The Blasted Apartment Doormat

Our guest post today comes to us from Lisa Zagoren, property manager at Oak Park Apartments – managed by Mills Properties in St. Louis Missouri. Lisa also serves as a blogger at Real Life STL, a blog focused around über cool neighborhood-centric conversation.

In my travels as a property manager, I’ve come across some really crazy, bizarre, funny, sad (you get the picture) things. I read a blog post the other day that reminded me of how $5 could cost you a resident, which in turn costs you thousands in vacancy, make ready expense, advertising, etc., which brings me to this post….The Apartments Doormat.

I have a crazy, over-the-top, insane property consisting of 756 units. My resident services side team deals with a lot of negativity on a daily basis. As you can imagine, it’s hard to keep them positive at times, when everyone around them is so negative. They get called names (really bad names that I can’t put in this post). They get threatened. They get spat at.

Do You Care

I had a resident give the resident services team her notice to vacate last week. During the resident’s tenancy, her doormat was stolen not once, but three times. When she came to the office to inform us, we were apparently not that empathetic to her situation. We basically stated, sorry, there is nothing we can do.

According to my resident, there were things we could have done. We could have been empathetic; “I am so sorry that this happened to you Ms. Jones. Is there anything you can think of that we can do to try to prevent this from happening again”? My resident also stated in her letter, why did we not put a notice in the hallway stating someone is stealing doormats and to call management if they know who is doing this or just keep an eye out for each other in the building, because we put notices in the hallway for everything else. Everything that’s important to management, but not necessarily important to the residents.

Lesson learned. Had I known of my residents situation, I probably would have bought her a new door mat ($10), apologized empathetically, and would have saved a notice to vacate that I had no idea I would get over stolen doormats.

I know my resident services team deals with a lot of negativity and stress on a daily basis. I get that. I just need to constantly remind them of the “one” resident that is not like that and they need to be treated with respect and be empathetic when they have an issue that is serious to them.

We all need to be cognitive of how the day-to-day stressors can affect us. This one notice will cost me thousands in vacancy, turn over expense, advertising, etc.

Your property manager point of view for the day….

Water Trucks are the New Snow Removal Expense

We, at Mills Properties, have been celebrating a very positive variance in all of our financial reporting as of late. No winter equals big numbers flowing to the bottom line in the way of savings.

Heat Wave

That is until the country slipped into the worst heat wave in real recent history. Unless you are living under a rock (which is possibly a smart thing given the temps), you know that it’s crazy hot outside. And, like humans, plants can not survive the extreme heat. Especially when you factor in the indexes or how impervious surfaces and or humidity effect air temperatures.

Water Trucks

Call in the water trucks. We are electing to call in water trucks to keep the plants alive. We all know that clean, healthy and well-maintained landscape makes a huge difference in the leasing and retention arenas. So bite the bullet and give up the snow removal surpluses. Keep the plants alive so your occupancy will survive and thrive.

Your burning up in this heat multifamily maniac,


Apartment Budgets: Loss to Lease

Welcome back for another installment of the Apartment Budget series. Today we are going to talk about Loss to Lease. Interesting side note, I did a piece on this a number of years ago and to this day it remains the number one read article on this blog.

Before we get started, I wanted to post a note of clarity as it relates to my last entry – Apartment Budgets: Rental Income. Where I refer to Rental Income in that post – I am really talking about Gross Potential Rent as being the top line. You may also hear it referred to as GPR. In any event, I wanted to head off any confusion.


Now unless you have a brand new community in lease up, you will have in place leases that are very likely below the GPR. The primary reason being rent increases. Any time you increase rents you create a margin between the in place leases and the new increased GPR. This can occur in reverse and the impact to the LTL can go in reverse. That is to suggest that you can decrease the GPR and the margin or LTL becomes positive. Not a scenario you see to often as rents generally rise over time in lieu of decline over time.

Loss to Lease – New Move In

To put it simply; if you lease an apartment below the GPR, the discount is captured in a Loss to Lease – New Move In line item. To put some math to it; if your apartment’s GPR is $500 and you lease it for $450, the $50 reduction in rent is capture in the Loss to Lease – New Move In line item as a -$50 charge. And, it will exist for the life of the lease.

Loss to Lease – Renewals 

When leases come up for renewal and they are under the GPR number – the margin is by default in the current Loss to Lease line item. When the lease renews, if it is still under the GPR that new number gets captured in the Loss to Lease – Renewal line item. Putting some math to it. Suppose your apartment’s GPR is $500 and the current in place lease is $450 – you renew it at $475. The $25 margin is captured in Loss to Lease – Renewals.

Total Effective Rent

Once you have accounted for your losses related to in place, new and renewed leases under the current Gross Rent Potential – you come up with a Total Effective Rent. That is where we will pick up next week.

We have purposefully left out the analysis piece this week because I think it will fuel some crazy cool discussion. Hope to see you in the comment section below.

Your – lovin’ budgets – multifamily maniac,



Good or Bad Strategy: Kenneth Cole

I really like the Kenneth Cole brand and have been for a long time. There was a stretch of six years where I purchased the same black KC Reaction dress shoes because they were perfect. As of late they shifted a piece of their marketing strategy to include some real hot bed social issues –




I am even more intrigued with their brand as a result…

How about you? Good? Bad? Indifferent?


#apartmentmarketing: Twitter

I was very encouraged to see their use of the medium included push marketing.

The biggest mistake we see companies make when they first hit Twitter is to think about it as a channel to push out information. – Tim O’Reilly & Sarah Milstein – The Twitter Book

For those veterans out there in the media space this seems like a no brain-er but in a world steeped in tradition, it seems like the right thing to do. Take a new medium, insert old practices and principles and voila, we experience success. Except that we don’t.

Apartment Twitter Marketing in Saint Louis

We have Amazing Apts...

Just this week, I followed up some new #STL Twitter handles [new apartment deliveries in the city proper]. I will admit, I was very encouraged to see their use of the medium included push marketing. Special after special, floor plan after floor plan, us – us – us & look at me copy – it all makes me smile inside.

It makes me smile because I don’t think it’s what those who use the space expect or even want to see. In other words, it’s a big turn off and at best it’s ignored and left to rot in a digital dump-ground way off over there in the dark ‘Cloud.’

Not that we at Mills Properties have it all figured out and are knocking it out of the park as a result. That being said, we do seem to experience a ton of participation from the people that work with and for us, the people that they serve in our some fifty properties in the Saint Louis Apartment Market and our coaches and mentors in the multifamily industry. All by using just the opposite approach and all for which we are immensely thankful. We keep experimenting, failing, learning, tweaking, experimenting & thanking those who give us feedback along the way.

Push Marketing on Twitter

Back to the point at hand; is there a time and place where this works? Have we reached that point or are we approaching a time where the masses that frequent Twitter, Facebook and the like expect, heck even desire to see some push marketing for goods and services? 

#apartmentbudgeting: Think Value

Short and sweet budget tip for 2012…

When thinking about your marketing spends in 2012 think in terms of what will bring value to your ideal resident in lieu of what your absolute spends will be on print, internet, social media and the like.

Apartment Pics: Photosynth

Caught this story over at a Century 21 site. Photosynth is an iPhone app that allows you to take 360 photos and upload them right to the likes of Facebook and the such. It’s after dark now but I can’t wait to try this out tomorrow.

Get Them Involved

I can see this being a very cool app not only for our site teams but for residents and prospects alike. That is if they have an iPhone or iPad. With that note in mind, think of the possibilites;


1. 360 views of your apartment communities curb appeal

2. 360 views of your apartment business/leasing/clubhouse

3.360 views of your grounds and common areas

4. 360 views of any or all rooms in any given apartment


1. 360 view of move out walk for the purpose of returning paid deposits or charging for damages

Due Diligence

1. 360 view of personal property inventory

2. 360 view of apartment condition at time of purchase

What else? 

1. Would be cool to have something like this integrate in to Yardi, Real Page, MRI or the such…

2. Pics for website property landing pages


#apartmentmarketing: Social Media Proof

The next time you hear a social media myth, question it. Ask for the proof, and ask out loud. – Dan Zarrella

So much flying around out there in the way of experts, guru’s, master’s of the universe and the such.

My new default gauge for validation; can I talk to a client that used your service prior to social media taking front and center? And, if that answer suffices; then you can show me your social media results and pass along another client testimonial or two.


#apartmentmarketing: Facebook vs. G+

Are you wondering if G+ business pages, when they debut, will be worth the work for your apartment community or property management company?

Here is my take –

He who controleth the algorithm’s to Page Rank is the one for all of thee…

Short answer – yes

That is not to mention, I predict 9/10 of the work is already done via their Places platform

Ignore at your Rank’s risk…


#apartmentmarketing: Focus on the Needs

Sometimes a little simple is a lot better.

Remarkable social media content and great sales copy are pretty much the same – plain spoken words designed to focus on the needs of the reader, listener, or viewer. – Brian Clark

We have all been there – staring at a blank page waiting, wondering, wanting something brilliant to pop into our mind so we can dazzle the socks off of our constituents. And, it doesn’t come. Or, it comes in faster than you can get your fingers to move so once complete it seems all over the board and useful to no one. Worst of all we are not patient for things that come anon as it’s a yesterday economy…

Simple is better

Sometimes a little simple is a lot better. Robert Fulghum summed it up best in his book; All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK