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Sit down, relax, and browse through The Café Blog—your source for apartment industry news.

We're constantly scouring the Internet for the most relevant, informative multifamily industry articles and tips we can find to share with our readers. In addition, we're home to exclusive essays and helpful hints from our own Leasing Cafe baristas.

Got an article you think we should post or a topic you think we should cover? We'd love to hear from you! Just click the "CONTACT" link at the top right corner of the page and send us your ideas. And don't forget the Coffee Talk Forum -- post your thoughts and get the discussion flowing with other apartment professionals!

Customer Journey Map Preparation


By Misty Sanford

We’re one month into 2015, and we’ve already noticing a few trending topics. One of those topics is customer journey maps. This is more than just a buzz word. With our every growing focus on the customer experience, we think this topic is here to stay.

So what is a customer journey map? It is a framework that maps the resident lifecycle. That’s the easy definition. The more complicated definition is below.

A customer journey map documents your resident and prospect experience from the perspective of their eyes. This helps you understand how your customers interact with you today, and it also identifies improvement opportunities.

That last sentence is the important one. Understanding your customers and what to invest in moving forward is half the battle. We get so much feedback from surveys, social media, reviews, and casual conversations that it can be difficult to know where to even begin! Defining your customer journey map helps you do that...CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW!

U.S. Supreme Court Considering Disparate Impact Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has just heard oral arguments in a case that may decide the fate of disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). In the case, Texas Department of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, the allocation of tax credits is being challenged as an allegedly discriminatory practice under the FHA based on its disparate impact on minority residents.

Much uncertainly has been created in the apartment and real estate industry since HUD’s disparate impact final rule was released in 2013. At issue are the seemingly neutral and common business practices that have been long-considered legitimate and necessary to safely and soundly operate apartment communities.

Specifically, that they could trigger discrimination claims despite no intention of signaling out a particular group. These practices include income, criminal and credit background screenings, and Section 8 voucher policies, among others.

This is the third time in three years that the high court has agreed to hear a case on this subject, but the issue remains undecided since the two previous cases settled prior to oral arguments.  READ ARTICLE

"Is it Better to Rent or Buy?" by Mike Bostock, Shan Carter and Archie TSE


The choice between buying a home and renting one is among the biggest financial decisions that many adults make. But the costs of buying are more varied and complicated than for renting, making it hard to tell which is a better deal. To help you answer this question, our calculator takes the most important costs associated with buying a house and computes the equivalent monthly rent. Click HERE to read the article and view graphics.





All Things Considered...An Ellis Perspective: Receiving Criticism


Receiving criticism is your chance to show off a rare skill; your ability to take negative feedback well. Believe me, it’s not easy. It takes years of practice and a lot of self-awareness. But you have an advantage. Because of the nature of our business, you get to practice receiving feedback almost daily. You get real feedback from your real customers all the time. You don’t have to wait for an annual performance review or even a survey.

So getting feedback is a good thing, but why do we often react poorly? Easy. People are terrible communicators! It’s true! Most people aren’t aware of their tone or even the impact their choice of words has on their message.

We react poorly for other reasons as well...READ MORE

"Car-Share Services as Added Resident Amenity " by MikeMcCamish on MHNOnline


Innovation in apartment ownership and management is not just software or gadgets. It’s about changing how we think about the amenities and services that fulfill the needs of residents and our investment in the properties. Car sharing is one of those innovations, and the apartment industry is seeing significant advantages in its adoption, driven by resident demand and demographic trends.

Apartment owners and operators across the country, primarily in urban areas, are making car-sharing services such as Zipcar and CityCarShare available on-site for residents and in some cases, also to the public. A variation on basic car sharing, these car-sharing services first became active in “green”-minded communities such as Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; Vancouver, Canada; and San Francisco. Car sharing is a sought-after amenity for renters who do not want the added expense of owning a car but still need a car from time to time. It reduces the number of cars on the road and the auto-emission impact on the environment.

In San Francisco, Veritas Investments and its affiliates RentSFNow and Greentree Management, which together control one of the largest apartment portfolios in the City’s urban core, have seen such strong reception to a Zipcar pilot efforts two years ago that they expanded the pool to several communities. Now Zipcar’s largest host in San Francisco, the firm has more than 30 Zipcars in properties that can accommodate the parking, security and access requirements, with more underway. Equity Residential in 2011 launched a program to put Zipcars in 30 U.S. properties, and its website now reports Zipcars in over 100 locations across the country, stating the service offers “outstanding” value to residents. READ ARTICLE

"Extracting the Noise From Your Reviews" from Ellis Partners in Management Solutions


Interpreting a review can be a bit tricky. If your community is like most communities, you get a lot of feedback. This information comes from surveys, reviews, social media, and even face-to-face conversations, so it can be a bit overwhelming. It might even cause your team to lose focus. Sure, there are some residents that point out your flaws in the most honest way possible. But most reviews force you to read between the lines or even piece together the story with analytics. In today’s customer centric world, the real skill is learning how to extract the important information from all the noise. So how do you do that? It’s simple. You define the business problem. You have to start with a little clarity on what you are trying to fix or solve, and if we are honest with ourselves, we all know where we are weak. Defining your weakness and the business problem will help you understand what data and feedback you want to collect. It also helps you understand when, where, how, and from whom. READ ARTICLE

"Top 10 YouTube Channels for Leaders" by Larry P. Thomas at Huffington Post

With over 6 billion hours of video and thousands of channels, YouTube has something for everyone -- even for those of us who want to become better leaders.

Over the last year I've subscribed to a number of YouTube channels that have consistently helped me identify new trends, understand best practices, and spot high-impact opportunities.

Here is a list of my favorites:

1. The Aspen Institute: Watch leaders from around the globe examine the concepts and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times.

2. TED: Enjoy a collection of mini lectures from visionaries in technology, entertainment, and design.

3. The National Press Club: See today's news makers field questions from the most trusted and respected journalists.

4: The Milken Institute: From panel discussions to presentations, observe some of the smartest people on the planet work toward solving problems that will advance the global economy, accelerate cures, and bolster innovation.

5. The Clinton Global Initiative: Learn from heads of state, Nobel laureates, CEOs, and philanthropists as they commit to finding sustainable and measurable solutions to the world's most pressing problems.

6. South by Southwest: Experience the thought-provoking sessions and futuristic keynotes at Austin's signature technology, music, and film festival.

7. The Gates Foundation: A team of experts join Melinda and Bill Gates in underscoring the importance of targeted investments in poverty alleviation, global health, international development, and U.S. education.

8. Talks at Google: The who's who of every industry regularly stop by the tech giant to share ideas.

9. Khan Academy: Instructional videos and interactive assessments allow viewers to learn almost anything at their own pace.

10. World Economic Forum: Influential business, political, and academic leaders discuss global, regional, and industry challenges. READ ARTICLE

Smoke detectors used in apartment buildings, schools recalled

More than 141,000 smoke detectors sold in the U.S. are being recalled because certain radio frequencies can interfere with the units and render them useless in case of a fire.

Another 13,000 recalled detectors were sold in Canada.

Thirty-three models of the 400- and 500-series Edwards (ESL)-branded and Interlogix smoke detectors are affected.

No matter the name, the recalled units look identical: the two-wire or four-wire detectors are round, white and measure 6 inches across by 2 inches high.

They’re typically hardwired in security systems, professionally installed, and made to be used in schools, hotels, apartments and dorms.

Recalled units, which were made in China by Frynetics Limited, have date codes 13084 through 14059.

The following model numbers are printed on a label on the back of the recalled detectors’ cover:

400 series: 429AT, 429C, 429CAD, 429CRT, 429CST, 429CT, 429CTAD, 449AT, 449C, 449CRT, 449CSRH, 449CSRT, 449CST, 449CSTE, 449CT and 449CTE.

500 Series: 511C, 518C, 521B, 521BXT, 521B-10PKDMP, 521B-10PKG, 521BXT-10PKG, 521BXT-DMP-10PKG, 528B, 528CRXT, 541C, 541C-10PKG, 541CXT, 541CXT-10PK and 548C.

No injuries have been reported in connection with the recall.

Anyone who thinks their smoke detectors may be those identified as defective should immediately call their security or fire system provider. If those units are recalled, they’ll be replaced for free.

Customers are warned not to take down the recalled units until a new one is installed. READ ARTICLE

"Six Fire Safety Tips for Summer" from


How to keep building occupants safe during the hot season

Nearly 5,000 fires take place per day during the summer, which ranks second in fire incidence rates compared to other seasons, according to the United States Fire Administration. Between company cookouts and extra wear and tear on cooling and landscaping equipment, commercial buildings are vulnerable to fire damage.

Cintas Corporation, a provider of fire protection services, offers these six tips to lower your likelihood of a summertime fire.

1) HVAC maintenance: Dust can settle over capacitors and other electrical components and cause tracking faults, which can create fires. Running multiple cooling units together consistently and for long periods of time can result in overloading and overheating, which also presents an opportunity for fires to start. READ ARTICLE

"It's the Little Things That Count!" by Mary Gwyn, CPM, Chief Innovator at Apartment Dynamics


At our Fun 4th event one couple is a pair of Boomerang Renters, that is, they are Baby Boomers who haven’t rented since before their kids were born. Now kids and parents are on their own, and Mom & Dad are renting their “first” apartment home.

They know what I do, so they GLOMMED onto me. Both said they USED to love their apartment home. They still love having their repairs made, all of which are completed within a day. They like the pool and clubhouse, but don’t use it much. They like the layout, miss their big kitchen but like the appliances, and their utilities are reasonable. They have no problem finding a parking place, and though they haven’t met many of their neighbors, they feel comfortable with the neighborhood.

But they are VERY unhappy about a recent management change.

In separate LONG conversations, both expressed angst over the change, which occurred over 5 months ago.

So after all the things they LIKE about their apartment home, what’s the big problem?


OMA / Ole Scheeren’s “The Interlace” Nabs Inaugural CTBUH Urban Habitat Award


CTBUH, the organization best known for its Tall Building Awards, has announced the winner of its inaugural Urban Habitat Award: OMA / Ole Scheeren’s The Interlace in Singapore. The jurors, including Studio Gang Architects‘ Jeanne Gang, praised the apartment complex, which includes communal gardens and spaces on the roofs and in between the apartment blocks, for responding to its tropical context and “integrating horizontal and vertical living frameworks.”

CTBUH Jurors also recognized Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ NEO Bankside as a finalist. Read more about the The Interlace and NEO Bankside, after the break.

From the Press Release. The Interlace, a residential tall building project in Singapore, has won the inaugural Urban Habitat award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

The Interlace is a 1,040-unit apartment complex consisting of 31 apartment blocks, each six stories tall and 70 meters long, stacked in hexagonal arrangements around eight large-scale, permeable courtyards. The stacking of the volumes creates a topographical phenomenon more reminiscent of a landscape than of a typical building. An extensive network of communal gardens and spaces is interwoven with amenities, providing multiple opportunities for social interaction, leisure and recreation – both on the roofs of, and in between, these stacked horizontal blocks. 

“The Interlace creatively realizes the potential a tropical environment provides for inverting the ‘towers in the park’ typology in favor of the tower as park,” said Awards Jury chair Jeanne Gang, founding principal of Studio Gang Architects. “By integrating horizontal and vertical living frameworks, it becomes much more than the sum of its parts.” 

The CTBUH Urban Habitat Award is newly established this year to recognize that the impact of tall buildings extends far beyond the buildings themselves. The award recognizes significant contributions to the urban realm, in connection with tall buildings. In particular, it highlights projects that demonstrate a positive contribution to the surrounding environment, add to the social sustainability of both their immediate and wider settings, and represent design influenced by context, both environmentally and culturally.


See photo and read article at AMAZING NEW ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN

"Why Rent Control Hurts" from Prager University

Why Rent Control Hurts

Using Your Reviews as a Marketing Tool

84% of millenials say consumer-written content on brand sites influences what they buy (Social Trends Report 2013). As you have probably experienced, reviews play a huge role in the apartment search process. Prospects don’t choose an apartment without reading apartment reviews. And in some cases, they prioritize strong reviews over everything else, including price.

This means you should be using your reviews as a  marketing tool.
Reviews are the new form of advertising. Traditional advertising now has a much smaller role in customer influence. Why? Because the customer experience is no longer our story to package up and present. It’s our residents’ story to organically share.


"Mentoring New Talent" by Keith Loria MHNOnline


With the multifamily industry expanding every year, finding strong applicants to fill positions can sometimes be hard. That’s why many companies look to colleges and universities to find interns so that they can have help during the summer.

Rosemary Carucci Goss, Ph.D. Virginia Tech, is a board professor for the property management program at the school and oversees the career fair. It’s here that most students find their internships.

“All students in our program are required to do an internship in the multifamily area,” she says. “The industry is so hungry for good talent that they’ll hire one of our students for a summer work experience even without coursework. They do one internship for credit, report to me, get evaluated, and then they do a [written] report and evaluate their experience with an oral report and PowerPoint presentation when they return.”

Interns must also keep a journal for 160 hours tracking their internship experience.

“From a company perspective, we ask them to treat our students as they would a regular employee and give them a myriad of property management experiences,” Goss says. “We want them to have exposure to everything. The companies that have the most specific internship and gives the student the most variety tend to be the companies the students are attracted to the most.”  READ ARTICLE

"What to do when work is overwhelming" by Terry Brock

Perhaps you can relate to this. The other day I woke up and headed into what was supposed to be a normal day — a couple of phone calls, an article to write, some Google+ Hangouts, and a few Skype video calls. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Then suddenly, as if the Gotcha' gods were plotting against me, one crisis after another emerged. The printer didn't work (ugh!), Google+ Hangouts had some challenges, a once-firm contract evaporated due to no fault of my own. In no time I didn't know how I was going to get through it all. Can you relate to this?

In short, I felt overwhelmed.

Whoa, Nellie! It seems that in today's world somebody turned on the firehose of stuff to do and pointed it right at us with full power! If you're like so many of us entrepreneurs, you know there is an increasing tide of information. It is easy to become overwhelmed with too much to digest and we regularly experience what Air Force pilots call “task saturation.”

As entrepreneurs today, we have to juggle many balls, or wear a lot of hats, or — well, pick your own colorful metaphor! We are swamped!

So, how do we make sense of it all and get a handle on what to do? How do you as a busy professional “overcome overwhelmed?” How do you get over that gnawing sense of “I just can't get all of this stuff done even though I'm working 36 hours each day!” kind of feeling?

Here are some steps that have worked for others and how you can implement them to “overcome overwhelmed” in your own life. READ ARTICLE

Ellis Multifamily Industry Benchmark 1st Quarter 2014


We are pleased to present the First Quarter 2014 Ellis Multifamily Industry Benchmark. We are proud to be your partner and strive to help you better understand and manage the lead conversion and resident retention processes. Our team continues to deliver the most current tools to help you monitor and evaluate on-site sales and marketing effectiveness, as well as to be able to compare your team’s performance against others in the industry. The importance of the customer’s perception of their experience with your team and product cannot be ignored. This perception determines the true value to the customer related to the problem he needs to solve or aspirations she wants to fulfill.

As you reflect on the accomplishments of last year and begin to tackle the challenges of the New Year, we hope that you will find value in our 2014 topics which revolve around leasing training,

1st Quarter: The Generational Divide and Leasing Training
2nd Quarter: Does Leasing Training Need to Change?... READ ARTICLE

"Driving Action and Innovation at the Seriously Easy-Going Community" by Maria Lawson of Ellis Partners


In the past, many apartment communities have been able to survive even with very limited amounts of innovation. They focused on providing quality products and services, and simply updated them to a level that maintained their competitiveness in the market.

Today, customer expectations are placing more demands on company innovation. They are used to products that continually advance and make their life easier and they don’t expect any less from your team and community. If you are not up for the challenge, they can always go somewhere else.

Innovation is one of the main ways to distinguish your product and services from the competition. If you can’t compete on price, you’ll need innovative products and ideas to make your community stand out from the crowd. READ ARTICLE

Ellis Announces Winners of 2014 Ellis Customer Experience Best in Class Award for Resident Surveys

Ellis Partners in Management Services announces the launch the Ellis Customer Experience Best in Class Award for Resident Surveys. This award is based on resident surveys conducted across 5 touch points - lead conversion, move-in, maintenance, pre-renewal, and move-out.

Ellis Resident Surveys are loyalty-focused, as opposed to many other survey providers who measure customer satisfaction scores. Ellis' philosophy, based on Net Promoter theory, is that customer loyalty is the ultimate measure of customer relationship success, and loyalty is built through the customer experience you consistently provide. Loyal, rather than merely satisfied, customers will pay more, stay longer, and refer friends and family.

Ellis congratulates the properties below for earning the 2014 Ellis Customer Experience Best in Class Award for Resident Surveys based on their outstanding Customer Experience performance.

Avana Arts District - Oklahoma City, OK
Avana At Carolina Point - Greenville, SC
Avana At Western Center - FT Worth, TX
Avana Brazos Ranch - Rosenberg, TX
Bella Vista - Phoenix, AZ
Brittany Lane Apartments - Lacey, WA
Brookside - Newburry, FL
Daniel Island Village - Charleston, SC
Elan Gateway - St Petersburg, FL
Firestone West 7th - FT Worth, TX...SEE WHO ELSE MADE THE LIST!

"The Inland Pipeline" by Adam Knapp


While much of the apartment development buzz is about the amount of new supply being delivered to major markets such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, New York, Washington, Miami and San Jose. But the construction pipeline is also extending to smaller markets in the Midwest.

U.S. Effective Rent Growth 4.7% in November

A look at the map below shows that supply is moving inland. (Blue dots represent planned properties; yellow dots denote properties in lease-up and red dots represent properties under construction). While construction is not necessarily decreasing on the coasts, development is increasing in Midwestern cities slow to recover from the Great Recession. READ ARTICLE

Grace Hill Acquires Education Division of LeaseHawk and Announces Best-of-Breed Partnership


Relationship to bring new cutting-edge learning technologies and efficiencies for property management teams.

Grace Hill, the leading provider of online education and learning management solutions for the multifamily housing industry, and LeaseHawk today jointly announced the acquisition of LeaseHawk’s education division. Included in this acquisition, Grace Hill obtains LeaseHawk’s Wings and PLU Learning Management Systems (LMS) and its catalog of online educational courses, creating many new education opportunities for mutual clients.

The companies will partner to also provide Grace Hill and LeaseHawk clients many new advantages. LeaseHawk clients can expand their education program to include the very best up-to-date property management education. Grace Hill Vision LMS clients will benefit from a new integration being developed with LeaseHawk’s Telephone Performance Analysis (TPA) and TPA Recommender Technology. This new capability will improve leasing performance by identifying training opportunities based on TPA results and seamlessly deliver targeted education through Vision LMS. READ ARTICLE

Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark Third Quarter 2014

Welcome to the Third Quarter 2014 Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark. Our team continues to deliver the most current and effective tools to help you monitor and evaluate on-site leasing and mrketing effectiveness, as well as to be able to compare your team’s performance against others in the industry. The importance of the customer’s perception of their experience with your team and product cannot be disregarded. Perceived value, as defined by customers, creates loyal customer relationships. Customer loyalty is the best predictor of your future strength and growth potential. READ MORE...

"8 Simple Strategies to Maximize Energy Savings " from Buildings

October is National Energy Action Month, and with winter just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to implement new strategies to save energy and cut costs. But we all know it’s not as easy as that – with occupant needs to consider and the seemingly ever-increasing price of energy, setting aggressive reduction goals and seeing them through to the subsequent savings can be an uphill battle.

Nothing helps an initiative get off the ground like some easy victories, so the Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council has shared 8 tips (including some you can do to save money today) that can help your energy-reduction efforts score big on the electricity bill.

1) Use programmable thermostats (properly)

Programmable thermostats offer the dual benefit of not only allowing for a quick way to reduce heating and cooling costs, but also the convenience of not having to constantly worry whether the temperature is appropriate. A properly-installed programmable thermostat allows you to program set points that allow you to reduce energy use when your facility is unoccupied but maintain comfort by the time you re-open.

2) Implement lighting changes

You probably know that LEDs and CFLs can offer significant savings over incandescent bulbs, but an area of lighting that often goes overlooked is exit signage – since they’re always on, make sure your exit signs are as efficient as possible. Occupant sensors are another quick fix that can help reduce lighting costs, as well as checking for rebates that may be available from your utility provider. READ ARTICLE

"Reporting Social Media ROI" by Misty Sanford, Renter's Voice


When social media becomes a business initiative, reporting ROI becomes an expectation. A sometimes overwhelming expectation. Unlike traditional marketing, there is almost too much data. The old rules don’t apply, and reporting ROI no longer fits into a perfectly consistent report. It is fluid and we must adapt to the unique characteristics of the social web.

The various social channels don’t even measure the same actions and behaviors! And, what they measure today might change tomorrow with a whole new set of data points. Social media is volatile and that makes the ROI a moving target.

So when you have so much change and so much data at your fingertips, how do you make sense of all of it and choose what to report?

It’s easy. The key is to start with defined business objectives and then track, analyze, and present data that relates to the objectives. No more and no less.

And when you review the data, get out of the mindset of revenue. Of course revenue is important but it isn’t everything. The primary business impact of social media is not revenue. It’s insight that helps you meet your customer experience goals.

I know this probably all sounds a bit frustrating and maybe even vague, so let me clarify with 5 things I like to share in every social media report I create.

Channel reports. Each channel has a different language and a different purpose, so they each need their own report.

How the efforts are generating leads and customers.

Our customer response rate.

Our opportunity response rate.

Reach and virality.


Real Estate Forum's "Women of Influence"


Real Estate Forum’s “Women of Influence” edition is now available.  From New York to San Francisco, Real Estate Forum has designated dynamic women leaders in the commercial real estate fields: retail, sales, brokerage, medical, office, land, industrial, boutique, and ground leasing. Real Estate Forum is a division of ALM Real Estate Media Group. READ THE ARTICLE


Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 2nd Quarter 2014


Welcome to the Second Quarter 2014 Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark. Our team continues to deliver the most current and effective tools to help you monitor and evaluate on-site sales and marketing effectiveness, as well as to be able to compare your team’s performance against others in the industry. As your partner, we strive to help you better understand and manage the lead conversion and resident retention processes. The importance of the customer’s perception of their experience with your team and product cannot be ignored. Perceived value as defined by customers creates loyal customer relationships, and customer loyalty is the best predictor of your subsequent strength and growth potential.

For 2014, we are focusing on leasing training for our Benchmark letter.

1st Quarter: The Generational Divide and Leasing Training
2nd Quarter: Does Leasing Training Need to Change?
3rd Quarter: Overcoming Leasing Training Obstacles
4th Quarter: Leasing Training Today and Tomorrow

Last quarter we tackled the topic, “The Generational Divide and Leasing Training.” We concluded with the proven fact that generational values often collide when members of different generations work together. Different generations often have different work values, different perceptions of authority, different responses to training methods, and different views about what is important in life in general. If cross-generation managers and trainers are not prepared for these differences, it can create conflict, poor performance, low morale in the leasing office, and challenges in the training room.

This quarter we respond to the question, “Does Leasing Training Need to Change?” Technique has always been the foundation of most sales training programs, yet it has become more of a challenge to teach the emotional piece – how to connect with customers. Throw Generation Y into the equation, who by 2020 will represent a full 40% of the total working population, and the question becomes a very valid one. The what, when, where, and how are at the forefront of many trainers’ minds today. The trends are changing and shifting quickly. How will your company adapt your training and prepare your employees to successfully compete in this new “experience economy”? Join us as we provide some insight on this topic at the end of this letter.  READ FULL ARTICLE

Assessing Your Leadership Skills from IREM - Institute of Real Estate Management

Effective leaders influence their co-workers behavior and work in a way that increases confidence, effectiveness, and productivity, and ultimately increases the company's profitability. How effective are your leadership skills? Learn more and complete leadership skills self-assessments to see how efficient and effective you are as a leader. Then, create an action plan to develop as a leader. SEE What is Leadership

"7 Genius Hacks Every Apartment Dweller Should Know" by Cristina Cheatwood

Everyone loves secret hacks that can make life easier. Chances are you have a few things lying around in your apartment that could make things like organization and cleaning a breeze.

Make the most of your small space with these creative apartment hacks that will have you saying, "Why didn't I think of that?!"

1. Velcro remotes to your coffee table. Things tend to clutter on the coffee table, and chances are you may have more than one remote. Just stick adhesive velcro dots to the backs of your remotes and to the sides of your coffee table. Now you can keep remotes off your table and stowed away. You could also velcro remotes to your nightstand in your bedroom. 


"15 Cities Where Renting Rules" by Catherine Sherman


As a renter, it's easy to feel pressure to buy. Owning a home means you can start building equity and cash in on tax breaks. But in some parts of the country, it can take quite awhile to break even on a home purchase, making it more financially advantageous to rent for a few years.

Based on Zillow's breakeven horizon - the number of years it takes before owning a home makes more financial sense than renting the same home - here are the top 15 cities where renting rules. 


"10 Reasons It's Better to Be a Renter" by Niccole Schreck

For decades, it was drilled into the heads of many Americans that renting makes you a second-class citizen. You only rent temporarily until you can move up in the world and achieve the American dream by purchasing a home -- but those days may be behind us.

About three in five adults believe renters can be just as successful as homeowners at achieving the American Dream, and more than half believe buying a home has become less appealing in recent years, according to a 2013 survey of more than 1,400 people by research firm Hart Research Associates.

While owning a home may be an aspiration for many Americans, it's often just less expensive and more convenient to be a renter. Here are 10 examples: READ ARTICLE

"Turning Up the Heat on Fair Housing Education" by Sondrah Laden, Grace Hill, Inc.


The Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), as most multifamily professionals understand, serves to protect the rights of all individuals and prohibit discrimination when seeking, securing and residing in housing. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities in a similar manner. Multifamily professionals whose employers provide consistent and thorough training also understand that fair housing laws go beyond federal laws and often include additionally protected classes at the state or local level. They also understand that ignoring the ADA makes their company vulnerable to allegations of discrimination.

If the law is clear, why are there so many discrimination claims?

While numerous claims of discrimination continue to surface throughout our industry–in 2011, there were more than 27,000 complaints of fair housing discrimination according to multiple federal authorities–most multifamily professionals do not intentionally discriminate. Rather, discrimination lawsuits happen, in many cases, because people make honest mistakes.

It’s not just small businesses who goof; even big companies are known to falter when it comes to these laws. In fact, despite spending millions of dollars on the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST program to train architects and builders about fair housing responsibilities, the National Fair Housing Alliance recently reported that “developers continue to design and construct obviously inaccessible apartment buildings that do not meet the Fair Housing Act’s standards.”

Is it logical that a developer would spend tens of millions of dollars to knowingly build a community that violates ADA requirements, especially considering violations not only damage reputations but also require a significant amount of time and money to repair? No, of course not. Construction design flaws, such as incorrect thresholds, inaccessible outlets, narrow doorways or lack of reinforcement in bathroom walls to support bars, are most often recognized as unfortunate errors, not intentional attempts to prohibit people with disabilities from enjoying an apartment home. They’re mistakes–plain and simple.

In another way, instances exist where good sales skills can be misinterpreted as discrimination and result in another form of claim. An example of this may occur in relation to a simple rent premium on an apartment for features or upgrades that are not clearly communicated to prospective residents or testers. For instance, if a consultant shows a tester an apartment with new grey carpet to complement the furniture the tester described and the rent is $10 more per month than another apartment without new carpet, issues can surface if the cost difference is not clearly communicated. While the leasing consultant was simply trying to help the prospective resident find an apartment that would best meet their wants, the increased rent may be misinterpreted if the tester is a member of a protected class. In this instance, it would be important to fully explain why the premium was applied. Otherwise, it could seem as if the protected class tester was quoted higher rent. Documentation and awareness are the keys to avoiding these types of mistakes.

How can these mistakes be avoided?

To avoid costly fair housing mistakes at your community, turn up the heat on your fair housing education through training, heightened awareness, and increased dialogue.

First, everyone who interacts with customers must be trained on the importance of these laws and the impact violations can have on a community. That means education is crucial for all client-facing employees, including leasing, management, and maintenance personnel. If they talk to the public, they need to be trained. Furthermore, if your company is involved in construction and development, anyone working on that side of the business should become intimately familiar with ADA requirements to ensure the housing you build is accessible to people with disabilities.

Second, increase your awareness of discrimination cases occurring both in your area and throughout the country. It’s important to keep your eyes and ears open and tune in to current events and developments that are unfolding around you. Fair housing testers sometimes conduct a similar type of test at multiple communities. For example, the National Fair Housing Alliance filed charges against the owners of three apartment communities in South Carolina alleging discrimination against prospective residents who are deaf or hard of hearing. The January 2014 charges were filed as a result of a national undercover investigation involving apartment communities in cities including Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, Atlanta, GA, and Austin, TX. The charges cited instances involving repeated call hang-ups and contradictory information when the undercover investigators called numerous apartment properties using relay service to speak. You can learn more about this case here:

This example case illustrates that what happens to your neighbor today—whether across town or across the nation—could happen at your community tomorrow. Watch local and national news sources, set up Google alerts to funnel relevant news directly to you, and address events like this with your team so that everyone in your workplace is informed and prepared.

Third, talk with your teams about discrimination prevention. Fair housing awareness shouldn’t be just an annual event. It should be an ongoing topic of conversation around your workplace. This type of ongoing dialogue can ensure that these issues remain at the forefront of all team members’ minds which, in turn, will help your company keep its commitment to upholding the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act and providing equal housing opportunities for all residents and prospective residents who meet your qualifications and choose to live in your community. If you hold recurring staff meetings, for instance, make anti-discrimination one of your regular discussion points. Share fair housing news items. Remind associates of your commitment to serving all residents in a fair, equal, and consistent manner. You could also use these meetings as an opportunity for a Question and Answer session on tricky or confusing customer service situations that could arise, and help prepare your teams to respond appropriately. Here are some examples of such discussion questions:

Q: When should you discuss the pet policies with a prospective resident who has stated that they will be bringing a service animal when they move in?

A: Never, because a service animal is not a pet and therefore is not subject to your pet policies. Your pet policies would warrant discussion only if this customer has additional animals that are pets.
1.A couple inquires about renting at your community. The woman is visibly pregnant. When considering your occupancy guidelines, how many people do you consider this household to consist of?
2.The ‘familial status’ protected class of the Fair Housing Act dictates that you do not take a woman’s pregnancy into consideration when determining household size. Therefore, this household consists of two people. Do not ask questions regarding when the baby is due or whether the child will reside with them.
3.A prospective resident who uses a wheelchair has asked about your available two-bedroom apartment homes. All of your available homes are on the second floor. What do you tell them?
4.Provide the same leasing information for this customer as you would for any prospect, regardless of disability. Tell them the location of all available apartment homes and let them decide if any meet their needs.
5.A phone call comes in and the caller identifies himself as a TTDY or relay operator. What is that? And what do you do?
6.A TTDY operator assists hearing-impaired individuals with phone calls. Follow the operator’s instructions and answer their questions. Conducting a conversation with a TTDY operator can be a bit disconcerting if you’ve never done it; you might share this clip with your teams to help them prepare: .


"How to Get Employees to Care as Much as You Do" by John Warrillow


Outstanding information on how to grow your business and success.

"To build a valuable company you can walk away from—whether by selling it or just to leave for a vacation—requires that you figure out how to get your employees to care as much as you do.

For advice on the matter, I spoke with Ken Blanchard, whose books, including Raving Fans and The One Minute Manager, have sold more than 13 million copies worldwide.

Blanchard, who is about to release a book about Southwest Airlines with president emeritus Colleen Barrett, started our conversation by explaining how Southwest gets employees to care:

Blanchard: Southwest has posted a profit in each of the last 37 years—a time when the entire airline industry in the United States has posted a net loss. They have a truly special culture." READ ARTICLE