What it’s all About

Property Management is about the people, people, people.

One of my absolute favorite things to do in the multifamily business is visit site teams. In my head, it’s what it’s all about. You’ve read it here a million times. Organizations are put in place to serve the people who serve it. And getting out to see the teams is front and center in that proposition.

Cherry Hills 

There is an old axiom in real estate – location, location, location. I would posit a new axiom – people, people, people. For some it’s the tough stuff. The touchy feely soft side of business that you can’t capture on a spreadsheet. It is the part of the business that I love.

We manage a property in Edwardsville, Illinois called Cherry Hills. It’s made up of five unique properties ranging in size from 32 units up to 100 units. The market has been hit by overbuilding and lagging unemployment. It’s been really tough to say the least. But this team is all over it. They are getting their lemonade out of the lemons so to speak.

And, here is what I mean by that – love the simple stuff…


Apartment marketing leasing goals

Apartment leasing, Apartment goals, multifamily marketing

Apartment marketing, apartment leasing, leasing and marketing apartments


Worry About Meaning

I am going to ‘start’ a new quick hitter series (ongoing until I get ready for something new) called – Notes from the margin.

I love books – the old spare a few trees, feels good in the hand, smells good in the nose and write in the margin type books. That is where the material for this series will come from.

If I am reading and feel compelled enough to jot something in the margin – I will share it here. Maybe we get some discussion going – maybe we don’t – let’s give it a shot.

Worry About Meaning

Comes to us from The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin

Apartment Meaning

More Outlets Does Not Equal a Better Story…

Are Apartment Content Marketers just being noisy?

…People do.

This is a simple unscientific case for passionate apartment marketing (professional or otherwise) content producers [Read: conduits]…

I picked the following quote off of a blog some time ago and pasted it into a file for future posting. Now, after a few search engine attempts, I can’t find the author of it so if it’s yours – please claim it and I will give you the due credit.

There seems to be a curious thing happening – the more outlets for stories we get… the less and less we’re hiring writers, content strategists, editors, designers. It’s like the second spawning of “reality programming”- no need for writers … it’s real life.

It’s a very interesting dilemma that we find ourselves facing in the apartment marketing space; do we go it alone in an amateur more reality based way or do we go pro? It’s not a simple answer but a necessary question to consider. And, the reasons run concurrent with trends in the way we influence, are influenced, how we consume and how we distribute information as a society.

The Niche is Coming Into its Own

With the absolute proliferation of platforms that host and syndicate blog content along with the opportunities to narrow our focus by creating lists and circles on the likes of LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and the king of the them all Facebook, we all have a niche to serve in some way.

Niches are not a new concept but they themselves are new to the likes of being served information in a passionate and pointed way. And, in mass from marketers, friends and acquaintances. And, thus the need for a professional or an amateur but passionate writer…

The Simple Case For 

Apartment MarketingI am very much a visual person so I took the time to draw this out on a piece of paper. While visual, I am clearly not artistic so feel free to toss fruit from the front row…

Be it you advocate professional content producer/managers or the Sunday driver version; I think you would agree that you need a guru…[term used very loosely – in fact I hate that word – let’s go with…] someone who knows what they are doing.

I have been reading the book: Grouped by Paul Adams the Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook. You might recognize my pic as an adaptation from the book. He makes a much deeper case for what I am trying to loosely convey in this post so buy his book – it’s a goodie. (The link is not tied to an affiliate account).

As we further fragment based on interests and or outright fatigue, the ability to connect via influencers (seemingly more a myth than realistic) is waning and or presenting itself as more of a fallacy. Small groups connected by someone who cares and someone who knows what they are doing will be the way to continue on with the conversation. Continue down the current path or seek the alternative and we’re just creating noise for ourselves. And, as the number of outlets increase, we have to ask ourselves are we just being noisy in more places? Instead, be a conduit and bring together the small groups that will move business in the future.

See that person in the middle of my pic – for the theory to work, that person must know (intimately) someone in each of the four outcroppings. The way this works is that this person is the conduit of/for information (influence) to flow between the outcroppings or small niche groups. Without the conduit, the potential potency of this group is never realized. They will never have the chance to know one another because they will have no real reason to do so.

The job of that someone who knows what they are doing and cares enough to do it is to bring the groups together in a way that is appealing to the individual members. He/she gives them a reason to believe. A reason to be merry. And, a reason to be intimate with one another. Intimate in a way that moves business forward.


As I flesh this concept out in real life experiments – I’ll be sure to post updates.

Your – interested in interest graphs – multifamily maniac,




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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Apartment Marketers: Afraid to Blog?

Blogging: This is something you make time for at the expense of other things.

Below is a link to a story that resonated with me relative to a conversation that was broached on Mike Whaling’s: Apartment Marketing Gone Digital’s last episode. I believe it was Eric Brown that made the point about the lack of conversation about blogs as it relates to apartment marketing at NAAs 2010 convention.

Apartment Blogging: Fear

I agree to some extent with Eric that there is a dearth of examples with apartment blogging in the Apartment Space as I think the offerings are growing everyday. For example – Mills Properties – is on the verge of launching seven regional blogs in addition to revamping the Mills employee-centric blog. In addition, JC Hart, Trillium, Paragon, Village Green and PCMG have ventured down the path of blogging and from my perspective are doing a good job of it. I applaud the fact that these firms have taken the endeavor on as an in-house marketing function.

With that, I feel it necessary to make the point that I am not an advocate of ILSs that offer blogging as a part of their advertising package. And, time should be of no excuse. I would rather hear the fear stuff like; I am afraid of what others might think of my choice of topic, my grammar, my spelling or what if I can’t think of anything to write about. Not that those things are not important but – time as an excuse – save it. This is something you make time for at the expense of other things.

Apartment Non-Blogging

To the topic at hand – the following post was offered up on the Conversation Agent Blog a couple weeks ago. In it Valeria Moltoni suggests alternatives to blogging that could and are effective in building your digital footprint. If you are not into creating original and or mashed up blog content – this read is for you. The premise is that participation is an equally compelling form of content creation. She offers some real practical applications using LinkedIn, Twitter and others. So – if you just can’t bring yourself to do it and you elect not to farm it out to a third party, try this method.

Enjoy and let us know your thoughts in the comments below –

Conversation Agent: Blogging at Work if You Don’t Have a Blog

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Participation is content because it is what will activate your content in the context of the conversation. Remember when you worried about nobody coming to your blog? It’s the same with content in other places – you’ve got to interact to activate it.

Apartment Marketing: @earlybird a New Way to Use Twitter

Have you ever wondered what the most appropriate way to use Twitter to market your companies Apartment Living Experience is?

Have you ever wondered what the most appropriate way to use Twitter to market your companies Apartment Living Experience is? Now I’m not to suggesting that any one way is better than another but I do think there are some ways that garnish more attention. My only piece of advice is avoid using old school push marketing tactics.

It looks like @earlybird is positioning itself as a socially acceptable way to broadcast your current promotion. Brian Solis puts it this way in On Twitter, The Early Bird Gets the Worm

If you can imaging the possibilities for @EarlyBird, it goes beyond just one-off deals and specials through a generic account [push marketing], it can be themed into opt-in channels for almost any area of interest, food, music, entertainment, events, etc. [relevancy] emphasis mine.

As it relates to apartment marketing, I can see the value in an opt-in channel for apartments as a good thing –

What do you think?

Apartment Community Amenities: Promote Mystery

In lieu of printing, posted and plastering the thing all over our social media streams

About two months ago we decided to install a dog park at Brookside Apartments – one of our student properties in Carbondale, Ill. In lieu of printing, posted and plastering the thing all over our social media streams – we just let the process play out.

Power in Mystery

After working through the logistics and contract negotiations we settled on a spot and let the construction begin. What happened next was pure entertainment – are you building a pool? Are you building a new building? Volleyball courts? – Wait, it’s too big to be a pool! Arg, what is it? All the common questions begin to filter through the wifi lounge, the community and into our leasing center. That is until we could not take it any more and we disclosed.That said, we learned a real time lesson as it relates to WOM.

Apartment Marketing Stimulants

Tell them but don’t tell them. We have a number of other amenities and improvements that we are doing to this property over the next one to three years with each one major in scope. Taking the lesson from the dog park mystery – we will leave the community to – guess it out – if you will. I can see some cool social media apartment amenity mysteries playing out over Facebook and other social platforms. In the spirit of – give them something to talk about – mystery takes a front seat. And, besides who doesn’t like a great guessing game or mystery? Who can resist talking about it with their friends, family and otherwise? Which is part of the point, right?

Apartment Marketing: How to Use Facebook Like Pages to Lease Apartments

How to use Facebook Like Pages to Rent Apartments

I love emails like the one below -but before we go there:

Over the past few weeks we have started to quietly roll out some of our Facebook Like Pages as we gear up for the Get Social with Mills Initiative . One of the issues we’ve run into with this slow roll out is anxious PMs and MSs like Teresa and Mike at Park Clayton Apartments. They were ready to run – so, we let them go and in just over two weeks they took the like numbers from 7 to North of 225.

How to grow Your Apartment Facebook Like Page numbers

How did they do it? To make a long story short Mike brought an orphaned stuffed yellow duck to the leasing office for Teresa to see and each time they tried to put the duck away – residents asked to have it back as a mascot. With that T and M – [I often use the first letter of peoples names – with that T is for Teresa and M is for Mike] decided to have a – Name the Duck – contest . In conjunction with that contest they decided to give away a few fun prizes for the resident who yielded the biggest number of Likes to our page in a weeks time.

The Apartment Like Page Results

T and M put on North of 200 Likes inside of two weeks time. Not only that – they yielded something much more important in my opinion – check out the page and I think you will quickly discern what I mean. That point brings me to the email below –

How to use Facebook Like Pages to Rent Apartments

I will let the email speak for itself –

Have a compelling weekend – M

—–Original Message—–
From: Park Clayton <parkclayton@millsproperties.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2010 12:55 PM
To: ‘Mike Brewer’ <MBrewer@millsproperties.net>; ‘Tracy Seubert’ <TSeubert@millsproperties.net>
Subject: Great news!

Hey guys,

I have some awesome news about our facebook fans. One of my residents came down to tell me that his friends in Taiwan are watching us on facebook and they think it’s great that we do resident events and have contests. He says they told him they want to move here when they get to town just because of what they see online!

Also, he brought down his laptop and we spoke with a couple of his friends in Taiwan who want to move here in August. The program they use to chat/talk internationally is called, “skype.”

Teresa Richardson

Property Manager

Park Clayton Apartments

photo credit: blog.hubspot.com

Apartment Internet Marketing – Entertainment

Consumers in the age of new media have grown accustom to a very high set of standards that sites like; Facebook, Google and Twitter have imbued on their minds. At the core of these standards there are three apparent consumer behaviors.

This is the third installment of a five part series based on a recent emarketer survey. In part one we discussed the concept of Exclusivity. Part two spoke to the idea of Education. Today we discuss: Entertainment as it relates to Apartment Internet Marketing.

Here is the chart for reference:

Reasons for Friending or Following Companies Through Social Media According to US Consumers, December 2009 (% of respondents)

What is Entertainment?

Princeton defines entertainment as; an activity that is diverting and that holds the attention. There is no doubt that we are living in an attention economy today. And, the key point to this economy is that  the consumer has choice. Consumers have near holistic control over the spend side of the attention equation when it comes to on-line activities. As such, goods and service providers are left to tailor their offerings to meet a new set of standards and expectations. Attention is the currency of today’s consumer and they will only agree to give it up if it is in exchange for they perceive as having value.

Value Exchange

While it is a race to attract a consumers’ attention, it is in the same respect just as, if not more, important to keep it once you have it. One way to do that is to entertain your audience. Two great examples of this from the blogging world are Perez Hilton and TMZ. TMZ ranked number one in the most popular blogs of 2009 – I contend for the absolute entertainment value it exudes. For their massive audience there is a willingness to give up time and attention because of the exchange they receive in the way of value [entertainment].

Consumer Expectation

Consumers in the age of new media have grown accustom to a very high set of standards that sites like; Facebook, Google and Twitter have imbued on their minds. At the core of these standards there are three apparent consumer behaviors. First and foremost, I think it fair to say that we as a population have grown much more impatient in that we want our information now and we want it delivered our way. Second, I think it fair to say that we have grown very intolerant in that if a good or a service does not meet our expectation – we vote by not returning and moreover we tell our friends about it. And, finally we expect and demand trust. Our ability to sniff out the BS has gone hyper and as such we return to the things we can trust most. Now I’m going to step out on a limb here and look at these things in aggregate and contend that their essence is entertainment.

Offer it and they will come

I contend that if apartment internet marketers get these things right – we will have created an activity that diverts and holds attention. I write that presupposing an understanding that content is king here – the content has to be compelling. But, I am considering that a given. The point I am attempting to get across is that entertainment is a key concept in working up to that thing we are all after. That thing we will discuss in the final post of the series. But, not before we pen our thoughts on one last concept. We will have that out in a few days.

Until then – make this a compelling and entertaining week.