You Live, You Cut Your Own Bangs, You Learn

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.

Bangs, for example. I grew up in the late 90s, a decade after Bubble Bangs were in, but I said to hell with fashion and continued to sport them well into Y2K.

If that wasn’t bad enough, I attempted to cut said bangs with poultry shears on several occasions. My mom would ask me why there was hair in the bathroom sink and I would shrug, my bangs creeping crookedly over my eyebrows. Nancy Drew would have to solve that one.

During that same disturbing period of time, I also made the mistake of thinking that any sort of interaction with the opposite sex meant that person was interested. I blame this on my parents, who never sent me to any sort of sleep-away camp where girls were encouraged to associate with boys.

Deprived of such an experience, I grew up without any real male friends. Thus, when a football player in my AP history class asked to borrow a marker one day in high school, I naturally assumed we would be dating by final period.

In a shocking turn of events, he only wanted a marker.

Eventually I outgrew the bad hair and bad boys (sort of), spending my early twenties making more mature mistakes—like attempting to complete the Cinnamon Challenge (look it up, but do not try it), “accidentally” leaving a carved pumpkin on my balcony until February and contemplating pulling a “Felicity” by chopping my hair off and moving to another city for someone I had a crush on.

I’ve really grown up.

Well, we all make mistakes. Some are just a part of life—an inevitable rite of passage as we get older. Then there are others—those that affect our profession—that should never happen in the first place.

Following are some common apartment industry faux pas:

1. Leniency in collecting rents. Effective rent collection starts with selecting qualified residents who have a history of timely rent payment. However, that’s not always possible. So, what do you do?

Start collection efforts early, before the rent is past due. If a resident offers an excuse for not paying on time, focus on solutions. Help residents determine where and how they can find the money. This might include finding out if they have any available credit remaining on their credit cards, having them contact family members for help or providing a list of agencies that provide emergency rental assistance.

If residents are unable to produce the money or seem unwilling to do their part, then it is time to help move them out as soon as possible.

2. Not planning for major capital items. When estimating cash flow, few independent rental owners, in particular, reserve for major repairs. There is always one unexpected item that pops up. Accruing a cash reserve monthly for these items will go a long way toward paying these somewhat unexpected bills.

3. Focusing on filling vacancies rather than preventing them. Most owners are complaint-driven. If a resident calls in a maintenance complaint, the owner will usually get it fixed. But few owners have a strategy designed to keep their residents in the property longer.

Little things such as an occasional upgrade or a gift certificate for a pizza go a long way toward pleasing residents, convincing them to extend their residency.

But back to the real point of this blog: Should I just show up on his doorstep?

For more, check out Dan Lieberman’s IRO Insider in the May issue of units, which mails May 8.