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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!


Housing Discrimination Doesn’t Need Intent, Supreme Court Says

7/2/2015
Much of the country’s attention has been on the United States Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act last week, but the nation’s highest court also handed down an important housing decision that looks at whether a public or private entity can get hit with a federal Fair Housing lawsuit even if it had no intent to discriminate. The legal concept is called disparate impact and, ever since the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968, all federal courts of appeal have interpreted the law to mean an entity can get sued for housing discrimination if its actions have a disparate impact on a protected class, regardless of intent.  READ ARTICLE

"Apartments. We Live Here" from NAA

4/15/2015

A rediscovery of metropolitan urban cores and 80 million Millenials beginning to enter the housing market primarily as renters continue to drive apartment demand. In fact, it takes at least 300,000 to 400,000 new apartment homes each year just to keep up. While construction has accelerated in response, many communities still lack sufficient housing options. READ REPORT

 

 

Ellis Shopping Report Multifamily Industry Benchmark 1st Quarter 2015

4/15/2015

This year’s Ellis Benchmark theme is designed to cultivate internal conversations as we seek to understand and train the multi-generational front-line leasing team. Is your current leasing training model speaking to the needs of all employees? Are you prepared for today’s emerging workforce—Generation Y? Is it time for an adjustment in your approach? Join us each quarter of 2015 as we explore new ideas in Leasing Training Content, the Leasing Training Environment, and Leasing Training Delivery. Each topic will be explored. New ideas will be presented. Questions will be answered.
READ ARTICLE 

Customer Journey Map Preparation

2/12/2015

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

2/2/2015
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

12/22/2014

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

11/4/2014

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

10/21/2014

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

10/13/2014

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

9/15/2014
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

8/19/2014
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 Buildings.com

7/30/2014

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

7/28/2014

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?

 READ ARTICLE

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

7/15/2014

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


Cottonwood Residential Chosen in Top 10 Best Online Reputations

5/6/2015

ORA Power Rankings by J Turner Research has announced the Top 10 NMHC 50 Managers with the Best Online Reputation.

You may know who made it to the 2015 NMHC 50 Managers list based on the number of units managed.
 
But do you know how happy the residents are in those units? Based on the yardstick of the best online reputation, the April Edition of the ORA© Power Rankings  recognizes the  Top 10 NMHC 50 Managers for Online Reputation. READ THE ARTICLE

 

"Cap Rate Variations" by Daniel Kann

4/27/2015

Commercial real estate professionals live and breathe capitalization rates. Every trade publication, market participant, and third-party report relating to real estate quotes cap rates for various markets and properties. But ask a group of real estate professionals to calculate a specific property’s cap rate and you are likely to get a variety of answers — despite the simplicity of the formula. If cap rates are widely used and easily calculated, then why does everyone come up with a different answer?

 This article looks at the underlying reasons for cap rates variations, ranging from different uses by market participants to different methods of cap rate extraction. While CCIMs are trained to extract cap rates in a certain way, not all market professionals use the same criteria. Understanding how such variables can affect the cap rate and the value of a property is just as important as developing — and using — a consistent method of cap rate extraction. READ ARTICLE

 

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

2/4/2015
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

12/29/2014

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

11/21/2014

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

10/17/2014
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

10/15/2014
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

9/16/2014

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.

READ ARTICLE

Real Estate Forum's "Women of Influence"

9/8/2014

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

7/15/2014

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

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