Keep Talking. Employees are Listening

As we look toward entering a new phase of management during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to survey multifamily employees to see how they are feeling about the ever-evolving situation. Data from the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey shows that employees’ feeling of safety in carrying out their responsibilities tracks with the level of communication and leadership visibility they are experiencing. In other words, the more leaders communicate directly with their teams, the greater the employees’ feeling of safety in completing their work. 

In speaking with leaders of 30 property management companies, there is a universal perception that it’s time to take the foot off the gas pedal regarding company communication, now that we’re through the initial tidal wave of change that arose due to the pandemic.  “We’re turning into Zoombies!” commented one employee, which perfectly represents the fatigue many team members are feeling in regard to the volume of meetings we all seem to be having. However, while I may agree that the quantity of meetings may need to be toned down, the quality of communication is still critically important.

Polling conducted with hundreds of multifamily employees during webinars over the past few weeks shows a shift from general feelings of uncertainty to concerns about how their communities are addressing or planning to address re-opening. In addition, beginning on May 18th, the data from the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey has shown the rating trending downward on the topic of, “I feel well-informed about updates to ……

Productivity Tools to Help Your Multifamily Property Staff Be More Efficient

At a time where businesses in the multifamily industry are striving to minimize costs, productivity among your staff is a chief concern. 
It’s no secret that decreased productivity can cost your property, but with the internet inundated with “helpful content” and an endless stream of advertisements, you might feel like the right productivity tools for your team are, in fact, a secret from you. 
Let’s pull back the curtain and chat about productivity tools that will actually make a difference in the efficiency of your staff. 
Task Management Tools for Multifamily Properties
Implementing a task management tool for your staff to use on a daily basis can help keep them focused and productive — whether your team is working from home or not. 
As with the nature of a multifamily business, whether your in-office or not, your team is likely distributed. Task management allows regional managers who are out of the office or in a different location to keep tabs on the progress of their individual property managers. On the flip side, it allows property managers to communicate with regional managers if their workload is too high and priorities need to be shifted.  
The major changes happening in the multifamily industry may be highlighting inefficiencies within your team — pushing you to become more efficient. This is not a time to place blame on others or dwell on past mistakes, but a time to make improvements to how your team makes progress and completes tasks. 
If you’ve tried a task management tool before a……

Up from the Pandemic Low: Leading Indicators Show More WoW Improvement

Up from the Pandemic Low: Leading Indicators Show More WoW Improvement

While coronavirus lockdowns are not over yet, as of May 20, all 50 states were starting to re-open to some degree, according to The Wall Street Journal. The East and West Coasts are re-opening more gradually.As I mentioned in my last blog, the openings were already having a positive impact on our industry. During the week ending on May 20, all the major national performance metrics except for Net Effective Rent (NER) moved in the right direction on a week-over-week basis, according to Radix. That marked the first time that has happened since the pandemic began.We seem to have bottomed out as far as declines in occupancy and leased percentage rates, and traffic and leases are gaining ground as well. NER, while still declining, experienced a smaller dip than it did during the preceding week.If traffic and leases continue to improve, the impetus for rapid rent discounts and concessions might slow down as well.Here are the notable takeaways from the week ending on May 20:•    Nationally, traffic and leases were up 13.8% and 13.3%, respectively, WoW. Those figures represent an accelerating improvement (during the week ending on May 13, the metrics increased by 8.7% and 6.6% WoW). On a year-over-year basis, leases were down only 11.6%, which is a major improvement from earlier in the pandemic, especially when considering these gains were made almost entirely while a majority of the markets were still in lockdown. Traffic was down 35.8 percent YoY.•    The national occupancy (92.90%) and leased percentage (94.56%) rates were up ……

What You Should Be Paying for Apt Search Keywords and Other Covid Marketing Tips

What You Should Be Paying for Apt Search Keywords and Other Covid Marketing Tips

Virginia Love shares a flurry of Covid-period tips such as YouTube ads’ value, why it’s important not to have furniture in your self-guided tour homes, and explains why some prospects never finish filling out their online applications.
After two or three months of shelter-in-place, the apartment industry is seeing that people can’t just sit around and wait (to shop for an apartment).
While they originally put their plans on hold, now they are ready to move and have limited time to find a new home. The evidence is in the traffic and the cost-per-click rates.
We spoke to Entrata’s Virginia Love – who brings more than 20 years’ onsite leasing experience — about trends she is seeing this month, based on a Speedy Session webinar she conducted through the Apartment Association of Central Oklahoma.
Cost-Per-Click on the Rise
Pre-Covid, the “Apartments for Rent’ cost-per-click (CPC) was approximately $2.70 on Google Ads. That price fell, but now we’re seeing it recover to around $2.60 (Week of May 25).
The same “Apartments for Rent” search CPC on Microsoft Ads (Bing) is $1.49. Communities choosing to advertise on Bing can reach more audience for less money.
On social media, Facebook Ads has found a very cost-effective way to promote their brand at around 30 cents CPC.
Advertisers should make sure to control the frequency of price caps so they don’t flood their audience with ads that will just be turned off, and retarget those who have visited their websites but not converted or returned.
YouTube Ads’ Value Play……

Multifamily Tours Best Practices – Keeping Staff, Residents, and Prospects Safe

Touring is an essential part of the leasing process for every arena of real estate, but it’s especially vital for multifamily. 
Since multifamily properties are a community of units and residents, the property’s ultimate success lies not in one lead-to-closing conversion, but in many conversions to keep vacancy low. Because of this, tours and property showings play an essential role in a healthy multifamily asset’s toolbox. When the tours stop, the sales funnel goes stagnant. Conducting tours is a requirement for filling vacancies and actualizing the asset’s full ROI potentials. 
However, the current global climate is putting a halt on traditional touring protocols and forcing industry professionals to find new alternatives that better align with the times. 
COVID-19, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders are sparking widespread concerns for the health and safety of the leasing staff, residents, and prospective residents. Needless to say, conducting tours is now a challenge… and one that needs to be conquered immediately if multifamily professionals want to keep up their momentum. 
Overcoming the Obstacles
Fortunately, it is possible for multifamily property managers to conduct tours safely while accommodating all of society’s ‘new normals’. 
By combining cutting-edge technologies with strategic best-practices, you’ll be able to conduct tours with confidence and provide an extraordinary customer experience for prospective residents. 
Explore Modern Touring Options
Optimize your multifamily tour procedures according to the moment with these 4 creative ideas: 
Pre-Made Video Tours
Being exactly what the name suggests, this tour option allows multifamily managers to compile a ready-made vide……

How One Apartment Community Hosted an ‘Open House’ Virtual Tour. It was a Huge Success.

How One Apartment Community Hosted an 'Open House' Virtual Tour. It was a Huge Success.

Open House. No, that’s not a Covid-19-induced oxymoron. It’s a new and effective method for conducting virtual apartment tours.
Shelter-in-place policies, social distancing and staggered timetables for gradual re-openings of state economies combined with Americans’ hesitancy to join the “current normal” lifestyle have created booming popularity for virtual apartment touring.
The Remy, a LIVEbe community in Lanham, Md., came up with a new way to conduct an ol’ real estate standby: The Open House
The 278-unit, eight-story property welcomed 51 participants at noon last Saturday for its 16-minute recorded tour and had nine applications submitted by 4 p.m. It’s had four more since, says Jaymie Martin, Community Director.
“We recognized during our open house – with so many people participating – that it created a sense of urgency to lease in some of the prospects,” Martin says. “The interaction of the group and our staff created kind of a buzz.
“For some, when they saw the property for the first time and learned that there might be only a few units of a specific floor plan and sensed the enthusiasm from others on the call – it made our property even more enticing.
Martin says the tour, overall, felt comfortable. “It was more like a group conversation – which was good – rather than one-on-one conversations with staff and prospects.”
The Remy had contracted with Realync to do video tours and had been through the production process often, finding it an easy and convenient fit for its overall marketing strategies. Martin pleasantly pointed out that Saturda……

5 Types of Problem Tenants and How to Deal with Them

Property management is as equally tasking as it is rewarding. However, for most property managers, bad tenants are the most prominent and also the most common challenge. Even with the best tenant screening system in place, these problematic tenants can still end up in your rental properties. Unfortunately, they will make your life as a property manager a living hell. Knowing these characters beforehand will help you learn how to deal with them without making your life even more difficult. That is why I have outlined the five types of problem tenants and how to deal with them below.

The Late-Rent Payer 

In a utopia world, the relationship between a tenant and a property manager would be pretty straightforward. That is, the tenant pays their rent before or on the deadline and the property manager processes it and takes care of the property. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a perfect world, and as the property manager, you will likely come across tenants who always pay their rent late.
Though there are times when even the good tenants may pay rent late, I am referring to the type of tenant who will usually pay rent whenever they deem convenient. This is nothing short of frustrating as it disrupts your accounting plans significantly, and can create just more and more paperwork. Here’s how you deal with this type of problem tenant:

Don’t Be Emotional, Create a System and Stick to It 

Late payers will continue with this bad habit and even tur……

Five Benefits to Paperless Parking

Five Benefits to Paperless Parking

More and more companies every day are switching to paperless parking solutions, whether it be a condo or HOA, multifamily complex, or a business center. Not surprising either, considering the many advantages. Here are just five ways you can benefit with paperless parking permits.
Environmentally Friendly
Everyone is concerned about the environment nowadays, and rightfully so. Reducing paper waste, reducing deforestation and pollution, etcetera. The worries and struggles of endlessly printing out paper and stickers for residents and their guests will be totally negated, contributing to the elimination of the paper waste. This change will make a substantial difference for every leasing and management office.
Ease of Access & Use
Not only can going paperless can earn you points for being more environmentally conscious, it will save you time from having to issue and re-issue parking permits over the span of a day. You won’t have to keep your binder full of hang tags anymore. And, just think of the never-ending task to record and keep track of vehicles associated with those hang tags. The burdens associated with distributing physical parking permits are phased out once you switch to a paperless parking system. Especially when it comes to guest parking; residents and guests will now have 24/7 access to purchase their parking permits, allowing communities to maximize on ancillary revenue even when the office is closed.
Resident Satisfaction
Our quality of life can be greatly improved upon in the digital world. This no doubt includes paperless parking permits, where residents or……

Your Employees are Struggling. Throw Them a Lifeline

For the past six weeks, more than 2,900 employees have responded to the Swift Bunny COVID-19 Employee Check-In Survey. Recently, their responses have begun to take on a desperate tone. For many, what started out as, “we can do this!” has devolved into “I’m not sure how much longer I can do this.” Here are some painfully candid comments team members have shared:
“I’m thankful that I still have a job and that I’m still needed at the office. But I’m stressed. I’m tired. I go home and I’m useless until it’s time to go to bed. Then, I don’t sleep because I think of everything that I still need to get done.”
“With all of the residents home every hour of every day, the amount of complaints has been mind-boggling. I go home every day now completely and utterly exhausted and worn out.”
“Too many directives and deadlines given on short notice. We are expected to work around the clock answering emails and texts at all hours. The virus is stressful enough. Leadership has made it ten times worse.” 
“I’m worried about my maintenance team. I don’t know how they are still standing at the end of the day.”
“STRESSED is the understatement of the year. We are all carrying this stress differently. I wish that our managers would be more understanding that no matter what job you have, you can be just as stressed as the boss.”
Multifamily leaders, your associates are drowning in stress and worry. It’s time to throw your team members a lifeline before ……

Normal is Not Gonna be so Normal… You Have Not Heard This Take Yet.

So while you are in the middle of this big global pandemic, what are you doing to get ready for the new normal?  The next normal will be different. Here are my predictions.
ZOOM Meetings Will Continue…and They Will be Effective
Most everyone is doing it…online meetings.  They are not virtual, they are real and they are more efficient and much cheaper than face to face.  Many of us have learned to make these sort of team gatherings work quite well and are becoming creative and bold in our prep and direction of the “ZOOM”.  Employees who cannot adapt to this sort of team meeting will be left behind.  
Training Will Adapt to Online in New and Unique Ways
The canned online training sites will get better, more impactful in creating positive change and growth in skillsets.  It will also get a lot cheaper.  Technology will make packaged leasing, customer service, and fair housing courses more interactive and enjoyable.  Employees will consider online training fun and look forward to these high-tech presentations taught by almost life-like avatars.   Again, it will be a lot cheaper.  
Expert and guest speakers will still be popular but will present live, online, eventually as a life-size hologram .  Travel costs will be eliminated and their speaker fees will drop as they begin to compete with popular industry avatars.
On-site Leasing will continue to become More “self-service” and the real live leasing professionals will be as rare as gas station attendants.  
The ……