How an All-In-One Property Management Solution Can Drive Efficiency for Your Business

The on-demand marketplace has changed the way consumers interact with brands across all industries, including the residential rental property management and community association management sectors. Multifamily business models are shifting to meet evolving expectations. At the intersection of superior customer service and higher profit margins lies an all-in-one solution that enhances customer experiences and drives organizational performance.

Benefits of All-In-One Property Management Solutions

In a nutshell, all-in-one property management solutions provide quick, easy access via universal search to everything you need for managing your business from anywhere, at any time, from any device. Benefits you should expect from a complete property management software solution include:

An Intuitive Solution with Single Login Access

Technology enables managers to gather, organize and distribute relevant information to owners, investors, tenants, and board members (for community association managers) from the same device, streamlining communication while saving time.

Improved Data Accuracy

There’s no need to manually transfer spreadsheet data to accounting software; then manually transfer accounting details to customer statements. Aggregating data from multiple softwares or point solutions is a thing of the past with a complete property management solution. Replacing manual data entry throughout each step of your process with automated workflows ensures accurate, real-time data every time.

Empowering Employees with Mobility

With access to all areas of your business, including accounting, leasing, maintenance, and performance reports, from any device your entire team will be in the loop. Whether a leasing agent is looking up the status of a potential renter, or an administrative assistant is referencing the current status of a maintenance request for a customer – everyone will be seeing the most current, accurate data.

Improve Communication with Maintenance Team & Vendors

With an all-in-one property management system, your internal maintenance team and external vendors can stay on the same page. With easy access to maintenance requests and the ability to update them with current status, everyone stays in the loop, including the renters and homeowners so that the lines of communication remain open. Eliminating hand-written notes and messages regarding maintenance reduce errors to improve accuracy.

A Focus on The Customer

In today’s on-demand, high-expectations economy, property management professionals who consider each customer touch-point as a means to strengthen long-term relationships prioritize service. By consolidating all of your communication, notes, and property data into one system, property managers are able to more quickly and accurately work with renters, answer questions, and resolve issues. An all-in-one software solution improves customer service, thereby enhancing growth and profit potential with each engagement.

 

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When Misguided Attempts to Keep HOA Fees Low Affect the Reserve Fund

Compass-map-pushpins

The reserve fund of a homeowners association is often misunderstood by members and sometimes the HOA board as well. Some see it as a slush fund that is to be used on a “rainy day”‘ when the association gets low on cash in the operating account. Others, although they may understand the need to have some measure of reserve cash, do not make the connection that reserve funds are being reserved for the particular components within the community that the association is responsible for, such as roads, roofing, siding, fencing, painting, and equipment replacement.

These misconceptions can often be compounded by the well-intentioned but misguided attempts by some to keep HOA fees as low as possible. When someone runs for the Board on the platform that they’re going to reduce fees to 1985 levels, the best advice is, “don’t drink that Kool-Aid…run the other way!” That candidate is living in a dream world, equivalent to someone who thinks that next month they’ll be able to drop the price of a gallon of gas to fifty cents and a loaf of bread to a quarter.

Misguided Members

Board members simply do not have that level of control over the expenses of their association because most expenses will be driven by the marketplace. They may want the handyman that will work for $6 per hour and a cold beverage, but good luck in getting them.

Although they may be able to cut expenses by conserving costs such as PG&E, sewer, water, garbage, insurance, equipment or hourly contractor rates, building materials and more are typically not going down and certainly not to 1985 levels. What is the solution for these shortsighted, misguided members? They cut adding to the reserve fund and perhaps neglect other amenities. The result would create a mess that others would have to clean up.

Fiduciary Duty

Board members have a fiduciary duty to ensure their homeowners association has adequate reserve funds. If a person is not willing to do this, then they should refrain from running for the Board. Thinking they would be doing a service to the association by keeping the fees low at any cost, they would actually be costing their association dearly. This is the pathway to special assessments, borrowing, and unpleasant emergency conditions.

Important Laws

Because of the tendency of too many Boards to inadequately set aside reserve funds for their  association, the State of California has continued to adopt laws that homeowners associations must follow in this regard.

A few of these include:

  • The requirement to have an on-site reserve fund study completed every three years
  • The need to have a plan to meet the future obligations of the association
  • The requirement each year to disclose the sufficiency of the reserve funds to meet the obligations of the association over a subsequent thirty year period.

The state of California has chosen to take the failure of too many Boards seriously. You should as well.

Become a Board member or support one who will protect your ownership interest by being committed to adequately funding your homeowners association reserve funds. You will sleep much better at night!

Empowering Technology to Avoid Landscape Losses

Empowering Technology to Avoid Landscape Losses

The drought that gripped the U.S. a few years ago may be over, but lessons learned to conserve water and landscape loss are very much applicable to today’s front and backyards.

Many municipalities continue to enforce weekly water restrictions as the nation recovers from shortages that left some reservoirs and lakes high and dry. Communities are attempting to preserve much of today’s plentiful water supplies by enforcing water conservation.

As water supplies dwindled around 2012, xeriscaping gained popularity to keep landscapes from looking burned and depleted. Grass and traditional plants were replaced by low-maintenance rock, decomposed granite and native foliage. Also Evapotranspiration (ET)-based irrigation technologyemerged to control the volume of watering.

While some of xeriscaped landscapes remain, a green lawn has become desirable again, especially now that water supplies are back to normal. But experts says that efficient irrigation practices are just as necessary as they were four or five years ago.

“During the drought, we learned a lot of landscape design principle changes,” said EarthworksPresident Chris Lee. “Even though we’re past the drought, a lot of cities still have the twice-weekly watering restrictions. We need to still be as efficient as possible in irrigating our lawns.”

ET-based controllers act like a thermostat for an apartment property’s sprinkler system, telling it when to turn on and off, while using local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the property. Instead of irrigating using a controller with a clock and a preset schedule, ET controllers allow watering schedules to better match plants’ water needs while minimizing runoff.

Duration, frequency, and soak times are set by several factors. Weather data combined with geographical location, sprinkler type, plant type, soil type, and a fine tuning option, enables the smart irrigation controller to irrigate with precision. Also, problems with output – such as a malfunctioning zone – can be identified through the flow sensor with a swipe of the screen or click of the mouse anytime, anywhere.

The technology is mobile friendly and systems can be controlled from anywhere, anytime.

Technology helps property managers get a grip on irrigation

A big benefit to ET-based controllers is minimizing overwatering, which is more prevalent in the summer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA says that 30 percent of all water consumed in the U.S. is used for outdoor purposes and that up to half is wasted during the summer because of evaporation, runoff or wind.

In 2012, Texas-based Weathermatic, a manufacturer of ET-based controllers, began a sustainability program and started reducing water consumption for property management companies. After three years, the average water usage of Weathermatic’s top five property management customers dropped 50 percent, said President and CEO Mike Mason. The savings were twice as much as California’s mandated 25 percent reduction in water usage around 2012.

Lee says the company is working with landscapers to help property management companies switch to the controllers so landlords can stay on top of water consumption. The technology won’t necessarily save a lot on the water bill but will help apply the right amount of moisture at the right time to keep plants and grass healthy.

“You’re not going to save a lot of money on your water bill but when you’re talking about money on the capital side because you’re not managing irrigation as efficiently as you can and you increase plant material loss, that’s where it will make an impact,” he said.

Making the best of water restrictions

The program, which starts in January, is particularly beneficial for property management companies who have multiple rental homes. High-end commercial grade controllers can run upwards of $5,000; typical residential controllers retail as high as $1,800. By working with select landscape companies, property managers can save on installation costs and get the benefit of ET-based controllers without outlaying a bunch of capital, Lee said.

Controllers can be programmed to manage city restrictions and integrate with sensors to identify variances in flow rate, an indicator that can lead to leak detection or equipment malfunction that prohibits adequate coverage. Flow sensors ultimately reveal whether or not the system is working correctly to avoid plant and grass loss, which can get expensive to replace.

The system will also shut down automatically during disasters and emergencies.

“When you only have a couple of shots a week to irrigate your property you need to know if the system is working properly,” Lee said. “Flow sensors look at consumption and tell if the system is coming on or not.”

The controllers can be especially beneficial for rental homes where residents manage the landscape irrigation. Ultimately, the landscape gets irrigated properly to avoid overwatering or under-watering, which affects plant life. The home’s front and backyards always look good, enhancing curb appeal and reducing the need to replace dead or damaged plants, which ultimately costs the landlord, Lee says.

“Cities aren’t going to relax their water restrictions,” he said. “They’re here to stay. Managing irrigation efficiently is going to continue to be critical, no matter the conditions outside. This technology is an opportunity for property managers to be efficient about how they water and ensure the landscape is healthy and looks good. It really does the thinking for you.”

Empowering Technology to Avoid Landscape Losses

Empowering Technology to Avoid Landscape Losses

The drought that gripped the U.S. a few years ago may be over, but lessons learned to conserve water and landscape loss are very much applicable to today’s front and backyards.

Many municipalities continue to enforce weekly water restrictions as the nation recovers from shortages that left some reservoirs and lakes high and dry. Communities are attempting to preserve much of today’s plentiful water supplies by enforcing water conservation.

As water supplies dwindled around 2012, xeriscaping gained popularity to keep landscapes from looking burned and depleted. Grass and traditional plants were replaced by low-maintenance rock, decomposed granite and native foliage. Also Evapotranspiration (ET)-based irrigation technologyemerged to control the volume of watering.

While some of xeriscaped landscapes remain, a green lawn has become desirable again, especially now that water supplies are back to normal. But experts says that efficient irrigation practices are just as necessary as they were four or five years ago.

“During the drought, we learned a lot of landscape design principle changes,” said EarthworksPresident Chris Lee. “Even though we’re past the drought, a lot of cities still have the twice-weekly watering restrictions. We need to still be as efficient as possible in irrigating our lawns.”

ET-based controllers act like a thermostat for an apartment property’s sprinkler system, telling it when to turn on and off, while using local weather and landscape conditions to tailor watering schedules to actual conditions on the property. Instead of irrigating using a controller with a clock and a preset schedule, ET controllers allow watering schedules to better match plants’ water needs while minimizing runoff.

Duration, frequency, and soak times are set by several factors. Weather data combined with geographical location, sprinkler type, plant type, soil type, and a fine tuning option, enables the smart irrigation controller to irrigate with precision. Also, problems with output – such as a malfunctioning zone – can be identified through the flow sensor with a swipe of the screen or click of the mouse anytime, anywhere.

The technology is mobile friendly and systems can be controlled from anywhere, anytime.

Technology helps property managers get a grip on irrigation

A big benefit to ET-based controllers is minimizing overwatering, which is more prevalent in the summer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA says that 30 percent of all water consumed in the U.S. is used for outdoor purposes and that up to half is wasted during the summer because of evaporation, runoff or wind.

In 2012, Texas-based Weathermatic, a manufacturer of ET-based controllers, began a sustainability program and started reducing water consumption for property management companies. After three years, the average water usage of Weathermatic’s top five property management customers dropped 50 percent, said President and CEO Mike Mason. The savings were twice as much as California’s mandated 25 percent reduction in water usage around 2012.

Lee says the company is working with landscapers to help property management companies switch to the controllers so landlords can stay on top of water consumption. The technology won’t necessarily save a lot on the water bill but will help apply the right amount of moisture at the right time to keep plants and grass healthy.

“You’re not going to save a lot of money on your water bill but when you’re talking about money on the capital side because you’re not managing irrigation as efficiently as you can and you increase plant material loss, that’s where it will make an impact,” he said.

Making the best of water restrictions

The program, which starts in January, is particularly beneficial for property management companies who have multiple rental homes. High-end commercial grade controllers can run upwards of $5,000; typical residential controllers retail as high as $1,800. By working with select landscape companies, property managers can save on installation costs and get the benefit of ET-based controllers without outlaying a bunch of capital, Lee said.

Controllers can be programmed to manage city restrictions and integrate with sensors to identify variances in flow rate, an indicator that can lead to leak detection or equipment malfunction that prohibits adequate coverage. Flow sensors ultimately reveal whether or not the system is working correctly to avoid plant and grass loss, which can get expensive to replace.

The system will also shut down automatically during disasters and emergencies.

“When you only have a couple of shots a week to irrigate your property you need to know if the system is working properly,” Lee said. “Flow sensors look at consumption and tell if the system is coming on or not.”

The controllers can be especially beneficial for rental homes where residents manage the landscape irrigation. Ultimately, the landscape gets irrigated properly to avoid overwatering or under-watering, which affects plant life. The home’s front and backyards always look good, enhancing curb appeal and reducing the need to replace dead or damaged plants, which ultimately costs the landlord, Lee says.

“Cities aren’t going to relax their water restrictions,” he said. “They’re here to stay. Managing irrigation efficiently is going to continue to be critical, no matter the conditions outside. This technology is an opportunity for property managers to be efficient about how they water and ensure the landscape is healthy and looks good. It really does the thinking for you.”

What You Need to Know: Carr, Mendocino Complex and Ferguson Fires

Carr Fire/Shasta County

https://google.org/crisismap/us-wildfires?hl=en&llbox=41.1249%2C40.1715%2C-120.9908%2C-123.6275&t=TERRAIN&layers=16%2C17%2C9%2C2&embedded=true

Acreage and containment: The Carr Fire in Shasta County has burned 115,538 acres — 180 square miles, or roughly the size of the entire city of San Jose. The blaze was 35 percent contained as of early morning Wednesday. The wildfire is now the seventh most destructive wildfire in California history.

Casualties: Two firefighters and four civilians have died in the blaze.

The dead include: Don Ray Smith, 81, a contract bulldozer operator working with Cal Fire; Jeremy Stoke, a firefighter with the Redding Fire Department; Melody Bledsoe, 70, and her great-grandchildren, James Roberts, 5, and Emily Roberts, 4.

Authorities announced Sunday that a sixth person had died in the blaze. The Redding Record Searchlight identified the victim Tuesday as 62-year-old Daniel Bush. Bush had recently undergone a quadruple heart bypass surgery. He was told by doctors he was not allowed to drive and couldn’t evacuate without help. His sister said she couldn’t reach Bush because the roads to his home were blocked by sheriff’s deputies.

Missing persons: The Redding Police Department is still looking for one remaining missing person by the name of Bruce Brown. If you have information about Brown, you can call the missing persons hotline given by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office at (530) 225-4277.

Damage update: Cal Fire said Wednesday 1,465 structures have been destroyed, including 1,018 homes. Another 248 structures have been damaged, and 2,546 remain threatened. You can view a map with the most current structure information here.

Evacuations and repopulation: Here’s the latest list of mandatory evacuations and repopulation plans from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Cal Fire is also publishing repopulation announcements on its Carr Fire information page.

Emergency shelters:

  • The Red Cross shelter at Shasta Community College is at capacity.
  • Crosspointe Community Church, 2960 Hartnell Avenue, Redding
  • Trinity High School, 321 Victory Lane, Weaverville
  • Grace Baptist Church, 3782 Churn Creek Road, Redding
  • Simpson College, 2211 College View Drive, Redding
  • Foothill High School, 9733 Deschutes Road, Palo Cedro
  • Valley Christian Center, 2831 Freeman Street, Anderson

Animal evacuation centers:

  • Large animal shelter: Tehama County Fairgrounds, 650 Antelope Blvd Red Bluff
  • Large animal shelter: Intermountain Fairgrounds, 530-336-5005, 44218 A St, McArthur
  • Large/small animal shelter: Redding Rodeo Grounds, 715 Auditorium Dr, Redding
  • Small animal shelter: Haven Humane, 1816 CA-273 Anderson

Drinking water alerts: The California State Water Resources Control Board issued a boil water advisoryfor three water systems — Clear Creek CSD, Centerville CSD and Shasta CSD — as a result of the Carr Fire. Customers in these areas should boil their water for one minute before using it for drinking or food preparation purposes.

Mendocino Complex/Mendocino and Lake counties

https://google.org/crisismap/us-wildfires?hl=en&llbox=39.427%2C38.94%2C-122.2732%2C-123.5916&t=TERRAIN&layers=16%2C17%2C9%2C2&embedded=true

Acreage and containment: Two fires, the River and Ranch fires, are collectively named the Mendocino Complex.

As of Wednesday morning, the River Fire had burned 31,898 acres (about 49 square miles) northeast of the community of Hopland and west of the town of Lakeport. The blaze is 38 percent contained. The the Ranch Fire, burning southwest of the community of Potter Valley and north of the Highway 20, has consumed 59,014 acres (92 square miles) and is 15 percent contained.

Damage update: Ten residences, including seven homes, have been destroyed, and 12,200 other structures are threatened.

Evacuations and repopulation: See Cal Fire’s Mendocino Complex information sheet for details on evacuation ordered Mendocino and Lake counties. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has also posted a map of evacuation areas. Cal Fire is publishing repopulation notices on its Ranch and River fire information pages.

Evacuation center: Mendocino College, 1000 Hensley Creek, Ukiah.

Animal shelters: Horses are being accepted at Redwood Riders Arena at 8300 East Road in Redwood Valley, and small animals are being accepted at Animal Care at 298 Plant Road in Ukiah. You can contact the shelter directly at 707-463-4427 with any questions or concerns.

Ferguson Fire

https://google.org/crisismap/us-wildfires?hl=en&llbox=37.9436%2C37.2417%2C-118.8572%2C-120.615&t=TERRAIN&layers=16%2C17%2C9%2C2&embedded=true

Acreage and containment: The fire just west of Yosemite National Park had burned 62,883 acres (98 square miles) and is 39 percent contained as of Wednesday morning .

Yosemite closures: The Ferguson Fire has prompted an extended closure of Yosemite Valley and other parts of the national park. Officials announced Tuesday those closures will continue through at least Sunday, Aug. 5.

Casualties: The fire has killed two firefighters: Brian Hughes, who died Sunday morning after being struck by a tree, and Braden Varney, who died when his bulldozer tumbled down a mountainside. The fire has injured 9 others.

Evacuations and repopulations: Federal incident managers have published a list of mandatory evacuations and repopulation notices on Inciweb’s Ferguson Fire page.

Evacuation center: Mariposa Elementary School, 5044 Jones St. in Mariposa.

Animal shelters: Small animals are being accepted at the Mariposa SPCA at 5599 Highway 49 North in Mariposa. Large animals are being accepted at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds located at 5007 Fairgrounds Road in Mariposa.

This post contains reporting from The Associated Press.

The No. 1 Way To Build Healthy Tenant Relationships: Communication

It’s no secret that communication is the key to any successful relationship, whether it’s with family members, a partner you’re romantically involved with or colleagues at work. Open and direct communication between tenants and property managers is no different. Establishing a strong foundation of communication is important from the start, even when someone is still a prospective renter, because it helps rental issues get solved quickly and mitigates future problems.

So how can property managers best communicate with their residents?

Use Tech To Communicate More Effectively

Luckily, technology advancements have made communication between property managers and tenants quicker and easier. Mobile usage is so much a part of our everyday lives that it has changed tenant expectations — including how they expect their property managers to get in touch with them. Text messaging is commonplace and allows property managers to quickly send important, personalized updates to tenants, including package delivery notifications, late rent reminders or community announcements.

Property managers are also utilizing software portals to set up and send emails and text messages to help streamline the maintenance process, which creates more proactive communication with tenants. Today, people tend to screen or ignore calls, but a text from their property manager that more information is required on their maintenance request will likely get their attention and prompt response.

In addition, many property managers are embracing social media to communicate with residents. Creating custom Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and building websites have supplemented, and in some cases replaced, the mailroom bulletin board as a way to share resident-related information. This method ultimately allows property managers to communicate to a broader reach of their residents with the click of a button so they get more done in less time and tenants get the benefit of enhanced updates.

Hone-In On Core Communication Skills: Listening

Technology has enabled property managers to build more open lines of communication with their tenants. However, without demonstrating core communication skills, the technology will just fall flat.

We learn one of the first (and most important!) rules of communication when we’re children: To be a good communicator, you must be a good listener. Property managers must ensure they’re actively listening to their tenants’ complaints, notifications and preferences — and then responding. This will foster trust with your residents and create an approachable relationship without tension, which is the engagement property managers are striving for.

Purposefully listening to tenants can also save property managers time if, for example, a tenant calls with a maintenance request or lease updates. Listening saves property managers unneeded follow up communication with tenants and, in some cases, can prevent costly litigation if details were discussed but not paid attention to.

Fast Follow-Up

Some maintenance issues can take a while to resolve. As a property manager, you have to clarify details and gather data that can take several calls, emails and follow up messages, especially if you’re working with an outside vendor to fix the problem. And, any missed calls and unanswered emails during this time will just add to the tenant’s wait time for the issue to be resolved.

Although a maintenance problem itself may take a while to get fixed, tenants will get even more frustrated if they feel like they aren’t being updated on where things stand. It’s the property manager’s responsibility to keep the tenant updated on all they’re doing to remedy the issue in a consistent manner. For instance, through text messaging, a property manager can reduce the need for tenant follow-up since they can receive steady maintenance updates.

Personalize Your Message

Using technology, property managers can now automate a number of the messages they send to residents but must be wary of form notes being seen as generic or coming off as inauthentic. A little personalization goes a long way.

For example, it’s important to add the first name of residents to email blasts instead of just the standard “Hello.” Note how your tenants like to be contacted, whether it be via phone, text or email, and stick to these preferences whenever possible. Does a tenant work the night shift and can only be reached via phone during certain hours? Does another travel a lot for work and want to be reached via text messaging due to the different time zones they’re in? Knowing these preferences creates a better customer experience.

Open Lines Of Communication = Resident Retention

Property managers need to be in regular contact with their tenants to build a trusting relationship, not only when there’s a maintenance issue or its lease renewal time. An open line of communication leads to an overall better customer experience, and this leads to residents who want to stay put at their properties, as well as recommend them to friends and family. And in a competitive market, this positive word-of-mouth can be the best marketing tool a property manager has.

 

Do You Need a Building Permit for Outdoor Concrete Work

Planning to have some concrete work done around your property? Great. Will you need to pull a permit? It’s complicated. You see, building permit requirements vary according to where you live, so it’s essential to check out the laws that apply to your geographical location. To make things more complicated, your HOA (or board, if you live in a townhouse) is likely to have rules of its own. Yikes! The good news is that many concrete installations at or just above grade level will not need a permit. Don’t give in to the temptation to just skip the permitting process entirely, though; you could end up with a citation; retroactive permit costs; fines; and perhaps difficulty in financing, insuring, or selling your home.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general informational purposes only. Check with your local building authority for the rules that will apply to your specific project.

Patio

Is your planned concrete patio to be less than 30 inches above grade? If so, you’re in luck – you will most likely not need a building permit, although your concrete contractor might have to pull an excavation permit. (Don’t forget to contact a one-call number, as well, to make sure you will not be digging in the vicinity of underground utility pipes or cables.) The picture may alter if you are going to add walls or a roof to your patio.

Driveway or walkway

As with patios, height is an important factor in determining whether you can forego the permit process to construct or replace a concrete driveway or walkway, but here the limit changes to only 18 inches above grade. (We told you it was complicated.) Width is frequently restricted to 18 feet, except for turnarounds, as in the area in front of your garage. Will the new drive or path pass directly over a basement or other part of your home? Uh oh. Check it out with your local building authority.

Parking pad

When you’d like more space for your vehicles, a concrete parking pad might sound like the perfect solution. Before you call out the contractor, though, check with the regional authority. Even a building permit won’t help you in certain parts of the country; in these areas, parking of cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, or boats is limited to your driveway only and using a parking pad, even on your own property, is illegal (!!).

Retaining wall or fence

Are you about to put up a concrete retaining wall or fence? You probably won’t need a permit (with emphasis on the word “probably”) for a wall or fence that will measure a maximum of 2.5 to 6 feet, once again depending on where you live. Other factors that may change the requirements are your local soil type, the climate, and whether the boundary will be located on a property line. In some cases, not only a permit will be essential, but also a professional engineer’s design or approval.

Tool sheds and other outbuildings

Surprisingly, you may be allowed to skip the permit process entirely when constructing an outbuilding such as a tool shed, playhouse, greenhouse, gazebo, or the like, with a concrete slab foundation. However, you will find that there is likely to be a size limitation for the roof of approximately 120 square feet.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.