- September 27, 2016
- September 22, 2016
- September 8, 2016
Independent Rental Owners Joe and Stephanie Bryson, owners of Cedar Gate Apartments in Houston, Texas, know this well. The Brysons purchased Cedar Gate Apartments in 2012, and turned a poor performer into a market leader. Average occupancy increased from 74 percent in 2012 to 96 percent in 2014, with an average rent-per-unit increasing from $602 to $785.
The Brysons—winners of the 2015 NAA PARAGON Award for Independent Rental Owners with 100 units or less—reflect on what they wish they’d known at the beginning of the process and share their tips and insights for other owners hoping to do something similar.
When the Brysons took over Cedar Gate Apartments, they implemented new rules and screening criteria with residents.
“Previously the rental criteria had been 2.5 times income to rent ratio, but we increased that to three times income to rent ratio,” Stephanie says. “We also started doing criminal background checks. This property had previously been known as the community that didn’t screen residents.”
Joe and Stephanie Bryson set the expectation early with residents that they would need to submit new paperwork at renewal time. They initiated communication with residents 120 days, 90 days and 60 days ahead of their lease renewal time to ask if there was anything they could do for them, and to also announce that there were new policies in place and their applications would need to be rerun.
“If they didn’t meet the criteria, we wished them well in finding a new home,” Stephanie says. “We knew a lot of residents really appreciated that because they knew we were working to improve the property—not just in the appearance of the community, but the feel of it as well.”
“We had been told going in to start your hiring process for onsite staff a month or so prior to closing on the property,” says Joe.
But when the Brysons officially took over ownership and management, they still had not found the right candidates for the job. On their first day, Stephanie says she found herself knocking on resident doors to find a bilingual resident who could help her translate in the leasing office.
“In hindsight we would have started talking with the temp agencies in parallel while we were searching for fulltime staff and had someone teed up on Day 1, ready to go,” Joe says.
“We didn’t know how bad the reputation of our property was with vendors, and this being our first property, we didn’t have any vendors at the beginning,” Joe says.
Joe says that the property itself owed money to past vendors and it was incredibly difficult to get started because he and Stephanie had not yet established credit with local suppliers.
“In hindsight we should have started building vendor relationships prior to the takeover so that in the first few weeks of ownership we weren’t having to do that,” he says.
“When we took over, we were the fourth owners in three years and residents had been promised many things that hadn’t happened,” Joe says.
In addition to resetting the community rules, the Brysons worked to make sure that they followed through on what they promised. This helped to foster healthy communication.
“When they saw all of the things that were happening—like the roof replacement, the pool upgrade, new laundry equipment and addressing repair requests—it helped them to trust us,” Joe says. “We set up a referral program, and our residents felt more comfortable referring their family and friends.”
Stephanie says that treating all residents equally was a help in creating that sense of trust.
“Even though they didn’t always like what we had to say, they knew we’d be fair and square with them,” she says.
Today the community has a strong emphasis on resident activities and each event involves giveaways, such as gift baskets with school suppliers or household items, $50 rent concessions or gift cards for area businesses.
Stephanie advises any owners about to embark on a property repositioning to create a mantra or simple phrase that will remind them of their goal.
“Ours is, ‘Respect and Educate’,” she says. “It can be a challenge to do this but it’s crucial to help with your overall goal.”
|The front of Cedar Gate Apartments prior to the repositioning.||The front of Cedar Gate Apartments after the repositioning.|
|A kitchen from Cedar Gate Apartments prior to the repositioning.||A kitchen from Cedar Gate Apartments after the repositioning.|
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