News & Research Listing

News, Apartment Business Update, Operations Insights, COVID-19
Ancillary Revenue’s Winners and Losers

Pet fees are up while late fees are down.  

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast a long shadow over the rental housing industry, ancillary revenue would seem to be a low priority. In previous years, collecting ancillary fees was an important — though legally fraught — concern. But now, with job losses mounting around the country, many apartment operators are simply focused on collecting rent on time.

For example, Haven Realty Capital, based in El Segundo, Calif., is sacrificing the flow of one ancillary revenue stream in exchange for trying to keep its residents in place. “Month-to-month premiums were waived to allow flexibility for residents who had lease expirations during the pandemic months,” says Sudha M. Reddy, Managing Principal of Haven.

In a recession, apartment operators are justifiably focused on just “keeping heads in beds.” Operators may even need to think twice about imposing ancillary fees.

But in the longer term, the COVID-19 lockdown may present new revenue opportunities, if residents receive financial relief and the unemployment situation stabilizes. If trends such as teleworking become commonplace, the COVID-19 lockdown could change the way residents use energy and bandwidth and give operators the chance to consider residents’ high-speed connections to the outside world. 

Not Pressing the Issue

The general rule for multifamily ancillary revenue is about 5 percent of total income, but many of the fees are also accompanied by attendant costs. In the short term, Max Sharkansky, Managing Partner of Trion Properties, based in West Hollywood, Calif., is more concerned about on-time rent payments.

“We [could] charge higher pet rates and higher lease-break fees, but we’re just not pressing that issue because it’s tough out there,” Sharkansky says. “We’re signing leases, we’re doing fine, our collections are in the mid-90s. But we’re also in a 12 percent unemployment market, so I don’t know if this is an optimal time to start increasing our fees.” 

As the amenity wars heated up during the past decade, ancillary revenue took a back seat to services, such as dog walking. But as the recession lingers, those services are also in jeopardy.

“It’s so hard to compete on what has become a commodity,” says Brian Zrimsek, Industry Principal of the tech firm MRI Software, based in Solon, Ohio. “The apartment can only be so big; the pool can only be so grand. So we found operators moving to adding services, dog-walking services, laundry pickup services and yoga classes — amenities as a service. But when a recession comes, that’s the first thing to go.”

This strategy is a throwback to the 2008 housing market collapse. “In 2008 they lowered prices and increased terms to lock people in,” says Zrimsek. “They’d rather have sure but thin revenue. In good times, it’s okay to have a little nickel-and-diming for things. We’re also seeing concessions come back. It would not surprise me if things that people charge for in the best of times they change their mind on now.” 

Sorry, You’re Late

Early in the pandemic, municipalities, states and the federal government moved to curtail evictions and late fees to help keep residents in their homes. Now, six months into the crisis, what were once seen as temporary measures are being extended in many parts of the country as the apartment business takes the hit.

At Haven Realty Capital, late fees have traditionally been a large revenue stream, followed by pet rent and admin fees. “[But] late-fee revenue has dropped to zero since April,” Reddy says. “The moratorium on late fees has also eliminated the incentive to pay on time, resulting in a delay in our collections at some of the properties.”

It’s the same story at Trion Properties, as Sharkansky simultaneously eyes what’s happening in collections and the state legislature. “We’re in California, and not allowed to charge late fees,” he says. “In California, it’s open-ended. It’s a function of when they remove the emergency order. In Oregon, it was set to expire but was then extended to Sept. 30. We still get the majority of our rents in the first week [of the month], but the next 20 to 25 percent are paying in the following three weeks.” 

Future Opportunities

As many residents have been hunkered down for months now, apartment operators are seeing an increase in their energy and data consumption. Even before the pandemic, says Todd Richman, Senior Vice President at Morgan Properties, based in King of Prussia, Pa., marketing contracts with cable providers and Internet providers did well for his company.

Richman is predicting that addiction to Netflix and Zoom dependence is going to raise the income from fees. “I would assume that once we see the numbers, we might have higher income from these services,” he says. “With people working from home, they may have had to upgrade to a better Internet service, they may have ordered more services. It’s possible it’s remained the same. But I’m expecting Internet penetrations to be higher than they’ve ever been.”  

Laundry rooms are another small but reliable revenue source for Morgan, and Richman is expecting to see an uptick — again, because people are spending more time at home.

Trion’s Sharkansky also is bullish on laundry. Trash collection, water usage, pest control and sewage fees are also looking up. “Ratio utility billing [RUBS] is huge,” he says. “Although I don’t know if you can qualify that as ancillary income; it’s more of an expense reimbursement, but it’s on the income side of the P&L.”  

Doggy Day Care

The pandemic has been a huge boon for pet adoption, according to a number of sources. The consensus is that people who had been putting off getting a dog or cat because they didn’t spend enough time at home suddenly have no excuse.

In April, Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society, told the Chicago Tribune, “I think it’s a combination of reasons. We’re going through a global pandemic, and its anxiety-provoking and it’s isolating. Those who are fortunate enough to work remotely are doing it from home, so people have the time now and the desire to open up their homes to a pet, to give that animal a chance.”

The trend is confirmed by the numbers Trion Properties is seeing. “In April, May and June we had an uptick in pet fees,” Sharkansky says. “Looking at year-over-year for June, portfolio-wide, we did about $9,400, and last year [it] was around $7,000, so we’re seeing a 34 percent increase.”

But even enforcing pet fees will likely get some pushback from residents, demonstrating, once again, that at this point in time, fees are a touchy issue

“I don’t know that the first thing a resident does when they get a pet is call the office and let us know,” says Richman of Morgan Properties. “We’re trying not to be intrusive to residents about being in their apartments. We’re not doing walk-throughs of each apartment; it would be very hard to do that.”  

Scott Sowers is a freelance writer.

August 24, 2020
A person using a calculator and looking at notes
NAA Press Releases
OSHA Issues COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Standard

Here’s what you need to know about OSHA’s new vaccination and testing mandate. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) mandating employers with 100 employees or more to require COVID-19 vaccinations or implement mandatory testing and mask-wearing for unvaccinated employees. However, it is important to note that on November 6, 2021, an appeals court temporarily blocked the rule. The National Apartment Association (NAA) will keep members apprised as the case continues through the court system.

Here’s what rental owner and management firms with 100 employees or more need to know:

  • A “covered employer” is any employer with 100 employees or more.
    • Part-time and full-time employees are both considered in the employee headcount. Independent contractors do not count towards employee headcount.
    • The ETS does not apply to employees who work exclusively from home or employees who work exclusively outdoors.
    • Employers with 100 employees or more spread amongst several locations are covered under the ETS, even if less than 100 employees work at each location.
  • Under the ETS, a covered employer must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy or adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.
  • Employers are required to provide up to four hours of paid time for their employees to get vaccinated and, if needed, sick leave to recover from side effects of vaccination. Employers are not required to provide paid leave or reasonable sick leave for the purposes of weekly testing.
  • Covered employers must abide by additional recordkeeping and notification requirements according to the ETS.
  • While the ETS becomes effective on November 5, 2021, OSHA is providing covered employers with additional time to comply.
    • By December 5, 2021, covered employers must ensure all of the ETS requirements are addressed in the workplace, except for the testing requirement for employees who are not fully vaccinated which must be implemented by January 4, 2022.
  • To learn more about all of the new responsibilities for covered employers, review OSHA’s resources:
  • OSHA intends to preempt any State or local requirements that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, face covering, or testing.

The ETS will serve as the framework for a permanent proposed standard that may be implemented within six months. While the ETS does not apply to employers with less than 100 employees, OSHA is not ruling out similar regulatory action applicable to smaller employers. The agency is soliciting public comment and seeking additional information to assess the ability of smaller employers to comply with these requirements.

NAA will continue to monitor the implementation of the ETS and work with the Administration to address the industry’s concerns. For more information, please reach out to Sam Gilboard, NAA’s Senior Manager of Public Policy.

November 4, 2021
OSHA Issues COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Standard
NAA Press Releases
NAA and NMHC Statement on Treasury Data Showing Less than a Quarter of Rental Assistance Aid Disbursed

ARLINGTON, VA | October 25, 2021 The National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) issued the following statement on the disappointing news that less than a quarter of emergency rental assistance aid has been distributed to residents and property owners in need.

Over the course of the pandemic housing providers across the country have gone above and beyond to help and support residents dealing with financial challenges. From payment plans, waived fees, changes to lease terms and support in finding and securing rental assistance, housing providers have been deeply creative and innovative to keep their residents safely and securely housed.

However, after a year and a half of pandemic-related costs, the nation’s housing providers and residents continue to face serious challenges meeting their financial obligations. Residents are struggling to pay their rent and property owners always had to continue paying their taxes, mortgages, payroll, insurance costs and more. Housing providers across the country are facing untold millions of dollars in rental arrears. Accordingly, it is critical that rental assistance funds are distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In order to facilitate the distribution of rental assistance aid to residents and housing providers alike, NAA and NMHC, on behalf of the nation’s 40.1 million individuals who call an apartment home, ask policymakers to make the following improvements to expedite rental assistance distribution:

  • Reject the addition of counter-productive eviction moratorium provisions.
  • Direct grantees to allow housing providers to apply on behalf of residents under a notification safe-harbor, prioritize arrearages and remove 18-month limit on assistance.
  • Allow ERAP to reimburse rental property owners, without qualification, on properties where a renter has moved out.

Additional reforms to the emergency rental assistance program can be found here.

Without action to improve disbursement of ERAP and increased participation in the program, renters are faced with further uncertainty and a mounting debt cliff, while rental property owners move closer to foreclosure, bankruptcy or a forced sale of the property—putting the overall stability of the rental housing sector and broader real estate market in peril.

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For more than 25 years, the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) have partnered on behalf of America's apartment industry. Drawing on the knowledge and policy expertise of staff in Washington, D.C., as well as the advocacy power of more than 149 NAA state and local affiliated associations, NAA and NMHC provide a single voice for developers, owners and operators of multifamily rental housing. One-third of all Americans rent their housing, and 40 million of them live in an apartment home.

October 25, 2021
NAA and NMHC Statement on Treasury Data Showing Less than a Quarter of Rental Assistance Aid Disbursed
News
Administration Rolls Out New Rental Assistance Guidelines

On May 7, 2021, the Biden Administration announced the allocation of an additional $21.6 billion for emergency rental assistance that was passed earlier this year through the American Rescue Plan Act, which is referred to as Emergency Rental Assistance 2 (ERA 2) by the United States Department of Treasury (USDT). With the new monetary allocation, USDT released updated guidance which contains new program requirements for grantees who distribute rental assistance.

The new guidance removes a number of barriers that the rental housing industry has called out, such as prohibiting programs who receive ERA 2 from denying assistance to eligible residents solely because they reside in federally assisted housing. This ensures that the nation’s most vulnerable renters remained stably housed throughout the remainder of the pandemic. Additionally, the new guidance establishes an online hub of local emergency rental assistance program links to make it easier for renters and landlords to find programs in their area.

There are several problematic requirements that were included in the newly published guidance. The document allows ERA 2 programs to offer direct-to-resident assistance first and immediately – not requiring programs to go to housing providers beforehand. Additionally, the guidance continues to allow programs distributing ERA 2 to offer direct-to-resident assistance when a housing provider opts out of participating in an ERA program. However, if an ERA 2 grantee chooses to seek the cooperation of housing or utility providers before providing assistance directly to residents, Treasury strongly encourages the grantee to apply the same ERA 1 requirements. NAA encourages members and affiliates to reach out to their state or local program and encourage grantees to choose to continue to seek the cooperation of housing providers, to ensure direct payments to housing providers continue.

Another new requirement in the guidance is that programs must prohibit the eviction of renters for nonpayment in months for which they receive emergency rental assistance. Additionally, Treasury strongly encourages grantees to require that housing providers not evict residents for nonpayment of rent for 30 to 90 days longer than the period covered by the emergency rental assistance as a condition of receiving payment. While some grantees have this in place, affiliates and members should expect more programs to enact these protections in the near future.

Other noteworthy changes in the guidance and White House fact sheet include:

  • Changes the required response time  for housing providers electing to participate to 7 days when reaching out by mail and 5 days when reaching out by phone, text, or email. Previously, programs were required to wait 14 days when reaching out by mail or 10 days when reaching out by phone, text, or email before offering relief to a tenant directly.
  • Widens the scope of qualified expenses to include “moving expense, security deposits, future rent, utilities and the cost of a transitional stay in a hotel or motel when a family has been displaced” and does not require the qualified expense be related to COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Strongly encourages grantees to avoid establishing burdensome documentation requirements that are likely to be barriers to participation for eligible households, by allowing programs to verify eligibility of low-income renters based on readily available information or “proxies”, such as the average income in the neighborhood in which they live.
  • Requires programs to prioritize assistance to low-income households and those with members who have been unemployed for more than 90 days. To help ensure that assistance is reaching those who most need it most – especially those with incomes below 50 percent of the area median income – grantees are now required to report how they will achieve the required prioritization of assistance.
  • Encourages additional legal services and support to hard pressed residents. HUD is developing a $20 million demonstration to provide legal assistance to low-income residents at risk of or subject to evictions. More information on this new program can be found here.
  • Advances the Nation's understanding of evictions in the marketplace. HUD will continue to build out a research agenda for helping the field better understand the prevalence of evictions and the disparate impact they have on disadvantaged communities. This includes assessing how the federal government could develop a national database of evictions.

NAA continues to communicate with USDT and Congress on changes and additional clarifications that should be made to ensure that the program continues to be executed in an efficient and timely manner. If you have any questions regarding the emergency rental assistance programs, please contact Jodie Applewhite at [email protected].

May 11, 2021
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Apartment Advocate
New Ruling Voids CDC Eviction Order

A new federal ruling has voided the CDC’s Eviction Order; a stay of the decision has been issued until the appeal is heard.

On May 5, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling voiding the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium order. Though the U.S. government quickly appealed the case, this ruling is another significant addition to the foundation created by the National Apartment Association’s (NAA’s) ongoing legal challenges to the CDC eviction moratorium.

Unlike previous legal efforts, this court specifically vacated the CDC order in its entirety despite the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging courts to limit the decision to parties in the case. The Judge in this case rejected that request and set the entire order aside.

In response, the government swiftly filed its appeal to the D.C. Circuit, where a three-judge panel will decide the issue. The same judge quickly granted the government’s request for a temporary administrative stay – this means that, practically speaking, the moratorium will remain in effect until the government’s appeal is ultimately decided. The stay gives the Court time to consider the merits of the DOJ’s appeal and the plaintiffs time to file any opposition to DOJ’s motion for stay. The matter will play out in the courts during the next several weeks, and it is important to remember that the CDC eviction order remains in effect until the D.C. Circuit issues its ruling.

NAA released a statement to the press on this matter and will continue to keep members apprised of updates to this case, as well as the other legal challenges to the CDC order. We understand the frustration and disappointment, but every decision in our favor is a positive step forward.

May 10, 2021
, COVID-19
Operators Welcome Students Back

Communication and preparation are the keys to a successful opening.

As students rolled back onto some college campuses in August, they came home to a very different environment than years past.

Their student housing operators are also trying to navigate through a unique environment.

Brent Little, President of Fountain Residential Partners, says the 2020-2021 school year has gotten off to a strong start in his portfolio, despite COVID challenges.

“Our property management teams have done a great job of managing through the challenges,” Little says. “Our collections have been no different than pre-COVID, move-ins went smoothly, and our construction delivery was on time.”

In fact, Little says Fountain’s most significant challenge has been “over preparation.”

“The teams have been preparing for the worst, and when smaller challenges presented themselves, they were easily and quickly handled,” Little says.

While COVID presented obstacles, communication and safety remain a top priority for Jennifer Messina, Vice President of Marketing at San Miguel Management.

“We were still able to connect with our residents and prospects online and over the phone, since we were not able to connect in person,” she says. “We were still able to build a sense of community with our residents and make sure that our engagement did not stop. I truly feel like they knew we were there for all of our residents and prospects. Their safety was our number one concern.”

Early on, COVID presented leasing challenges with the March and April shutdown.  “The leasing season started strong but took a slow pause for COVID,” Messina says. “Our leasing slowed down until UT Austin [The University of Texas at Austin] announced that they were doing in-person classes, and then it picked up again.”

While COVID presented a considerable obstacle in leasing, it wasn’t the only challenge for Messina. “We also had a lot of new projects open in August 2021, so we were competing with new communities that had every amenity,” Messina says. “These apartments were built to be state of the art and top of the line.”

Little is also enjoying success with one new development, even if students are only attending class online. Fountain, in a joint venture with HC2 Capital, developed 116 Flats in Sunderland, Mass., which is near Amherst.

“Our new property in Amherst, where the students are taking classes online, leased an additional 58 beds more than the original occupancy target by doubling up additional bedrooms,” Little says. “The demand outstripped supply, the response to the property was phenomenal, and we were surprised at the willingness of residents to double occupy bedrooms in the current climate.”

September 2, 2020
students, moving
NAA Press Releases
NAA and NMHC Statement on the Passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

ARLINGTON, VA | November 6, 2021 Today, the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) applaud the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The nation’s apartment industry and our 40 million residents depend on robust, reliable and modern infrastructure. The Act, which consists of a $1.5 trillion investment in roads and bridges, water infrastructure, climate resilience and internet has long been a priority for the nation’s apartment industry.

“Infrastructure and housing are intrinsically linked, and this unprecedented investment in our nation will help lift communities and industries throughout the nation,” said Bob Pinnegar, NAA President & CEO. “By building back our nation’s critical services, the apartment industry can operate more efficiently and we can help ensure that Americans have easier access to the types of housing in the place they want to live. We appreciate the Biden administration and Congress’ efforts to help all Americans with this landmark bill and look forward to building off its success as we work to address housing affordability and other central issues.”

“NMHC congratulates the Biden administration and lawmakers in both parties for their dedicated efforts in achieving this significant investment in communities across the country,” said Doug Bibby, NMHC President. “NMHC has long held that the link between housing and infrastructure is undeniable and that the upkeep, modernization and development of the public services that underpin housing communities is of top importance to our industry.”

As the nation recovers from the depths of the pandemic, the demand for safe and affordable housing has never been more clear. In fact, apartment demand outpaced supply before the pandemic; according to a study conducted by Hoyt Advisory Services, the U.S. needs to build at least 328,000 new apartment homes each year through 2030. The apartment industry stands ready to meet America’s demand for rental housing, but our ability to succeed depends on robust and reliable infrastructure.

This important legislation invests in the critical services that interconnect our communities and support housing providers. This legislation passed the Senate in August and will now go to the President’s desk for signature.

More information on NAA’s viewpoint on infrastructure can be found here.

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For more than 25 years, the National Apartment Association (NAA) and the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) have partnered on behalf of America's apartment industry. Drawing on the knowledge and policy expertise of staff in Washington, D.C., as well as the advocacy power of more than 149 NAA state and local affiliated associations, NAA and NMHC provide a single voice for developers, owners and operators of multifamily rental housing. One-third of all Americans rent their housing, and 40 million of them live in an apartment home.

November 8, 2021
News, Industry Insider
Remote Work and Its Impact on Moving

New research shows that remote work options post-pandemic will affect where Americans choose to live.

Remote workers are on the move, with more relocations to come, according to new research from Apartment List.

Its Remote Work Survey of 5,000 employed adults across the country found that 40% of workers expect some sort of remote work post-pandemic—21% said they expect to be fully remote and 19% expect a hybrid remote work environment. Just over half of the respondents will be onsite full time, and 7% are unsure.

According to Apartment List, 19% of remote workers moved during the past year, compared to 13% of onsite workers. Overall, 16% of respondents have moved since last April, with 57% remaining in the same city, 20% moving to a new metro and 12% crossing state lines.

Apartment List compared its findings to Census data that shows 9.8% of Americans moved to a new residence from 2018 to 2019, and although it acknowledges the data is not directly comparable to this survey, it says that this difference “nonetheless indicates that the pandemic seems to have prompted more moves over the past year than would typically occur.”

More than two-fifths of remote workers said they are planning to move in the next 12 months, while a quarter of onsite workers indicated the same. More than half of untethered workers, those with no homeownership or family obligations, plan to move within a year.

Reasons behind recent moves included more space, buying a home, reducing monthly costs and finding a more affordable market. For upcoming moves, remote workers were more than twice as likely to move for a more affordable housing market than onsite workers (35% to 17%). The top response for those planning a move—onsite and remote workers—was to purchase a home.

Among likely movers, access to affordable markets for homeownership was the most important factor on deciding where to live in the next several years. Meanwhile, the least important factor, overall, was access to urban amenities. That said, according to Apartment List, “…forward looking plans show that urban areas still have high appeal, and this is likely to grow as city-life begins to regain its vibrancy. This suggests that the places most likely to attract remote workers may be the ones that were already doing so pre-pandemic—markets such as Austin and Nashville that offer the urban amenities that remote workers value, at a significantly lower cost than coastal superstar cities.”

Read the full report.

May 10, 2021
News,
Are Self-Guided Tours Ready for Prime Time?

Multifamily operators consider the emerging technology and get some tips from a single-family rental company.

Make no mistake: Among prospective apartment residents, the demand for self-guided tours is real.

More and more of them want to experience a potential new home on their own terms and without having to interact with a leasing associate (especially when there’s a dangerous virus out there). Some multifamily operators are beginning to take notice, but the apartment industry as a whole has yet to fully embrace self-guided tours.

Phil Rogers, Director of Operational Planning and Analytics for Invitation Homes, which owns and leases single-family homes, has some tips for apartment operators about implementing the self-guided tour technology. Invitation Homes, like others in the single-family rental sector, has made self-guided tours a common feature. “At the end of the day, we have found it provides an easy, flexible experience for customers and is a powerful tool for our leasing teams,” Rogers says.

A Necessary Strategy

Invitation Homes, which owns and operates about 80,000 homes for lease in 16 markets across the U.S., has offered self-guided tours for several years.

“It was really an operational necessity, born out of the realities of the single-family industry,” says Rogers. “Any large-scale single-family-residential operator is managing a lot of homes over a relatively large geographic space in any given market."

While the technology may have started out as a way to scale operations, data indicates that prospective residents in the single-family rental market truly appreciate the convenience and overall experience of self-guided tours. “The vast majority” of Invitation’s customers who tour a home choose the self-guided option, says Rogers.

“[Today’s] renter really doesn’t necessarily have the patience or the time to wait for a team member to be present for a tour in every single home,” Rogers adds. “Prospects love the option of self-guided tours.”

At real estate PropTech provider Anyone Home, whose prospect- and resident-engagement solutions include a CRM and self-guided tours, analysis of the 2018 leasing activity of all of its single-family clients shows 24.4 percent of all prospective residents booked a tour. Of those, 61.3 percent chose only a self-guided one, 30.1 percent chose only a tour with an associate, and 8.6 percent booked both tour types. But those who used self-guided tours converted to lease at a significantly higher rate — 9.3 percent vs. 5 percent — than those who didn’t.

Quick and Easy

The specifics of how a self-guided tour unfolds will vary depending on the property manager. But in the case of Invitation Homes, the broad outline of the process is this: a prospect can schedule a self-guided tour either over the phone or online. Assuming the home shopper clears a quick screening, he or she is given a temporary access code that allows the prospect to open a smart lock on the home they want to see. The code is only good within a certain timeframe. In addition, prospects don’t have to download an app to take the tours.

Invitation Homes’ prospective residents and associates have experienced a number of benefits from self-guided tours, says Rogers.

To start with, the technology allows prospective residents to get into a home quickly. Assuming a customer passes a screening process that verifies the prospect’s identity and searches for any evidence of prior fraudulent activity , that person can be touring a home within several minutes of making the request without having to wait for a leasing associate, Rogers says. “They’re not beholden to someone else’s schedule, and this creates a really positive experience and helps moves them along the leasing process from there.”

According to Anyone Home’s analysis, 61.9 percent of single-family prospective residents who book a self-guided tour start the tour within one hour.

This solution also makes life easier for leasing associates. No longer do they have to worry about cramming an endless list of tours into their day. No longer do they have to lose time accommodating prospective residents who might want to visit the same rental home multiple times or take an extremely long tour.

Not being saddled with as much touring lets Invitation’s leasing associates focus on the many other aspects of the home-hunting experience that drive conversions, such as following up with prospects after their tours and sending highly targeted communications to leads who are at various points in their home-shopping journey.

“What we have found is that leasing agents who were high-performing before self-guided tours are really able to go stratospheric with their leasing performance because they can sign significantly more leases than before,” says Rogers. That’s because, among other factors, associates can spend more time tending to the needs of other prospects and building rapport with them instead of having so much of their day consumed by touring with just a few prospects. In addition, self-guided tours allow prospects to see a home almost immediately instead of having to coordinate with an associate, which means more efficient and easier buyer journeys for prospective renters, which puts more of them in a “ready to lease” state of mind, Rogers adds.

As for apartment operators that might be reluctant about letting just anyone visit one of their communities unattended, Rogers says operators can implement policies or limitations as they see fit. For example, “some companies in the single-family space have decided to only offer self-guided tours to prospects who have already toured a home with an associate.”

Rogers also says operators need to emphasize that by introducing self-guided tours, they’re simply giving customers another option. “We have not turned off associate-guided tours by any means,” he says. “Instead, self-guided tours are treated like an additional amenity: something that is offered to prospects should they want it. I believe that as the technology becomes more popular, the operators that can seamlessly offer both guided and self-guided tours are going to gain an edge over peers.”

Taking a “Test Drive”

One apartment operator that’s pilot-testing self-guided tours is Mill Creek Residential, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based apartment developer and operator that has about 80 communities in its portfolio.

In mid-October, the company began to offer the option at Modera Central, a 22-story community in downtown Orlando, Fla. The tours are part of Mill Creek’s ongoing efforts to enhance “the customer experience by providing the services desired at the customer’s convenience,” says Dionne Van Druff, Mill Creek Vice President of Property Management.

“Think about how widespread a service like Uber is now,” Van Druff says. “You call your own car, and you're picked up on the corner in five minutes. Customers are more self-sufficient than ever before and continue to demand increased speed and convenience.”

The results of the pilot test have been extremely positive so far, says Van Druff, and Mill Creek is considering rolling out self-guided tours at a handful of other communities this year. “Our customers seem to like the flexibility of the options we provide,” she says. “Whether they contact us in advance to schedule a tour or take advantage of the convenience of the self-guided tour, they like the idea of being able to customize their experience.”

On top of the fact that, with self-guided tours, customers don’t have to wait around for leasing associates to show up, many prospective residents simply prefer seeing a community without a leasing associate hovering, Van Druff says.

Some of them really want to “touch and feel” the apartment home, says Van Druff, and may not feel comfortable doing so in front of an associate. "But if they’re on a self-guided tour, they have the freedom to really look at the apartment home and community features that are important to them and take advantage of the experience more. They have the privacy to discuss finances and truly imagine the space as their own.” 

The positive impact shows up in Modera Central’s leasing statistics. Since the launch of self-guided tours at the community, 60 percent of prospective residents touring for the first time choose to take a self-guided tour over one with an associate. The average self-guided tour at the community lasts about 14.5 minutes.

Stephen Ursery is a content manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing, a Denver-based public relations agency.

September 4, 2020
Self-guide
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Apartment Advocate
New Rule Requires Notifying Renters Being Evicted

A new rule will require “debt collectors” to provide renters written notice of their rights under the CDC Eviction Order.

On April 19, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an interim final rule requiring “debt collectors” to provide written notice to renters of their rights under the CDC’s eviction moratorium order and prohibiting "debt collectors" from misrepresenting renters’ eligibility for protection from eviction under the moratorium. The rule will go into effect on May 3 and last through the duration of the CDC Order, which was recently extended through June 30, 2021.

To understand the rule’s applicability, it is important to note the CFPB’s definition of “debt collector,” derived from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). According to the CFPB, under the FDCPA:

[The interim final rule requirement] may include lawyers who represent landlords or property managers in eviction court to collect unpaid rent, if they start collecting the debt for [a renter’s] landlord after [renters] fall behind on [their] payments.

Further, there may be other considerations, including relevant case law that may be more conclusive about whether property managers or management firms are categorized as “debt collectors,” and whether state eviction laws and court processes separate the process to recover possession from actions to cover outstanding rent debt.

The National Apartment Association (NAA) encourages members to seek the advice of a local attorney before proceeding with an eviction to understand whether CFPB’s rule applies.

The CFPB’s rule is an unfortunate expansion of the CDC’s Order, and NAA remains in conversation with the Administration and federal agency officials about the ongoing challenges that rental housing providers face while the CDC Order and related federal requirements remain in place. In addition to being bad public policy, these efforts make compliance difficult in an area where there is already an abundance and patchwork of legal requirements complicating the CDC’s Order. This interim final ruling only adds to the confusion as federal, state and local eviction moratoria are being applied very differently in courts across the country.

It is time to end federal efforts that interfere with the eviction process. NAA will continue combating these policies and shift focus to the distribution of the almost $50 billion of federal rental assistance.

April 26, 2021

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