Outdoor space is often not given the importance it deserves in property management. Simply having a decent landscape or inviting lawn is not going to cut it, especially when there are new properties coming up in the neighborhood. Indoor amenities and fantastic ambience are no doubt important to renters, but most prospects, especially the millennial crowd also check out outdoor spaces before making a decision.
What do Renters Look for in Outdoor Spaces?
The landscaping should obviously be appealing and should blend aesthetically with the environment. Apart from this main requirement, most renters look for recreational space and facilities. Millennials are particularly looking for playgrounds for kids, game courts, a jogging track, and a pool. These facilities not only provide the ideal environment for exercising but it also promotes social interaction, which is now quite important to modern renters.
On the same lines, a barbeque facility is another major attraction for most tenants, since it provides space to entertain and hold parties. Finally, renters look for adequate lighting in outdoor spaces. Bright lights not only enhance the beauty of the outdoors, but also play a strategic role in keeping the area safe and secure.
How can Property Management Improve the Outdoors?
Building a pool or installing a game court would definitely spruce up the outdoors and increase the value of the property, but these projects involve hefty investments. On the other hand, there are certain projects that do not cost much, and help in improving the outdoors considerably. Here are some ideas, property management can consider for enhancing outdoor space on a budget and curtailing maintenance costs.
Switch to LED lighting. Since this lighting consumes less electricity, property management can install brighter lights and yet keep utility costs to the minimum. LED bulbs are costlier to purchase, but they will work out cheaper in the end. The transition to LED lighting can be done in a phased manner in order to avoid a huge one-time investment.
Laying jogging or walking tracks on the periphery of the lawn or around the boundary of the property can certainly improve the value of the property. This might involve a major investment depending on the size of the property, but it should help in reducing vacancies and property management can even consider raising the rent for providing this visible convenience.
A simple landscape that is well maintained attracts more people, than a fancy garden that is poorly maintained. Simple things like removing weeds and mowing grass regularly, do not cost much, and yet can greatly boost the ambience of the property.
Be on Top of Your Game
If you have provided barbeque facilities then make sure the grills are kept clean and the area is kept tidy. A poorly maintained and dirty barbeque area will be a turn-off, and renters will not even register the fact that you have provided this amenity. In fact, any outdoor area that is kept cluttered or dirty will spoil the ambience of the whole property, and even if you provide salient indoor amenities you will find less takers since one is canceling out the other.
The millennial generation are people in the age group of 18 to 34 years and are a popular segment of society. They are known for being tech-savvy, their self-expression, and for their social and racial diversity. Another very interesting fact about them is that they are movers and most of them live in a different city from their hometown or college.
Since they move around, almost all of them prefer rentals to owning a home. It is important for property management to note this interesting fact, and know the reasons why the millennial generation moves around so much. Such information can be useful in marketing the property and for wooing this huge segment of renters.
Millennials Prefer Urban Areas
According to a recent survey, almost all respondents said that they preferred living in a city or in an area that is more urban than the place where they grew up. Almost 44% respondents said that they had moved away for their hometown or the place where they completed college because of their love to live in a city. Even though, 60% of these renters who were surveyed prioritized affordability, they were willing to upgrade their budget to live in an urban place with more population density, compared to where they were residing before.
So, why does the millennial generation prefer densely populated urban areas, or the reason behind their moving?
To Seek Better Job Opportunities
Whether it is a move to a city or simply moving to a new area, the main reason for the millennial generation to move is to find better job opportunities. The millennial crowd seems not to be willing to sacrifice better job or earning opportunities for the love of any particular place. Almost half of the surveyed respondents said that their transition was motivated by a job opportunity or a career move.
Therefore, if the property is near a commercial area or if new companies are opening up shop nearby, property management can use such information in their marketing strategy.
To be with a Special Person
Next to job opportunities, the other most popular reason for moving was love. About 21% respondents said that they had moved because they wanted to be closer to someone they loved. For property management this would mean single tenants, or couples who are planning to move in together. In such instances, marketing strategy would be to focus on amenities and conveniences the property has to offer, and how such amenities would be helpful if the couple were planning to start a family in the near future.
To be Near the Workplace
A large portion of the millennial crowd also moves within urban areas or within the same city to be nearer their workplace. Most millennials seem to prefer walking, cycling, or taking public transportation to reach their workplace, and do not prefer driving to work. This is one of the major reasons for movement within the same city, and preference for properties that are within walking distance from their workplace.
Not only this, millenials may not have the income to afford a decent car so living closer to their workplace is even more paramount. Property management that understands this will be able to design their marketing agenda accordingly and hire staff that realize this.
Incidences of intense weather seem to be happening more frequently across the country, and these incidents have a direct impact on utility costs on properties. Therefore, keeping track of utility data and monitoring usage is important for property management for identifying spikes and managing utility costs.
Monitoring energy usage should be a continuous process and should not be only implemented when the weather is severe. Sudden variances or spikes in energy consumption can happen due to various reasons, and they can go unnoticed if you do not have a regular system for tracking usage. Here are some of the common issues property management can avoid with the proper tracking of utility data.
Malfunctioning Delivery or Equipment
Energy spikes are common in old building stock but it is possible even on new properties. Property management cannot become complacent even when the project is LEED certified. Here is an actual example where property management was able to correct the problem because they noticed frequent spikes and crashes in their utility data. The data showed sudden surges in usage, even though the condensing boilers were certified efficient. A technician was sent to find out the cause of the sudden surges and he found the boilers were not condensing because the gas line pressure was not adequate. The utility provider had to be contacted to correct the issue.
On another property, the tenants were complaining of overheating and the consumption was peaking as well. In this instance, the technician found the controlling valve of the thermostat was stuck on fully open. Once all the valves were replaced, the energy consumption was back to normal levels.
Water consumption on a property can spike due to leaks, and some leaks can be hard to find. For instance, on a property, when the water consumption increased abnormally, all the units had to be inspected, but no leaks were found. The maintenance staff then had to do a thorough check of the pipelines and found a major leak in one of the underground pipes. The leak was costing the property over $2,000 every month, which would have continued if there was no utility tracking and time intervention.
You might feel that since everything is computerized, there are no chances of errors happening in utility bills. However, billing errors are more common than you think. For instance, a property management company having more than 200 buildings in its portfolio noticed a spike in gas consumption on one of the properties after they had implemented a utility tracking platform online.
The typical usage of the property was around 100 therms per month, but the bill showed consumption of 1,000 therms on a particular day. Property management immediately contacted the utility provider with the details, the error was detected, and the property was refunded the extra amount that they had paid.
There can be different reasons for energy spikes and many could be due to sudden changes in weather. However, it is important for property management to track utility data since it significantly helps in saving unnecessary energy costs and in an age where not any business is getting any help from Uncle Sam, energy savings becomes all the more important.
One of the major concerns for property management is a plumbing system on the property and the rising cost of its maintenance. Plumbing issues can pop up at any time, and it can be as minor as a leaking faucet to a major repair of broken underground pipes.
Proper Plumbing Strategies
Resolving plumbing issues quickly would be considered one of the important skills for a property manager; however, this is often a daunting task and sometimes the cost could eat off a major portion of the profits. Here are some tips on preventive plumbing maintenance that can help in improving response time and curtailing costs of plumbing maintenance.
A property manager should be proactive in detecting plumbing problems before they are likely to occur. For this, he will need to carry out periodic inspections of the plumbing system on the property with a special checklist. This will provide early warnings of possible plumbing issues, and the matter can be resolved before it develops into a major problem. Here are some of the most important points that should be included in the special checklist.
Try to detect signs of visible pipes that might lead to leakage. Such signs could include water stains, or small puddles on the floor. Additionally, focus on spots where the pipes enter walls or run underground to the building foundation.
Keep track of corrosion and signs of rusting. These may seem minor when they first appear, but if they are not repaired, the corrosion can cause poor connections and leaks. Look for corrosion signs such as orange or yellow stains on steel pipes, or green stains on copper or brass fittings.
Check water pressure to make sure the water is flowing with the correct force when it is coming out of showerheads and faucets. If the water pressure seems to be low, it could be due to buildup of sediment in the fittings. If sediment clogs are suspected, remove the showerhead, check for signs of sediment, and have them cleaned. Sometimes low pressure could be due to more serious problem of leakage in the underground water line, which will need major repair. However, first clean all the sediment clogs to see if the pressure is restored.
Check the speed of water draining from kitchen and bathroom drains. When the drainage is slow, check the vent and drains for clogs. In an unclogged drain, the water will swirl fully, while in clogged drain you will notice bubbles forming while the water is draining. A gurgling sound on the other hand could indicate a potential issue in the vent.
During inspection, flush the toilet in every unit to ensure it is working properly. Check the flush assembly externally and internally for missing, broken, or corroded parts. The water should stop when the flush is filled, and if it is still flowing then it could be draining into the toilet or if there is a leak somewhere that needs to be fixed. Otherwise the water bill will be much more than it should be if this is what is happening.
Water heaters are another major cause of plumbing problems and should be given thorough checkups periodically.
A Terrific Procurement System can Improve Profitability for Property Management
Property management has to procure services and products frequently for its properties, and if this system is non-standardized and inefficient, it can take a huge chunk out of the profits. Cost of services and products has a major impact on the overall profit margin, and therefore it is critical to have a procure system that not only reduces costs but also deliver quality goods. Here are certain points that can help a property manager devise afantastic procurement strategy.
Have a Separate Purchasing Department
Instead of procuring at the property level, it is better to have a purchasing department that controls bids across all the properties. The type of services required and specification of products will be accomplished at the property level, and the requirements will be sent over to the purchasing department.
This way there is a single window for receiving bids, and the purchasing department is left with the responsibility of identifying and determining the best value and quality. The purchasing department will develop a list of qualified vendors, thus avoiding unnecessary quotes and possible fallacious information, and saving the time of the property manager.
Procuring Discounts Based on Volume
Rather than compromising on quality, it is best to procure discounts based on higher volume. Vendors will be more willing to negotiate the price when there is a bigger volume at stake. Here again, having a purchase department will be beneficial because all requirements across properties will be routed through a single department. This will increase the needed volume of services and products, which in turn will give better bargaining power to the department.
Consistency of Products and Services
Since the purchasing department controls the actual purchase, even though it is based on the requirements of individual properties, the services and products acquired will be of consistent value and quality. If there is no single basis for bids, there will be inconsistency in costs as well as quality.
For instance, manager of property A might select more discounts by compromising on quality of paint, while property B manager might procure costlier paint being more interested in the quality. Hence, there will inconsistencies in the product used, as well as the amount spent across two properties. On the other hand, the purchase department would already have a set standard on the quality of paint to be procured and will entertain bids from qualified vendors based on volume.
A Working System for Tracking Warranty
It is important to know whether the product is still under warranty before replacing it since this can help the company save money. Many products and services are procured to maintain the property. But unless there is a computerized system for tracking the warranty, it would be almost impossible to know whether you should buy another unit or call for repairs or replacement.
It is best to have an internal system, where the property manager simply has to enter the identifying code and serial number of the product or service to know the warranty status. If the purchase department is maintaining records of all the warranties, then these records should be accessible at the property level.