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News, Industry Insider, Operations Insights
Five Holiday and Winter Community Event Ideas That Engage Residents

Improve resident experience with these highly marketable event ideas.

“Resident experience” is the hot topic in the apartment industry these days — and for good reason. When you’re able to achieve a positive resident experience, you’re also able to achieve more renewals and new leases.

Importantly, a huge part of creating a positive resident experience is fun resident events; however, it can be difficult for your property to host regular, planned events, especially if it’s small to mid-sized. In general, it’s probably not a question of whether your team wants to do events, but rather a lack of time, ideas and budget.

To help you fill out your resident event calendar for the upcoming holiday season and bring a spark of joy to your community, here are five easy, affordable, and unique ideas:

1. Lend a helping hand.

Often, people want to volunteer and lend a helping hand to others, especially during the holiday season, but don’t know where to go or what to do. If your team figures out all of the details and sets up an easy volunteer opportunity for your residents, you may be surprised how many residents say “yes.”

For something hands-on and in-person, you can partner with a local charity, food pantry or homeless shelter. For something simpler, you can organize a canned food, toy or clothing drive within your community. Coordinating a drive will be as easy as keeping a collection bin in your leasing office or lobby and getting the word out to your residents through social media posts, flyers and emails.

To help improve the chances of residents joining in, you can even offer a selection of dates for when they can volunteer if you’re doing an in-person event. The recipient organization will be so appreciative of the support and your residents walk away feeling good about giving back to the community.

2. Host a holiday potluck and create a cookbook.

This idea is a cool twist on a classic resident event. At least a week before the potluck, have your residents submit the recipes for the dish they will be bringing to the dinner and compile them all into a seasonal, winter cookbook. Then, give a copy to each of your residents at the end of the potluck. Not only will your residents enjoy time together and a yummy dinner, but also receive a special token they can take home and enjoy for years to come.

As an additional tip, the more you can make it feel like a true cookbook, the more likely your residents are to keep it on their shelf. It also is recommended to put your community’s logo on it and giving the cookbook a fun, memorable name.                                                                              

3. Make trendy winter wreaths or garlands.

This is a great winter-themed craft and activity that is relatively inexpensive and will get residents to come out and participate. This is because it is both a low-commitment and high-value event. For residents, there’s nothing better than free holiday home decor that will take under 30 minutes to get. Plus, it also creates an opportunity to do a community-wide giveaway for the wreath that gets the most likes on social media after you share them all.

If you’re not sure what to get for this resident activity, there are tons of videos on YouTube that show you how to make incredibly beautiful wreaths from supplies from the Dollar Store. You really can’t go wrong!

4. Build mini gingerbread houses.

The “mini” part of this resident event idea is key because the idea of putting together a full-sized gingerbread house can easily feel overwhelming and time-consuming for residents. It’s understandable why they might then be deterred from the whole icing and gumdrop ordeal.

However, if you make it a mini gingerbread house creation night, it’ll be much more enticing and unique. Who doesn’t like things that are mini? Not to mention, there’s no shortage of miniature-sized candy you can grab for decoration.

This will be a fun, creative, hands-on event for your community that is family-friendly and good for people of all ages. This is also another event you can share all over social media and have your audience vote on the prettiest (or funniest) mini gingerbread house for a special prize!

5. Host a post-holiday happy hour.

While a happy hour is a popular resident event, hosting one in celebration of your residents making it through the holiday season makes it super fun and unique. After all that decorating, shopping and cooking, who wouldn't want a drink? Also, it is much more likely your residents will attend an event after rather than during the holiday season.

To make it extra special, your team can even craft a signature drink that’s named after your property and turn it into a tradition where you serve it every year. For the cherry on top, you can order some low-cost drinking glasses with your logo printed on it.

Hands-On Activities + Souvenirs = Marketing Magic

While it might feel a little unnatural and “promotional,” try to view every resident event as a marketing opportunity — take photos and videos, create stories, make TikToks and share, share, share!

Another recommendation for consideration is pairing a souvenir or take-home item, such as the drinking glass or cookbook, with every event. Residents love to be able to walk away with something they can keep and use in their home. Not only will it entice them to show up, but they’ll walk away with that warm feeling that comes with a smile (and maybe leave you a review or two).

Ashley Tyndall is Chief Relationship Officer for Criterion.B.

November 19, 2021
Five Holiday and Winter Community Event Ideas That Engage Residents
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Apartment Advocate, Operations Insights
NAA Sues Federal Government to Recover Industry’s Losses Under Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

Join the lawsuit

The National Apartment Association is taking legal action to recover damages housing providers suffered under the CDC’s eviction moratorium and ensure that similar measures can never again be enacted.

The National Apartment Association (NAA) on July 27 filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to recover damages on behalf of rental housing providers that have suffered severe economic losses under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) overreaching federal eviction moratorium.

As NAA members and the broader industry understand all too well, the CDC’s prolonged order directly harms those who provide critically needed rental homes, jeopardizes the long-term viability of housing infrastructure and sets a dangerous precedent for future disaster-response measures. NAA is the first to take legal action seeking compensation for the CDC’s policy and to ensure that similar “emergency measures” cannot be enacted again.

The suit, NAA et al. v. The United States of America, is open to all rental housing providers who have been damaged by and are operating in a state or locality under the federal eviction moratorium. It argues that the CDC order has curbed several rights under the U.S. Constitution including: The right to access the courts, the freedom to contract with others absent government interference, the right to demand compensation when property is taken by government action and the limits of federal government power. NAA is confident that the CDC will be found to have acted illegally based on court rulings to date, including the most recent decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming that the CDC’s order was unlawful.

Apartment owners and operators have continued good-faith operations throughout the public health and economic crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and are now left to shoulder $26.6 billion* in debt not covered by federal rental assistance. As a low-margin industry where just 10 cents of each rental dollar is considered “profit,” this debt is unsustainable and could devastate countless small businesses while simultaneously damaging housing affordability. Though NAA is proud of the unprecedented adaptability and flexibility of our members and the broader industry, we firmly believe that it is time to make rental housing providers and their residents whole again.

Relief efforts to date have fallen short of fully supporting the rental housing industry and its residents. While the federal government has allocated roughly $47 billion in federal rent relief, it took more than nine months for Congress to do so. Further, that amount also does not cover the full and continuously growing amount of rent debt – current estimates indicate an additional $26.6 billion on top of Congress’ $47 billion rental assistance funding. The government’s prolonged inaction, paired with a sluggish rollout and the CDC eviction moratorium, has only allowed unfunded rent debt to continue to balloon.

Since the onset of the pandemic, NAA has aggressively advocated to protect the interests of the rental housing industry. We have called out the dangers and short-sightedness of eviction moratoria and asked for its sunset to both the 116th and 117th Congresses, in meetings with both the recent and current White House administrations and across all levels of media. NAA was among the first to take legal action challenging the CDC’s authority last September by joining the National Civil Liberties Alliance lawsuit, Richard Lee Brown, et al. v. Secretary Alex Azar, et al

The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating, and if we do not act, the housing affordability crisis may grow into a catastrophe where the government could invoke more “emergency” remedies. With the meter on rent debt still running, political will waning and Congress moving past COVID-relief measures, NAA is putting up the greatest fight yet and asking the courts for two things: Fair compensation for damages suffered under the unlawful CDC order and an assurance that the federal government can never do this again.

NAA is proud to take action for our members and work to stabilize the industry. The rental housing industry cannot be held solely responsible for an unfunded rent debt while the federal government trades one crisis for another. Ultimately, making housing providers and their residents whole again will help secure the long-term health of the rental housing industry and ensures households across the income spectrum have continued access to rental housing.

*$57.3 billion in rent debt at the end of 2020 (Urban Institute) + $8 billion in Q1 2021 (MBA) + estimated $8 billion in Q2 2021 (MBA, Q2 numbers expected soon) - just under $47 billion in allocated rental assistance = $26.6 billion in unfunded rent debt (and climbing)

Join the lawsuit

July 27, 2021
News, Industry Insider, Operations Insights
The Tools to Reach Prospects and Residents in 2021

Communication is a priority in 2021, necessitating the right tools, tactics and training are in place.

Marketing to potential prospects has grown increasingly sophisticated during the past decade. But the move from an old-fashioned grassroots approach to digital lead generation intensified during COVID-19.

“2020 really accelerated the rollout and adoption of technologies that allowed us to maintain continuity during a rapid transition to a virtual way of doing business,” says Melissa Brady, Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Fogelman Properties. “Given the pace of innovation and the corresponding change in consumers’ expectations for more virtual and self-service options, we will continue on this path while looking for ways to optimize and consolidate our MarTech stack.”

The situation is similar for interaction with current residents. Some property managers have reported that COVID cases spiked in their communities. “We have several properties where we have employees in quarantine or out ill,” says Steve Hallsey, Executive Vice President of Operations for Wood Residential Service. “This situation puts a lot of pressure on other site employees.”

Social distancing is essential to prevent these virus outbreaks, but it has made it difficult for onsite teams to connect with residents in ways in which they have grown accustomed.

“I think it’s a challenge, especially for some folks that are right out of college, to be able to connect with the residents and be authentic as they’re also trying to socially distance,” says JoLynn Scotch, Managing Director of Operations at Bozzuto.

To be successful in this environment, apartment operators need to think differently.

“Creativity is at a premium to maximize leasing velocity and generate higher retention rates,” says Woody Stone, Executive Managing Director of Operations Cushman & Wakefield, Multifamily Asset Management, Americas.

In a digital, socially distant world, there are many ways to introduce your brand to potential residents. For Cortland, social media has been a strong driver of leads during the pandemic.

“With more people working remotely, we’ve also noticed an increase in social media usage this year,” says Tim Hermeling, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Cortland. “As a result, we have shifted marketing dollars to social media advertising.”

In 2021, Fogelman plans to rely on customer relationship management (CRM) software to optimize its media mix and drive lead conversions. Once those leads come, it plans to roll out live chat and text options across its portfolio to maximize engagement with prospects and use artificial intelligence (AI) to respond to leads in real-time, 24/7.

On average, Brady says customers use 10 channels to communicate. Fogelman’s teams will need to lean on technology like CRM, AI, chat and text to identify viable prospects and respond in near real-time this year.

“This requires a continued focus on training so that our front-line teams are confident in not only managing these tools but also delivering personalized experiences and great customer service, virtually or in-person,” Brady says.

Before prospects get to an apartment operator’s front-line teams, they usually check out a property’s reviews. In the digital world, one can argue that online reviews are the new curb appeal. Depending on positive online reviews is nothing new. Review sites have been around for decades. But with apartment searchers cooped up at home, they may be even more critical. 

“Drawing prospects to our properties is heavily reliant on positive online reviews,” Stone says. “In this virtual environment, a poor reputation is much harder to overcome.”

Good reviews start with good management. At Bozzuto, enhanced resident engagement and awards have increased customer satisfaction. Cushman utilizes various software options to enhance communication with its prospects or residents and address issues before they are posted online, which helps it elevate scores. “We have also been reminded during the pandemic how important it is to go beyond the basics of simply managing a unit,” Stone says.

During the pandemic, part of the management process has been working with customers who need help with payments. Technology, again, can play a role in these discussions. Scotch says her company has relied on its CRM during this time to put those customers on payment plans.

“It has been instrumental,” she says. “We also used Zoom and FaceTime as additional communication tools.”

In 2021, as in 2020, having the right tools to communicate with prospects and residents will help operators successfully navigate what is bound to be a challenging year ahead.

Les Shaver is a freelance writer.

January 25, 2021
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
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Operations Insights
Rents Decline in Half of 100 Largest U.S. Cities

The National Rent Report from Apartment List shows rent growth across the country remained relatively flat.

More than half of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. saw rent prices decline during November. The national index from Apartment List increased 0.1%, which is the lowest month-over-month (MoM) growth in 2021. Since January 2021, median rent growth increase is nearly 18%. This is compared to 2.6% rent growth, which is what was seen, on average, between January and November in 2017-2019.

Of the nation’s 100 largest cities, 53 saw month-over-month rent declines, and this is the fourth straight month of slowed growth following the July 2.7% growth peak. The national median rent is now at $1,312, which is $117 higher than predicted had the rent growth continued its pre-pandemic path.

Locally, rent declines continue to plague larger coastal markets like San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. Rents dropped 2.7% MoM in San Francisco, and Minneapolis, Boston, Seattle and Arlington, Va., also saw rent declines in consecutive months. Since March 2020, San Francisco is down 14%, while neighbor Oakland is down 10%.

Meanwhile, Boise, Idaho, saw a 3.7% dip in rents, kicking it off the top 10 list of largest pandemic-era rent increases. However, Boise is still up 32%. Nine of the top 10 cities are in Nevada, Arizona or Florida, with North Las Vegas at a 38% rent growth since March 2020. Glendale, Ariz., and Mesa, Ariz., follow. All top 10 cities have at least 34% rent growth since March 2020. Spokane, Wash., was the lone location outside the three states in sixth.

December 3, 2021
Rents Decline in Half of 100 Largest U.S. Cities
News, Industry Insider, Operations Insights
Online Reputation Remains Important to Residents, Physical Apartment Visits Decline

J Turner Research dives into resident apartment search and selection behaviors.

J Turner Research is examining resident and prospective resident online behaviors and how they compare to a similar study from 2018. More than 2,200 residents participated in the most recent research—four in five were conventional renters, while 18% were student renters. The purpose of the research is to study resident selection processes and how prospective residents gather available online information such as reviews and manager responses.

Physical visits are down slightly prior to renting apartments—4.22 communities visited compared to 5.2 in 2016. Apartment hunters are also actively researching more than 14 communities prior to renting.

Community reviews are also important for residents, with nearly two-thirds stating they read all reviews. Only 11% said they do not read reviews, while more than a quarter read 4- and 5-star reviews. Online reviews, no matter the time frame, are also vital for a community. More than a fifth of respondents reported past reviews are never irrelevant, while 25% said reviews become irrelevant after two years.

The speed at which a manager responds to reviews also matters to prospective residents. Nearly 60% want a response to a bad review with a solution within 72 hours, while 42% expect a response with 24 hours.

The majority of residents search for their next apartment within 6 months before moving—20% at three months, and 15% at two months. In 2018, roughly 12% of renters started searching at six months, the same as the current research.

When visiting a community, 20% of respondents said their interaction with office staff had a strong influence (10 on a 0-10 scale) on their renting decision. And 55% said staff caring about renters as the most important factor when selecting an apartment. Just shy of a third said online ratings and reviews was most important, while 14% said “other residents are like me” as their top priority.

December 3, 2021
Online Reputation Remains Important to Residents, Physical Apartment Visits Decline
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Operations Insights
New Strategies to Improve NOI

Revenue management systems and bundled fees are among the many ways to improve net operating income.

As the industry acclimates to its new normal and multifamily housing companies ease the reins on operating budgets, management companies are looking for new avenues to increase net operating income (NOI). The 2021 Apartmentalize session, “Top 20 NOI Strategies to Implement Today,” discussed various strategies for improving NOI—from revenue management to bundled convenience fees. 

While revenue management isn’t new to multifamily, more operators are beginning to tweak their revenue management systems on a more regular basis for optimal performance.

“I think those of us who have revenue management are now doing it daily, because that’s part of your NOI strategy,” said Ian Bingham, Senior Vice President of Client Services for Roscoe Property Management. “We’re factoring unit velocity – what was rented that day, by floor plan. If you’re not looking at pricing daily, you’re leaving money on the table.”

Many companies have taken over their own pricing, rather than relying on third-party specialists. 

“They’re bringing pricing in-house, rather than using pricing advisory services, because they want to look at it on a daily basis,” said Ed Wolff, Chief Revenue Officer at LeaseLock. “They’re also keeping renewals at a minimal amount – $100 or $150 – because they don’t want to incur the turn costs. Just keep that resident intact.”

While experts are predicting another 24 months of record rent growth, pricing strategies need to remain market specific. 

“Each market lives and breathes a bit differently, and everyone has a different strategy,” Bingham said. “In your major markets, our foot is on the gas because everyone in the market is doing exactly that.”

Bingham cautioned against doing away with the contactless leasing technology rolled out during the pandemic.

“I think the human touch is still something people want as part of the leasing process, but not everybody,” he said. “People still resonate, so I think self-guided is a better follow-up tool. But you can expand that self-guided touring window – 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., etc. – to capture a wider audience.”

Due to the surge in e-commerce, companies are turning to offsite package management solutions and repurposing package rooms and locker spaces. 

“It’s given us back 200 to 500 square feet of amenity space per building,” Bingham said. “In the amenities arms race, it has given us more space.”

Operators are also revisiting security deposits to simplify the leasing process and make move-in more feasible for renters.

“I believe the day of security deposits is coming to an end,” Wolff said. “You can pay a security deposit, you can pay a provider for an alternative or you cannot do security deposits at all, and the resident can pay a monthly fee. But there is ancillary income by charging the resident that monthly amount.”

In today’s fee-based society, management companies have even started bundling fees for convenience services like concierge, trash, cable, Wi-Fi and package delivery to avoid the perception that they are nickel and diming residents for every service. 

Doug Pike is a Content Manager at LinnellTaylor Marketing.

November 29, 2021
New Strategies to Improve NOI
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Innovations, Operations Insights
Resident Texts: Break on Through to the Other Side

Here’s why your text messages fail to reach your residents.

Historically, a flyer pinned to a board in the lobby was one of the most effective methods for mass communication to residents. Today, although many boards remain, owners and operators have a slew of additional communication tools at their disposal. While many remain loyal to emails, an increasing number of apartment communities have tapped into texting to connect with residents quickly and effectively.

Texts offer a fast, affordable and reliable communication channel. According to research from OpenMarket, 83 percent of Millennials open texts within 90 seconds of receipt. And older research from Gartner revealed 90 percent of all people read texts within three minutes of receipt, with a 98 percent total open rate. 

That said, there is one downside to texting that is becoming more prevalent: Not all text messages are reaching residents. 

Why the Disconnect?

Owners and operators intending to reach out to their entire list of residents often are using software that enables bulk text sends. This is convenient and affordable, allowing them to quickly reach hundreds or even thousands of people at a time. However, mobile carriers have a long history of blocking certain messages, and they are continually growing more stringent about the types of texts and the content within them. When carriers see the exact same messages going to hundreds or thousands of phone numbers, it gets there attention, and not in a positive way.

U.S. mobile carriers AT&T and T-Mobile are now requiring new fees and processes for any business looking to text groups of people. The rules, which went into effect this summer—called “10DLC” after the 10-digit long codes that businesses use to text people—may make message blocking an even more common occurrence.

Often, the person who scheduled the send doesn’t even realize the messages were blocked, because most software doesn’t automatically alert the sender (you can usually only see the message failed if you take the time to log into the software, which not everyone does). 

How to Break on Through to the Other Side

The good news is general advice for sending messages that will make it to their intended recipients enables apartment communities to keep residents in the loop about changes, events and more, without disruption.

  • Send personalized messages: Personalization is the key to messages that don’t get blocked; look for a texting software that will allow you to easily accomplish this. For property managers and owners, this can mean either including the person’s name within the text, or naming the property within the message. Mentioning a specific payment or date or other detail can also count as personalization. Not all messages that lack personalization get blocked (you’ve probably received many that didn’t), but that’s because carriers don’t catch everything, but make no mistake, they are paying closer attention than ever before.
  • Show full URLs: Because carriers want to avoid having their customers receive spam by any means necessary, revealing the URL’s domain name can help alleviate their concern. Avoid using website link shorteners, which may look largely promotional in nature (whether that was the intention or not). Use full URLs when links are required. 
  • Always include an opt-out option: Under Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules, it’s required to receive an opt-in before properties can start sending messages to their residents. Also required is the ability to opt-out at any time, so preserve that option in every single text. A message like “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” works well.
  • Send only relevant images: Most texts to residents shouldn’t require an image; however, if there is an image that needs to be sent, ensure it is truly relevant. If the image does not pertain to the text, it could be blocked.
  • Regularly update your resident texting list: If people regularly opt-out of your messages, it can be a red flag to carriers. Enough red flags, and a sender might become blacklisted from sending messages altogether. To combat this, make sure your lists are constantly updated when people move out or new residents move in.
  • Keep content clean: This is hopefully obvious, but keep texting content straight forward, informational in nature and clean. The acronym “SHAFT” describes content that is forbidden or subject to additional rules:
    • Sexually inappropriate
    • Hate speech or profanity
    • Alcohol
    • Firearms and depictions or endorsements of violence
    • Tobacco (including vaping), or endorsement of illegal or illicit drugs

Text messaging is a powerful tool for property managers, when it’s used well. Used too often or to promote irrelevant information, and apartment residents will unsubscribe. Used without personalization, relevant images and full URLs, and carriers will block the messages. When property managers and owners keep these tips in mind, they can continue to utilize text messages to keep residents informed and engaged within their home and community.

Tom Sheahan is the CEO of Red Oxygen.

November 23, 2021
Resident Texts: Break on Through to the Other Side
News, Industry Insider, Operations Insights
Three Ways to Leverage Video for Recruitment and Retention

Video storytelling is a powerful, engaging and underused medium across the industry.

Just when owners and managers thought they were finally turning the page on the unprecedented challenges of 2020, the pandemic has yet one more card up its sleeve – "The Great Resignation.”

As the pandemic drives people to reassess their lives and futures, many are revisiting what they want, both professionally and personally. On the career front, that means a mass exodus toward unemployment in hopes of finding more money, increased flexibility and greater happiness.

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2021 saw a record 4.3 million people their jobs for greener professional pastures. For the apartment industry, where average employee turnover was already close to 33% annually before the pandemic, “The Great Resignation” has only added to the existing problem.

As a result, operators find themselves in a fierce battle for talent in a historically tight and tumultuous labor market, fighting to distinguish themselves from the competition in not only the multifamily industry but other industries as well.

While there isn't a magic wand owners and managers can wave to fix these overwhelming labor issues, the best option they have is video storytelling – a powerful, engaging and still vastly underused medium across the industry.

Attracting the Right Talent with Video Storytelling

Humans naturally gravitate toward storytelling. From our hunting and gathering days to our modern world, immersive and engaging stories have always been able to expand our thoughts and drive our decision-making.

When you combine a target audience's natural inclination toward stories with the uniquely engaging powers of video, the result is a potent communication tool that can help messaging rise above the background noise.

In the case of talent acquisition and retention, video storytelling is a convenient and fast solution that can directly address staffing shortages in multifamily. From attracting the right talent for open positions to engaging and retaining existing employees, video could very well be the competitive edge every operator is looking for to counteract “The Great Resignation.”

Outlined below are three simple ways multifamily teams can propel their recruitment and retention efforts to new levels with video content.

1. Personalized Video Introductions to Potential Candidates

The talent you're targeting with your recruiting strategy is going to be looking at different positions at different organizations in different industries. That means you are up against some stiff competition for that talent.

Your first goal should be grabbing your potential new hire’s attention and making your opportunity stand out from other potential employers. Video is a great way to differentiate yourself and make a lasting impact on top talent. Imagine being a prospective employee and receiving a personalized video as an introduction rather than a boilerplate email or even a quick call. While a video might take a few minutes to film, edit and distribute depending on the platform you use, it leaves a lasting impression that gives you a distinct advantage.

Also, given the out-of-the-box nature of a video introduction, you’re inherently appealing to talent with a similar out-of-the-box mindset. In this case, innovation breeds innovation, a quality many communities are in short supply of at the moment.

2. Drive Employee Satisfaction and Increase Retention

Rental housing was facing serious employee turnover issues before the pandemic. Of course, in the throes of “The Great Resignation,” it's absolutely critical that you not only fill current workforce gaps but also keep the talent you have.

That is easier said than done in an environment where people are already quitting their jobs in droves. That said, multifamily teams don't have much room for error before a bad problem gets even worse.

That is why it is so important to ensure every employee feels like a valued member of the team. Recognizing success and increasing satisfaction across your staff is another area where video storytelling shines.

A video introduction of a new hire, a quick shout out for a job well done, or a thoughtful message for a team member dealing with challenges at home can go a long way in driving satisfaction. A personalized video is going to be more effective than a card or email in making your employees feel special and important.

3. Foster Employee Engagement Through Video

According to recent research from Gallup, 36% of U.S. employees are engaged by their work and employer. That means 64% are either not engaged or actively disengaged, neither of which bode well for talent retention.

When an employee is fully engaged in their work, they are committed to staying with the company and meeting both individual and organizational goals. Fully engaged employees are loyal to an organization's vision and committed to excellence.

Effective communication and employee engagement go hand-in-hand, where organizations with clear communication channels are better poised for success. Video is an ideal medium for fostering that critical communication, making it easy to convey goals and objectives at both the organizational and individual levels.

Employees want to feel included and know their individual contributions are adding to a community's overall success. There's no better way for management to relay those thoughts and foster those feelings than through video.

Moreover, providing employees with the tools and resources they need to succeed in their roles is essential for engagement. Video fulfills this need very well, and unlike in-person training, you can archive video training sessions so employees can reference them again and again.

There’s no magical solution to address the talent issues that have plagued the multifamily industry for years. However, with the pandemic indirectly intensifying the problem by way of “The Great Resignation,” managers and operators need to find a competitive edge, one that will help them win the battle for talent.

That's exactly what video storytelling offers to the industry. It’s a powerful solution to engage talent – both potential and current – that doesn't strain already heavy workflows. Now, it's just a matter of seeing who the early adopters will be, the ones that will put their communities a giant step ahead in the fight for talent.

Mike Davis is Senior Vice President of Multifamily at OneDay.

November 19, 2021
Three Ways to Leverage Video for Recruitment and Retention
News, Industry Insider, Apartment Business Update, Operations Insights
Rent Growth Continues in October at Slower Pace

Rent growth across the U.S. continues to climb but at a slower pace than seen earlier this year.

Rent growth remains strong across the U.S. despite a slowdown in the fall. According to the latest National Rent Report from Apartment List, rents backed off a bit to their smallest month-over-month growth rate since February. The national index increased 0.8% from September to October to put the national median rent growth at 16.4% since January. Between 2017-19, rent growth averaged 3.2% from January to October.

The national median rent increased to $1,312, $107 higher than Apartment List’s forecast had projected rent growth continued its pre-pandemic path and in line with 2018-19 growth rates.

While the index continued its climb, 22 of the country’s 100 largest cities saw rents decline from month to month. This includes Boise, Idaho, which for much of the past several years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen exponential rent growth. However, Boise saw a 3.1% declined from September to October.

Cities that have rebounded since March 2020 have seen a leveling off—this includes major coastal markets such as California’s Bay, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New York. San Francisco saw a 1% decline in rent prices from September to October and is down 12% since March 2020.

Meanwhile, Boise fell from the top spot as the highest growth market with it’s monthly decline and now sits in the sixth spot of the largest rent gainers since March 2020. Tampa, Fla., overtook the top spot and is ahead 36% compared to March 2020. Greater Phoenix markets—Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa and Chandler—sit between Tampa and Boise. The Las Vegas metro follows with Henderson, North Las Vegas and Las Vegas ahead of Tampa neighbor St. Petersburg. All top 10 cities have at least a 32% rent growth since March 2020.

November 19, 2021
Rent Growth Continues in October at Slower Pace