The Rise of Rural Housing Management Technology

Rural Housing Management Technology

Greater focus is being placed on Rural Housing management, a unique government-supported niche market for renters often living under difficult financial circumstances in areas far from primary markets across America. 

Innovative technology is playing a key role in maintaining this vital housing. Improvements in the leasing, resident communications, collections and payment options, property maintenance and staff training operational functions is creating greater efficiencies. 

Coming out of the pandemic, affordable housing operators who manage these properties are looking for a software technology advantage that can streamline these tasks and responsibilities online and enable them to provide more care to their residents. 

ResMan is emerging as a leading software provider to these companies, offering innovation that moves its software as a service (SaaS) ahead of many of the larger property management software companies’ products, which have grown outdated. 

Rural Housing’s Greatest Need 

I attended the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing’s (CARH) 2021 Virtual Midyear Meeting and discovered that one topic that continues to come up is a lag in available contemporary technology. 

With more teams working remotely due to the pandemic, PMCs have increased reliance on digital processes. To maintain efficiency, affordable housing PMCs have begun managing leasing, payments, recertifications and other processes online. Affordable housing PMCs are also seeing the need for mobile maintenance solutions to manage and complete tasks on time. 

The need for remote management solutions has allowed PMCs to see the value leveraging software to centralize data and even manage the evolving nature of compliance. Using a platform designed for affordable housing PMCs allows property managers to proactively manage their affordable property portfolio and simplify compliance. 

On June 8, ResMan expanded our innovative affordable housing solution to include support for HUD, Tax Credit and now Rural Housing properties all on one, seamless platform while ensuring compliance with all regulations. 

Well-built, affordable housing for low-income individuals living in rural areas is essential to the vitality of communities across this country. We’re proud to give the industry the technology it needs for this cause, enabling a broader set of affordable property management companies to benefit from our industry-leading Compliance Center dashboard and automation that make up our complete property management platform. 

resman-affordable

How Rural Housing Management Technology Helps 

Here are ways that technology helps onsite teams in affordable and rural housing

Leasing 

Affordable property management professionals are using online applications, managing recertifications online and adopting electronic document storage. Having unlimited electronic document storage is key for audits.  

Resident Communication 

SMS/text messaging is preferred by many residents of all ages, and affordable property management professionals are adopting this popular communication channel. Phone calls are time-consuming for staff, especially when they go unanswered. Text messaging is convenient for both staff and residents and preserves a written record of conversations and notifications if integrated with your property management software. 

Self-serve accounts are a baseline expectation for consumers today. Resident portals allow residents to manage all their communications, property notifications, payments, service requests, document uploading, and package delivery preferences in one convenient location. This gives your staff more time to focus on higher priority tasks. 

Rent Collections 

Legislation has driven the adoption of increased and expanded online payment options for residents in some states, which could become more widespread. The most recent trends we’ve seen include: 

– Card payments (credit/debit) – New Jersey signed a law in January requiring affordable property management companies to accept credit card payments for rent during the COVID-19 emergency and for one year following the end of the emergency. The legislation allows transaction fees to be passed to residents, and any amounts reversed by the credit card company due to claims of fraudulent activity would be considered unpaid rent. 

– Cash/wire pay (Greendot/Western Union) 

– Flex pay (twice a month/weekly) 

– Credit bureau reporting – California now requires affordable property management companies to give tenants the option to report rent payments to the credit bureaus 

Maintenance 

Maintenance is a major component of affordable property management. More communities are leveraging the power and convenience of software to manage work orders and inspections. 

Internal Processes 

Some affordable housing professionals are stepping up their technology usage with online training (software, internal company training) and internal collaboration on shared documents, budgets, policies and procedures. 

The lack of affordable housing in rural areas of the United States continues to be a critical issue and concern and ResMan is here to provide solutions that benefit companies and their residents who might be facing lower income levels, urban sprawl pushing housing costs up, loss of high paying jobs and lack of access to credit.  

The Best Marketing Strategies for Property Management Companies

Marketing for Property Management Companies

A property’s success hinges on a strong multifamily marketing strategy. Even if your property already has a website and you’re posting units on apartment listing sites, there’s so much more you can do to increase marketing effectiveness. The best marketing strategies for property management companies are comprehensive, encompassing everything from understanding your prospects to optimizing budgets with attribution models. 

Here are a few strategies to implement in your multifamily marketing strategy: 

Optimize Your Listings 

When it comes to marketing your properties on apartment listing sites, you have to be on your A-game. Your properties will be listed directly next to your competitors, and you need to make sure your listings will not only highlight your property’s best features, but also stack up against the competition. 

Your apartment listings should include quality, well-lit photos of each available unit, as well as any amenities and the grounds of the property. Remember: you don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures – most smart phones on the market take high quality photos! 

You also need to ensure your listings have a descriptive headline and detailed unit information. To streamline your listings and ensure accuracy, consider using a property management CRM that has fully-integrated Internet Listing Service (ILS) solutions. Managers can syndicate unit availability across all key marketing channels to ensure all listings are accurate and up to date. 

In addition to apartment listing sites, you should also optimize your Google Business listing. You can add photos, update business hours, and ensure all information is accurate. Also consider responding to any reviews. As potential prospects research different properties, they will most likely want to read reviews on your property. Responding to reviews shows that your team stays engaged with their residents. 

Upgrade Your Website 

As more prospective residents search for new homes online, your website needs just as much curb appeal as your physical property. When developing a marketing plan for property management companies, be sure to factor in each property’s website to ensure that it has all the information and features needed to entice visitors. 

People will engage longer on a website with interactive features that make it easy to get answers to their questions. Modern website features, like virtual tours and interactive floor plan browsers, allow prospective residents to get a complete picture of what it’s like living at your property without ever leaving their computer.  

Two important features of a modern property website are a tour scheduler that’s integrated with your leasing agents’ calendaring system and an AI-powered chatbot. More than 50 percent of apartment tours are scheduled outside of working hours, so it is important to have a frictionless tour scheduling process. And for those that may have a few questions before they’re ready to commit to a tour, a chatbot can nurture them through their discovery by engaging visitors, promptly answering common questions and scheduling in-person tours. 

multifamily-cta

Determine Marketing Spend 

When it comes to marketing strategies for property management companies, your budget is a huge factor. Having a sophisticated budgeting tool allows you to proactively allocate funds effectively. Because every property is different, it can be difficult to determine how much money to allocate towards marketing. Most properties’ budgets will primarily be driven by turnover and lead conversion rates, and your spend will fluctuate based on the number of units you need to fill. Knowing what your leasing goals are will allow you to create an effective budget.  

Using a forward-looking property management software to monitor projected occupancy can help you determine marketing spend. The timing of your marketing spending should be driven by vacancies, units to fill and where you stand with organic lead traffic. Consider leasing cycles and monitoring projected occupancy months in advance to ensure you’re optimizing your budget. 

Measure Marketing Performance 

We’ve discussed how a goal-oriented budget is most effective. In addition to high-level goals like occupancy rates, having marketing-focused goals can ensure you’re appropriately allocating funds and maximizing conversion. 

A property management CRM that tracks marketing attribution provides clear data about where the leads that are converting originate. By analyzing the leads sources and touches that drive conversion, you can optimize your marketing investments and allocate funds to high-converting sources. 

PropTalk: Cocktails and Compliance Episode 1

Janel Ganim (JG):  Hi! Welcome to Cocktails & Compliance, a special series on affordable housing compliance from PropTalk, powered by ResMan. I’m Janel Ganum. With me today is Rue Fox.

Rue Fox (RF):  Hi, everybody. Welcome to the show. We hope you enjoy it. This is actually a little bit of a reboot from a prior podcast series Janel and I were doing a couple of years ago, and there’s a few things that have happened since then. Most notably bringing Janel to the team. We’re super excited to have her be a part of the ResMan family. Today she leads all of our product initiatives, especially around Affordable Housing, and so we’re super happy to have her here. So, welcome Janel and welcome all of our listeners out there.

One of the first things that we probably want to do to kick this off — and feel free to jump in at any time, Janel — is we really want to say thank you, most heartfelt thanks to all of the workers out there in affordable housing — and in fact, all of multifamily — for all of the work that you guys have put in this year. I know that this could not have been easy for you, and I know as someone that lives at a multifamily property, I’m eternally grateful that everybody has stayed with it and continues to do everything they can to make housing safe and be a good place for people to live.

JG:  Yeah, 100% Rue. Rue and I are very active in the industry. We hear a lot from people in the industry, as well. We know this last year has been quite a challenge and, again, so thankful for what you guys do. I know it’s been a rough year. You have a tough job, anyway, right? And this last year has been just quite a challenge. So, that’s part of what we want to talk about today, too. And we’ll kick that off here in just a minute. But as we said this is Cocktails and Compliance which means …

RF: There’s cocktails.

JG:   Gotta talk about our cocktail of the day.

RF: Absolutely.

JG:  So this one is a little bit fun. You may have heard us on our previous podcast talk about NAHMA. Rue and I have been members of NAHMA for very long time and one of our favorite things at the NAHMA fall conference is an auction that happens for the Education Foundation. And that is a wonderful organization that awards scholarships to residents of Affordable Housing properties. And at these meetings, there’s usually a former scholarship recipient that comes and speaks and talks about how their life has changed as a result of having that money and being able to go to college and further their career. And it’s always inspiring. Not going to lie, there’s usually some tears.

RF: Talk about tugging at your heartstrings, for sure.

JG:  Man, for sure.

RF: A really feel-good time.

JG:  It is, and it happens once a year. So, this past year, because it had to be done virtually, what we did was a big silent auction. So, it’s probably going to come as no surprise to you that Rue and I bid on wine; there were several wine baskets to choose from. I’m not embarrassed to admit I won the biggest one, and Rue won one, as well. I chalked mine up to hey I needed some extra around for when I’m entertaining.

RF: She overbid me.

JG:  I bid on a different basket, for the record.

My basket had — we’ll just call it a selection — of wines that were from California. And it was sponsored by, I think AMHA NCH, who is in Northern California, where there’s some wonderful vineyards. So today we have, I’m going to call it our NAHMA wine, it is Hopson Estate. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve just cracked it open. Believe it or not, we actually haven’t started drinking, yet but …

RF: We’re about to.

JG:  We’re about to. So, cheers to NAHMA, cheers to their ad foundation, cheers to—

RF: Resman.

JG: Cheers to Resman. I’m super happy to be here, as Rue said. I’ve previously been a guest speaker, now I guess I’m just a regular speaker, but super excited and, again, for those of you that don’t know, Rue and I have known each other for a really long time. We joke that we’re a package deal now. This is the fourth time we’ve worked together, all in the multifamily industry, as well.

So, I was happy to sit and have some cocktails with Rue. It may or may not be a regular occurrence with us, but anyway, happy to be here and so happy to get this kickstarted again. And thank you to the marketing team at ResMan for doing this. Super excited to watch this whole PropTalk series and looking forward to that.

2020 Trends

JG:  So, one of the things that we wanted to catch you up on is what’s happened since our last podcast.

RF: Only about two years ago, so, yeah, not a lot.

JG:  Yeah, I mean, nothing’s really happened like the last year, 2020. I don’t remember it, but a lot has happened—

RF: A lot has happened in the last couple years, for sure.

JG:  A lot has happened for sure. Obviously, there was the year that was, 2020, and COVID, and the pandemic, but—

RF: Was it really a year that was? I think it was more a year that wasn’t.

JG:  Yeah, it was, it was crazy. We probably won’t speak of it again. But one of the things that we were talking about in our last podcast—pre-COVID—was Electronic Signatures, which I’m super passionate about, and TRACS 203. And if I recall, I was joking that we had delayed the TRACS 203a release for so long that even though we’ve been talking about Electronic Signatures for what feels like 72 years, I said Electronic Signatures is going to get approved before TRACS 203a. And lo and behold, since we’ve last chatted with you, Electronic Signatures did get approved. That happened in April of 2020.

RF: I think you had insider information, you wrote the proposal.

JG:  I wish I had insider information. If I did, I would have gotten that thing out a lot faster ’cause we submitted it a year prior to that. But anyway, and you know we kind of joked it took a hurricane to kick start it. Well, apparently it took a pandemic to get that thing through and get it finalized but—

RF: Well, and also, an important part of Electronic Signature is the ability to be able to store documents electronically. Let’s not forget about that.

JG:  That’s true. That’s a big, big initiative for Affordable Housing, for sure. That’s true and I’m glad you pointed that out, because it did originally start as e-signature and then it became electronic signature, electronic storage and electronic transmission of documents, as well. So, if you think about the case of a property selling and you want to be able to transfer those documents from one management company or one owner to another, that got included into the notice as well, which was exciting to see. But you’re absolutely right. The electronic storage piece of that is key.

RF: That means you know you don’t have to chop down any more trees to create a resident file.

JG:  For sure, and you think about keeping those files, and as long as you have to keep them, and you think about, from a HUD perspective, your HAP request, having to keep a wet signature version or copy of that and having to keep that for so many years. And God forbid, you do a retroactive gross rent change! You’ve got pages and pages and pages of HAP request. You can now just keep all of that electronically within your software system.

RF: I need to do a shameless plug here, because we are one of the only products out there on the market that have unlimited document storage.

JG:  Alright, I think every time Rue does a shameless plug, we’re going to stop and take a sip.

RF: Oh, it’ll be like the Bob Newhart game.

JG:  There you go. If I know Rue, there’s going to be more shameless plugs just ’cause it means we’re going to stop and sip. Back to Electronic Signatures. So, it did include electronic storage, which is important, and particularly important given the way that last year went, and people moving to more online and more paperless ways of doing business. I do want to just, while we’re at it, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about TRACS 203a, for those of you that are just hanging on the edge of your seat. Yeah, that still hasn’t happened.

RF: That’s taken almost as long as Electronic Signatures has.

JG:  I’m almost to the point where I feel like the boy that cried wolf, saying you know we’re going to have this. And everybodyis like, yeah, sure we are.

Almost! We budget time for it, we think about it in terms of road map and making sure that we allocate time to work on it, and I don’t think people believe me anymore.

But it did actually get mentioned at the last NAHMA meeting. There was head staff there that said it was still in progress and still going to happen, but—

RF: There’s also some other functionality there that’s tied into that release that people are waiting for this industry, too.

JG:  Yeah, and a piece of that, that we talked about before, is some changes to the way RAD contracts work, and in terms of some of the calculations and what has to get reported on the HAP request and things like that. So I know that a lot of people are anxiously waiting for that. This feels like déjà vu, ’cause I think the last time we talked about this two years ago, we said OK, we’re waiting on OMB approval of forms. And hey, guess what, guys, that’s the hold-up. We’re still waiting on OMB approval of forms, which, look, in all fairness to HUD, you know, COVID threw them a curve ball, too.

RF: And didn’t we submit a new forms package for approval, or did I dream that?

JG:  No, you didn’t dream it. We did it, we — the industry — submitted a forms package to OMB. We are still waiting on that approval. Again, you know, COVID threw everybody for a loop. HUD is no exception to that rule, because there were suddenly things that they had to issue guidance on and think about, how are we going to handle certain things? So, in all fairness, their focus shifted to answering questions and dealing with things that have come up as part of the pandemic.

RF: Or really anything besides 203a.

JG:  I mean, it kind of feels like it.

RF: It does feel like that a little bit, it does.

JG:  But you know, still waiting. I still budgeted time this year to work on it. We’ll see … it’ll be great if it happens. If not, I don’t know …

RF: How about this? When it does, we’ll be ready for it.

JG:  When it does, we’ll be ready and we will absolutely be talking about it on a future podcast, that’s for darn sure.

RF: Probably, the next five!

JG:  I mean, maybe. Because I’m beginning to think, you know, as much as we introduce our cocktail and talk about all that, I think giving TRACS 203a updates is going to be at the top of the agenda as well as a recurring theme for these podcasts. So, stay tuned, I guess, again—

RF: I think we — do not hold your breath!

JG:  No, no, for goodness sakes, you would have passed out like four years ago. But do stay tuned. When we know, we will be sure and share. We also share on social media at ResMan, we’ve been doing quarterly webinars to talk about what’s going on in the industry and things like that, as well, so stay tuned. We’ll let you know when we know. And who knows when that’s going to be? I feel like I need to place a new bet on whether or not it’s going to happen this year. I’m going to go with no.

 RF: I feel like I need to put in another shameless plug in for ResMan, too, though, ’cause we’ve got a blog. So please be sure that if you’re not subscribed to our resident blog, follow it. We talk about a lot of things, not just compliance. We talk about all things multifamily out there, so, lots of good stuff.

JG:  We do, absolutely. Lots of good stuff, we do absolutely and shameless plug … [sips] I think we really, really just needed to take another sip …

RF: Watch LinkedIn, as well.

JG:  I know that I get a lot of information off of LinkedIn. I follow a lot of different groups and companies. NAHMA, we can plug again. NAHMA posts information, as well, so that’s out there for the industry. Other industry organizations do, too, but we try to share as much of that to as soon as we know. Rue and I personally post, ResMan posts as well, so watch for that. That’s always a great source of information.

RF: Connect with us out there on LinkedIn, too. We’d love for you to do that.

Eviction Moratoriums

RF: Janel, there’s all kinds of other things that we want to talk about too. I’m just going to throw it out there. Let’s talk about the eviction stuff.

JG:  Ooh, yeah, so that’s a lot as a lot to unpack right there. So, one of the things that Rue and I really wanted to focus on, like we said, we feel like we’ve got some catching up to do here. So, one of the things that we wanted to talk about today is what has happened in the last year. How has the industry changed, how have they had to adapt? And while some of it wasn’t super fun, it is interesting to see for us this year … people are now talking about well, post-pandemic, what are we going to keep from that? There are some best practices and some good things that happened as a result of all of this. And Rue and I participate in—I feel like I’m shamelessly plugging NAHMA again—but NAHMA holds calls for their members every Friday where we’ve been able to share experiences: What’s going on? What challenges have we had? Members share information and share best practices. So, it’s been really interesting to watch the industry adapt and deal with all of these, but as we mentioned, eviction moratoriums—interesting.

Early on in the pandemic last year, around the April, May timeframe, everyone really started holding their breath and saying Oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen? What’s the financial status of my property? Am I going to be able to collect rent from my residents? And are they going to be able to pay? And what do I do? And one of the things that I saw that was so interesting, particularly on the Affordable Housing side, is the overwhelming trend of management companies to be proactive and reach out to their residents and say you know what, there may be an eviction moratorium, but that moratorium only applies to non-payment of rent. So if there are other release violations that are happening, those evictions could happen—whether or not those are successful is something we’ll touch on here in a minute but—

RF: That kind of depends on your state. It can kind of go either way, too.

JG:  Yeah, yeah, I agree. And I don’t know how many people are actually pursuing those types of evictions but, again, the focus was really on educating residents and saying you know what, you need to understand this isn’t rent forgiveness. This is just “I can’t evict you right now because you can’t pay,” right? So, I’m making sure that those residents are educated. They understand that it’s not just man, this is great, I don’t have to pay rent for months. It’s really working with those residents to say look, if you’re getting a stimulus check, if you’re getting some additional unemployment benefits, whether it’s an increased amount or an increased duration of that time, use that money to pay your rent or work out a payment plan … or something like that with the residents.

RF: Well, I’ve even seen management companies work with the residents on how to go find that money. Like, what are the sources of rental assistance? And there are sources out there. And from what I hear, there is money out there that hasn’t been used.

JG:  And working on payment plans. So I can say—gosh, I guess it’s my turn now to shamelessly plug ResMan—I know others in the industry did this as well, but putting payment plan functionality into the software to help people in the industry track that information and at least be able to show that you’ve worked out a plan, to be able to track that plan, keep up with what’s going on, what is that resident owe, but to be able to show there is some history of payment has been really good.

But fast forwarding to now and thinking about what is going to happen—although the eviction moratorium just got extended—but management companies are now starting to get concerned about what happens down the road once this is lifted. What if I do have a number of people that need to be evicted and how is this going to work, right?

RF: And does it count as income? And all of those types of things with the rental assistance.

JG:  Right, so that’s been interesting as well. And that’s one of those things where it’s a challenge for the industry, right? What is stimulus money? Is it a onetime thing? Does it count as income, as recurring? What do I do with it? What do I do with the extra unemployment benefits? How do I annualize that benefit? How do I determine the duration of that?

And there really hasn’t been clear guidance. There’s been some, but I would say that it hasn’t been clear. And so, in lieu of clear guidance, you kind of have to go back to the What do I know that’s black and white, right? I count it as income unless it’s specifically on this list of things that are excluded and so, if it’s not on that list and that Exhibit … 5-1? That was a stretch to come up with that.

RF: That’s assets.

JG:  I think 5-2 is assets. 5-1, but look at the exhibits at the end of Chapter 5, as far as what was included in income. If it’s not specifically noted there and if it’s not specifically spelled out in an FAQ, I mean, that’s really thrown a lot of Affordable Housing property managers for a loop. And wanting to do the right thing by the resident, but also wanting to do the right thing for the property and meet those expectations that HUD has, as well, to follow the rules.

RF: Well, and I mean, let’s be honest. How many times do we get updates daily, almost, on different pieces of guidance that have changed. So, I’m certain it’s really difficult to follow all of the changes in the updates to everything out there right now.

JG:  Right, and let’s add on top of that the fact that very few people, if anyone, I think it’s just now starting to open up, where there are some in-person conferences. But so many conferences last year, where people would stay up to date on what’s going on and, you know, get the latest information, it’s all moved to virtual.

RF: I feel out of the loop, don’t you?

JG:  Well, it’s been harder … it really has, for sure. I certainly miss all the in-person conferences for multiple reasons, but being able to have that opportunity to network and be able to get that information or go to trainings that are in-person things, things like that—What did I do?

RF: Nothing, I was just saying you missed the in-person for different reasons and I was like … a little drinky drinky.

JG:  Well, we’re going to take a sip while we toast the in-person conferences that we missed.

RF: That’s right and we hope that they’re going to come back by at least the end of this year.

JG:  That’s what happens when you’re sitting here chatting with someone who knows you and goes to those conferences with you. She gives me this look like yeah, I know what you’re talking about. You miss it.

Anyway, back to the property managers and even the corporate staff, you know. Trying to keep up with everything that’s going on, not having the benefit of those in-person conferences, not having the benefit of in-person training. We know several trainers who have had to switch to online training and it’s tough, right? I mean, it’s better than nothing, but even for us as a company, you know, having to do the same thing, to train our users on our product. It’s hard to keep people engaged, right? I mean, we all joke about Zoom fatigue. I mean, by the end of the day, after I’ve been on 15 Zoom calls, you know, I’m kind of tired, too.

RF: Yeah, I’ve got Zoom fatigue, for sure.

JG:  Yeah, so again, it’s been hard to keep up with the information, especially the first few months of the pandemic, with everybody being home and the information was just coming fast and furious and not knowing what to do and where do I go for information? how do I keep up? It was crazy and, again, that’s what Rue said at the beginning of this, is it’s been tough, and I know it’s been hard for her managers and site staff to keep up with everything, but you know just keep watching for guidance. And what’s happening now is MORs are starting to happen again. And what we’re seeing is MOR findings on income calculations ineligibility in saying why did you count it?

RF: Janel, you say, keep up with the guidance, but because we’re connected, we get a lot of emails, and we talk with people, and we’re involved in working groups and things like that. But for a site staff who doesn’t always have the benefit of being that connected, what is a good way for them to stay in constant contact to know of all of the guidance that’s coming out and getting changes and things like that. What do you think?

JG:  So, for site staff, again, depending on if it’s a HUD property or tax credit or rural housing, signing up for any kind of email alerts that you can from either your PBCA, your state housing agency, your state or local rural housing office, if you’re a rural housing property, doing that. But again, going back to the bigger organizations, HUD and tax credits and rural housing there. They push out a lot of information as soon as they get it too. We know that there are trainers in the industry—Mary Ross is the first one that comes to mind from HUD, you know, her HUD blast is free to sign up for. She’s got a lot of information there that people can read. I know I get information frequently from her. Rip Listservs[GC1]  from HUD are also a good way to keep up with information as HUD releases guidance. But honestly, you know, HUD can release a new housing notice or updated a FAQ and I get an email from four or five different sources about it the day that it happened.

RF: So that’s what I was going to say. One thing you can always count on is your software provider, that even if you’re not up to date, that’s part of what we have to do, so you should always be able to count on your provider to be up to date as well.

JG:  Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, Rue. I want to go back for just a minute to eviction moratoriums. We talked about how to best avoid that by working with your residents and helping them understand you know, it’s not for rent forgiveness. You’re working on payment plans. But what we’re hearing now is concerns about what happens when the moratorium is lifted? And there are concerns about am I going to see a surge of vacancies? And what am I going to do from a maintenance perspective, to have to turn several units and get them occupied again?  And what does that cost, to have to turn units … and you know, thinking about budgeting and if you have this one month where suddenly now you’ve got all these evictions and you didn’t necessarily budget for it, and you’ve got all this added maintenance expense. That’s a concern, certainly, for people, and then an increase in leasing activity and, you know, how are you going to hurry and get applicants qualified and get them back in the door and get people in your units and get that rent money coming in?

RF: I mean, think about that. Think about the interview process for an affordable resident, all the time that that takes. I mean, it seems like that’s something that you’re going to want to put some kind of a time allocation plan in place for, to start looking at your staffing and go OK, I can set up interviews this day and interviews that day. And hope that you can get them in your everyday workflow. I know that’s one of the hardest things that, as a property manager in Affordable Housing, you’ve got so many things to do. Hopefully, your software helps you take care of some of that.

JG:  Yeah, for sure, and, again, what was so great about the timing of the notice last April for Electronic Signature is that it enabled the online leasing and online application process for HUD that the industry has so desperately wanted for so long. Again, you know we talked about this in the past—it was only HUD that said hey, we’ll approve it.  And I know on tax credit, on that side, you know, some of the states tend to ask forgiveness, not permission. And so some states were doing their own thing and accepting it. And the hope is that with HUD giving that permission to the HUD properties, that the tax credit properties just followed along, and states just said yeah, we’re going to play, too.

RF: It does, I know it does put some pressure on the HFAs, but the other thing to think about—in in the presentations that I do, and we’ll talk about that often—when we’re in a tax credit property, about if my HFA accepts them, and we don’t actually know which HFAs do or do not. So, the best advice that I could give you in a situation like that, because we’re software providers, they’re not going to listen to us when we call them. We’ve already tried that, I tried that in 2004. It just wasn’t even working, so as a software provider, the best thing that you can do is, at your property level, you can reach out to your HFAs and implore them to do that. And especially now that HUD’s doing it, it’s been proven to be safe and effective, and most especially, efficient. And efficiency is going to be so important in the next 12 to 18 months as we come out of this eviction moratorium and you have all of this paperwork and unending things to do. So, be sure and get out there and reach out to your HFAs and implore them to accept that.

JG:  Yeah, so it’s great that this guidance came along, because so many people said hey, I’ve got to move to online processes, I’m concerned about my residents or applicants, I’m concerned about protecting my site staff, I’m concerned about protecting my maintenance staff. So, one of the trends that we saw over the last year was an amazing adoption of technology in the Affordable Housing industry, which—

RF: Ready or not.

JG:  Yeah, ready or not, here it is. And from our perspective, I mean, the Affordable Housing industry tends to lag behind conventional or student or even military, in terms of being able to have online processes. If you think about trying to lease to students or someone who’s in the military who’s needing to find housing and they’re deployed. You know they can’t do all of that in-person at an office.

So, it was nice to see Affordable Housing catch up to a degree. Like Rue said, ready or not, it’s here. And you have to do it. So, seeing an adoption of online applications of mobile maintenance, mobile work orders … and payment! I mean, ironically, watching that adoption of online payment has really gone up in Affordable Housing, which is great to see.

RF: By the way, we just released a payments product, too.

JG:  Alright, stop and sip. Shameless plug.

RF: Cheers!

JG: Cheers! So, yes, we did release a payments product. And there are some additional things coming this year that I’m excited to see particularly for Affordable Housing.

RF: Can we talk about it yet?

JG:  I mean we can. Hopefully our boss isn’t listening, so yeah, let’s talk about it.

RF: We’ve got the mic, he doesn’t, so it’s OK.

JG:  It’s OK. So, Cash Pay is going to be awesome, particularly for Affordable Housing. I’m super excited about that functioning. Obviously, we take credit cards, debit, and ACH and all of that, which is great, but for Affordable, I personally am really excited about a Cash Pay option.

RF: Yeah, I really like Cash Pay and I really think that’s going to help tremendously with money order fraud. That’s going to virtually eliminate that, so if you’re unsure what a cash pay option means, it just means that when a resident moves in, they get a little identification card with their account number on it and they can go to any, like, 7-11 or a Walmart or something like that, and they can actually pay their rent and it will actually apply to their ledger. Did I say that right?

JG:  Yeah, I’m really excited about that and, again, watching the adoption, like Rue said ready or not, one of the things that we learned on one of the weekly AMA calls is actually in New Jersey, I think it was that day or that week, New Jersey passed a new law that said that management companies must accept credit card payments for rent during and for one year after the COVID-19 emergency. And, I mean, we were floored. People on that call just went bonkers because one of the big barriers to that is well, who pays the transaction fees for the credit cards, right?

RF: And I gotta tell you, the transaction fees are not a decent size.

JG:  Yeah, it’s not a small thing, right, especially if you’re thinking about Affordable Housing residents. So, it’s always been one of the biggest barriers, I think, personally, to credit card payments or Affordable. The law in New Jersey was very clear and said that those transaction fees could be passed on to residents, so that was huge for affordable because there are so many fees that you can’t pass on—you can’t pass on an application fee or a fee for screening, you know, which is required to do criminal screening, right? So, the fact that New Jersey said hey, you’re taking credit card payments, if somebody wants to pay, you gotta let them.

RF: Well, what do you think about like on a tax credit property? In a situation like that, I would definitely check with the HFA because I don’t know if that means that they have to pay it if they’re not playing max rent, or if they can pay it over and above max rent, right? I don’t know, so you definitely want to check with your HFAs in a situation like that.

JG:  Yeah, one of the things that’s interesting too, if you think about well great you know they’re going to pay with their credit card well. But if they don’t pay their credit card or they reverse the payment or whatever, well, the law addressed that and said that any kind of reversal due to fraud—and we know we have to be careful, the F word in affordable housing is fraud—we have to be careful with that because that is actually considered unpaid rent, if they reversed that. So there is some protection there for the management companies, which was good to see.

But one of the things that we’re watching and why it’s so beneficial to have these calls and hear what’s going on throughout the country in different states, you know, we hear about it on the national level, what is HUD doing? What is the IRS doing with tax credits? But do you hear about things like that in specific states ’cause we want to know what other states are going to jump on that bandwagon, right? If New Jersey is doing it, who else is going to do something like that. So, really watching keeping a close eye on that.

And speaking of states, one of the other things that came up during this call was California.

RF: I was just about to say, yeah, what do you do about this?

JG:  Yeah, so now management companies are required to offer credit bureau reporting of tenant rent payments in California, which is, you know, it’s not unusual on the conventional side, but to see that it doesn’t matter, Affordable Housing, if they’re making rent payments, you’ve got to report that to a credit bureau. So, it’s an interesting trend.

The open item on the credit bureau reporting is the charge for that, right? There’s a fee associated with that, so it’s unclear yet as to whether or not the renters can be charged for that reporting of payments to credit bureaus or not.

So that’s another situation where you should stay tuned, follow your state HFA, be in close contact with them, because the rules are always changing. Certainly, something that you want to keep up with and be able to ask questions because a lot of times a rule comes out—and I’m not picking on any particular state, it happens with HUD and other things too, that you know, it sounds great and then you go to put it into practice and that’s where all of the gray area comes into play and you need some additional guidance or FAQs.

RF: You mean it’s not in black and white, it’s in gray? And that’s just always how it is with regulations. Isn’t it?

JG:  That’s what makes it tricky.

RF: Part of it is just left up to your interpretation.

JG:  Part of it is, yes ma’am. So—

RF: We’ve covered a lot. Do we want to talk about what we’ve been doing for the last year?

JG: We do, but before we get to that—

RF: What, I went ahead of time?

JG: A little.

RF: How dare me!

JG: So, we’ve talked about things that have happened in 2020 in the past year and challenges, but the thing that’s interesting now talking to management companies is what are those good little nuggets that we want to keep from that? You know, what was a good practice that they want to keep, and they want to extend, and going forward, what’s here to stay? So, we did a survey a while back and the top things that we saw in terms of trends were to expect increased adoption of technology, which was no surprise. Actually 67% of respondents said that they’re expecting to increase their adoption of technology, which is great.

RF: Yes, it is, that’s a lot.

JG: Like we said, it’s here whether you like it or not. 59% said they expect increased regulation. So, if you think about it, all the things that are changing, the things that we just talked about, what’s going on in different states, right? So, they expect to see increased regulation as part of what we’re going to have going forward.

But 47% also said they expect increased government investment. So, there’s been a lot of talk in these meetings about preservation, and how are we going to get money for that and what’s going to happen with additional funding, and it was interesting to note and hear in the most recent NAHMA meeting, where members were saying you know, this isn’t like the recession before in, that there’s still new construction going on, and there’s still a lot of new development. And I know from our perspective, we’re seeing clients who were still taking over properties at an amazingly rapid rate. It seems like every time we turn around, we’ve got a client adding a new property, you know, ’cause they’re just continuing to expand their portfolio.

RF: And I’m seeing tons of new Affordable construction. And all of the groups that I’m in on LinkedIn, every time I turn around, there’s an announcement that somebody’s won an award to build another property. So, there is a lot of new construction going on in Affordable Housing, too. Yay!

JG: Yeah, it is, and I think the other thing that we’ve been talking about, too, is they anticipated increase demand for it as well. If you look at people who are in need of it—and this one particular session I was really focused on senior housing—and they said one of the things that happened last year is seniors who maybe had a nest egg or whatever and they ended up blowing through their savings just because of different challenges that happened last year, and so now, there’s an increased need for senior housing.

RF: And there’s already a housing shortage.

JG: Exactly. We think there will continue to be an increased shortage in Affordable Housing so that’s certainly what’s driving a lot of new construction, new development.

RF: Get those hard hats ready.

JG: Yes. And so, again, one of the trends it fascinated me to see, because we see it on the conventional side but to see this now on the Affordable side, is a really renewed interest in green building and smart technology. And you know, I never really put it into this perspective, but they said we’ve got more people working from home or you have children in the apartments who are doing school from home—and who knows what’s going to happen with all that—so they said you know these buildings have got to be wired for Internet. Really good Internet. This is not the time to have crappy dial-up Internet or whatever. You’ve got families, you’ve got to have great Internet in these buildings in order to support people working from home or doing school from home.

RF: It taxes our infrastructure, too.

JG: But the other thing that I, frankly I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t think about it, but if you think about senior properties, the amount of telemedicine that happened. You know, all the telemedicine doctor visits. So, those properties need Internet, as well, for that. So, it was interesting to hear conversations about that. And then also thinking about the increased usage of utilities. With that many more people being home all the time, think about your water, your electric, all of that. So, trying to put anything in place to help detect water leaks or help control temperatures in apartments, things like that, and help with utility usage. It’s interesting to watch the Affordable Housing industry kind of catch up.

RF: Yeah, it really has been really fun.

JG: Yeah, for sure. So interesting to see that and, then again, with new construction, the other thing that came up was how do we design our common areas. How do we have safe areas for residents who desperately need to get out of their units and have some interaction with other people, but do it in a safe environment? Sothat’s part of what’s being locked out, too, in terms of construction of new buildings, so those are definitely some things that I think were good and interesting to see, you know, moving forward. The adoption of technology, again, just blows my mind to see how many people have said I’ve gotta have online applications, I’ve gotta have a way to take payments, I’ve got to have mobile maintenance solutions. And even within management companies to say you know we’re going to do more online training because we’re doing it and it works.

Conferences

The thing that’s going to be interesting for me to see—I’ve heard mixed reaction about this—is what do we do with conferences? And some people have said well, you’re going to have hybrid conferences now where we can do it in person, if you want, when we feel it safe, but some people said you know, what I don’t want to spend the money to travel or I want to be able to send more people and have more people benefit, but I don’t want to take people away from my office and so they want a virtual option, too, and I’m frankly torn on it.

RF: I’m really torn on that, too. Honestly, participating in some of the virtual conferences that I have this past year, I feel like as long as you’re at your desk, you’re open game for everybody else at work, too. And same for everybody else at work, too. And so even though you’ve registered and you’ve got time blocked, there’s other things that are always going to get in the way. And so, I think that probably the real benefit of an in-person is that unless you can actually go lock yourself away in a room where nobody else can get to you and nobody else can interrupt your sessions, it’s hard for you to get the full benefit of a conference in a virtual situation.

JG: I 100% agree. And it’s funny, I’m sitting here kind of laughing about it, thinking about it. I’m personally guilty of it, it happened to me, to do it in virtual conferences. And I thought, but I’m not even in an office where people are walking around. I’m at home, all by myself at home, and I’m still getting interrupted. And it’s hard to attend and, I don’t know, maybe part of it is at least when we went to a conference, if you knew it was two days, it’s like look, I’m gonna be super focused on this for two days—

RF: Don’t talk to me!

JG: —And I’ll catch up on emails and things on breaks or I’ll call you before or after hours, or whatever, and now, a lot of the virtual conferences—and I don’t fault them for this—but it expanded and now it’s four half days. And I get it, right, because you need to be able to do some other things, but I’m also thinking in some ways, it is harmful. ‘Cause now it’s like gosh, now I gotta be available for four days, right, even though it’s not four full days. So it’s tough and I really feel for all the people who are having to put these conferences on. It was quite a shift for them to have to switch to virtual, right?

RF: And kudos to everybody out there who has done these, because there’s no way they can be easy.

JG: No, I mean, I know when speaking with some people who have had to suddenly shift from an in-person conference, it‘s a totally different way of planning, having to think about technology and how do you get all your speakers on there. And we kind of laughed, we did a panel on technology at one conference, and we were the first group to try it out and be the guinea pigs for it, and I swear we have more problems with it than anybody else did. And we’re your good kids, right?

RF: We’re the ones know what we’re doing, supposedly.

JG: Yeah, it’s been tough, and it’s been a challenge. We talked about this, and you teased me about it before, but I so miss being in person. I’m missing all the friends that we’ve made in the industry, and I miss having that face-to-face interaction and being able to network and, you know, just having that interaction within a session.

RF: Being face to face with the officials, right? There is nothing that can take the place of sitting in a room, having all of the HUD officials or the IRS officials right there at your disposal to ask questions of.

JG: Yeah, and probably even more so, catching them after the session.

RF: Absolutely

JG: And saying, hey I need to make you aware of this challenge that we’re having, and I just want to expand on something that was said earlier and, to their credit, they’re great—

RF: They are!

JG: —they’re great about sitting there and listening. They want to hear it, you know, they want to do the right things, too.

RF: But you can’t catch them on the phone, an email, on a Zoom call … you can’t catch them when you’re like that, so those are kind of the things that really, I think, are so important to an in-person.

JG: Yeah, yeah, I do, again, certainly miss it. I think there’s no substitute for it.

New for ResMan

RF: Are we ready, about what’s coming this year now?

JG: Yes, you’ve been so good and so patient. We can talk now about what’s going on.

RF: Because I’m so excited. I can’t stop being so excited.

JG: I know. I’m—

RF: Almost everything I’ve asked for.

JG: You guys, that’s no small list.

RF: Actually, pretty much everything I’ve asked for.

JG: Yeah, yeah, for sure. We do have some exciting things going on at ResMan with our Affordable platform. We’ve certainly been working hard. We have an amazing team, both product and developers, and some internal stakeholders, Rue being one of them, to say hey, here’s what I’m hearing and here’s what we need to make sure that we’re able to provide. So, we spent a lot of time doing that last year.

This year, super exciting to me, one of the things that we just released was Automatic Income Limit Updates. So I know that that’s time consuming. It’s fraught with human error for all the data entry and, especially if you have a large portfolio, having to go in and spend the time to update your income limits. I’ve seen, in some cases, people sometimes forget that it’s time to update their income limit. So being able to do that automatically for our customers is really, really exciting.

RF: Really huge. And especially with all the extra stuff that they have to do. I mean, if you’ve got a large portfolio, we’re just giving you back a whole day at the time.

JG: Yeah, for sure, for sure. One of the other things that we’re working on is Income Averaging.

RF: Yes!

JG: And I know it’s been around for a little while, but—

RF: It’s also changing, like almost weekly.

JG: Well, it’s been changing. And there’s a proposed rule that came out and industry associations had said hey, you know we have some concerns about this. And, again, that’s one of the great things about participating in these industry associations, is to be able to have a voice and say hey I know how this works in practice and let me tell you where I see some concerns in the proposed rule and being able to send that back, in this case, to the IRS. And they listen and they read through all those comments, ’cause I know I’ve seen it both with the IRS and with HUD, but income averaging is certainly something we’re working on. We’re watching very closely the changes to the rules. I know it’s difficult to track manually and we do know some people that are doing it, but we’re going to work on automating that for our customers.

One of the other things, too, and you know, I will tell you, I partially waited for TRACS 203a because of all the RAD functionality in it, but I’ve given up a little bit on 203a, and so we are also adding RAD contract functionality this year, which I’m really excited about. We’re seeing more and more, the public housing to RAD convergence, which have been going on, but we’re seeing an increase in the PRAC to[GC2]  RAD, as well. So being able to provide that for our customers who are moving over to RAD is great. And, again, one more time, I’m going to hope that TRACS 203a comes out soon, because there’s some really great things in there that help those RAD properties.

RF: Well, and in both of those programs it doesn’t apply to everybody, for sure, but it truly is happening more and more and more across the country. So just because you’re not in it right now doesn’t mean in six months or a year’s time, you won’t be in it.

JG: Yeah, exactly well and going back to income averaging, same thing, right? If there’s a lot of new construction going on, that’s a lot of opportunities to select income averaging as you set aside.

RF: Yes – I thought I said that, so good.

JG: So, we do anticipate an increase in that and an increase in the amount of RAD contracts, for sure. And I know one of the things Rue is really excited—

RF: [Squeal]

JG: So, I kind of saved it for last—I don’t know if ya’ll just picked up on that squeal that she did, but I certainly heard it. What we currently have in development right now is our Rural Housing Functionality. So that really just rounds out our Affordable program nicely. I am really excited about that.

RF: I’m really excited about it, too.

JG: Yeah. It’s a smaller segment of the market, but it’s amazing to me how many people have it and have a need for a better solution than what they currently have, and so I’m really excited that that’s coming out. So, stay tuned! Like we said, we post industry update, but we post product updates, as well. And so, as we launch those, we’ll be talking about those in some of our upcoming webinars. I’m really, really excited to talk about that

RF: Yeah, I’ve seen little bits and pieces of it, too, so, really excited. You know, we really don’t just have cocktails. We actually really do love compliance and we love our Affordable Housing part of the industry.

JG: We also love cocktails, I’m not gonna lie.

RF: Alright, everybody, that is about a wrap on this edition of Cocktails & Compliance. Thank you for joining and we hope to see you next time.

JG: Be sure to subscribe to PropTalk on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. For more about ResMan’s property management platform, visit myresman.com.

Property Management: Why Bad Debt Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Thing

Bad debt doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  

 Many residents have suffered economic hardships in the past year as a result of uneven employment, and other personal life factors. The federal eviction moratoriums – which protected residents to some degree – have delayed, and in some ways, made things more challenging for residents and owners to pay their bills. 

It reminds me somewhat of what happened after September 11th and the ensuing widespread financial downturn the country endured. And years later, again, the economy fell on hard times during the Great Recession from around 2008-2010. 

Working in property management in both instances, I spoke on a personal level with many of our residents, residents who were significantly impacted and that spanned every demographic group.  We had dealt with residents who failed to pay rent, but what I was hearing from the site level team was different.  We hate to see things evolve to where eviction is required, but there is a difference when you have consulted with renters who continue to deprioritize paying their rent from those who have had the rug pulled out from underneath them and cannot meet their rental obligation for the first time.   I remember sitting with residents while on site visits that were my parents’ age at the time, they had used up their savings and cashed out 401k’s hoping they could hold out until the job market improved.  Hearing their stories really hit home for me.  

Sadly, many of these same people were unable to regain employment in time to avoid eviction proceedings. Across the country we saw evictions increase and with that an increased number of renters who had significant damage to their rental history and credit reports.   Evictions not only damage a consumers’ credit scores for years; the eviction is a public record that can follow them for 10 years or more.  

Now, here we are in 2021 and we are looking at a backlog of eviction filings with more on the horizon.  Eviction should be the last resort, because it is hard for these unfortunate residents to start their lives over without quality housing.  The industry stepped up and worked with renters like never before. I have no doubt that operators of all sizes are willing to work with residents to help them file for rental assistance and for those who must move, they are open to payment plans.  

Working with residents to set up resident debt relief programs is a smart course of action. The challenge has always been that there was not much serviceable technology to help property staff offer, set up and track payment arrangements for former residents. If the management company had a way to effectively deliver payment plans while having visibility so that balances do fall through the cracks, they would be happy to offer this an alternative to eviction and negative reporting to the credit bureaus.  

Today, ResMan, is here to help you with this. 

During those past financial crises, we created a solution in house to manage former balances which in turn increased the revenue from bad recovery.  Revenue that was desperately needed as we faced decrease effective rents and saw our occupancy drop.  (The functionality is now part of what later became the ResMan’s Core Platform) Not only did the in-house collection model prove to be impactful financially, but it also provides an alternative solution that helped us to do the “right thing” for our residents. My recommendation is to rethink your bad debt policy and aim to avoid collections agencies, because when using those, you recover only a tiny portion of the back rent owed.  

You can send your bad debt (unpaid rent after 30+ days) to collection agencies, but you’ll only get about percent of what they can recover, and they won’t recover a lot. 

As an owner or manager, you have to ask yourself: How much of our rent write-offs are collectable? Are we paying for someone to manage something we could have done on our own?  How many days does the balance remain unpaid?  

We have found that when you work to recover it yourself, it oftentimes can lead to a significant financial bonus. We realized that we could collect on 85% of the balances when we worked them in house with the right tools.  

Forecasting Bad Debt Recovery for 2022 

Here are some national numbers on what our industry is facing in terms of bad debt: 

According to Moody’s, CBRE and National Multi Housing Council, 22.2 percent of the nation’s units owed approximately $70 billion as of year-end 2020 on rent and utility payments, that totals 12 million renters. 

Say you write off $21,000 to your collection agency, it might capture $3,150 of that and keep 65 percent of it for its efforts. So overall, the owner recovers just $1,102 of that $21,000. 

If you attempt to collect that same $21,000 in-house, you likely will still end up writing off 15 percent of it as truly, uncollectable rent. But if your software helps you to put in place a resident payment-plan strategy that recaptures 85 percent of it, the owner recovers $17,500 of that $21,000. 

Evaluate your residents’ debt load on an individual case basis. For example, if the resident owes $2,000, you could give them 12 to 14 months to repay it. When doing so, it’s important to let them know by agreeing to this, and by fulfilling their promises, you won’t report the debt to the credit bureaus.  

Visibility is key, the property manager and corporate accountants need to know collection status on all payment plans in place.  When you don’t have the right tools in place, setting up and tracking falls to manual processes which is where the problem was to begin with. Ever taken over an asset and found the formers who have balances that are not being worked and that were never processes to collections? When you have technology in place to manage the process, you can effectively administer payment plans and increase your bad debt recovery.  

There are plenty of reasons why apartment operators should avoid letting bad debt become a bad thing. Here is one more: Have you anticipated spikes in move-out damage expenses and other oddities that might come from what figures to be a volatile 2021? For this and variety of reasons, recovering money owed becomes even important. 

PropTalk Episode 1: Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Team

Full Transcript

Elizabeth Francisco (EF):  Welcome to PropTalk, a podcast powered by ResMan, that focuses on the property management ecosystem. I’m Elizabeth Francisco, the President here at ResMan.  

Amanda Mabrey (AM): And I am Amanda Mabrey, the Director of People and Culture.  

EF:  We are so happy to be recording our first episode of this podcast series. You can expect a variety of experts from the Multifamily and Affordable Housing industries, each discussing key insights into how property managers can maximize their efficiency and increase their NOI. 

So, Amanda, I can’t think of anyone better to have here on the inaugural podcast for ResMan’s PropTalk other than my right hand, who’s had God knows how many varieties of positions inside the company. But I can’t think of anyone better to do this with. Thank you for participating. I’m so happy you are here and do what you do every day, but I’m really happy you’re here with me for the first one, also. 

AM:  Thank you. I’m very happy to be here. 

Honest Conversations 

EF:  One of the most challenging and most important aspects of growing a business is managing employees and keeping them engaged. And I know that, given how long you’ve been here at ResMan from the very early days, you know first-hand how important that is, regardless of the industry. 

Employees champion our business and ultimately determine our success or failures along the way. The work they do determines what customers and partners see. So, you need to prioritize your employees for the total value they bring to the company. You know, employees leading an organization might be able to be replaced physically, but their skillset and their knowledge can’t be. This is why we decided to launch our PropTalk podcast with a discussion about your most valuable asset in any company, which is your team. 

You know, 2020 lead to so many challenges and changes for businesses all over the country, but it was more than just changes to the way we work. We asked our employees to change with the changing times. Many companies had to maintain operations during the start of the pandemic while possibly having to reduce staff or implement payroll cuts. Or maybe, like our property management customers, your employees were essential workers, forcing you to think about their safety and maintaining the quality of the community for the renters, all at the same time. And renters who, by the way, were now in their homes 24/7.  

There was so much change to our work environments, on top of the ones to our personal lives. I think most of the people in charge of these businesses and the ones I know and talk to, if you will, I think the industry did a hell of a job putting the focus back on their employees, working to support them through trying times that I never faced when I was in the industry. 

And while we’ve made so much progress and we’re all ready to move into business-as-usual, I’m afraid the trying times are not quite over, though. Now that we’re well into 2021, we’re still in the midst of change. As leaders, our teams count on us to lead them through this next chapter, whatever that may be. I’m sure we’re not the only ones discussing what getting back to business-as-usual means today, or what adaptions due to the pandemic should be adopted for the longer term. Not to mention, there’s a growing pressure from investors to make up for any lost revenues incurred last year, in the last 12 months. As we move forward, we must make sure that we put our teams in the best positions to succeed. 

Amanda, I know your thoughts on this because I bounce my sanity off you on a regular basis. You know that the buck stops with us as leaders in the organization. And I would just like to hear your perspective of the things I’ve just said about the importance that leaders play in leading the way and what our role is in this. 

AM:  Absolutely.  Thank you. Our job as leaders is to facilitate the ability of our employees to have their needs met. One way we can look at it is based on Maslow’s hierarchy. So Paycom adapted Maslow’s hierarchy –think back to psychology 101, right? The pyramid, having your needs met. And before you can move up in the pyramid, that need needs to be met. So Paycom adapted this to the hierarchy of employee needs, right? Basic needs, stability and transparency, along a recognition and finally self-actualization. It’s our responsibility to meet these needs so that our team members can fully feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. 

EF:  I love that you mentioned the sense of belonging, because I know as we have continued to evolve our thinking in turn inside the company and focusing on diversity equity and inclusion, one of the things we talk about is it’s really about a sense of belonging at the end of the day. So, I’m really glad that you said that and mentioned that. 

AM:  There are so many ways that you can recognize team members. You can make them feel like they do belong. One-on-ones. We’re going to talk about one-on-ones. Private and public recognition are absolutely huge. The biggest thing is that just as the world around us is evolving and changing, so are the needs of our team members. So, I’m excited to talk about that in depth with you today. 

EF:  Awesome! Fantastic, and I think, too, as we started this conversation, it’s easy to put something down on paper. It’s easy to research what needs to be done in an organization, but at the end of the day, as I mentioned earlier, the buck stops here. Right? The buck stops with Paul, our CEO, with myself, with the rest of our leadership team. We have to be present, and we have to be actively engaged, because if we’re not and if we don’t lead from the top, right, then those things won’t happen, at least not to the magnitude that they could. 

AM:  Being in front of the organization is so incredibly important, right? We learned this right away in 2020 when the pandemic hit. Previously to that, our executive team was wonderful about being open with our team members but what we learned is that visibility is so powerful to team members to know that our executive team, the executive team of an organization, is right there in the trenches with every single team member. 

EF:  You know what’s funny? I literally said today, not figuratively but literally, I said, well I’ve always had an open-door policy in my office. In fact, I never locked it, right? And you know that from yours. So now I have a virtual open policy also. I just told someone this today, never hesitate to reach out to myself, and I know the rest of the executive team is the same way. We will make the time. And you know, I think it’s important at any point in your business life cycle that you make yourself available, but I think the last 12 months really highlighted that. Sometimes we as leaders, we get our heads down and we’re buried and we’re just we’re trying to do what we think is best for the company to help provide opportunities for our employees. Even we can sometimes find ourselves being too narrow and just heads down. I know for myself, coming through the last 12 months, this really helped me make sure that it stayed front of mind. And you know I hope that it will always be that way but it’s important that we remind each other of that along the way. 

AM:  It’s a challenge. You talked about walking the floor, and now many organizations are still remote and so the idea of walking the floor and meeting with people that they may not have had normal meetings with it has changed drastically. And so, leaders of all organizations have needed to become more creative in how they can reach out and be visible and be present to their employees. 

EF:  Completely agree. OK, so one of the things that you know we’ve heard repeatedly with Paul Bridgewater joining the organization as our CEO, something I heard before he joined the organization, was that it is super important to have honest conversations within your organization. And I know you, and you study anything that you do to the NTH degree. So, you may already know this, but that’s a management philosophy that is the foundation of a business philosophy in a book called Radical Candor, which basically states that guidance and feedback has to be kind and clear, specific and sincere. So Amanda, that sounds like a simple thing to do. We’ve been living it for two years now, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. So why do you think something that sounds so simple is actually so hard to do? 

AM:  So, it goes back to the hierarchy, right? Having those basic needs met. Once those basic needs are met, you’re getting paid on time, you know that you’re going to get paid, you know you have a stable job, the stability and transparency, right? That’s part of those honest conversations, but it leads right into feeling like you belong. 

Two of my favorite thought leaders in this realm are Kim Scott who’s the author of Radical Candor. She spent the majority of her career working in Silicon Valley, spent time at Google and Apple and now is a CEO coach for some of the biggest Silicon Valley tech companies out there. Alongside her, Patti McCord was previously the chief people officer at Netflix. She authored a book called Powerful and I know you and I both simultaneously, not knowing, read the same books. And so Powerful details her experiences of building out that culture at Phenomenal.  

So Patty says the greatest motivation for workers is their ability to contribute to success. The majority of workers want to be successful. Our responsibility as leaders is to guide them on that path toward success, which sometimes includes having difficult or challenging conversations. This is where the idea of honest conversations or, as Kim Scott calls it, radical candor, comes into play. Honest conversations and radical candor are all about our ability to deliver and to receive feedback.  

The trick is exemplifying to the listener, whether it’s your boss or your employees, that even though you’re challenging directly, you’re having a direct conversation where the content could be difficult to receive, you still care personally about that person. It’s difficult because we’ve been raised with Thumper wisdom: if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything. It’s in the back of our minds, so if the greatest motivation for our workers is the ability to contribute to success, then we definitely don’t want to do anything that would demotivate them. However, radically candid and honest conversations, if they’re done correctly, can positively impact performance, your relationship, the commitment to the organizational objectives, and their willingness to continue to do what it takes to be successful for the organization. 

EF:  I completely agree with everything that you just said. And I think what I’ve personally experienced and what I’ve seen as I’ve navigated my career and when we talk about why is it such a difficult thing to do, I think the stage in your career that you’re at also can play a role in that. And it’s funny, I’m sitting here thinking about what you were talking about, coming up through the ranks in property management and then seeing it here, in ResMan, as well. And I think depending on the staffing, maybe at a property or within your company, and when workloads are tough and there’s pressures to meet goals, you can find yourself, especially if you’re a younger first-time manager, sometimes you can be too cautious and too withdrawn from having the tough conversations because you’re afraid of losing the worker. 

AM:  You’re not only afraid of losing the worker but prior to that, we all want to be friends, right? We all want to go to happy hour… 

EF:  Absolutely not me! 

AM:  We all want to have that relationship where we spend how many hours a week with each other. And to have someone who you think may not like you can be difficult, especially as a first-time manager. So, you know, practice makes perfect in these situations. And I highly recommend finding someone on the leadership team to practice the conversation before you have it. That can be incredibly powerful once you are able to deliver that conversation. 

EF:  Yeah. I was in a conference with one of our favorite customers Allied Orion earlier this week and one of the questions during my session was talking about work life balance and just doing some deeper diving in investigating and looking at some other resources. One of the things that happens when we’re afraid to have the tough conversations is that we actually handicap the employee and we handicap ourselves, because the work still needs to be done. And a lot of times what I’ve seen is when somebody is not doing what’s expected, you’re not on the same page, both of you may be working really hard, but you’re not actually getting what needs to be done the right way, so you’ll have someone maybe try to step up and try to pick up that slack, which in turn is making it hard for them to get their deliverables done. I was thinking about this, just over the years, and I think you’re afraid to have the tough conversation because you don’t want the employee not only not to like you, but you don’t them to leave.  

One of the things I’ve seen my whole 30 years in management is that sometimes by holding back, not only are you impacting yourself, not only are you impacting that employee, you’re actually hindering the rest of the team. And the rest of the team sees that. So, if you’re not addressing the tough conversations, if someone’s not performing to expectations and there are things that are falling through the cracks, or there’s a certain amount of that workload that shifts on to the backs of their other employees, well, the rest of that team is counting on you to look after the best interest of the company. But if you’re truly dedicated to someone’s success, you’re not doing anyone in that scenario I just described any favors.  

It was hard for me—I continue to work on it, I hope I’ve gotten better over the years, but learning to have the honest conversation where someone walks away from the tough conversation truly believing that you’re dedicated to their success before your own. I think sometimes we can approach situations in leadership, or we’re talking about this goal, that goal, that goal, and ultimately responsible for stepping into that role and phrasing it where it comes across it’s all about you and what your responsibilities are to the company. And for me, I’ve just seen that that doesn’t work.  

When you take yourself out of it, take your immediate goals out of it, if you are truly dedicated to those employees, you have those tough conversations and you’re helping them identify areas for improvement. When they feel that sense of “this person is really looking out for me, they want me to do my best that I possibly can, the business in turn will accomplish its goals. 

AM:  Yeah, and just like you mentioned, being kind and clear and specific and sincere, along with the why, right? If every worker is wanting to contribute to success, if that is their greatest motivation, then they need to know the why just as they need to know the why for the good things that are happening, right? They need to know the why behind the challenging conversations.  

And so when you’re thinking about having a difficult conversation, first know that their intentions are most likely very, very positive and good. Very rarely are there saboteurs in our business, right? The second thing is understanding the why and then the third is the delivery … being kind, clear, specific, and sincere is all what radical candor and honest conversations are about. 

EF:  You know. In leadership one of the things I also find, and I remind our team and myself, that our titles have weight, alright? And the point about an honest conversation is not just the conversation I’m having with you as a supervisor. It’s also helping the team have honest conversations with you back, so that if there are challenges that need to be tackled, if there is, let’s say, something you know could impact the business, I tend to see and I will tell you. I’ve seen this at ResMan. I’ve seen this in property management. People are afraid to speak up or to say what needs to be said … their fear of looking bad, their fear of letting down the company. Maybe they’re not sure how it’s going to be received or maybe it’ll be discredited, so they hold on to it and whatever that problem is—not all problems—but sometimes those challenges or issues start to become a much bigger issue that can impact customers, that can impact other internal customers within your team.  

So, what would you advise me for the leaders to help their frontline teams understand, and how can we communicate better so that they feel comfortable and confident to come to us and have the honest conversation? I mean, it’s hard to tell the president of the company “Oh, by the way … I don’t know how you’re gonna take this…” 

AM:  In Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, she discusses this. The leader’s responsibility is not only to be there to guide and to have those conversations, but you also need to be open and willing to be on the receiving end. So, what she recommends is in your one-on-ones, in your meetings, ask your team members, ask your individual contributors how you’re doing and be receptive to the feedback that they have. That’s a really important step that many leaders are fearful to take. They don’t want to look bad. It’s the same reasons they’re fearful of giving that kind of advice or feedback. It’s the same thing. So I think that’s a really important aspect of having that two-way conversation. That’s really what creates a truly honest environment and a truly candid—radically candid—environment. 

EF:  Well, I don’t know if I will ever master it but I can definitely assure you that I must have gotten somewhere with you because you tell me exactly what you think. 

AM:  It’s true. It’s hard. I report to our CEO and yesterday I had to provide feedback that was not warranted—he didn’t ask for it—but you know, starting off the conversation in an open and engaging way like ‘what was your reasoning behind this?’ Asking those open-ended questions and not coming at it in an accusatory way is really important and it lends itself to actual conversation. That’s how you drive towards a solution. 

EF:  I completely agree. Awesome, thank you for your insight there. The last thing I would add to that is that publicly we have to admit we are human, too. I think that opens the door for conversation. We’re not going to have every answer. In fact, what I would tell you, over time, is there’s a lot of direction we can provide, and we do have a different level of insight and a bigger picture view. Sometimes we have a better understanding of where we need to go, but the people that are doing the job actually have the information we really need to know, to make sure that we ultimately achieve those goals. Opening that door and being vulnerable, like you mentioned, is a critical part of that. 

Well, Amanda, thank you for the insight on the importance of honest conversations. If I think about how to combine that topic and thinking about what we started—and you were so eloquent about—being the needs of the employees and that sense of belonging, you know we’ve talked about even our diversity and inclusivity goals, that we’re trying to work on as a company, one of the things we frequently say is we want to level the playing field. We want everyone to have the same opportunity within the company. And one of the things that we talk about in our employee engagement committee is that the level of the playing field, one of the first—and probably most significant—things you can do is be very clear and transparent and set goals, measurable goals, that are the same across the board, so that it’s very transparent on both sides. 

With Paul joining the organization, one of the first things he did was set out to tackle, let’s refocus in, let’s understand and make sure that we have this not just verbally, but well-documented—as we all know, we think we’re on the same page verbally and oftentimes we’re not—how do we set those goals? But more importantly, how do we track those goals? And if there’s a challenge or maybe we’re not hitting those goals, how do we deal with that as an organization? I think you have some great insight on that. 

AM:  When Paul joined the organization and engaged us in coming up with this VSGM, which is Vision, Strategy, Goals and Measures, I was still pretty young in my HR career. But something just clicked, and it makes so much sense. You start at the top. What is your organization’s vision or their mission? What is the thing that you’re striving for?  

A strategy … how are you going to get there? What are you going to invest in? What products are you going to build? What assets are you going to purchase if you’re onsite or working in the property management industry? 

The goals. These are short term, or they can be long term goals. They have to be measurable. They have to make sense. They have to be attainable, right? That’s the idea of the smart goal. 

And then the measure is the way that you’re going to get there. So, we as an organization have had this VSGM for the past couple of years and every year we tweak it just slightly to make it make sense for where we are in the times. 

And then from there, it’s the leaders’ and the individual contributor’s responsibilities to work together so that every single employee or team member or associate knows what they need to be doing on a daily basis to achieve their goals that ultimately tie into the larger goals of the organization. 

EF:  Yeah, and I think one of the things that was eye opening for me in this exercise, I’ve never been exposed to this practice in my previous career before starting Resman or being part of this team, and I thought one of the things that was interesting is there’s truth in you can have a company goal but if everybody’s not on that same page… And it was interesting through this exercise that we did, we had conversations and where we had some employees struggling in the organization is because their idea of what was expected to them or and how it aligned with their perception of where the company needed to prioritize or what they thought the company was prioritizing – they don’t always align, you know? 

 So that’s been a very enlightening part of this exercise and in our in our situation, we go in and we set it first for the company because that has to be the strategic road map of where we’re going with the business. When we as leaders have that that big picture, long term view of where we need to go so that we can do the things we want to for the company and for our customers and for our teams. 

But now I’m taking it down and sharing those goals and being very transparent with all of our teams. And then sitting down with each person and sharing it with them. And I just I loved this part of the exercise, when I was helping with our support and customer success organization, is let’s go through now for each individual employee and here’s the goals of the company. Then as a department head, here’s the goals of our department that support that ultimate goal. And then having each employee sit down and have their first attempt at what am I going to do to support those goals? Where can I individually contribute?  

I can tell you, I’ll give some shoutouts to Cal, Caroline, other people that I engaged with personally back in 2019. It was really exciting to see them communicate and think through it and come together. Their sense of belonging and their value in the company, I think for a lot of people, became more visible to themselves. 

AM:  As you think about the hierarchy of employee needs, that’s part of stability and transparency. The wonderful thing that Paul and our leadership group has done prior to the pandemic—and this is very relevant to our PMCs that we serve—they’re dispersed. They’re not all in one central location. So it can be difficult to translate and feel like you’re attached to the larger company objectives. 

One thing that I appreciate about our leadership is that they do a wonderful job of bringing everyone together, taking the time and walking through the goals. And not only walking through the goals but doing check-ins throughout the year to ensure that we’re still on track. From there it’s down to the middle managers, the supervisors and line leaders to again be able to translate and coordinate everything that the team members are doing, back up to the company objectives. And it gives them that sense of ownership. 

The other thing, too, is you cannot have 15 goals as an individual contributor. You absolutely cannot. Just like a company should not have more than four to five goals that they’re really focused on in a year, you should not expect your individual team members to focus in on 15 goals. They have to be simple and focused…a term that Paul uses—simplify and focus is our friend—it’s incredible to see they need to meet these ten metrics. Well, it’s impossible to stay focused and to do all of them well, so I recommend four to five goals. How do they relate to the larger goals? And then having those consistent check-ins to ensure that you are on track. You shouldn’t wait until the performance review at the end of the year to tell a team member that they are doing poorly in an area. 

EF:  Yes, and that goes back what we were talking about earlier about. If you are truly dedicated to someone success, you wouldn’t want to do that. You should see the path and how that can be very disruptive. And I’m glad you brought that up because you reminded me, years ago we had an employee in maintenance and the property management side. He worked really hard but there were some challenges with a certain area of his skill set and his attention to detail. A lot of times in property management, the position below the one you’re promoted into doesn’t always have the same skill set, so we end up promoting them into a new position, and a lot of management teams don’t have the internal support or means or resources to properly invest in that education, especially from the people management side. So, I remember getting to work with this one particular gentleman and the main supervisor is like I’ve told you, we’ve had so many conversations about this—in passing, you know, in golf carts passing or whatever—I just don’t understand why we can’t get there? And this was a lesson learned. I did exactly what you said not to do. We waited ‘til the end of the year and—at the time, that was the way we did our annual reviews, and it was so interesting to see how the employees scored themselves versus the manager and the maintenance supervisor—the employee was just shocked because of the way that it was presented to him. His perception of his performance was he was doing all the right things. He wasn’t resentful, it was just a moment where we were able to come together and realize Look, we’re not on the same page

And so, I think you’re right. You can’t wait till the end of the year. You’ve got to have those constant check-ins. Take that a step further. In the first 90 days (we’re talking about those 90-day probation periods; I don’t know that I’ve ever really liked that term), but I think when people come in in the beginning of a new employment, they have a mentality of I need to understand what’s expected of me. So, they’re very open to hearing any sort of criticism. And it is perceived as constructive criticism because I’m joining your organization. I want to meet your expectations. When you don’t have those regular check-ins, especially in the beginning, and you’re not helping set expectations of that role—and maybe if it’s not the right role you need to come to that understanding for both of your sake.  

But let’say that it does have that potential and you wait and you don’t have those meetings and you don’t have those check-ins. And then six, nine months later, you’re coming back around, and you’re frustrated because the employee’s not meeting the expectations, they’re not hitting the performance goals they were supposed to. But in the employee’s mind, when you bring it around and you bring up this topic, they’re like wait a minute I’ve been here for nine months, I’ve been doing this since the first month I got here. So now it’s personal and they can’t hear you at that point. Now they’re questioning, they’re doubtful. They don’t understand your motives because it was fine up to this point. 

And with your role, mentoring and counseling our leaders, our new managers and their employees, have you seen some of that and what would your recommendations be? 

AM:  It happens more often than not, unfortunately. And I personally have taken a larger role in the onboarding process of our new hires. I know personally, for me, I’ve taken it upon myself to meet with our new hires a month after they join. I’m asking them how are they doing, is the job or the position that they’re filling is it what they expected? Because there’s a couple of reasons that team members fail, right? Obviously one of the biggest ones is they are not being managed well, there is a disconnect between what they should be doing and what they are doing. 

Another reason is that the position may not be the right fit and that’s OK. Part of being able to have these conversations and doing it on a frequent basis—whether you have weekly one-on-ones or just monthly one-on-ones—is being able to identify the fit for the position. It can be hard to have a conversation with someone to say I don’t know that this is going to be the right role for you, but we as an organization we’re going to assist you for a period of time, or we need to have a conversation about how we can exit you from the organization very amicably. And that is OK.  

But it’s not something that is actually very common. It just festers and that can create all the problems that we discussed previously, where the manager is taking on the bulk of the work because their team member can’t perform, or they’re having to correct the work, or the surrounding team is having to pick up the slack. And those are all things that you can avoid by just meeting regularly having the conversations and asking those exploratory questions. 

EF:  Wait, you mean honest conversations? (laughs) 

AM:  Honest conversations. 

EF:  I couldn’t resist! Yes, that’s what we’re talking about. You’re exactly right. It’s funny, the hard side of management is people management. As you’re coming up and you aspire to be those things in your career and whether you initially want to do it because it is an income increase— that was all important, we’ve got to feed our families, we got to take care of our families—or it’s just some personal, professional career goals, but that’s the hardest part about this.  

And the other part I would say on that is when you’re in a new role and you’re coming up within the company, as leaders we always need to be present, we need to be challenging ourselves. The weight is on us. Ultimately the responsibility is on us. BUT, I would also say we are human. Some of the times when I’ve been brought into conversations, you know, it’s OK to reach up, too, and maybe I’m not feeling it. You are exactly right. It is not easy to have that honest conversation about maybe this isn’t the right fit. But if you set the tone, that look let’s figure this out together—and fortunately I did this once in my career. It was interesting, the employee that I was talking with was really on the way out the door and we just had this come-to-Jesus meeting, if you will. And it’s like OK let’s talk about this. I don’t know if this is the right role for you but are you really giving it everything you got, let’s take this together. Let’s give the next 90 days … here’s the expectations: You give me everything you’ve got and if at the end of the 90 days we’re both on the same page and you see a career here and I’ve been able to see the performance, that’s fantastic. But along the way, if you decide this isn’t what you want to do–because I know that you’re struggling; when I have to counsel you, I see how it deflates you. I know that you’re not in your natural fit. But then I’m going to honor my commitment that says hey I’m going to help you, whether it’s I’m going to call and try to help you with some references, I’m going to see who I can reach out to. If you show me you can do the work and this is just not the right fit, then I feel comfortable putting my name behind you.  

And it’s amazing because there’s employees in my property management past, and employees within ResMan, and some of them I am very close to this day, but it’s not easy. Again, it goes back to the honest conversations. Sometimes people — we talked about this before — avoid the honest conversations, sometimes even deep down inside it’s almost more selfish, because I don’t like the way it makes me feel when I have to do it and that that’s something you certainly have to push through. Because at the end of the day, this is a business. And that’s part of that tough conversation. I can adore you as a person and think you’re fantastic, but if you can’t do what’s really needed to help move the company forward, I’m obligated to the company. I’m obligated to everyone else here. I’m obligated, as the leaders of the company, we are obligated to our customers, the business, our fellow employees. It’s not personal. I want to be here to support you personally, but I have to put the business first.  

And I think specifically with ResMan, starting where we started and how much weight we had to carry in the early days, that’s definitely been one heck of a journey. But it’s important and I think if I didn’t know that in property management, I definitely learned that in the early days of ResMan because everything was so critical, and we were wearing so many hats. We just we really couldn’t afford to have people on the team—we can’t today either–have people on the team that are not pulling their own weight, that are not “oaring” in the right direction with us, as I think we said once in a company stand-up.  

AM:  Also, you know, it goes back to the idea of radical candor, right? You mentioned it just now: care personally. Having your individual contributors know that this is an uncomfortable conversation for me to having to deliver this news or to deliver this feedback. I think if they can sense that and they know that you have their best intentions in mind and that they understand that it’s for their own good, that goes a very, very long way. 

EF:  Yeah, I would agree, I would agree. I guess that’s the hard part the people management is that  there is no—well, there’s a lot of books but I don’t know if there’s any guaranteed playbook though. There’s a lot of things you can do—but there’s no guaranteed playbook, that’s for sure. So you know, circling it back around when we were talking about the VSGM, as we call it internally, you know, we understand our strategy, we’ve set our goals, we understand what we can do, we have worked with our team members to make it clear and transparent what each person can do and what’s expected of them and how we’re going to measure it. 

Recognition 

EF:  But I think another aspect that we didn’t talk about that I want to circle back to is what happens when they do hit all of those goals and we are moving the company forward in the right direction and, as I jokingly said a second ago, everybody is “oaring” in the right direction and we’re making progress. I think how we acknowledge and recognize our team members is so important and I know you’re a huge champion of this. You have come up with many creative ideas over the years and have pictures for some of them, I’m pretty sure, based on what you’ve shared with me recently. And anybody who is at ResMan who knows what the ResMan orange tie is will know exactly what that’s in reference to. 

AM:  We’ve come a long way. So it’s exciting to talk about recognition because we just talked about some tough conversations, right, those honest tough conversation. But a good, positive, exciting honest conversation is when they’re doing an awesome job. At Resman, one of the things that I love is our commitment to those shout-outs. And getting it from peers is awesome, getting it from your leader or your supervisor is just incredible. The feeling that you get is just indescribable when you get a shout out, especially when it’s in front of other people, especially when it’s in front of the entire organization, which is something that we do at Resman.  

But it’s also something that we don’t do enough of, right? We don’t do enough recognition. I think it’s very important that our team members know just as when they’re not doing well, they need to know when they are doing well. Not only because it is good for their self-esteem and feeling like they belong and then getting to that point of self-actualization in their role, but it also can lend itself to training opportunities for others on their team and it helps with growth in their own career. If they’re doing something well, they get a shout out and then their leader says hey why don’t you train the other people in your group to do what you did and share with them how you did this? And that’s even better than getting a shout-out. 

EF:  Yes, I completely agree. I love our shout-outs, too. I wish we were back in person to do them which, hopefully we will be again soon. But I love that, how creative we’ve gotten with utilizing our virtual platform that we do our stand-ups on. And one of the things I’ve noticed is how engaged people are with the clapping.  

AM:  Yes.  

EF:  Because you don’t want to take yourself off mute to clap, but these little virtual clapping things that they are now doing, oh my gosh, we’re wearing those out. I love it. 

AM:  The virtual clap and the chat feature within a Teams meeting or even Slack or Zoom is awesome. I know you know when we used to be in person, I loved the applause and the shouting. You know when we first started doing these virtual meetings, with our weekly stand-ups—we call it ResMunch, which is a once-a-month company lunch—and it was hard for me because I didn’t feel that connection, the connection and the liveliness of the group. It was there all along and so I’m glad that there are ways now that you can really feel the love and I don’t ever want it to stop. I want to continue giving our team member shout-outs.  

The other thing, too, is that you don’t have to invest a lot of money into recognition and awards and things like that. There are so many organizations out there that that’s their priority, to sell recognition platforms and creating social platforms for the business. And while those are wonderful—and we utilize Awardco, which is a wonderful platform—the easiest thing to do is just ask for an email, right? Ask for a message. Ask someone to send you a message so you can share those shout-outs. It does not have to be an expensive venture, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. We’ve done things related to our organization where our mascot Roy wore a tie, so we created a tie program. We’ve given out acrylic tiles for promotions and things like that, but I think when it all comes back, people just want to know, and they want to be heard. They want to feel like they belong in an organization. So, words means so, so much, and I think mean even more than a tchotchke or a thing that you can take home at the end of the day. 

EF:  Yeah, and, again, this goes back to honest conversations. It’s a lot easier to have honest conversations and for an employee to believe you care about their success and you’re dedicated to seeing and for providing them an opportunity to do their best when you acknowledge when they’re doing their best. If there’s one advice, like you said, we can all work on, it’s this. We can, at Resman, I’m sure others can, too, if they really take a step back when you are so buried and there is so much work and especially when you go from a startup scaleup to high growth mode like we’ve been in here, I look up and I swear it’s not just 8 hours … like I don’t know how the sun was up and now it’s down, right? And you don’t even realize that much time has gone by. But you’ve got to look up, whether it’s virtually or in person, and you’ve got to look for what’s being done right. Because I think what happens is, we get too ingrained into what we’re all doing individually and so then the only time that you, unfortunately, maybe see something is because it’s the opposite. Something has come up, something isn’t going right. And if that’s all you ever acknowledged, then you’re going to deflate and demotivate your teams incredibly quickly. Because it’s not fair to them and it’s not warranted. Because there’s, like I said, there’s a book about it—The One-Minute Manager is the one I’m thinking of—that if you take the time every day to look for something being done right, you will see something done right. And I think sometimes we just lose sight of that. 

AM:  The worker’s greatest motivation is the ability to succeed, right? And it is their success, so let’s empower them. Let’s give them that feedback and encourage their success. And they will continue right on that path. 

Time Off 

EF:  One of the things that I love that we have done is have a very flexible time-off policy. You’ve been talking about this internally, that we know the last 12 months have been incredibly difficult. Not only do we have our own challenges in the organization in response to the pandemic, but we know our team members faced personal loss, unfortunately, so many of our team members. That was a difficult situation and I think a lot of people wanted to lose themselves in work. I know I did. You only can take so much of it on the news and so you wanted to dive in. And we wanted to encourage people to step away. Maybe they couldn’t go about the country, you know, like Southwest Airlines likes to say, not then, anyway, but they weren’t taking the time off. We were noticing this and, while we appreciated that productivity was off the charts, it was taking, it does take a toll. You have to unplug.  

And I know that you know, we have these ongoing—I’m going to say this incorrectly, we have one coming up next Friday, where we’re basically helping our teams unplug by what we call the ResMan holidays or the … 

AM:  ResMan Recharge. 

EF:  ResMan Recharge—forgive me for that, but the ResMan Recharge is such a cool idea and people take advantage of it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have seen them schedule off, right?  And so, kudos to the leadership team and I know you were helping spearhead that. And we still, to this day, see that for those of you out there considering a flexible time-off policy, when you have the clear entrance, the clear, transparent goals, and they know what they need to achieve so that they can get their recognition and, potentially, merit increases at the end of their year, what we’re seeing is people still want to get the job done. And so even though we have the flexible time-off policy, we don’t see people really taking advantage of it. There’s no abuse of it. It’s really been surprising what we’ve seen, so I would say for those organizations out there that are considering it, you probably have a misconception about what it will actually be. If you have the right team members, which I think we do, you’ll still need to force them to… we have to designate time that is not your standard national holidays to have our wonderful team members unplug occasionally. 

AM:  And you’re seeing this all across at least the tech industry. And it may be more difficult for our site leaders, the people who work onsite, but being able to have a little bit more flexibility is so important. And I think that’s part of the evolution that we’re a part of right now. We are part of a transformation of the workforce. And so, as we continue to move forward, I believe that people will continue to work longer and harder hours every day, but it needs to be tempered with this ability and the feeling like I am able to take off without what we call Resman FOMO, which is the fear of missing out. And it happens in every organization, so our responsibility as leaders is to continue to normalize taking time off and to continue to promote taking time off by taking time off ourselves, as leaders. And it doesn’t often happen, so as an organization, I think it’s important, yeah, for me … I’m taking my first vacation, my first time away in over a year and I’m nervous about it. It’s going to be very weird to not be in my office at in my home working so … 

EF:  Well, if it makes you feel better, I will personally keep notes so that you do not have a fear of missing out when you get back. I will personally go over everything that happened. 

AM:  And that’s a good point: It’s also the leadership’s responsibility to know that their team member is out. So if they can avoid sending a message, if they can avoid sending an email and maybe just have a recap afterwards. I know that it is almost physically impossible to do that, but the less that we contact team members who are out on vacation, the more that they will have a chance to relax. So, I recommend doing that, as well, when your team member’s out, is to try to avoid reaching out to them. 

EF:  It’s another subject, but one of the things you brought up was thinking about the site level and because, again, being a true partner, and the passion we have for the industry in multifamily and affordable housing in general, is how do we help our frontline teams? And I was thinking about this because I was listening to a seminar yesterday through the National Multi -Housing Council and the guest speaker was talking about how women in the workplace have taken a huge step backwards through the pandemic because they are the caregivers. And where it’s not just nurturing our children, now it’s the caregivers for the family members.  

And there’s a lot of concern about what that’s going to look like going forward. I know within our organization, with our flexible policy, we definitely try to lead by example and hopefully our teams know that we want you to take care of your family. We found ways to be very flexible with our teams, but I think I would challenge our base of customers to think about that one day, that somebody doesn’t have to come in, and maybe they can work remotely. That time out of traffic, having breakfast with your kids, having lunch with your kids, having a zoom meeting with Maggie on your lap—who’s my favorite small coworker—I think that that also is an important part of recognition and sense of belonging in a company. 

AM:  It’s all about care personally. Showing your team members, personally showing your team members hey you can come in late. I understand, you know, take the morning. You’re covered. Those little senses of and nods are about recognition. They’re about that care personally and it gives them that sense of belonging. And it goes all the way back to having their basic needs met, right? I shouldn’t feel guilty or feel like my job is at risk for taking time off. It is there to use. And it just lends itself all the way up to getting to that point of self-actualization. 

EF:  Awesome. Well, that’s a great thing to end on. Alright guys. Well, thank you for joining us today. And we hope that you will take that step back and think about how you’re working with your teams and how to empower them to be their very best and put their success ahead of yours. And your company will be on an inevitable path to success. 

Thanks for listening to the first episode of PropTalk. We hope you enjoyed this episode and that you’ll join us again next time. Be sure to subscribe to PropTalk on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or whatever you use to get your podcasts. 

To learn more about ResMan’s property management platform and get more insight into the multifamily ecosystem, visit myresman.com

Property Management: Leveraging Resident Fees as Ancillary Income

With the country full-speed ahead on its pandemic recovery, there are many ways to define the new normal and offer what to do about it. 

Here’s my take: It’s time to restore your pre-Covid resident fee schedule. Many suspended parts of it – and for good reason – during the pandemic as the country’s economy struggled. 

The hangover effect of the pandemic is leveling off. Job creation is healthy. Wages are rising from the competitive demand for labor. Today, even struggling gateway cities are seeing boosts in rents and occupancy. In fact, our data is suggesting that we are not only seeing rent growth come back, double digit growth in some regions.  Interesting that ancillary revenue has not bounced back at the same rate.   

Typically, 7 to 9 percent of effective rent comes from ancillary income. It can be higher. Restoring your resident fees and even adding new ones will help to revive your NOI.  

Reinstate Resident Fees

The market is well into recovery at this point, and so should your fee collections.  Economic challenges are still lingering in many areas to be sure to evaluate where the asset is located when you reinstate fees.   Don’t assume that your competition is charging what they use to, as with all things you need to know what the market will bear, so do shops the comps.     

Take this advice to heart:  

Figure out what’s important to your residents and come up with ways to monetize it. 

The biggest no-brainer is to focus more on residents with pets. Don’t underestimate the value of pets. We have seen record numbers of adoptions across the country and many residents welcomed in new pets during the pandemic.  The U.S. Pet Market Outlook Report 2021-2022 reported that retail sales of pet products and services reached $107 billion in 2020, up 9% over 2019, due largely to a COVID-19 driven spike in the pet population.  

Residents are more emotionally attached to their pets than ever. People are willing to pay whatever it takes to keep their pets as part of their family.  

Re-evaluate your breed and weight restrictions and with that your fee deposit and pet rent.  Offer pet engagement activities for a fee. Provide mobile pet services. Offer pet clinics and grooming services, along with the standard pet fees and deposits as part of your lease.   In years past, we have seen communities set up a mini store for convenience store items, why not work with a retailer to have cat and dog items for purchase.  

multifamily-cta

Try It, You’ll Like It 

Another idea: Continue things that worked for you (and that your residents loved) that were offered during the pandemic. 

Did you offer classes in alcoholic beverage mixology? Host wine tasting parties? Cooking classes? Don’t be afraid to continue these events if they worked the first time. Regional managers need to give their onsite staff members the confidence to execute them. Remember: People will pay for value. 

Some more: Have you done a deal with your popular, local food trucks? Identify the best ones in your neighborhood and arrange for a revenue share with the truck owner. 

It can’t hurt to create fees for VIP parking, package concierge services, scooter rentals, mobile car detailing and premium fees for convenience-based services. 

 Here are the numbers: 

For a 270-unit garden-style community, with $1,318 in average monthly rent and $2.5 million in annual net operating income, the impact of even small fee increases is significant. Think of it like this:  

$5 per month, adds $270,000 in property value. 

$15 per month adds $810,000. 

$50 per month adds $2.7 million. 

We’re in a period now where there’s no better time for businesses to latch onto the economic recovery – and that can happen in your apartment community. 

ResMan Acquires Investor Deal Room

ResMan Acquires Investor Deal Room 

Acquisition Adds Investor Management Capabilities to ResMan’s Full-Featured Property Management Platform   

ResMan®, a leading property management SaaS platform provider, today announces that it has acquired Investor Deal Room, an investor portal and investor management SaaS solution that helps real estate syndicators automate investor subscriptions and improve reporting, communication and transparency with investors. This acquisition continues ResMan’s focus on providing property management companies with the technology solutions they need to grow and operate their businesses more efficiently.  

“Managing relationships with investors is a critical aspect of business operations for many of our customers and we’re excited to add this capability to our offering,” said Paul Bridgewater, ResMan CEO. “Investor Deal Room aligns so well with ResMan’s focus because the technology is powerful, yet easy to use so it drives efficiency and cost savings around raising capital and communicating with investors.” 

Investor Deal Room offers the multifamily industry an alternative to traditional investor management platforms – one that is full-featured, intuitive and easy to use for both fundraisers and investors. The solution supports all phases of the investment lifecycle – from marketing a new investment opportunity to onboarding investors, receiving capital, storing documents, providing updates and managing distributions.  

“ResMan’s focus on helping property management companies increase efficiency and facilitate growth with innovative property management capabilities aligns really well with what Investor Deal Room is doing for the investor management side of the business,” said Josiah Mann, Investor Deal Room CEO. “Now as part of ResMan’s offering, Investor Deal Room customers will have access to a much broader set of innovative business management capabilities and ResMan customers will benefit from an investor management solution that will help them manage deals more efficiently and support their investors with a seamless experience throughout the deal cycle.”  

ResMan will continue to market, sell, develop, operate, and support Investor Deal Room as a brand and SaaS solution separate from the ResMan platform. Those interested in learning more about Investor Deal Room can register for a webinar being held on Tuesday, June 29th at 2pm CT.  

ResMan Named a National Apartment Association Best Place to Work

ResMan®, a leading property management SaaS platform provider, today announced The National Apartment Association (NAA) named the company a winner of the 2021 NAA Best Places to Work award program. Through this award, the NAA identifies member organizations that encourage employee engagement and performance and foster collaborative and innovative work environments. The award pays tribute to employees and their hard work, which directly contributes to the success of suppliers, management companies and the rental housing industry. ResMan won the coveted spot in the Medium Sized Company – Supplier category.  

“We are proud to be a valuable part of the rental housing industry and honored that our commitment to our employees and their hard work is recognized. This award is really a recognition of how deeply our team is committed to one another and to putting our customers first so they can focus on the communities they serve,” says Paul Bridgewater, CEO, ResMan. “Thanks, too, to the NAA for the unwavering support, resources and guidance they provide the industry day in and day out. We are proud to be a supporting partner of the NAA.” 

“Congratulations to ResMan for building an organization focused on employee engagement and performance,” said Bob Pinnegar, NAA President and CEO. “Your employees made it clear — ResMan is a great place to work that cares about, listens to and acts upon the needs and ideas of their employees. Congratulations to the entire team.” 

Winners were determined based on scores gathered from a Net Promoter Scores (NPS)-based employee satisfaction survey, launched as part of the awards program. Employees themselves determine where their organization ranks, providing employers with valuable, firsthand feedback about their workplace. 

Resident Retention Tips: Your Best Response to Curbing Resident Move-Outs

Proactive Ways to Improve Resident Retention

You and your residents have been through an awful lot the past year. Many of them have been facing difficult situations personally, in their living arrangements and financially. Fortunately, well managed communities and their staffs have been with them every step of the way. 

This is something worth reminding them when it comes time to renew. 

Retention can and should be more than just reporting on renewed leases; your software should allow employees to chronicle activities by its staff members at the individual resident level that improve resident satisfaction. 

Is the past year a blur? Probably. Residents might only remember what’s been happening with them since that morning, or maybe just the past week. So, it’s important for your team track all those positive moments. 

Imagine. While on a service call, the maintenance tech notices a beeping smoke detector so they go ahead and take care of it much to the resident’s delight. Or maybe on the walk to the office, an onsite team member helps a resident clear snow on their windshield or help them manage packages. 

I know, these kinds of nice deeds happen all the time, but wouldn’t it be great if what your employees did to make their residents’ lives more pleasant was recorded in your property management software instead of being written on a note that was left in a drawer in the office somewhere and forgotten? 

When it comes time for residents to renew, have that documentation out and ready to show them. Not in an obnoxious way, but as a reminder. Residents often forget all the little things you might have done for them. 

During this past 15 months, you’ve built up a lot of emotional credit with them. 

This is a simple thing. It works. And while tracking these types of events, if the onsite team notices that some residents’ “good deed” files are empty, then those are the residents you should target. Look for ways to engage with them and to do something special. Really, retention efforts start the minute they first walk into their new apartment. 

This is something worth reminding them when it comes time to renew. 

Retention can and should be more than just reporting on renewed leases; your software should allow employees to chronicle activities by its staff members at the individual resident level that improve resident satisfaction. 

Is the past year a blur? Probably. Residents might only remember what’s been happening with them since that morning, or maybe just the past week. So, it’s important for your team track all those positive moments. 

Imagine. While on a service call, the maintenance tech notices a beeping smoke detector so they go ahead and take care of it much to the resident’s delight. Or maybe on the walk to the office, an onsite team member helps a resident clear snow on their windshield or help them manage packages. 

I know, these kinds of nice deeds happen all the time, but wouldn’t it be great if what your employees did to make their residents’ lives more pleasant was recorded in your property management software instead of being written on a note that was left in a drawer in the office somewhere and forgotten? 

When it comes time for residents to renew, have that documentation out and ready to show them. Not in an obnoxious way, but as a reminder. Residents often forget all the little things you might have done for them. 

During this past 15 months, you’ve built up a lot of emotional credit with them. 

This is a simple thing. It works. And while tracking these types of events, if the onsite team notices that some residents’ “good deed” files are empty, then those are the residents you should target. Look for ways to engage with them and to do something special. Really, retention efforts start the minute they first walk into their new apartment. 

A Fresh Look at Four Walls 

When trying to make up for move-outs, it’s too easy to just try to buy occupancy. You don’t have to. During my property management days, our goal was a 60 percent retention rate. That’s high, but it was our bar. If we fell behind, we’d know it and try to fix it. Dropping rents does not have to be the answer. 

Some say, during good times, if you’re 98 percent occupied, your rents are too low. But wait: You can be 98 percent occupied and also lead your market in rent if you do everything right. You have to remember that this is your residents’ biggest investment. It’s the place they call home. Doing the little things will add up to make that difference. 

In 2021, we could see big swings when it comes to year-over-year numbers. Many residents, at this point, are sick of staring at their same four walls and will want to move. 

When you meet with them, ask them what you can do for them. Don’t underestimate the emotional credit they help to build between you and your residents now – after everything you’ve both been through the past year. 

If you listen to what it is about their apartment home that has become stale in their eyes you might stumble upon ways to improve the environment.   Be supportive by offering alternatives to another month looking at those walls. Offer them a new environment. It might mean suggesting that they move to a different apartment in your community, or to a nearby sister community.  

Maybe there are some furniture discounts you can offer so they can make a few changes in their place. You have to get creative.  Maybe they want a view that is a little greener, so you let them pick from a catalog of patio plant options, plants that not only enhance their home they can take them with them.  If they now office from home, and are using their only bedroom due to space, you could purchase a murphy bed (a nice one not the cheapest one) that makes the room multifunctional but with space.  You can save money when you set up a corporate account with suppliers like wayfair.com.  

At the same time, you also have to do the math based on if you are a short-term property holder or a long-term one.  Incurring the turn and remarketing expense in the current year for a marginal effective rent increase could be the right call if you are looking to position the asset and need the rent growth.  If you are planning a long-term hold, getting a marginal rent increase but avoiding the turn and remarketing expense could be the right call for your cash management.  

If you budgeted for flatlined rent growth or a slight increase by unit type, now is the time to start paying close attention to your value propositions and the demand for individual units. No two units are exactly the same; otherwise, they would have the same unit number on the door. 

So, utilize unit-level demand and occupancy reporting to identify rent growth opportunities at the unit level. 

Your software should provide you with real-time visibility into the retention efforts along with rent growth analysis and forecasting at the unit type and the unit level.    

Good news: ResMan can help with this. 

Managing Lease Expirations More Than One Month at a Time

Managing Lease Expirations

When it comes to lease expirations, the need to look more than 90 days out is crucial. Disregard for long-range lease expiration planning can result in a financially destructive situation for well-intended apartment property management teams. 

While revenue management software is a valuable tool in this process, having your leasing staff address lease expiration on a regular basis eases the anxiety that can come from an unnecessary sense of urgency created to fill vacancies at any cost. 

Historical leasing cycles changed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Our normal spring cycle was delayed by two to three months and it extended well into the fall, leaving the industry to question what leasing cycles will look like going forward. 

Coming soon: These adjusted cycles will affect forecasting. Even more, they will make expirations from last year’s lease-ups more demanding. 

Your 2020 actuals are both different and unique, and you can’t really use them for comparative basis in 2021. As for 2022, and it is too soon to know if it’s a safe assumption that you’ll be tracking back in line with 2018-2019 trends. 

Right now, you cannot afford to have a “set-it-and-forget-about-it” lease management strategy. Once you have determined the approach most suitable for lease management at your communities, you need technology to help you to execute your plan and to ensure compliance by the site staff. 

ResMan is here to help with that. 

Our property management software was designed during the height of the Great Recession to help operators navigate down market and aid in long-term planning to create more predictable revenue flows and maintain occupancy.  Our software worked for us when we needed it most, and ResMan can help achieve your financial goals today. 

Leasing Trends

We started seeing in our customer base as 2020 progressed that there was an unusually high number of month-to-month leases at their properties, many of which were carried through into the new year.  Traditional retention rates dropped from a lease term perspective; however, residents were staying in their apartment homes, and it was much because of uncertainty about health and safety, the economy, federal support programs and their own employment. 

We are well into what is considered a seasonal leasing cycle without fully understanding what the emerging trends will on the backend.   What will retention rates look like for 2021 as hold over month-to-months may be ready to make long-term decisions.  How do you balance the leasing activity while not losing sight of the long-term impact to occupancy and rent growth?    

How to Develop an Effective Lease Expiration Management Plan

The key to your asset’s financial stability and ability to make up lost margins could lie in your lease management plan.  

We learned the hard way about the impact of not having a lease management plan during the 1990s – before revenue management was developed – when a lot of communities didn’t manage lease expirations well.   I personally learned my lesson from a group of lease-up communities I was responsible for filling up.   They were in lease-up, and back then, it was all about filling that property up! But there was not much thought beyond that in terms of how to maintain it as a stabilized community. 

In one Dallas property, we had 200 leases expiring over an April to August period.  The property also faced competition from a new development across the street.  Assuming a 50 percent renewal rate, that could have and did result in just over 100 apartments that the site team had to lease and turn in three months.    The property didn’t have the marketing budget we had during lease-up and faced increasing expenses compared to a brand-new community.  That was really a wake-up call. 

From that day forward we had a well-developed lease expiration management plan, and eventually a great set of features in the ResMan Platform to help you develop and manage your plan.   A good lease expiration plan goes beyond tracking and reporting on lease expirations, it is proactive and positions the property, the specific unit types and the team for success.  

Every time our team met about what we were doing, it wasn’t only about that day, it was about how what we do will affect things 30-60-90 days from now. And when they achieve their leasing goals through this hard work, you’ve got to reward them for it. 

Having that kind of mindset put us at ease and helped us avoid lease expiration pile-up and instead drive ahead in an efficient and on a more predictable and profitable road ahead.  Controlling how and when units are available in the market, provides you the opportunity to maximize the rent potential and creates organic sense of urgency for the leasing staff and prosects to lease the units. The last thing you want is to be forced into displaying an unusually high number of a particular unit type (such as one-bedroom apartments) on your community website and ILS listings. If you do, that’s a red flag for prospects about whether they want to lease with you. 

Does revenue management help with this? Yes. But you can handle it without revenue management – it just takes more time and more work and the desire to learn. 

This is the time to teach your staff about pricing. They shouldn’t just be blindly offering whatever the revenue management software says you should that day.