17 Mar

The Greening of Property Management

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This photo, “sun scoop + greenwall” is copyright (c) 2014 sun scoop + greenwall by Rob Deutscher and made available under a Attribution- Creative Commons Generic 2.0 license

When your day is spent trying to revolutionize an industry, it can be rather exciting yet a little frustrating at the same time. Not only do you have to get the word out to millions of people, but you also have all of those who ignore you when they hear ‘change’. Those people may agree with you that they want everything to be done faster and cheaper, so long as it stays the same. We always start out by reminding them that there can be very little progress without change, but it is hard for them to swallow that part of progress as it relates to changing anything. Progress they want, change they do not want. In order for a property manager to be able to say, Yes and Now to each customer, building owner, staff member, vendor, leasing broker or anyone they encounter, there must be a monumental change within the industry to make this dramatic progress a reality. We are hoping, like so many people, that by adding Greening to the concept it might take off. It seems that anything about Greening or The Environment is popular. As property managers we need to start Greening ourselves.

For us to become a green industry our effort will be more than just recycling, it will have to include creating standards, minimizing training, eliminating redundancy, identifying the appropriate tools and stopping the madness of starting over every time a new property is assigned to us and minimizing the horrific pain when a property is taken away or sold. If and when, we as an industry, empower ourselves as property managers to provide Yes and Now solutions, there will be a great efficiency or greening of the property management world. The greening will take place throughout every facet of the physical property as well. The greening will impact actual costs and improve customer retention, lower employee turnover and increase the actual value of the property if we all pull together and green this industry.

For over 2 ½ decades I have been in property management, with the majority of those years in the field, at the frontline. The frontline is an appropriate description of those persons in a company who deal with the customers. When you are at the front, the demands come from various directions. Those challenges come from the general public, existing customers, building ownership, the local municipality, the corporate office, vendors or even our own property staff, and usually all at the same time. There is a constant barrage and an endless flow of expectations, with internal conflicts. Herein lies the problem or dilemma.

For instance, the customers expect us to be at our desk at all times to answer their questions or answer the phone when they call. The building owner wants us to walk the property each day and insure all things are in top condition, while watching every single penny spent and every single penny collected. The property manager is also held accountable for each member of the building staff and the assurance to ownership and our corporate office that the staff is being supervised with eagle eyes. Those high standards are expected at the on-site office we are assigned to, in addition to the other 6 properties we manage.

The corporate office wants reports done on time so the accounting department is insured immediate response to their inquiries or needs. When a broker inquires about space available, those tenant rep brokers want the answers now. The local municipality expects us to be at the ready and drop everything, on a moment’s notice to do a full building or fire inspection so we comply with all codes and ordinances. All of the vendors want to be paid immediately after performing their services and the vendors will call repeatedly until we can tell them the exact time they will be paid. Simultaneous to this we are listening to the property leasing broker on the other line who is impatiently waiting for feedback on a 7 page, lease proposal that he/she needs to have our feedback on within the next 15 minutes. All while there is another tenant standing in the office appalled that the illegal car in their parking space has not yet been towed, along with the staff member who wishes to find out why their paycheck was shorted 1.5 hours overtime.

All of the above scenarios can be made less painful if we pull together and start a grassroots effort to revolutionize the property management industry and take the property manager out of the line of fire by igniting a movement towards creating an environment whereby the property manager or the frontline staff, can truly find the time to provide excellent customer service. In addition, immediate responsiveness to the general public, our customers, the building staff, the government, the corporate office and the vendors who all believe they are entitled to receive answers now and make us a Green industry.

Because the industry is bogged down with redundancy, limited standardization, dysfunctional tools, insane repetition and wasted motion, we are the biggest culprits of waste and ineffiency. Today, with all of the creative electronic gadgets and sleek cell phones, why is a property manager ordering 3-part NCR work order pads from Peachtree, bulletin boards to post notices, reams and reams of paper to print statements, newsletters and other legal notices, cases of timecards for the staff to punch in and punch out, binders to store records and logs, and tons of envelopes to mail out the paper coupon books, paper invoices, vendor paper checks and paper remittance stubs and letters imploring the vendors to provide the paper certificates of insurance or other vendor compliance requirements? The reason is simple. We are not creating cohesive systems or systems of any kind. With cohesive systems that communicate, the redundancy will be gone, the manual task will be gone, the errors will be gone and the service will be improved.

There is a group tackling these challenges right now. If you have heard of the organization Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE) you are on the right track. This group is taking the challenge head on. OSCRE understands the key is to create standards across all firms. OSCRE is doing this very task in a very impressive fashion. As a group, those of us at ManagerLabs.com are studying the OSCRE standards and investigating how we as web developers and technology innovators can embrace this profound effort to standardize the property management industry. In a conference call with one of the OSCRE leaders last week, we were given an overview of the various standards already in place. ManagerLabs.com will continue to monitor the OSCRE processes and keep spreading the word about this important step in the process of improving the property management industry. If you take the standards and connect this to all of our systems, we will all be able to share data across any database, no matter what accounting system, work order system, commercial listing service or lease abstract system.

Our mission at ManagerLabs.com is to connect all of these dots so things can truly be ‘touch it once’. Every aspect of managing any asset should be treated as a giant template. Once this template is in place, simply change the names and fill in the blanks. If we, as an industry can start looking at standards, practices, systems and procedures as templates, we can truly be a much Greener industry.

For more information on OSCRE or to join this group, visit http://www.oscre.org.


As Featured On EzineArticles

06 Mar

The Future of Apartment Marketing on the Internet

If you ask a property manager where their apartment traffic comes from they will unequivocally say the internet.  Not so long ago it was newspaper advertising and apartment guides.  So what is next? There is always something next. An example of what is coming is the coupling of online applications and online social marketing portals. Why not?  I have spoken with a Chicago web developer who tells me it is the next marketing vehicle and he is optimistic about his observations.  In an interview with him he provided me with the following insight. The real catch was his opinion that you will actually be able to raise your rent as a result of this theory. That surely got my attention….
Linda Day Harrison: Geoff, what is it that will enable me to raise my rent?
Geoff Domoracki: Online applications and online marketing will be able to fill apartment vacancies and make rental units so appealing that you can raise your rent. But you have to think about online marketing as more than simply buying ad space or posting on more apartment listing websites. As a web developer and web entrepreneur, I have some innovative ideas for how property managers can use a unique web application for turning your website into a social marketing machine.
Linda Day Harrison: Please explain your theory so our audience of property managers can explain this to their building owners?

Geoff Domoracki: In large cities with younger populations; choosing the apartment or condo building you live in becomes a social experience and a lifestyle choice. When I hold events in my downtown Chicago apartment building, guests regularly ask about the cost, amenities, and availability of units. Websites like Facebook, Yelp, Going, and Linkedin use events, reviews, photo galleries, and blogs to advertise products and venues. I have not yet chosen my apartment unit based on a social network.

Here is my concept for the future of apartment or condominium marketing. A robust web 2.0 application that performs the following purposes:

  • Profile-based social network for your building

  • Event invite and calendar for your building

  • Photos, articles, and discussions for your building

  • Unit vacancies / availability, with reviews and comments

  • Online leasing, rent payment, work orders, and condo docs

Linda Day Harrison: How much will this new concept cost? Someone has to pay for something sooner or later?
Geoff Domoracki: This type of platform will be a free service to the property owner, property manager or condominium association.  This business model will be similar to a rent.com or apartments.com. Essentially; you create websites for your properties and sign them up as part of the rental process (example: 820Davis.com) tell your tenants about the new features, they populate the site with photos, events, discussions, profiles, vacation dates, lease start / end dates, and friend referrals. If and when the web application is the procuring cause of the filling a vacancy; the website will take a finder’s fee of some sort. It is target marketing in its most efficient way. From existing customer to potential customer.
Linda Day Harrison: Why would you think this will be the future?
Geoff Domoracki: Because the new urban tech-savvy crowd will listen to Social Marketing before they listen to Direct Paid Marketing. Social Marketing means that customers and users draw in new customers and users simply by using the website. When your tenants invite new people to events, photo tags, feedback, and referrals – you get new tenants. It would be a free application; and the property will only pay for the service if it actually provides a service.
Linda Day Harrison: Currently, the apartment industry rewards existing residents by providing a referral fee, if they refer a friend who leases at the property. Will that concept be eliminated or do you see that being incorporated into the future of apartment leasing as well?
Geoff Domoracki: I think this concept will be integrated and made easier. I regularly refer my friends to restaurants or events I like on yelp.com; but I have not yet used a website for referring friends to an apartment. Take that concept a step further. When a friend who comes to an event in my building later becomes a tenant – I, the event host, can still get paid. You fill more vacancies – and tenants referring tenants becomes a more organic process.