Three More Ways to Fill Those Vacancies

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Here are three ideas from my upcoming article series titled “50 Ways to Fill Your Vacancies”. Like you, I’m fired up about the idea of having as many marketing tools as possible to manage properties effectively.

As a property owner and/or manager, you may already have many successful ways to quickly fill your vacancies with well-qualified new residents. My hope is that I can add a long list of intuitive and counter-intuitive suggestions that have worked and will keep on working.

So here are three more suggestions that can insure that the rental income stream keeps flowing to your clients and yourself.

1. Go to the restaurants you frequent the most. Ask the owner or manager to allow you to display a tastefully crafted “take one” box at the check-out counter or hostess table. Make sure it clearly displays the message that a gift certificate for that restaurant will be given to the individual who takes one of the special display cards and gives it to a prospect who becomes a resident.

A variation of this is to tell the restaurant owner, manager or hostess that if someone rents one of your units, you’ll buy a gift certificate from the restaurant and give it to a new patron who has never been to their restaurant. It will generate a fresh batch of regular customer for the restaurant and a repetitive source of referrals to you. You’ll be amazed how many restaurants will love the idea as they’re always looking for new ways to increase their clientel.

2. It may seem old-fashioned in this age of digital, mobile media, but creating a full-page, colorful, glossy hand-out that lists all of the benefits, accoutrements, and features of your available rental still works. Make sure you show some photos of how nice the vacant unit looks, and when you take the photo “stage it” with a few perky pieces of furniture or wall furnishings.

List any extra features like a new dishwasher or free Wi-Fi and provide information about the local area, bus routes, schools, laundry and conveniently popular shopping venue. You’ll be providing a valuable service that few property managers take the time to offer. Let your prospects take your hand-out and tell them to call you if they have any questions. Ask for their contact info so you can follow up.

3. Ask your current residents, clients and “happy campers” for a glowing testimonial of what it’s like to be a resident in one of your well-maintained and thoughtfully managed buildings. Let your prospects know ahead of time how much current and past residents appreciated your services. Ask for as many testimonials as possible, and use them to attract more owner-clients as well as prospective renters to fill your vacancies.

There you have three more ideas on how to fill your vacancies as fast as possible. Keep in mind that if you haven’t tried these ideas lately, you can’t objectively know why they work or how they work.

These ideas derive from my property manager colleagues and my own experiences. Together we have many decades of management and marketing expertise and that’s why I literally have at least 50 of these tried and tested tools.

They’re based on the principles that if you’re willing to do what few property managers are willing to do, you’ll have the kind of success that few will enjoy and experience. Also, your clients and residents don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. So get busy and show them!

Property Management SaaS PocketRent Announces Upcoming Software Update

On HolidayThe online property management software PocketRent has announced that it will cement its status as the go to solution for smart property owners and managers this week with the hotly anticipated announcement of its proprietary cloud-based tool, PocketRent Pro.

Using the same foundation that powers Facebook, the next generation technology allows landlords, owners and property managers to tap into the power of the cloud through an intelligent B2C and B2B platform. A powerful, intuitive and bespoke SaaS app, PocketRent as well as the forthcoming Pro edition is highly personalised, incredibly relevant and easily monetised. All this sits within a compelling and highly interactive environment which takes the stress out of contract negotiations and tenant communications.

Acting as a single channel for all things rental and investment, the web-based property management system empowers smart property owners by simplifying contract creation and making day-to-day management a breeze. A unique proposition, PocketRent has already won the recognition of a range of prestigious organisations across the globe, most recently receiving an all-expenses paid invitation to the launch of Facebook’s Hack programming language event in April.  The invitation was extended in recognition of PocketRent developers Simon Welsh and James Miller’s contributions to the Facebook code.

Product Manager Mark Huser said, “We are delighted to announce our ongoing commitment to PocketRent Pro which will further empower and assist owners, landlords and managers. Built on the same foundation that powers Facebook, the world’s most powerful social network, PocketRent Pro is an unprecedented property management system for the savvy property professional.

“With three years of experience, we appreciate that privately managing rental property is stressful, cumbersome and often a complex process. Landlords often know what’s involved, but not how to do it. Faced with myriad legal obligations, a slew of processes for managing tenancies, and staying on top of rental payments, the sheer volume of information to manage can be overwhelming. What’s more, investors rely on overly complicated spreadsheets and duplicated data entry in order to analyse and calculate their returns effectively.

“We recognised that large amounts of time and money are spent needlessly coordinating financials, capital values, mortgages and expense management between disparate systems. PocketRent puts an end to this.”

Intuitive, effective and accessible, PocketRent adds fluidity and flexibility to the often complex communication processes linking landlords and tenants. It is supremely flexible, allowing for remote log-in access, multiple account users and shared management administration as well as offering the peace of mind that comes from automatic rent management, ensuring lease monies are paid on time.

PocketRent is also hugely beneficial to renters, with features such as the Tenant Dashboard making viewing payment history and upcoming inspections a breeze.

Satisfied client, Libby Carson says “PocketRent is an awesome service, easy to use and simple to navigate. It takes the hassle out of managing properties, payments and paperwork — a superb idea that’s made our lives easier!”

PocketRent has already established itself as a comprehensive property management tool for a collection of clients across the globe, from Australia and New Zealand to the UK, US and South Africa. The newly expanded cloud based SaaS app optimises and refines the already astounding features of the tool, giving property managers more power and flexibility than ever before.

36 months in the making and PocketRent has entered the industry with a bang. It will shortly announce public investment opportunities following rapid growth since 2012.

Regardless of portfolio size, PocketRent is the ideal management tool for any property administrator, from independent landlords to national firms.

To learn more about PocketRent or to sign up for a free one month trial visit www.pocketrent.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PocketRent

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PocketRent

About PocketRent: PocketRent is a property management tool offering landlords, investors and property managers a comprehensive platform for easily managing all aspects of the property management process. Made in Wellington, New Zealand, the system is personal, interactive and has the potential to save B2C and B2B users vast amounts of time and money.

About PocketRent Pro: Building on the already revolutionising features of PocketRent, PocketRent Pro extends cloud based technology to make property management easier and more flexible than ever. Users are able to access accounts from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, making day to day property management available from anywhere, anytime.

Contact: Issued by Dakota Digital. Please direct press queries to Rebecca Appleton. Email Rebecca@dakotadigital.co.uk or Tel: 01623 428996.

What’s the Right Dose?

Looking beyond hyperbole to confirm the real data behind health claims for green buildings.

By Michael Cockram

The link between health and green building seems natural. More daylight, fresh air, and reduced emissions from fossil fuel read like a recipe for wellness. But there are those who use things like LEED certification as a marker of healthy building when the facts don’t always align with the claims.
Red Listed: The Bullitt Center in Seattle is aiming for Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, so the team had to vet building products for compliance with LBCs Red List. The list prohibits the use of 14 potentially toxic ingredients (many of which are commonplace in building materials) to ensure a healthier environment for office workers.

For example, Duke Realty, an Indiana health-care-facility developer, extols on its website the healthy attributes of a recent project that achieved LEED Gold certification, asserting, “Green buildings typically have better indoor air quality than conventional facilities.” However, the certification was for LEED for Core & Shell. This category doesn’t include the finish-out of tenant spaces and avoids a primary culprit in indoor air quality: toxic emissions from finish materials.

On the other hand, a 2010 study done by Michigan State University titled “Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity” found that LEED buildings do create healthier work environments. Despite the fact that the scope of the research was limited to only two case studies (the Christman Building and the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union), the authors of the report concluded that “these preliminary studies lend support to expectations of improved IEQ [indoor environmental quality] and occupational health and public health outcomes from expanded use of green office buildings.” Expectations are not evidence, and the Michigan State researchers were aware of the limitations of drawing conclusions from subjective employee surveys, their method of evaluation in this study.

Common sense and a lot of science warn that breathing toxic chemical gases in unventilated or unexhausted environments is hazardous. That’s the presumptive logic on which this and similar studies are based. Future research will most likely broaden its scope to measure accurately the cause before extrapolating its effect.

Fact fishing and sound bites

This is why studies, particularly those of the preliminary kind, are so susceptible to distortion. A 2011 Fox News headline shouted out: “Green Buildings, Hazardous to Health?” Beyond that hyperbole, the story cherry-picked its way through an Institute of Medicine study on the potential impacts of climate change on IEQ. The story focused on the possible negative effects of “weatherization” methods such as adding insulation and tighter construction.

“To say something is green because you’ve increased tightness or insulation is inappropriate,” says Carnegie Mellon architecture professor Vivian Loftness, a coauthor of the study. She points to the passive-house technique of using heat-exchange ventilation as an example of green building that actually improves fresh-air delivery rates compared with conventional homes. “It’s a package deal; you don’t build supertight without a ventilation system,” she adds.

The Fox story also omitted the recommendations of the researchers, which called for updated codes, more testing, and regulation by the EPA of toxic emissions from materials.

Some researchers have criticized the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the fact that it’s possible to tailor a LEED Platinum certification without any indoor-air-quality credits. But the critics provide no data to show how LEED buildings actually perform.

The National Research Council of Canada released a study this year that is the most extensive to date on how green buildings perform in terms of indoor air quality. Comparing 12 pairs of conventional and green buildings (most were LEED-certified or candidates), the study found that the green buildings did have better indoor air quality. According to research-team member Guy Newsham, the data supported the premise that such buildings have lower levels of indoor pollutants and higher ratings for occupant well-being, among other positive attributes.

The Santana Row conundrum: Is San Jose’s future urban density, suburban sprawl or both?

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Clocking in at just over 175 square miles, San Jose is triple the size of San Francisco and seven times bigger than Silicon Valley’s most recognizable tech hub in Palo Alto.

Over the last half-century or so, San Jose’s sprawling footprint has translated to geographically and economically disconnected hubs in neighborhoods like Willow Glen, Alum Rock, downtown and East San Jose. More recently, the city has shifted its strategic focus to increasingly dense, urban development, implementing a downtown high-rise incentive program, fast-tracking new residential towers and adding citywide bike lanes.

But on Wednesday, the announcement of a major real estate deal in the area of mixed-use shopping center Santana Row — which industry sources say is primed for redevelopment — once again raised the issue of San Jose development priorities in a city with many potential opportunities.

Increasing housing costs in a tight real estate market, coupled with the return of Silicon Valley boom-time freeway gridlock, are further pushing the city toward transit-oriented development that better links jobs and housing.

The question moving forward: Will San Jose be able to execute on its ambitious vision for citywide urbanization, or will the city continue to function as a collection of disparate developments with seas of parking?

“We’re a big enough city that we can have multiple focal points,” San Jose Assistant Planning Director Laurel Prevetti told me. “We shouldn’t have to have that kind of competition. Maybe there will be, but at least people will have choices.”

The Santana Row conundrum

Although it’s located less than five miles from San Jose’s downtown core, Santana Row is not connected to the region’s Caltrain rail line, nor the area’s lesser-used light rail system. Instead, the mixed-use complex and adjacent attractions like Westfield Valley Fair mall and the Winchester Mystery House rely on buses and parking garages.

Santana Row was designed as a model for mixed-use development fostering housing, entertainment and office space in close proximity, which it has carried out more successfullythan many others in Silicon Valley.

Judging by the numbers, however, the development’s 622 luxury residential units and currently limited office space still don’t account for the bulk of its 12 million annual visitors — suggesting that many are still coming and going as they would to other suburban shopping centers.

On Wednesday, Santana Row owner Federal Realty Investment Trust announced that it had leased the 11.6-acre Century Theatres site across the street. Though no development plans have been submitted for the new space, the area is one of several urban villages targeted by the city for job growth and new housing.

“Absolutely it’s a great mixed-use site,” Prevetti said.

But any new development would likely run into old criticisms; Santana Row’s location outside of downtown San Jose has always been a sticking point for advocates of more centralized urban development.

“There was a lot of push from the downtown San Jose people to not let Santana row be built,” said Tom Nelson, a San Jose native and veteran retail broker.  “They’d love to have it, but downtown is fixed. It just doesn’t have the buildings and the inventory to accommodate the larger floor plates that these companies want.”

Development possibilities

Kim Walesh, San Jose’s chief strategist and director of economic development, said that she is intrigued by the prospect of defining a more connected “central San Jose” instead of splitting hairs between small, distinct neighborhoods.

Urban development group SPUR detailed the idea in a new report, which urges the city to better link and promote areas surrounding downtown, like the Alameda, Japantown, Santana Row and Willow Glen, “to reframe the surrounding areas as an asset to downtown, not a threat.”

Walesh added that “the whole city has a hunger for commercial activity,” particularly in walkable settings.

Whether that vision can become reality remains to be seen, but Prevetti said there is no shortage of developers vying to add their piece.

“We are seeing a surge in development applications,” she said. “A lot of people are trying to catch this wave.”

Sustainable Architectural Coatings ‘Will Grow Market Share’

Architectural Coating Technologies on Lux Sustainability Grid

Consumer awareness, government regulations and the widespread acceptance of energy efficiency standards for buildings are driving the development of sustainable architectural coatings, but “greenwashing” has created confusion in the market, according to a Lux Research report.

The report, Painting a Green Future: Opportunities in Sustainable Architectural Coatings, assesses these coating technologies and evaluates their performance and value to the end user.  The Lux grid graphic (above) shows the research house’s assessment of each technology. The term “technical value” in the graphic means the value of a coating technology — including performance, durability, cost and its range of applications — to the end user.

The $53 billion architectural coatings market produces decorative and protective paints as well as coatings that improve the energy efficiency of buildings. These coatings also use a tremendous amounts of petroleum, water and energy, which has prompted the development of sustainable products. Lux estimates the share of sustainable coatings in the larger architectural coating market will grow from 10 percent as of 2011 to 20 percent by 2016.

Sustainable technologies, which reduce the energy, resource and other environmental impact of paints and coatings, are moving beyond low-volatile organic compound content, according to Aditya Ranade, a Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report. Advances have been made in additives like surfactants and coalescing agents as well as energy-impacting coatings like cool roofs and solar paints.

Still, these sustainable coatings technologies often get confused with greenwashed unsustainable alternatives, said Ranade.

Lux Research developed a sustainability grid metric to identify seven distinct technologies with established green credentials, including elastomeric cool roofs, low-e coatings and paint recycling.

Cool roof coatings, which reduce unwanted solar heat gain, have traditionally been limited to hot, sunny climates. Thermally responsive coatings that can switch from white to black could expand the use of cool roofs beyond the sunniest regions, Lux said. Still, the high-potential technology is years away from becoming mainstream.

Several new coating technologies allow solar cells to be sprayed on buildings. However, this long-shot technology is still in its infancy and most emerging products remain in labs, Lux said. Solar paint has a low, 2 percent efficiency rate of converting sunlight to energy. In comparison, solar photovoltaic panels used on rooftop installations have a 13 to 15 percent efficiency.

Your Path to a Successful Property Management Website

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In today’s world, your online presence is the face of your company. Most of the time it’s the first thing prospective owners and residents will see before initial contact is made. First impressions are key to engaging users.

With technology advancing rapidly and Internet users expectations ever-increasing, knowing where to start and how to optimize your website can seem daunting. We’ve outlined some key topics to think about when turning your property management website into a successful avenue to growing your business, attracting the modern renter, maintaining smooth daily operations, and more!

Design & Branding

Visitors of your site want to see something that is not only pleasing to the eye, but also organized and easily navigated. Some website design must-haves include:

  • A design that is clean, uncluttered, and professional-looking
  • Company logo is prominent and blends with the overall look of the site
  • Visitors can easily navigate and search your listings
  • Images and graphics render correctly on all browsers, for both Mac and PC users

So what’s the best approach to ensuring your site has all the key elements? Property managers taking the design of their website into their own hands run the risk of becoming stressed and overwhelmed and possibly ending up with a poorly designed site. You may want to consider hiring  an outside design agency or use a software program with a website package that makes designing and maintaining your site much more manageable.

Advertising Vacancies

Most property managers would say that effectively advertising their vacancies is the top objective of their website. So why not make it as effective and easy to update as possible? Today’s prospective renters want the entire virtual experience on their computer or mobile device, before making the decision to pursue your vacancy. This means making sure you display nice crisp photographs of your vacancies, as well as floor plans and when possible, add virtual tours of the properties and grounds. Make your life easier with a website that has built in features that allow you to easily update vacancies, upload applications, and post pictures, videos and floorplans.

Tip: Implement social media capabilities to allow more users to connect with your business and share information and listings that interest them or people they know.

Features

Users’ expectations for online features are high, and your website should be ready to meet their expectations. Whether it be communicating with current residents, prospective renters, or owners, you should be providing online features that make their lives easier, as well as streamline your own day-to-day business operations. Prospective residents should be able to search properties easily, andapply online. Offer current residents the capability to send maintenance requests through your site, and pay their rent securely online. For owners, a successful website gives them confidence that you are marketing their properties to their full potential and attracting ideal renters.

Tip: Most people today use mobile devices to view websites. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices, or you may be missing out on a significant group of modern renters.

Analytics & Tracking

Tracking clicks, page views and other important activity is key to understanding how users experience and utilize your site, yet a whopping 75% of small businesses admit they do not use analytics tools to measure their site’s performance. Analytics tools can provide valuable information about your customers’ habits and needs, as well as enabling you to track the progress and reach of your website. So why do so many business owners shy away from such a tool? Some may fear the possibility of additional costs associated with it, or they think the information will be too complicated to understand. There are solutions out there that can ease these apprehensions. Some property management software options, such as AppFolio, include integration with Google Analytics making it easy to extract and analyze important data.

Get Started

By now you have a snapshot of what it means to create and maintain a successful website. With so many facets and functions, you might be thinking: “Where do I start?” The bottom line is, taking on the creation and maintenance of a website requires some help. There are clear benefits to having a professional on hand to transform your vision and needs into a fully functional, eye-catching, and easily maintained site. An outside design company may be able to create the site you want, but the cost can be significant, and you are left to maintain the site on your own once design is complete. Some more affordable and practical options can come from a property management software that includes a website package. The added benefit of this is that you always have support maintaining your site, and your website can be integrated into the software you use to run your business—all in one package price.

Interstate Equities sells 112-unit apartment portfolio

1331 Jefferson Ave

Interstate Equities Corp., a Los Altos-based multifamily investor and operator, has sold a five-building, 112-unit apartment portfolio in Redwood City for $23.3 million, or $207,142 per unit.

The buyer was a private investor who traded into the portfolio in a 1031 tax-advantaged exchange, said Marcus & Millichap, which arranged the transaction.

“The continued creation of high-paying jobs in Silicon Valley is reshaping the San Mateo County apartment market and creating new opportunities for both large institutional investors and smaller private investors,” said Adam Levin, a vice president of investments at Marcus & Millichap‘s Palo Alto office.  He represented the buyer and seller with Robert Johnston, a senior associate.

“Favorable market conditions in Redwood City allowed us to assemble this portfolio of 1960s-era apartment complexes and for IEC to successfully implement its renovation, stabilization and repositioning strategy,” Levin said.

Family-owned Interstate Equities specializes in smaller apartment communities with upside potential in the Bay Area and Southern California. (Read more in a company profile here.)

The Redwood City properties that sold include an 18-unit building at 152 Lincoln Ave., a 48-unit building at 180 Buckingham Ave., 8-unit buildings at 755 and 775 9th Ave., and a 30-unit building at 1331 Jefferson Ave.