PropTalk: Are you Operationally Prepared to Make the Most of this Leasing Cycle? Ft. Kelli Dowdney

Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Multifamily trailblazer and Director of Strategic Operations and Support for INDIO Management, Kelli Dowdney to discuss the importance of preparedness during leasing season and what she thinks sets a company up for success.

Kelli Dowdney has been a leader, trainer, mentor, and passionate speaker for the Multi-Family Industry for over 25 years, starting her career as a PT Leasing consultant while she attended Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.

After graduating with a double BA in Marketing and Management, with a minor in Finance, Kelli quickly moved through all onsite positions and into a variety of corporate positions. These included National Training Specialist, Regional Manager, Regional Vice President, VP of Marketing, and Vice President of Operations. Kelli’s strategic approach to operations focuses on effectively communicating target KPIs, providing the training and resources needed, empowering teams to execute their business plans and then measuring/adjusting. She has a unique skillset to push platforms and workflows to their highest efficiencies and is grounded by her process driven solutions. Kelli is passionate about collaboration, leadership development and vision casting. She is considered to be a powerful source of inspiration, taking every opportunity to impact the hearts and careers of those around her.

Kelli currently lives in Allen, Tx. Kelli is blessed with 2 children, Brayden and Bradleigh, through adoption and is very active in several adoption ministries and in her church. She is an avid Western Equestrian, having started competing at the young age of 3, and still owns several Quarter Horses and rides often. She is also a trained classical pianist and modern vocalist, with a history in musical theater. Connect with her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellidowdney/

About ResMan: ResMan delivers the property management industry’s most innovative technology platform, making property investments and operations more profitable and easier to manage. ResMan’s platform unlocks a new path to growth for property management companies that deliver consistent NOI improvement and brilliant resident experiences easier than ever before. To learn more about our platform, visit https://learn.myresman.com/proptalk/.

Introducing ResMan Utilities Powered by AMS

This week we’re pleased to announce an even deeper integration with AMS Billing and introduce ResMan Utilities powered by AMS. ResMan Utilities offers property owners and managers much better control over utility spending and can also help increase NOI by properly allocating utility usage for each resident. You can let AMS Billing handle all the paperwork and they can then update the ResMan resident ledger with the utility costs to be paid with their rent. Water is one of the bigger costs and also a cost that can be difficult to recover…costing your property hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost revenue. ResMan Utilities powered by AMS can take care of the guesswork and implement a solution that works best for you and your property, including… 

Utility Billing Services 

RUBS (Ratio Utility Billing System): considers number of residents and square footage 

Wireless sub-meter read: resident is billed for exact usage 

Invoice Processing 

Auto electronic import of any utility bill (water, sewer, trash, gas, etc) 

AMS organizes outstanding bills in the dashboard for management

VUCR (Vacant Unit Cost Recovery) 

AMS compares move-in/move-out info to the electric bill to find cases of new residents not switching utilities to their name in a timely manner 

Also finds cases of residents taking utility out of their name too early 

Included with Invoice Processing 

If you’re looking for a way to better manage your utilities, recover costs, and save time; be sure to check out ResMan Utilities powered by AMS today. 

Rental Housing Recruiting: Filling Job Vacancies for the Long Run in a Turnover-Heavy Industry 

The rental housing industry is already familiar with a high turnover rate for their frontline employees. But the Great Resignation has exacerbated the problem even more, causing properties to struggle when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. There are many reasons for this increase in resignations, however, Millennials and Gen Z seem to be leading the way with asks of better work-life balance, higher pay, and feeling more valued in their work. 

The cost of turnover is already an expensive one. So, to have turnover increase while job vacancies stay open for long periods of time must mean it’s also time for the rental housing industry to take a hard look at their recruiting practices to fill these losses. However, with job vacancies still open, the focus is on finding and recruiting the right hires. The solutions aren’t cut and dry, but there are adjustments that can help do a better job of hiring the right people as well as being a great employer for your teams. 

Employer Brand 

Your employer brand matters. All things considered in the current job market, people are looking for an employer who is active, who cares for their employees, and who will set them up for success in their career. With that in mind, it’s important to display those qualities online and in your business.  

From a digital standpoint, focus on the places these candidates will visit first. Your website, for example, is a great start for you to exemplify who you are as an employer. Whether this be on the “About Us” page or the “Careers” page, there should be more than just features of your leadership team. Showcase the people at the company supporting that leadership to give potential employees the chance to envision themselves at properties, too. 

The Careers page is also a great spot to display the perks or benefits of working for your company. These can be both quantitative and qualitative perks, from 401(k) and health insurance plans to flexible PTO or paid-for lunches. 

LinkedIn is another platform highly recommended for finding and connecting with potential employees and employers. With banners in profiles saying #LookingForWork and easy job postings, finding candidates can be a lot smoother on LinkedIn.  

However, there are many companies, especially in property management, who haven’t touched their LinkedIn company pages since LinkedIn first launched – and it shows. Yet, LinkedIn is one of the main sources for job hirings to date. LinkedIn’s company pages highlight who the company is as a whole, who works there to date and their roles, as well as hosted job descriptions and openings for anyone to see. 

It’s also a simple way to check out your candidates, whether through a recruiter or own your own. You can instantly see their resume, recommendations by colleagues, accomplishments, and lists of their hard and soft skills. 

Glassdoor is another great way to keep up your employee brand. While it has it’s bad rap of being a venting session for former and current employees, responding to those reviews with the facts and a response that validates their experience (“I hear you, we are looking into how to do better”) gives the appeal to future employees that you listen and care about their problems in every day work life. And yes, most candidates read Glassdoor reviews. 

Retention-Centered Recruiting 

If you’re looking to recruit someone top talent who will also stay long term at your company, there are two kinds of lenses to put on: the employee and the employer. Putting on the employee lens, remember what motivates people and inspires them to work somewhere. What other things do people look for in a job besides benefits and paychecks? 

Relationship-building During Recruiting 

People want to feel as if they are connected and have purpose and value at their job. So one of the best ways to establish that is creating a relationship during the hiring process. At ResMan, we’ve seen remarkable success in having our recruiter follow up with candidates between interviews, asking how the interviews went, answering questions, and giving validation for hesitations or excitement about a position. This goes for candidates who don’t end up being hired and onboarded, as well.  

This relationship helps people feel valued and considered as they’re making career decisions and ultimately, that same validation instills confidence in candidates about how well they will be supported if they come to work for you. Not to mention, even if a candidate is not the right fit, that great first impression will be a motivation to refer others in their network. 

It’s also important to check in with the diversity at your property. Are there pathways for minorities to move up and does that reflect in your offices? You’re interviewing with all kinds of top talent who also have all kinds of backgrounds, and this requires embodying a business that supports the growth of all people at your company. Candidates are more likely to feel confident about you as an employer when they can envision themselves working hard and moving up in the company, just like their peers. Make sure your level of diversity at the property will welcome all candidates. You will see more applications and talent show up. 

Hiring the right fit 

As you are recruiting talent across the board, you want to hire a candidate who has drive, skills, and talent and will be able to support you as the employer. A bad hire can cost much more overall. So how do you figure out the difference during the hiring process? 

We recommend having a hiring committee created by you as the employer. This hiring committee could be diverse positions in the company that might work closely with this role on a day-to-day basis. Consider creating a collaborative scorecard, listing must-have skills and desired skills. List out soft skills that would potentially be a positive contribution in these positions. 

Creating a scorecard to make note of both critical skills and intangibles with personal notes from interviews can be a wonderful way for the hiring committee to come together and compare before offering a position to the candidate. This helps lower the risk of missing any overlooked qualities that could impact their performance or ability to work at the property. It can also validate and establish consistency for any positive qualities seen by multiple committee members in a candidate. 

It’s also great to consider multi-stage interviews to gather the necessary information in the hiring process. Your first interviews can be done by the hiring committee where you focus more on the qualification of the candidates critical skills, but we encourage taking a different approach for a final interview. 

At ResMan, we include a final stage interview with HR, where we ask questions about the candidate as a person and their character. You might ask questions like, “When was a time in your previous roles where you delighted a customer?” or “Where was a time you and your team had a problem and you contributed to a solution?” to better understand their how they would handle common situations at your property. 

End the interview by asking what they’re passionate about, as this also can give you insight as to what motivates these candidates outside of their job. You’d be surprised at how those answers can connect back to their potential role at your property. 

All in all, recruiting isn’t a process to be taken lightly, especially now. Even with leasing season ahead, be thorough and tactical about how your approach to filling open positions. That investment will come back to you in time and money saved from constant turnover. 

PropTalk: How Management Companies Can Recruit and Retain Talent During the Great Resignation Part 2

Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Amanda Mabrey, Director of People & Culture at ResMan and Gregory Knight, People & Culture Generalist at ResMan to discuss today’s challenge of trying to retain talent. With the Great Resignation, more and more properties are struggling to keep employees long term. Gregory and Amanda share their insights as to how properties can more effectively decrease their turnover and give employees a long-lasting career at their properties.

To learn more about ResMan’s product, book a demo with us.

PropTalk: How Management Companies Can Recruit and Retain Talent During the Great Resignation Part 1

Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Amanda Mabrey, Director of People & Culture at ResMan and Gregory Knight, People & Culture Generalist at ResMan to discuss today’s challenge of trying to recruit talent. With the Great Resignation, more and more properties are struggling to fill job vacancies as they head into leasing season. Gregory and Amanda share their insights as to how properties can more effectively recruit without compromising quality in the hiring process.

To learn more about ResMan’s product, book a demo with us.

ResMan Gets Ready for NAA Advocate 2022

On March 8-9th, 2022, the National Apartment Association (NAA) will be hosting their annual NAA Advocate conference, which gives members of NAA a chance to vocalize key issues within property management and the rental housing industry with legislators.  

When we started ResMan, I wanted to make sure that everyone in our company understood that we are part of the housing industry, what impacts our customers, their investors and their renters impacts us as well. As part of doing our part, ResMan team members will be joining other NAA members throughout the country in meeting with their Congressmen and women to address rental housing concerns where legislation could be of help.  

Conversations will be focused around the fourteen key issues that NAA lists on their website. This affords members and frontline workers to share their story at the national level to better advocate for themselves and their residents on both micro and macro levels.   

The conference features keynote speakers, Q and A sessions, educational discussions on emerging policy issues and a briefing on what to address during visits with Congress.  

To better understand priorities for Advocate 2022, we sat down with Jason Simon, Director of Government Affairs at the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas. In our discussion with Jason, we found 3 key issues stood out for members and others in the property management industry. We’ve listed some details so you can better prepare for your conversations. 

YIMBY Act  

The “Yes In My Back Yard” Act legislation would remove barriers to housing development and help address the nation’s housing affordability crisis. Specifically, it would encourage localities to eliminate discriminatory land use policies and remove barriers that prevent needed housing from being built around the country by requiring Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients to report periodically on the extent to which they are removing discriminatory land use policies and implementing inclusive and affordable housing options.  Reducing regulations and administrative barriers present in local jurisdictions could dramatically boost housing affordability in the U.S. Lawmakers need to push YIMBY through.  

Despite bipartisan support for the YIMBY Act, lawmakers have delayed moving this forward. The NIMBY Act (Not In My Back Yard) has created limited supply and an overwhelming demand in rental housing. Most who back the NIMBY Act have complete misconceptions of the rental housing industry and see apartment building as a threat to their cities. With inflation and rising gas prices, metropolitan cities are suffering on the outskirts as there is lack of affordable rental housing and commutes are now considered just as expensive as renting. 

Section 8 Housing Voucher Program 

The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program is a voluntary program NAA has long supported. While it is one of the most successful rental subsidy programs, many members are asking for changes and reforms to the fifty-year-old program. The program itself could use a face lift and aim toward a more user-friendly benefit for landlords. There is legislation which would essentially incentivize more landlords to use the program and cut back the red tape on regulations.  

NAA has a great chart for their members showing the standard leasing process versus the Section 8 process. The most noticeable difference is how much more streamlined conventional leasing is compared to affordable. This is where effective legislative changes could drastically improve the use of the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program across the country. The composed legislation suggests changes and reforms such as: 

  • Awarding incentive payments to housing providers that are new participants or operate in high-volume areas  
  • A mitigation fund so owners can better manage repairs and damages  
  • Establishing inspection reciprocity to allow owners and operators already subject to other inspection protocols to satisfy HCV (Housing Choice Voucher) requirements 
  • A landlord liaison to support landlords during the Section 8 process 

Eviction Moratoriums  

Members of NAA are speaking up to lawmakers regarding the CARES Act and Eviction Moratoriums. Though the CARES Act was passed with bipartisan support in March 2020, many saw this as a temporary solution to prevent an unprecedented economic disaster during COVID-19. Two years later, the eviction moratorium was extended and properties covered under the CARES Act are still required to give 30-day notices for evictions. This can cause problems for properties upon arriving in court. 

As Jason Simon explains, “The reality of it is, if you don’t give that notice and you go into JP court, file your eviction, you’re before the judge, the judge is going to ask you, ‘Are you covered under the CARES Act?’ If you say you’re not covered and you are covered, your case could be dismissed and that’s the end result. The problem is that [30-day notice requirement] should have expired with the 120-day eviction moratorium. It was temporary, it was ‘Let’s get through the pandemic, until we have vaccines and rental assistance and get rid of it.’ But the 30-day notice to vacate is still in place and there’s no end date. So, it will not end until legislators end it.”  

NAA members are asking lawmakers to sunset the federal eviction moratorium to halt the destabilization of the rental housing market. The moratorium has restricted property owners’ ability to pay mortgages, salaries, property taxes, maintenance and utilities, ultimately putting many properties into jeopardy and out of business. Small businesses have been especially hard hit. But the answer isn’t just to end the moratorium, since the moratorium has led some renters to accumulate debt that they will be unable to pay when the moratorium ends. Instead, NAA members will be advocating for a clear end date to the moratorium AND for Congress  to offer increased rental assistance to allow renters that have been unable to pay some or all of their rent during the moratorium to catch up on rent payments and remain in their homes. 

For more information on the NAA’s advocacy, visit the policy section of the NAA website, check out the federal legislative tracker or find information about active legislation in your state through the state legislative tracker

See you on Capitol Hill! 

Electronic Documents: Why Affordable Housing Is Behind and How to Solve It

It’s hard to believe that many Affordable Housing properties are still using paper-based filing systems. With paper filing comes a lot of unnecessary risk. Think about if your property were to experience a fire, flood or any other natural disaster that would result in the loss of documents. There would be no backup or chance of retrieving important files. It’s not just an unexpected disaster that can cause problems. Human errors occur every day and can contribute to the loss of files which is why filing cabinets and paper filing desperately need to be left behind. So why hasn’t everyone moved to electronic document storage and what is the solution? 

Analysis Paralysis 

While it sounds exciting to have technology automatically store documents for you, the thought of moving from paper to electronic can quickly turn that excitement into a state of panic. When you look at your filing cabinets and how much scanning and organizing it would take to transfer them digitally, switching may seem like a time-consuming, no-end-in-sight project. This results in analysis paralysis. 

But there are options you can consider when it comes to adopting technology without having to worry about transferring everything over right away. One of the most common approaches is just starting to use technology to store newly created documents online. Don’t stress about all the documents prior to today. If you start today, then annual reporting in 2023 will be a breeze! But if you continue to wait, it will always feel like there’s no end in sight to the pain of paper-based annual reporting. 

Should you want to tackle all your old files, treat it as a project you can chip away at. Consider hiring an intern or have your staff dedicate one hour each Friday to scanning and organizing files. 

Document Storage Costs Should Not Be A Deterrent 

One concern with switching to paperless documents is the ongoing cost of electronic document storage. Document storage plans are not always free, and when looking at the number of documents you create and file on average, that cost can add up quickly. However, when you consider the cost of the space needed to store and time needed to manage paper documents, you will most likely find that storing documents electronically is actually cheaper.  

As you are looking for an electronic document storage solution, be sure to compare costs. Some software (like ResMan) comes with unlimited document storage as part of your property management platform subscription, while others charge extra based on volume. If you do go with a volume-based plan, to minimize any initial cost impact, you can simply start by uploading new files. Then, over time, old files will reach their retention limits and you’ll be done with paper documents and filing cabinets for good! 

Another benefit of storing documents electronically is being able to move applications and leasing online, which makes operations much smoother for both tenants and for your team. In 2020, HUD approved the use of electronic signatures which cleared the way for Affordable properties and their residents to handle the majority of their paperwork electronically. Electronic signatures eliminate the delay associated with finding a meeting time that works for both the prospective tenant and the onsite team. They reduce the amount of traffic coming into the leasing office, allowing the site staff to focus on other tasks. They have also systematized the application process which produces electronic timestamps to secure positions on waitlists, minimizing the opportunity for discrimination or bias. 

The concept of an electronic signature is sometimes confusing for teams initially because folks assume that signing a paper document and scanning it to store electronically makes it an electronic signature. This is NOT the case. Electronic signatures do not involve paper and pen. Instead, documents such as applications and leases are presented to tenants to be signed online through a phone or computer using software that meets specific security requirements.  

Lean on Your Provider Software to Support Your Transition 

One of the main concerns that arises around switching to online applications, leasing and electronic signatures is getting staff trained and up-to-speed so there aren’t any hiccups. Of course, you want to know your staff are doing things correctly but the idea of training staff for a new tech stack sounds like a feat. 

This is where your software provider should step in. Software providers have been transferring documents into digital and working with electronic applications and payments for years within conventional, student housing and military housing. Affordable housing has just been a late adopter. However, it’s clear software providers are experienced and trustworthy. Ask your software provider for help as they know all the guidelines around electronic signatures and electronic documentation and might even have video tutorials to share more information. 

Technology is Secure, Efficient, and Effective 

Moving your documents, applications, leases, payments and recertifications online will make everything easier for your team and your tenants. Your staff will be well trained with support from your software provider, and should be well-equipped to handle document storage smoothly. Your applicants can apply online and tenants will be able to sign leases for your staff to review much quicker and with little to no hassle, ensuring a more streamlined process. 

Additionally, annual reporting season will be a breeze as software can give specific access to auditors so they may access documents electronically, saving staff time from the digging up of documents and back-and-forth emailing. With technology, auditors can do all their tasks remotely instead of at the leasing office. 

All in all, technology will enable your property to be more efficient, saving both time and money, as well as decreasing disruptions in your overall operations and annual reporting seasons. And if you’re one of the properties stuck in analysis paralysis, consider the ideas and options suggested above to ensure effective and useful adoption along the way.  

Want to stay up to date on the Affordable Housing industry? Like and download our Cocktails & Compliance Podcast.

How to Start Doing Organic Social Media For Your Property

Engaging customers and prospects through organic social media is one of the most popular marketing strategies for businesses right now. With 4.2 billion users on social platforms and the majority of users spending over 2 hours a day scrolling, social media is a great opportunity for your property to be made known. Yet, many businesses, both large and small, are missing the opportunity social media offers for their brand. Some might be overwhelmed by the idea and don’t know where to start. Others just don’t understand exactly what they’re missing.  

But in reality, most of your present and future residents are online scrolling every day and that is motivation to step into the world of social media for your brand. Plus, it’s free marketing! Organic social media costs nothing but a little bit of time and effort that eventually reaps high rewards, including new leases and increasing resident retention. 

If the idea is still overwhelming for you and you aren’t sure where to start, remember that starting is the most important piece to doing social media. Just like getting back to the gym after some time away, it takes practice and consistency to get the rewards you want. 

Choose a Starting Point 

We recommend starting small. There are several social media platforms and each of them is different in audience, content and commitment. Most of the younger generations are on platforms to fill up spare time, connect with friends and find entertainment. Gen X and Baby Boomers shift in their motivation to use social media as they mostly use it for connection and the news. However, Facebook and Instagram are the most widely used platforms by all generations. 

Since we’re starting small, you can pick one social media platform to start, but we recommend trying out a platform you’re most familiar with. Eventually, you can add more platforms the more you feel comfortable. Instagram and Facebook can be connected to post together at once to make sharing content easier. Videos you share can eventually go on YouTube. There’s plenty of opportunity to build upon a foundation later. 

Once you have created a page or account, add in the necessary details to fill out a profile. Add your logo as a profile photo and fill out your biography as well as a Call-To-Action that takes people to your website. After you’ve added the basic account information, now you can start inviting people to follow the page. Share a link on your website or email your residents to let them know. You can find helpful tips for spreading the word here

Before going into the details of posting on your social media, remember not to stress. Make it fun and simple for yourself to start. We will show you the tools so you can be better equipped and supported as you get rolling.  

Gathering Content 

One of the first problems you’ll run into is having content to share on your social media pages. One of the common ways content marketers can create consistent social posts is by having what’s called pillar content. 

Pillar content is best thought as large pieces of content that answer a complete question in full. The trick is around what the question is asking. The vaguer a question is, the more content you can write about. If your pillar content is too granular or specific, you won’t have as much to repurpose from that.  

Here are a couple of examples that exemplify pillar content versus social content: 

Pillar content: What are ways to keep your apartment peaceful? Here are 9 ways how. 

Social content: Is your closet a wreck? Use a closet organizer! 

Pillar content: What’s in your property’s neighborhood? 8 things to do during San Diego’s summertime. 

Social content: Free this weekend? Take a 3-minute walk to the Farmer’s Market in downtown San Diego! 

Content marketing is about working smarter, not harder. When you create one pillar content piece, you might be able to create up to 15 social posts from that piece alone. You are working smarter when it comes to social media when the pillar content is helping you create posts to share.  

A blog could have 6-8 sections. Those sections or chapters could have 2-3 quotes or statistics. You can see how social media can be easier when you have one good pillar content piece to work from. 

TIP: When thinking about what pillar content to create, think about your residents. What do they care about outside of just having a place to live? Here are some ideas: 

  • Write a blog helping residents with their apartment living: decorating, family activities in the neighborhood, hosting holidays with family, etc. 
  • Share third party articles with valuable information for residents and pose your property as a resource for all things apartment-living. 
  • Put on events for your residents and use social media as a way to promote and recap your event. 
  • Look what neighboring properties are posting on their social media channels for inspiration on pillar content. 
  • Talk to your front office staff who talk with residents daily for brainstorming more pillar content ideas. 

Social Media Tools 

Have you ever wanted to post on social platforms but were worried about how it looks or reads? This is where the right tools can support you better for organic social media. No one is expecting your property to have the prettiest Instagram or Facebook in the world. This is where practice comes in naturally. You will get better as you go. There are some tools that are free or inexpensive for you to boost the visual attractiveness of your social media a bit: 

Canva – Canva is a great and free online tool with customizable templates for any sort of print or digital content. From social media images and video templates to infographics and flyers. You can add logos, change the text and add images to thousands of templates and instantly have content to share to your social media pages. For a small price, you can have access to an entire library of templates for more options than the free plan. 

Creatopy / Bannersnack – If you want to get a little fancier, you can have more animated and design-focused templates to use for your pages through Creatopy. This might make more sense for platforms like Instagram and Facebook as it is usually used for ads but has compelling visuals and easy-to-use templates.

Hootsuite – Use Hootsuite to schedule your posts. This is helpful with saving time while still having consistent content uploaded. You can spend 30 minutes on a Monday morning creating the images for the week in Canva or Creatopy and schedule them out so you don’t have to post every day manually. Hootsuite has a free plan for up to 2 social accounts. 

Another way to engage your audience and look like a pro is by using hashtags. Hashtags are helpful for gaining attention and followers from people who might not have heard of you before. They can also help you target the audience you want to reach (I.e. luxury apartments would have hashtags geared toward luxury living). You can use tools like Flick to help you get started. 

Get Residents and Employees Involved 

Getting started can be as simple as getting your employees and residents involved. Your frontline workers are some of the best advocates for your property. Encourage them to ask residents for a quick follow on Instagram or Facebook. Create contests among your employees for content, like event ideas, images, or videos. Reward them with office lunches or a gift card.  

You can also create contests with your residents. Have a “Best Decorated Apartment” contest and create a hashtag for your property specifically so you can see what your residents share. Use Canva to create flyers sharing the contest details. Incentivize them with prizes for more excitement. You can partner with a local restaurant to sponsor the contest and reward the winner with a free meal for the family. 

Host events for your property and set up a photo booth or hire a local student photographer looking for portfolio work. Share photos online for residents to look for after it’s over. Residents love to engage when you present them with opportunities. Look for the ones that do well and garner support and repeat those regularly. 

Social media can seem overwhelming and a lot to commit to from the outside, especially organic social media. But in reality, simple and authentic is better. Organic social media is an investment that can reap heavy rewards for your property, including new leases and an excellent brand experience for current residents. Start somewhere. 

Interested in how you can increase traffic and leads through marketing? Check out our latest on-demand webinar.

4 Things to Consider for Affordable Housing in 2022

The New Year is already in full swing and it is going to be a big one for property management companies, specifically in Affordable housing. 2021 was another year of pivoting for the industry as the Great Resignation sparked staffing shortages, we grappled with COVID-related supply chain issues, and we experienced an increase in mental health related incidents at properties. As we enter 2022 these issues are still front and center – plus, it’s now Tax Credit reporting season!  

While there’s a lot we can’t control that will continue to require improvisation, we believe there are four changes that affordable housing property management companies can make to better position themselves for success in 2022 and beyond.  

1. Automate Tax Credit Annual Reporting 

It is annual reporting season for tax credit properties and for many, this comes with a lot of grumbling and moaning. The common denominator for those who are dreading annual reports comes down to how manual the process is for properties who do not have the right software. Tracking down the vast amount of paperwork and reporting all while knowing the smallest oversight could have detrimental effects puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your team. 

By moving to an Affordable housing software now in the new year, you won’t need to put this burden on your team again as the software will create annual reports for you. Keeping all paperwork and reporting within the software and under one roof helps eliminate the chances of human error and reduces manual work around filing and keeping track of important documents. Above all, it saves your team time and stress. You can rest easy throughout the year knowing the next annual reporting season will be more of a breeze. 

2. Improve Operating Efficiency and Reduce Risk With Technology  

When you look at the last couple of decades and the contributions technology has made to everyday life, it’s not difficult to realize how it can also enable properties to be more efficient and deliver greater value to owners and investors. But how exactly does technology contribute to affordable properties and why is it so necessary to have in 2022? 

Some of the immediate benefits revolve around operations. Switching to online leasing and online payments not only helps property managers complete back-office work more efficiently, but also allows residents (who are already proficient in using technology in their everyday lives) to deliver documents and payments with little to no hassle. 

To go alongside that, the Great Resignation has mostly stemmed from Millennials and Gen Z demanding a healthier and happier work environment. Seeing as those two generations grew up using technology and have faster adoption to tech than other generations, adding modern tech to your property’s operations will also help attract and retain staff. 

Technology has continuously given people back their time. Since time is money, using tech has the indirect benefit of lower operational costs and increased efficiency for your property. This only further contributes to your property’s success as your staff can be better focused on more important tasks at hand. 

For example, many Affordable properties are storing documents in filing cabinets, scanning and uploading documents by hand. Having software that creates, stores, and compiles documents frees up time and eliminates the possibility of human errors like losing or misplacing important files. Going paperless with the right technology is actually safer and more secure – and let’s face it, no one loves digging into filing cabinets anymore. 

Technology can’t do everything for your property, but it can help you get more done with the team you have and minimize the risk of human error.  

TRACS 203-A 

For those already using affordable housing property management software or if you’re a software vendor, TRACS 203-A has been an ongoing conversation, and we seem to finally be in the home stretch, with implementation expected to start in the second half of 2022. Currently, software vendors are waiting for further guidance from HUD. One good thing to note is the conversation is picking up speed which is why there is some expectation that implementation will happen soon (“Finally!”). 

Once we have an official date, it will be important for vendors to put a plan in place internally to deliver software updates and train teams on the changes. If this isn’t on your radar now, it should be. Our goal is to set up our users for success by having a plan in place to implement changes smoothly and seamlessly. 

3. Provide Better Mental Health Support 

Mental health has been a hot topic for the Affordable housing industry, as of late. Properties are seeing the effects of the pandemic on their residents and as a result, police calls, domestic violence, gang activity, and suicides have increased noticeably. 

Toward the end of 2021, many properties spoke up about putting training in place for frontline workers, specifically for active-shooters, suicide prevention, and general de-escalation training. It’s unfortunate that this is a problem at all for properties, however, it’s important to consider the best ways to enable your frontline staff to handle and recover from catastrophic occurrences around the property. 

The more your staff is supported, the more your residents can also be supported. Providing resources for your residents and employees can also indirectly contribute to the growth of your property. A happy staff and happy residents create safety and helps residents get past barriers they may be experiencing in life. Consider having local hotlines and getting corporate involved as a sounding board for your residents and staff. Be sure that contact information for available resources is accessible to those who may need it. 

Creating a supportive property will help residents do things like pay their rent in a timely manner and will foster an environment residents can truly call home. 

4. Improve Team Satisfaction and Retention  

As Affordable properties pivot from the Great Resignation, it’s time to consider what they can do to retain employees and prevent further resignations. What matters most is showing a clear investment in your staff and training them well so they can be set up for success and career growth. 

Consider your employees: what skill sets do they have? What are their goals? Use that information to map out individualized career plans to get them where they want to go. Have annual or quarterly check-ins set up between managers and their employees so progress can be evaluated and adjustments can be made accordingly. Employees will stay with you if they are learning and growing. 

Encourage management to give positive feedback and affirmation to employees when they complete tough trainings or projects. Affirmation goes a long way in boosting employee’s overall happiness in the workplace. If all feedback is negative despite their growth and progress, they will burnout and leave quickly. 

Another thing to consider is allowing a place for employees to give feedback. Statistics show that retention rates for employees decrease 16% when they feel like they can’t give feedback to their management. But remember that this also requires those who receive the feedback to be open-minded and to actually consider the feedback given by frontline staff.  

Evaluate your training programs for new employees and recurring training programs for veteran staff. 10% of employees will leave early due to poor onboarding and training experiences.  

To read more about emerging trends in Affordable housing, check out this white paper

Digital Storefront: How to Capitalize on your Property Management Website

The world seemed to deal with aftershocks from the technology earthquake of the 21st century when COVID-19 happened in early 2020. The modern consumer began demanding a complete shift to digital in both their business and personal life in order to stay fully connected and informed. The general public has now come to expect businesses to be fully online asking more of businesses in their online resources with a (to no surprise) lower tolerance for anything less. 

It sounds harsh, but in reality, consumers have changed and they know what they want and where to find it online. If you’re not online, to many, it might be as if your business doesn’t exist. But even if you are online, you have another hurdle. Because of the Internet and the massive zoo that is online content, it’s difficult to know where and how to get in front of consumers. Not only just consumers but the right consumers need to be able to easily find your property’s website or they might never bother to find your business at all (remember the low tolerance?) 

SEO, Paid Ads, and An Active Website… Oh my! 

The trifecta of an online presence includes: SEO (search engine optimization), paid ads and an active website. These three initiatives should drive people to your website if they aren’t already visiting. Here’s a short guide to getting these three things where they need to be: 

SEO – We’ll get into the active website, but if your website is being updated regularly with fresh content, you can easily figure out the keywords that your prospects are searching for. Neil Patel has a great tool for SEO beginners. Go from a free to inexpensive plan and gauge traffic for keyword searches and percentage possibilities of rankings on page 1 of Google.  

Paid Ads – List your active units and properties in paid ads, whether on social media or Google. Start with a small amount of money and test out different copy and images. See where traffic engages the most and put a little more money toward it. Repeat several times. Always test ads as much as possible by figuring out what the market wants to see once your ad is in front of them. 

Active Website – The word “active” is key here. Uploading regular resources signals to Google that your site is putting fresh content out for consumers – and Google rewards that by bumping you to higher pages on their search engine. That content, whether it be blogs, announcements, or general unit information, should include SEO keywords that your prospective renters are searching for so that links to your site are returned in their search results.  

The entire point is: make it easy for the consumer to find you. The easier it is for them, the more likely they are to give your brand and website a chance to earn their business. If you don’t have the internal resources or capabilities to help you with these initiatives, you can outsource to an expert to get the process started.  Now that you have an approach for driving traffic to your website, let’s talk about what they want to see once they arrive. 

What are future residents looking for on your website? 

In writing school, they teach you “show, don’t tell.” What it really means is let the reader figure out some things on their own – don’t write every detail for them. This is the same for your property’s website. You still need to provide some detail, but your website is the beginning of a customer experience and that’s why it’s important not to overwhelm them. 

A website with nothing but copy and words will quickly motivate a user to bounce, even if the words on the website feel important. Focus on your target market and understanding who they are and what they care about. They’re looking for a future home, so typically any consumer wants to eventually see units, photos of the property, and maybe information on amenities and pricing. However, starting with your home page, you still have to convince them to travel to other parts of the site.  

Typically, your properties’ home pages will be more image-heavy than information-heavy. It should give a visual expectation of their future experience living at your property. Video and photos are a great way to do this and can be a great opportunity to call out important and high interest areas of the site. Putting a CTA (call-to-action) button or a headline about a new promotion the property is running near these eye-catching images and videos is what’s going to keep them interested. 

What does their future home look like? 

As they are checking out units and amenities, it’s important to note that you still have the opportunity to give them all the information they need without writing it all out in words. Your property’s website visitors are more likely to convert when they get as much information as they can online, before they commit to touring in-person. We suggest providing this information visually in three ways: 

Self-guided tours 

Prospects who complete self-guided tours online are 54% more likely to convert into an in-person tour. Giving your prospects the chance to see the landscape tells them exactly what they will experience if they make it their new home. When the prospect does tour in-person, they are not caught by surprise and often have higher intent to lease. 

Neighborhood maps 

If this is their future home, visitors are going to want to see what’s beyond the gates of the apartment community. Interactive neighborhood maps are another way to create transparency with online researchers as they can get a sense for their apartment’s surroundings including schools, shopping centers, and even the distance to the highway. 

Interactive and Unit-specific floor plans 

Many properties upload a single interactive floor plan for each type of unit (studio, 1B1B, 2B1B, and so on). But probably the layout of each unit type varies depending on where it is located. More often than not, prospects are surprised when they tour in-person and see the available unit looks completely backwards or different than what they saw virtually. If they’re already picturing themselves in a unit and you change that picture, it can create friction for them as a prospective resident.  

We advise you let them see it all. Give unit-specific floor plans that are interactive and can not only show what the exact available unit will look like, but where it’s located on the property. Believe it or not, another point of friction for prospects is around location of the unit. When they realize their potential apartment is far away from their parking spot and they try imagining carrying groceries back and forth, they can quickly lose interest. There can be other reasons like being close to the elevator or trash chute or even for a nice view, a customer might be led astray when they don’t get the full picture beforehand. The more a prospective resident knows in advance before touring, the more the in-person visit will reinforce the personal connection they have to your property that drove them to visit in the first place! 

If you aren’t reaching your prospective residents online or aren’t catering to their pre-visit information needs, you’re making it harder than it needs to be to generate and convert leads. Interested in getting your property website to its full potential? Book a demo with us to see how we support property management companies with their websites here.