Surprise instead of free rent

We are all accustomed to giving away discounts or concessions at time of move in or lease renewal. As an industry we have taught our customer to expect it. It’s time to change that.


Starting tomorrow take the money you would otherwise give away in concessions or rent discounts and create an equal number of surprise dollars. Deploy those surprise dollars through random acts of generosity:

Every 10th person that walks in the door to pay the rent gets to pay $50 less

Every 22nd resident gets tickets to a local professional sports event

Every 7th resident gets a gift card to a local restaurant. Partner with that restaurant in ordered to subsidize the surprise

Every 33rd resident gets a free fitbit

Every 25th resident gets a free gym membership. Partner with the local gym to subsidize the surprise

Every 54th resident gets to do their laundry free for an entire year

Every 100th resident gets their cable bill comped for one year

Every 4th person that turns in a service request for leaky faucet gets a gift card to a water park

Every 17th person that turns in a service request for a noisy refrigerator gets a freezer full of meat

If you run a business in Colorado every 420th person to call in a service request for a smoke alarm battery gets a fat one. Okay – maybe don’t do this one…

You get the point.

You’re looking to surprise the hell out of our residents this year Multifamily Maniac,


Site Visit


One of the key truisms in property management, business and life in general is inspect what you expect. And you can’t do that without a good plan.

Visiting your sites is part of that plan. It is likely ‘the’ key to insuring that your standards and expectations are met over a long bit of time. You can never compromise on this point.

The minute you do is the minute you lose touch. And losing touch can be the kiss of death to a property.

Know Your Plan

To the point of today’s post – have your roadmap written out before you step onto the property. I’ve seen it happen too many times. If you don’t keep to an agenda – the conversation wanes. At best it picks up loose and random points that fail to move the business forward.

A written plan keeps you on track and insists that you hit the key points that drive results. Write it out the day before. Keep it in front of all parties during the meeting. Take notes on it. And use it as a way to track action items for the next meeting.

Your always have a roadmap Multifamily Maniac,


Rented an Apartment Lately?

If you work with me at Mills and you are reading this post – I will pay the deposit and the app fee in exchange for the lessons you learn.

When was the last time you went out and secured a lease on a new apartment?

How Do They Feel?

I think it should be standard issue that every single person that works for your company goes out and leases an apartment,  soup to nuts – President to Porter. Not a secret shop – call is a secret rent an apartment experience or what you will. This is real-time. Lease one from your very own portfolio and lease one from your closest comp. I am talking the whole nine yards. Go through the process of searching online, pick up a magazine, drive by or ask a friend. Choose a community or two to visit, walk in and go through the process. Have your checkbook or money order in hand and lay down a deposit. That is if you like how you feel.

Who is They?

So to answer the question above – they is the people who are walking through your door every day of the week. And, understanding how they feel should be top of mind, tip of tongue and everything you think about, dream about and are about. And what better time to get that feeling than now. The only way you can truly serve the people who serve you (monthly rent checks) is to really get in their shoes. Really understand the process they go through. Really understand how they feel. Now that sounds like a challenge.

First One is on Me

If you work with me at Mills and you are reading this post – I will pay the deposit and the app fee for your first secret rent an apartment experience in exchange for the lessons you learn. That is to imply that you have to come back and do a guest post for me detailing what you liked, disliked and what you will change about your business as a result of the experience.

Hit me with a comment below and we will make the arrangements.

Your looking forward to how you make them feel multifamily maniac,


Multifamily Monday: Out-Prepare

What is the key to crushing the competition or better yet; what is the key to creating new markets? He who preps best wins most.

My high school basketball coach’s favorite truism was; perfect practice makes perfect. He was relentless with his disciplines, focusing always on the basics; ball handling, proper footwork and hard-core defense. Shooting was always secondary to the core of our workouts. Not any less important but, in his mind, done better when the other things were mastered. As a result, we won many more games than we lost and we became better people in the process.

As you head into another week of routine, take on a mantra of: out-prepare. Be ‘that guy’ or ‘that gal’ that speaks from a good posit on everything related to your property or your portfolio.

Feel free to share your successes and or your shortcomings with us.

Your focused on Out-Preparing multifamily maniac,


Multifamily Types: What is Your Something New?

Time suck in the apartment management business I love what Seth’s Blog:  said on the likes of sitting down to begin your day:

You’ve just surrendered not only a block of time but your freshest, best chance to start something new.

Time Sucks

It’s true; if I start my day in the office I inevitably get caught up in the race to get my inbox count to zero. Or, I get drawn into the necessary but time sucking “got a minute” conversations. Both of which leave the “move your business forward” stuff to suffer. There has to be a better alternative.

Something New

My something new for this year? It’s not really new but it is a more determined effort to exercise a relentless focus on delivering the things that matter most. Things that move my business forward. Things that keep my apartment management clients, collaborators and vendors feeling connected, communicated with and most important – wowed.

With that I’m considering a more mindful approach to consuming email, Twitter, Facebook and the such. I’ll be focused more on the end result of my actions as opposed to the processes that get me there. I’ll employ the build backwards approach to getting things done; thinking first of the end goal then the avenues and resources to get me there. It’s saying no more often. No to email. And, no to – got a minute meetings. A more controlled approach if you will.

First Things First As it Relates to Business

I am making this blog one of my first things first. I’ve admittedly been all over the board with my posting efforts. Will I do it better in ’12? Will I do it more in ’12? Will I at very least be more consistent? I think so. One of my blogging goals is to post on Mondays (Brief: inspirational – motivational) and Fridays (Apartment marketing, operations and at the urging of a friend some accounting).

Main takeaway – take control of your time as it will always be happy to take control of you.

Your taking back control of his time multifamily maniac,



Photo credit: GoodROI Internet Marketing 

Sales, or something like it

I have never been in a position where I get more cold calls than now.  I guess that is what happens in marketing.  I have to admit, I have been super busy and my patience level is incredibly short.  Probably the reason I have been furious lately when my phone rings.

However, some sales calls I get super excited about.  Here is my advice to sales people – not only in multifamily.  Some of them happen to apply to our leasing associates as well!

11 Sales No No’s.

(FYI, all of these things have happened to me in the last week or so)

  1. It’s about a relationship, stupid.  Please don’t be fake.
  2. Do not cold call me with no knowledge of my company or what we do.  At minimum, please use Google.
  3. I do not respond well to threats or super pushy marketing tactics like name dropping or insulting our current efforts.
  4. If we, or I, determine your product isn’t right for us (now or even in the future), don’t bully me to change my mind – that really ends the possibility of a future relationship.
  5. Don’t send pushy emails copying my superior, especially when I still don’t know why I should care about your product.
  6. Don’t request me on LinkedIn before we have had a positive conversation/interaction or any at all.
  7. Please be prepared.  I don’t want to wait on the phone for 2 minutes while you look for your earring back or listen to your uncomfortable pauses and sighs when you aren’t sure what to do next.
  8. NEVER ask me what we pay your competition for their services.   If you don’t know what your product is worth, I do – $0.
  9. Call a million times a day without saying why I should want to call you back, you will likely not get a call back if I have no clue why I am calling you.  Its super weird for me to call you and say “Hi this is Melissa, I have no idea why I am calling you but please, pretty please, sell me something.”
  10. By the way, NOT COOL, when I finally begin to try to have a conversation with you (warranted or not), that you berate me for taking so long to call you.  Give me a reason first and I will respond more quickly!
  11. This one is too hard to explain, so here is the actual email. Don’t do this, ever, and at least spell my name correctly!!!!!!!   I have never interacted with her (I think she left me some empty voicemails)…

“Haven’t given up Melisssa…

Certainly don’t want to be a  “thorn in your side,” so I’ll try & make this as painless as possible.

Eager to know your level of interest in our training offerings. Please check an option, promise no hard feelings : )

___ YES, send me a FREE DVD  preview of  your latest & greatest training programs,  __customer  service __leadership

___ I prefer to preview online, set me up with a FREE demo with your web-based platform.

___ Training doesn’t fall under my umbrella, try contacting ___________________________.

___ My plate is more than full, better timing would be  ___later this year,  ___ early 2012,  ____ never darken my
doors again.”


The Best do these things.  Short and SIMPLE and it doesn’t waste my time or yours.

  1. Interact with our company on our social media platforms in a meaningful way (not name dropping your company), we like that and builds trust.
  2. Start conversations, not sales pitches.
  3. Be an expert in your field and help us when possible – without our business at first.
  4. Go the extra mile.
  5. Help our company and teams increase efficiency.
  6. Use email at first then move to the more personal phone call.  Refer to number 10 above.

Final Thought:

Above all else, do us all a favor, and LOVE what you do and what you are selling.  If you don’t, why should I?


Thank you for listening to my rant.  I really want to like sales people (I will always love ours though :)), but for some reason only a limited few really get it.  Does your team?

I would love to hear that these things happen to other people, so please tell!


Apartment Loss to Lease – How do you book it?

In the spirit of the upcoming 2012 budget season; I wanted to recycle this post. This is a subject of much debate in our office and I am interested in what the industry thinks.

Loss to Lease

There is a question floating around our office along the lines of, “What do you book in loss to lease line of your budget?” Also, “On a percentage basis, where do you like to see that number trend?” With that question comes a number of schools of thought but no real definitive answer. And, that being said, I am not sure there is a right way or a wrong way to look at it. In the end, it all shakes out in the Rental Income line. That said, there is value in tracking the discount from new vs. renewals and even budgeted rental increases that drive the loss to lease margins.

Our current practice is to book both discounts from new sales and renewals to a single loss to lease line. And, we try keep the loss to lease number at two to three percent of the the gross potential or top line – if you will.

Here are a couple of schools of thought to throw out there:

What gets booked in loss to lease?

1. The only thing that gets booked in the loss to lease line is discounts from market on new leases only. Renewals that maintain any discount from the top line should be booked as a concession.

2. Any discount from market gets booked as an upfront or recurring concession – be it a new lease or a renewal that transacts at a rate lower than the top line.

Where should loss to lease trend as it relates to the top line?

1. The number should be maintain between two to three percent of your top line

2. The number will trend at nearly ten percent of your top line

Is there real value in tracking loss to lease as a line item?

If it all shakes out in the rental income number – is there any real value [up market or down market] to tracking this number?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. I am really curious to hear from those of you that are utilizing LRO as I think you have done away with the concept of loss to lease – correct?

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#apartmentmarketing: Persistence


“There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks, and no secret handshakes that can bring you immediate success, but with time, energy, and determination you can get there.” – Darren Rowse, Founder Problogger

A ton of rhetoric has been penned about social media as it relates to apartment marketing, resident retention and the such. Some of it is really good and some of it is just fluff and fill. Some has merit and some has not the sense god gave a billy goat.

Apartment management brass tacks

Toss it all aside and get back to the brass tacks of good old fashion property management – what do you have? Boring, mundane, uncompelling and anti-dramatic and melodic methods of madness. Anyone who has been in the business for a very long bit of time would agree that property management is not rocket science. Just a couple days ago I was sitting diagonal from a finance quant who thought he hit the nail on the head when he made that very statement.


At the end of the day – it’s the culmination of personalities laced with wit, wisdom, humor, elevated emotion and a purpose larger than life itself that bring about the want to persist with the quest of managing property. And, those who do it well would admit that it’s what gives them life.

It’s the time that they love to spend.

It’s the energy that they love to exude.

It’s the determination of pursuing a worthy goal that keeps them coming back for more.

Admit it – There’s something about this business!

What is it for you? What keeps you coming back for more? I dare you to tell me in the comment section below! Double dog…

Multifamily Management: Release


“My motto is ‘release’ I have it written in my violin case. ‘Release’ , meaning, ‘Step back a little’. Those are the words of world renowned violin virtuoso Charlie Siem. It struck me as I was reading through the latest copy of Monocle magazine. So many times in life and in the multifamily business we get caught up in the detail of things. We major in the minors making huge mountains out of what should be considered but mere speed bumps in the path of progress.

Major in the Majors

Charlie goes on to say, “Because when you hone in on all the tiny details, it’s natural to tense up – and then nothing flows.”  Suffice it to say that everything moves at the speed of light anymore. Not when you tense up and take time to focus on the minutia at a very granular level. It stalls flow, it mitigates advancement and it stifles trust.

Granted mistakes can be and always are traced to the details of things and more astutely to people. Causes are often found in flawed policy and or application of business practices by teams or individuals. It’s still, at least in my head, not cause for alarm but rather time to address the mess and move on; a teachable moment.

I rather think you pick a course, put your metrics [budget] in place, gear yourself up [get the right people on the bus] and run the marathon set before you. Understand that you will experience adversities along the way, just make sure you have plans in place to address them quickly. But overall, stick with the majors. Sticking with the majors as it relates to a marathon would be to pace yourself, keep yourself hydrated and feed yourself mentally and physically along the way. Do that and the rest falls into place.

In contrast, focus on the nagging toe nail pain, foot pain, side cramp or bleeding nipples caused from friction between your shirt and skin and all of a sudden you stall your pace. You forget to hydrate and your mental and physical faculties give way to fatigue. It’s just not worth it.

My word this week – ‘Release’

Your releasing contributer,




Property Management: Money Orders are a Necessary Evil

…I think there an equal amount of people out there that make all the right decisions and still get hit with the downside of adversity.

I am turning to our readers today for some feedback on process.

A lot of renter’s in our communities are one life circumstance away from total financial ruin up to and including losing their apartment. It has given cause for desperate behaviors such as sacrificing their electricity, gas, phone, cable etc. in order to make the rent. In other cases they use creative means such as robbing electricity via extension cords run to your common area outlets in hallways and laundry rooms. It’s amazing what you see out there anymore.

Now one could argue that life choices predicated on fulfilling wants over needs or necessities has contributed to a lot of this and in the same respect I think there an equal amount of people out there that make all the right decisions and still get hit with the downside of adversity.

Our residents are not the only ones faced with making the rent. Many of our employees are waging the same battle month after month. And, sometimes it leads to desperate actions.

That leads me to the premise for my question – money orders left blank by the prospective resident and or current residents paying rent are so very tempting in a desperate time of need. Can you share some of your processes with me as it relates to keeping good people honest. What do you do to keep integrity in the system on your bigger sites where you have six, eight or even ten people working an office and handling money. Specifically, what do you do to make sure these blank money order gems are not used as float to get by to the next pay period? How do you make sure that once an application is taken that it is processed in your property management software asap?

While they are a necessary evil – I have to believe there is a system of handling that keeps theft to a minimum.

Thank you in advance for your considerations and feedback.

Your ready for some economic prosperity friend,