorough screening process can help minimize repair costs and the number of destructive renters a property endures, but every once and awhile a bad tenant manages to slip by.

Off-Season:
During the summer, universities experience a significant drop in student population. Some students head home for a few months while others go on vacation before the upcoming semester. Either way, without the right countermeasures, property occupancy rates are very vulnerable during the summer-time. The best way to counteract a big drop in student population is to have tenants sign a minimum of a twelve-month lease. With tenants signing on for an entire year, they are on the hook to pay for the summer months, even if they don’t intend on occupying the living space during that time frame.  There’s a lot of upside in owning property in a college town, but it’s very dependent on the market, and the owner or investor. Managing some of these pros and cons can be a dangerous game to play, but if you succeed, the risk will be well worth the expended time, money, and effort.

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21 Cities Where Renters are Outnumbering Homeowners

In their recent study of the country’s apartment renting market, ABODO, a user-friendly apartment searching service, examined the top 21 cities in which renters outnumber homeowners and what makes each market so friendly to renters.

ABODO’s research provides an abundance of detailed information including a breakdown of age groups in the renter-majority markets, renter household type, and renter growth compared to housing costs. Each breakdown also includes visual aids to help understand how some markets compared to others.

Click here to see ABODO’s research in its entirety.

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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.