Realfacts Q4 data


Posted Monday, February 2, 2009 by Realfacts

The release of the Realfacts 4Q08 data provides the first comprehensive
assessment of the rental market in 2008.

Renters looking for an apartment at the beginning of 2009 will have more
choice and be able to get a better value for their rent money. A study of
nationwide rents just released by Realfacts, the Novato data specialists
who are marking their 20th anniversary, shows that rents declined in
nearly every MSA in the country between September and December of 2008.
The year end survey found the highest rate of decline in Miami-Ft
Lauderdale FL (2.4% in the 4th quarter), Riverside-San Bernardino CA
(2.4%), San Jose CA (2.0%), Oxnard‐Thousand Oaks‐Ventura CA
(1.8%). Rents also went down by 1.6% in Orlando, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
Nationally, the average rent for an apartment once again dropped below
$1,000 declining from $1002 in September to $993 in December.

The decline in rents was matched by a decline in occupancy. The occupancy
rate for apartments in the United States dropped to 92.2% in December,
down from 92.9% in September. That decline in
occupancy meant that 10,000 apartment units were vacant as the year
closed. The Realfacts survey covers an inventory of nearly 3.2 million
units of rental housing in 60 MSAs. In 2008, only 9,248 units
were added to the supply. This compares to an average for the previous ten
years of about 65,000 units per year of new construction.

The decline in rents and occupancy is certainly good news for renters. For
people who have invested in income property, the news is less welcome. In
essence, while income from rental property remained flat in 2008,
inflation drove costs up by 3.85%. This gap is reflected in a smaller
number of sales transactions during 2008. The Realfacts database shows
just 386 sales of apartment complexes larger than 100 units, which is
about one third of the previous three year’s volume.

This data for 2008 indicates that the year’s widespread economic problems
have finally affected the rental market by the end of the year. The choice
to invest in income property for the last several decades has been based
on the assumption that rents would continue to growth. In 2009, investors
are likely to evaluate rental properties based on current income alone.

via an email I received today.

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What I am thinking about….


“Apple built a design driven culture that knows how to connect with its customers in a deeply emotional way. Apple products are portals to an amazing menu of of continuing experiences that matter to a lot of us.” – Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery

My three year old daughter, Kate, said to me, “Daddy – guess what!” I said, “what?” She said, “I love you.” I asked, “Kate, what is love.” She said, “it’s when your heart is happy.” It made my heart happy to hear that my three year old grasped the fact of love. Hat’s off to @sbrewer10 for that.

I say all that to ask this, “what makes your resident’s heart happy?” If their apartment is the portal to amazing experiences then what are those experiences that bring peace and happiness to their heart? It’s deep and it’s key.

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2009 A Year of Opportunity

I came across the following quote on the blog Customer Experience Matters today. The quote originally came from the Harvard Business Publishing site where they were showcasing a book called “The Forever War”

“One day near Kandahar I came across a minefield, which was hardly
extraordinary in itself, and next to it a man named Juma Khan Gulalai.
The field was bright and green. Gulalai was a butcher and he’d set up
his table there, his apron and knives at the ready. Every day, Gulalai
explained, a goat would wander into the green grassy field to graze for
its meal and step on a land mine and blow apart. Gulalai would walk
into the field and retrieve the carcass–braving the mines himself as he
did–throw the old goat up on the table and carve up its meat for sale.”

What will it take to grow revenue in 2009

I tend to think about things from 30,000 feet and many times miss or overestimate the logistics of ripping off a cool new idea. In that respect I tend to do better at visualizing things as opposed to hammering out the details. I say all that to say this. 2009 will be the year of innovation in the multifamily space. I think we will see a number of new and exciting technologies come to fruition one of which will be that our various property management systems will finally talk to each other. Hats off to the MITS initiative. Moreover and really where I am looking to stoke up some conversation is innovation around the various social technologies we employ today and how we can use them to add value and subsequently more revenue.

As it stands each of us are trying to find our way with social technologies. Some of us are doing better than others while many are still sitting on the sidelines waiting for the right time to participate. I applaud those who have at very least put their toe in the water. Conversation is really the premise of our uses today. We are looking to engage our residents, prospects and vendors in conversations that add value to their experiences and more importantly their lives.

What will tomorrow bring

How do you see the use of social technologies bending the way we lease apartments, serve residents and stay in touch with vendors? I am looking for ideas beyond the conversation. What will each of the aforementioned parties add to the multifamily space or your community specifically? Innovation will be key and it will be collaborative by the nature of the technology we employee. So, what will it yield? Will each of our communities have its’ own specific rating structure built into its social mediums? Will we each have our own [communityname] rating link built right in? Will it be video driven and text supported? Will we see instant interaction with the raters? I think the possibilites are endless.

In closing I think 2009 will be an absolute amazing year to be alive and involved in the multifamily space. I look forward to participating with each and every one you. And, like Juma Khan Gulalai, let’s find the opportunity in an otherwise bleak circumstance.


Multifamily Revenue Management

Interesting site I ran across this evening,

I will say having worked for Equity Residential for nearly ten years and having experienced the roll out of a revenue management system, it does work. Big time! I did, however, have the unique experience of building my very own revenue management system that outperformed the big ticket model. That was short lived and not well publicized by our pricing analyst. That aside, the site above offers some good video sound bites along with some other good content. Check it out if you have a few extra minutes.

, , Dominates Social Media in the Multifamily Housing Industry


A big note of congrats to the insanely great team over at The Magazine….You gals/guys ROCK! M

NORFOLK, Va.—(November 19,
—No other Internet listing service
in the multi-housing industry has engaged its audience through social media
quite like
According to Vitrue, Inc., a social media marketing company, is
dominating the multi-housing sector’s social share of voice. As a product of For
Rent Media Solutions, a division of Dominion Enterprises,, utilizes tools such as Twitter, MySpace®, Facebook and
YouTube, to achieve this accomplishment.’s ranking was
determined by Vitrue’s
Media Index™ (SMI), the recently launched free tool that measures a brand’s
online conversations. Based on patent-pending technology, scores are comprised
of various online conversations ranging from text-dense micro-blogs to
multi-dimensional video sites.

“We are thrilled with the results
found by Vitrue’s Social Media Index,” said Brock MacLean, vice president of
national sales and development, For Rent Media Solutions. “Social media is a
very effective way to communicate with our core demographic of 18-34 year old
adults. For Rent Media Solutions’ involvement in social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and
video sharing sites like YouTube allows us to
participate in a true dialogue with consumers, giving us more insight into our
audience and their needs. We plan on expanding our social media efforts in the
future. The Social Media Index will help us gauge the success of our efforts and
how we are resonating with our consumers

Generating more than 83 percent of social media
activity, video sharing makes up the largest portion of’s SMI score.
Apartment property video commercials seen on, called Community
Theater, are distributed to an extensive network of channels
including major
search engines like Google and Yahoo!®, social networking
sites such as MySpace, and video sharing sites including YouTube. During October
alone these videos were viewed more than 17,000 times a day.


Generating more than 12 percent of the SMI score,
communication through social networking makes up the second largest method of
social activity for MySpace has played a significant role in the
success of For Rent Media Solution’s social networking efforts. More than 40
profile pages have been set up, representing more than 40 markets where the
company’s anchor publication, For Rent
, can be found. Through these efforts, For Rent Media Solutions
communicates with more than 5,300 consumers. 

The remainder of the score is comprised of blogging and
micro-blogging. This number includes activity from blogs, such as the blog, and key influencers who
chat and push content through micro-blogs, such as Twitter. Twitter is a service that
allows its users to send updates to their “followers” while trailing other
individuals as well. For more details, please
view the full Social Media Index

“The Vitrue Social Media Index provides invaluable
insight for marketers to understand how they are stacking up in the social media
space,” said Reggie Bradford, chief executive officer of Vitrue, Inc. “Brands
are being talked about in social settings and we are providing the ability to
proactively track these conversations. We firmly believe understanding and
measuring your performance in these environments is key.”

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Apartment Executives: Are you ready for the conversation?

Not to speak for Eric Brown over at Urbane Apartments but I think he and I agree that it is time for the conversation to start. Let me back up…the conversation has begun and we wonder when the big players will join in. You look around the landscape and missing from the conversation are the likes of Equity Residential, Riverstone Residential, UDR and AIMCO just to name a few.

I know I would enjoy engaging in conversation with some of the leading apartment executives in our industry. And, I am very certain your resident base would enjoy the conversation as well. I mean, imagine unlocking the potential marketing force of two-hundred thousand plus residents? Imagine converting just one percent of that number into evangelists for your brand. Imagine letting the apartment searcher tell you, in public, what makes for a better search experience. Imagine giving them a forum where they give you unadulterated and real time feedback. Imagine being able to respond rather than react to the issues concerns and success stories they would share. Resident portals are a great first step but blogging in the open for all to see is much more authentic and transparent.

For those that have no idea how to get started let me point you to Debbie Weil – She wrote a great book on the subjects called The Corporate Blogging Book: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Get It Right.

In a spirit of competitiveness I look forward seeing who has it in them to be ‘first.’ Let me pre-applaud you for your foresight and courage.

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Open Conversation

It’s 5:00 am and I am thinking about open conversation with prospects, residents and vendors. Just this week, to speak to the point, we had some great dialog with Jeremy, the GM from It’s this conversation that got me thinking about the next feedback medium.

The sites like and and blogs in general are great places for starting and carrying on conversation. Would it not be even more engaging to carry that conversation to a real time platform like Twitter? You think company heads are scared of social media just wait until that conversation goes live. It’s one thing to do customer service over the telephone or even in person. What happens when a resident, prospect or vendor prefers to have that conversation over Twitter for the whole world to see? It’s not like you can say no. If you do they will start the conversation without you. And, the conversation will likely be an adverse one. Talk about game changing. It will require a whole new level of professionalism and tact. It jazzes me to think about it.

If marketing really is a conversation and expectations are rising all the time then suffice it to say Twitter or something like it is the next avenue. Maybe there is a day where or a site like it employees a real time conversation platform. What do you think?

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Apartment Leaders: Q vs. Q

Q stands for Quantity and it also stands for Quality, which is more important? Tom Peter’s suggests the following;

“You will be remembered in the long haul for the quality of your work, not the quantity of your work … no one evaluates Picasso based on the number of paintings he churned out.”

The quote made me think long and hard about a lot of things but most specifically the space we work in. I have noticed over the years an ever growing number of demands being placed on site teams and yet the number of hours in each day does not change. We ask, we direct, we expect many times without thinking about who suffers at the end of the day? Is it the quality work or more importantly the quality of the experience our consumer has with us. Is either acceptable? Or, are we in an age where quantity trumps quality?

I wonder what the group thinks. 

Do you see an ever growing number of demands being handed to your site teams? Do you see quality suffering as a result? Does it matter?

Let me know your thoughts and have a compelling day!

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Apartment Management: Feedback for the leader

For you leaders out there, how many times have you thought to yourself, ” I wonder what the team thinks of my ability to lead?” “I wonder if they think I am doing a good job?”

I am pondering a piece on leadership feedback and would like to hear your thoughts. Drop me a quick comment if you have time today and we will see what comes of it.

Have a compelling Monday.

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