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I just got back from Boise, Idaho recently to visit family and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Northwest U.S. I found out a cousin who has been living with her parents for various family reasons is now looking for a rental situation. I asked her what kinds of deals she was finding in the apartment market in Boise, and while she told me what I expected to hear – that the move-in deals were pretty amazing – she had chosen to submit a rental application for a single family home with a yard. This is no new story to any of us, and she shared all the reasons we’ve heard before:
- Fenced in yard
- Same price as an apartment
- No shared walls
- Lots of space
- And the neighborhood even had a pool and clubhouse!
Yes, the shadow market is alive and well, there’s no point in denying that. We’re competing with it for prospects as well as our existing residents! While there are many experts on the leasing side who can offer strategies and approaches to get new prospects in the door, there is a need to continue to use some of these same strategies to keep the residents we have. Remember the TV show, The Jeffersons? The theme song is all about moving to a “deluxe apartment.” How do we re-kindle that pride of residency in our own community? When it comes to existing residents telling us at renewal time that they are considering renting a single family home or condo, it may be an opportune moment to remind them of some of the extra costs that could be associated with renting a single family home:
- How quickly are maintenance issues resolved?
- What will it cost to maintain lawns/landscaping in summer or sidewalks and driveways in winter?
- Who pays for water/sewer/trash?
- What will utility bills look like in order to heat/cool the home?
- Who provides window coverings?
- Does the neighborhood have a pool, clubhouse, fitness room? If not, what will it cost for memberships at local facilities?
While the initial monthly rental rate may be equal to or better than the resident’s current rate, what other costs do they need to consider? And, ultimately, the renewal decision is most influenced by the service delivery the residents are experiencing. Are you offering your residents service that can not be matched? Meaning, do you return their calls and emails same day? Are their service requests completed in 24 hours, and are they completed right the first time? And as the theme song says, do your residents feel they have “finally got a piece of the pie?”
Property Solutions and SatisFacts Research Announce Strategic Alliance
July 7, 2009
Property Solutions® (www.propertysolutions.com) and SatisFacts Research (www.satisfacts.com) are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached to create a new strategic alliance. This alliance includes several components. Property Solutions will offer SatisFacts’ Insite™ touchpoint customer service modules as a robust resident and prospect feedback system to integrate into their property and prospect portals. In addition, each firm will cross-promote the other’s services so as to offer multifamily operators a comprehensive resident and prospect communication solution.
Property Solutions® is the nation`s largest provider of apartment community web sites, providing property management tools to management companies in all 50 states, ranging in size from 50,000 units or more under management to less than 100 units. Their robust product suite includes the Resident Portal™, Resident Pay™ and Prospect Portal™ tools. Property Solutions® employs a dynamic team of software developers, technical support staff, and account representatives, all dedicated to creating and implementing the best property management tools available.
SatisFacts Research has worked with over one million units and serves as a satisfaction research and retention partner for the multifamily industry. SatisFacts offers a suite of powerful Resident Relationship Management Services™ including overall performance assessment programs, the Insite™ 24/7 customer service feedback system, as well as the tools and support needed to help clients significantly enhance performance by reducing costly, controllable turnover. The Insite™ Move-In, Work Order Follow Up, Pre-Renewal, In-Touch and Unclosed Traffic programs are a cost effective, 24/7, 365 day/year customer service safety net.
Property Solutions president Ben Zimmer stated, “This was a very logical alliance for us. Both firms specialize in robust, state-of-the-art systems intended to dramatically enhance communications between residents, prospects and the community staff – with the end result being enhanced performance. We wanted our portals to be able to offer the most robust feedback system. Being able to incorporate SatisFacts’ Insite™ product line into our portal systems offers several benefits to our clients and their residents. Given our commitment to excellence, that meant we needed to align ourselves with the best-of-breed satisfaction feedback provider in multifamily. That choice was clearly SatisFacts. Much more than offering a quality product, they are as passionate as we are about delivering value and service, and creating partnerships with their clients. That plus their nationally recognized brand and well established integrity made the decision easy for us.”
Doug Miller, president and founder of SatisFacts, added, “Property Solutions® is the premier player in a critical space within the multifamily industry. Our research has shown the immense retention and marketing value of a comprehensive property online strategy. Both residents and prospective residents want what all of us desire – access to service 24/7. Residents want to be able to submit service requests, pay rent and reach out to the office staff…when they want to. Prospects likewise want to be able to shop…when they want to. Property Solutions™ is the tier one provider in this critical space, with a product that provides all of the functionality needed, created and managed expertly, and backed up by a company-wide culture of providing outstanding service. Our products mesh beautifully, we both are focused on opening the doors of communication between properties and their customers, both of us are driven to provide the finest service possible, and our core values are beyond comparable. We are very excited about this marriage.”
Property Solutions® product suite consists of Resident Portal™, Resident Pay™ and Prospect Portal™ tools, all of which enhance the ability for properties to offer unsurpassed communication and online services to both residents and prospects. For more information, contact Ben Zimmer, President, Property Solutions International, O: 877.826.9700 x503, E: email@example.com, W: www.propertysolutions.com.
SatisFacts offers Annual Resident Satisfaction Surveys, Insite™ Online Touchpoint Feedback Programs, Takeover and Red Flag Property Surveys, Education Programs, Custom Studies, Consulting Services as well as Employee, Owner / Client, and Association Member Satisfaction Surveys,. For additional information, contact Doug Miller, President, SatisFacts Research, O: 866.655.1490 x100, C: 410.598.1400, E: firstname.lastname@example.org, W: www.satisfacts.com.
SatisFacts Research and SALES Inc! Announce Strategic Alliance
July 7, 2009
SatisFacts Research (www.satisfacts.com) and Sales Inc! (www.salesinc.net) are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached to create a new strategic alliance. In this alliance, each firm will cross-promote the other’s services to offer multifamily owners and operators a more comprehensive solution to improve asset performance. SALES Inc!, established in 1988 by Stacy Crook, assists property owners and property management firms by quickly solving vacancy challenges. Since its inception, SALES Inc! has provided leasing services for over 1600 communities nationwide, and has achieved a remarkable closing ratio in excess of 50%. As the top leasing firm in the U.S., SALES Inc! has leased thousands of apartments in every market throughout the nation, creating increased cash flow and higher property values for managers, owners and investors. SatisFacts Research, founded in 2000, has worked with over one million units and serves as a satisfaction research and retention partner for the multifamily industry. SatisFacts offers a suite of powerful Resident Relationship Management Services™ including overall performance and 24/7 customer service assessment programs, as well as the tools and support needed to help clients significantly enhance NOI and asset value by reducing costly, controllable turnover. Their product suite includes a rapid turnaround web survey program for underperforming or in-receivership properties that provides valuable feedback…fast. SALES Inc!’s president Dan Haefner stated, “This agreement creates an alliance intended to offer our partners/clients a double barreled approach to improving property performance. SatisFacts offers processes and programs to address resident retention, which is a great supplement to our accelerated leasing programs and efforts that rapidly drive up occupancies.” Doug Miller, president and founder of SatisFacts, added, “Sales Inc! and their team of leasing experts help properties to improve leasing activity, while SatisFacts resident satisfaction feedback programs and action planning tools and support help properties tackle the 60+% of turnover that is controllable. The end result is to increase rentals at the same time as reducing turnover.” SALES, Inc!, based in Atlanta, provides accelerated leasing services to the multifamily industry. For additional information, contact Dan Haefner, President, SALES Inc!, O: 770.623.4545 x 102, E: email@example.com, W: http://www.salesinc.net. SatisFacts’, based in Baltimore, offers Annual Resident Satisfaction Surveys, Insite™ Online Touchpoint Feedback Programs (Move-in, Work Order, Pre-Renewal, In-Touch, and Unclosed Traffic Modules), Takeover and Red Flag Property Surveys, Education Programs, Employee Satisfaction Surveys, Owner / Client Satisfaction Surveys, Association Member Satisfaction Surveys, Custom Studies, Consulting and Process Evaluation Services. For additional information, contact Doug Miller, President, SatisFacts Research, O: 866.655.1490 x100, C: 410.598.1400, E: firstname.lastname@example.org, W: http://www.satisfacts.com.
The NAA Education Conference was a whirlwind day trip for me. I was only able to fly in on Friday morning and fly out that evening. It was a great experience! I got to match many names with faces and have a some great conversations. There were very positive comments flying around about how impactful the conference had been for the attendees as well as the exhibitors.
As you can imagine, knowing that I only had 1 day to dive into the conference, I had to put tremendous faith in the airlines. There was no room for delays or flight cancellations. Knowing that I could not allow for any margin of travel error, I chose to fly Southwest. They are known for their great track record for on time departures, and when it comes to Las Vegas in particular there are no other airlines that can even come close in the reliability rankings. I don’t care for the “cattle call” although they have improved that process somewhat. I am a bit tired of the “no frills” peanuts. But I can count on them, and they did not fail me on this trip.
There was a twist however. I arrived safely home on Friday night, and in the morning I found an email waiting for me from Southwest.
With all the emails – both personal and junk mail – I receive on a daily basis, this actually did stand out. There was nothing more to the message. Just this thank you, with a subtle suggestion to share my positive experience on their own Southwest Travel Guide page.
You may remember a previous post in which I shared an idea of asking for positive public feedback from great residents who were unable to renew for whatever reason – suggesting they leave some good notes on certain apartment search websites. Southwest is essentially doing the same thing. They know they gave me an on time arrival and departure, they are acknowledging my patronage, and they are hoping to get a little extra mileage out of a satisfied customer. I think it’s a great idea. They have made it easy for me to leave some happy thoughts for another potential traveller to read.
So, what are you doing to make it easy for your residents to leave some positive feedback? I’m going to leave some positive feedback on the travel guide because as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to day trips or any travel that has no margin for travel error, Southwest – I’m forever yours, faithfully.
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Check out Doug’s latest blog post at NAA’s Aptly Spoken: http://www.naahq.org/blog/lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=88
“… While I always intuitively knew that great service paid off (this being engrained in my genes), I became very dangerous over the years as I have been able to back up these feelings with the results from surveys we have completed with well over a million units.”
Summer is here, and we’re all waiting to see what levels of turnover will occur. Our typical summer experience, especially where our maintenance teams are concerned, is an increase in turnovers and the increased focus on getting newly vacated apartments ready for potential new move-ins. The result? Existing residents may have to wait a little longer to have a service request issue resolved. It might take a little longer to hear back on the status of an ordered part or a scheduled vendor.
But wait! Doesn’t it seem strange that we would prioritize empty apartments above our rent-paying customers? It’s almost as frustrating as standing in the check-out line, money in hand, to buy the perfect prom dress, but the clerk is busy dressing the mannequin in the store window and can’t be bothered. Something’s wrong with this picture!
We see the cycle. We know the cycle. There are times of the year that typically bring an increase in turnover, and times of the year that typically experience less turnover. Knowing this, what if we did something radical – something that turns what has been the norm in our industry for years and years on its ear? What if we reduced or retired our monthly resident events (that may draw a handful of attendees) and shifted those dollars to that time of year when we know turnover is traditionally heaviest? What if we shifted those dollars to hire temporary, part-time maintenance help to ensure our existing residents were never affected by the ups and downs of our business cycle?
Depending on your location, $6,500 can hire a part-time technician for over 430 hours – which equates to 30 hours/week for 14 weeks, more than covering the typical heavy turnover season. This is a strategy that provides a direct return on investment. Maintaining steady, consistent focus on reducing outstanding maintenance issues translates to higher resident satisfaction which results in increased lease renewal likelihood.
Resident events, move-in gifts, hard copy newsletters are great as icing on the cake when service delivery is top notch and running like a well oiled machine. How many of us can say with 100% confidence that this is the case for our property or portfolio? I know there are many of you out there who can! And there are many others who are making great strides. But as we all focus on minimizing turnover, the foundation of retention is how well we perform in service delivery. And it can be those part-time, temporary maintenance Boys (or Girls) of Summer that can make all the difference!
Whether an owner or manager has 8 units or 80,000 units, understanding what matters most to your residents is the first step in creating an effective resident retention program. And the good news is that in this era where 60% of residents prefer to communicate with their property manager via email, online resident satisfaction surveys are a low-cost, non-intrusive option that provides a statistically sound cross-section of responses. In other words, the surveys provide the information necessary to make effective decisions that will positively impact resident satisfaction and retention.
While an annual survey program can help establish a snapshot in time of what residents are thinking, and allow for action planning from a strategic level, there are also survey programs that focus on key communication touch points such as move-in follow up, work order follow up, pre-renewal surveys and unclosed traffic follow-up. These are event-based surveys that can be generated to identify an experience from a specific interaction. Our research shows that these events, move-in, work order completion and pre-renewal, can have a direct impact on the resident’s decision to renew.
Resident surveys are not the only surveys to consider as a part of your property management tool kit. Employees, Asset Owners/Clients, and even Service Providers are a part of your internal customer base. Understanding how well you are meeting their expectations can provide a clearer picture of the culture your organization has built and identify opportunities for improvement that in turn support your resident satisfaction and retention goals.
When looking for a third party survey provider, be sure to look for the following:
- Experience in the multifamily industry;
- A variety of survey methodologies, including web based surveys, so you can identify the methodology most effective for your unique property/properties;
- Survey program options, such as Annual, Move-In, Work Orders, and Pre-renewal to address both a snapshot in time and critical event-based touch points;
- Minimal report turnaround time from the survey completion cutoff date to the report delivery date, in order to begin timely action planning and resident follow-up;
- User-friendly reports that any team member can understand;
- Results review sessions, including recommendations, upon survey completion with all levels of management;
- Action planning and education tools to best leverage your survey results.
Retention begins with a solid foundation of communication and thrives within a culture of responsiveness. By having the courage to ask your residents to “talk behind your back,” you will gain critical insights into what truly matters most. And by opening the lines of communication, you’ll also be closing the back door!
The Pew Research Center just came out with a new study. You may have read about in the paper over the weekend. It takes a look at the trends of what we (Americans) consider luxuries versus necessities. Some of the more interesting findings, from a property management and owner perspective, is that there are some things that are falling from that “necessity” list. Air conditioning, for example, fell 16 points on the necessity scale compared to it’s 2006 rating. The microwave fell 21 points. High speed internet, however, increased by 2 points, and the cell phone remained steady with 50% of Americans considering it a necessity.
Given our swift and drastic shift toward all things online, it is imperative we keep up with these preferences – especially when we see that it’s not a matter of “Nice to have” (aka “Luxury”) but of “Need to have” (aka “Necessity”). Please realize that a cell phone is no longer just a phone. All cell phones can send and receive emails via the text message function. Many cell phones have web browsers where residents (and prospects) can view web sites, check their bank account balances, shop for shoes, and conduct all manner of business with you. The question is, are you ready?
Based on our resident survey results, email has become far and away the preferred method of communication with the leasing office. In 2007, 30% of residents preferred this communication method. In 2008, this number jumped to 59%! Resident preferences are changing quickly and dramatically! The next most popular method of communication is the cell phone, which was at just over 17% in 2007 and is now at 38%. The thing is, cell phone and email are becoming synonomous. They will soon be one and the same, so it’s imperative that you are consistently asking for and confirming that what is in the property management system is indeed the “best” phone number and the “best” email address to contact your resident. The current national average of 15% email coverage is not going to cut it, folks.
Sing it with me:
And I want…
And I need…
And I love (yes, I tweaked the lyrics a bit)…
Sorry Def Leppard. I couldn’t resist.
Jen Piccotti is the VP Consulting Services with Satisfacts Research.