Wednesday, July 26, 2017

London Apartment Fire Highlights Risks

Last month, a deadly fire raged for three days in an apartment building in London. The Grenfell Tower fire resulted in dozens of fatalities and outrage across the United Kingdom about the lack of fire safety mechanisms in place in the building. Stateside, property managers are giving their own smoke detectors, sprinklers and emergency plans a hard look.

The Grenfell Tower fire broke out in the middle of the night, with emergency crews arriving on site around 1:00 in the morning. By then, the fire had already raged to uncontrollable levels. Debris falling from the tower forced emergency personnel to relocate to a safer spot, with fears that the tower might collapse at any moment. 

When the fire was finally extinguished three days later, more than 80 people had died. Tragically, residents had raised concerns about the building's safety long before the fire ever broke out. Power surges had caused electronics in the building to explode for years, and without multiple evacuation routes, residents feared for the worst. No sprinkler system existed in the building and fire extinguishers hadn't been inspected in years.

It's not clear what consequences the managers and owners of the tower will face in the aftermath of the fire, but we can only hope more will be done to prevent future accidents like this one.

So what can property managers take away from this horrific incident? At the very least, says Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management, landlords should take extra precaution to inspect the community's emergency procedures. Reviewing steps to take in a fire or weather emergency is also a good move. Remind occupants that closing doors on fires is a good first step in combating a blaze. Most walls and doors in 2017 are fire-rated and will contain flames to that room.

That doesn't mean a person should remain in their residence if a fire breaks out, though. Remind tenants to have their own personal emergency plan of action should a kitchen accident go up in flames. Keeping a fire extinguisher nearby can also be a real life saver, but just knowing where the nearest one is located is often enough.

However you decide to prep your community for the worst case scenario, it's important that property managers do their due diligence. If an incident does occur, you'll be glad you invested your time in properly preparing for an emergency. Consider hosting a community event with pizza to review safety procedures with residents. A low-key review can truly save lives!

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Non-renewals: What's Driving Your Tenants Away?

As property managers, we spend a lot of time enforcing the rules. We hunt down late rent payments, ensure tenants keep their noise level to a minimum and that they're parking in their assigned spot. When tenants do their fair share to contribute to a clean, safe and pleasant community, we're appreciative. But what are property managers doing to live up to their end of the bargain? Could your actions -- or lack thereof -- be driving good tenants away?

Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management says yes. In competitive markets, renters are always looking to trade up to the newest, next best property. Here's a few ways property managers ruin their chances at renewing leases:

Maintenance Issues

Leaky sinks, clogged toilets and broken air conditioning units are the bane of renters' existence. Having to hunt down a property manager or landlord every few weeks to nag them about something new that has broken is exhausting. If you're having maintenance issues with a unit over an extended period of time, make the struggles a little more bearable by offering a discount in rent. Better yet, fix problems as soon as they crop up.

Rent Increases

While rent increases are necessary to keep up with the cost of living, annual hikes to the rent get old fast. If you've got tenants renewing their lease for a second or third year, cut them some slack and go easy on the rent increases. If you don't, they'll be shopping around for new apartments sooner than you can say the word lease.

Excessive Noise

A man's home is his kingdom, and even when he's renting, he expects a peaceful place to call home. Bear that in mind as you oversee your apartment community. Barking dogs, screaming children and thumping music can annoy even the most patient of tenants. Address noise violations promptly, before you lose a quiet tenant!

Illegal Entry

There's nothing more unsettling than finding out that someone has been in your space without your permission. Too often, apartment community employees enter units without giving warning beforehand. Even if they're present on official business, like fixing a leaky sink, the surprise visit can take most tenants aback. If your tenants don't feel respected, they'll start apartment hunting soon. Remind employees to always give notice before entering a residence.

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Best Open House Ever: The Tips You Need to Attract New Tenants

When you've got open units in your community, it's time to rely on an old real estate standby: the open house. A perennial favorite for a reason, the open house is the best way to put your cards on the table and invite the general public to check you out. Not only do open houses attract passersby who might not normally bother stopping in, they can create a sense of urgency among those viewing your available rentals.

So how do you throw the best open house ever? Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends sweetening the deal for folks who might want to stop in but are feeling hesitant. Cookies and punch are nice, but gift cards are the real motivator. Investing in $5 Starbucks gift cards to hand out to visitors can be a great incentive that doesn't break the bank.

Another way to create a sense of urgency? Give your open house a clear start and end time. Rather than a general time (Saturday afternoon, for example), list precise time periods (Saturday between 2 and 4 PM). Folks will be more likely to show, and feel more inclined to arrive at the beginning of the event.

Marketing your event is critical. While full color flyers and advertisements in local newspapers might be costly, they pay off in a big way. If you're on a budget, consider investing in event-specific Facebook advertisements instead. However you choose to promote the open house, make sure you've got great photos to entice the curious folks wavering on attending.

Once you've got a crowd at your open house, make sure to have everyone sign in with their names, phone numbers and email addresses. Building up your email list is a smart way to keep your community at the front of people's minds.

Have applications to hand out and plenty of pens ready for people eager to apply. Be sure you discuss what documentation is required for a complete application, and offer easy options for sending over paperwork. Anything you can do to make the lives of your potential new tenants easier, be sure to offer!

Whether you've struggled to fill vacancies for a week or several months, an open house is a fantastic way to attract new applicants. Simply getting on the radar of people in the neighborhood can lead to referrals, applications and, with any luck, a few new tenants!

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

3 Things You Should Be Doing to Maintain Vacant Units

In a perfect world, you'd never have a vacant unit. In a perfect world, your quality tenants would never want to leave your community. In a perfect world, vacancies are filled before the previous tenant even has the chance to move out.

Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. The reality is that at one point or another, all property managers will be forced to contend with a vacant unit. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends these three tips to keep your vacant units up to snuff:

1. Keep it secure. Kids loving nothing more than exploring, and if your unit's door is unlocked or a window is cracked open, you could find yourself with a mess on your hands. Worse yet is the chance that something more sinister could occur in the unit left unsecured. Do your best to keep the unit locked up tight!

2. Inspect regularly. If a pipe bursts in an occupied unit, you'll know within hours of the accident. If a pipe bursts in a vacant unit, though, it could be days or even weeks before anyone notices something has gone awry. That's why it pays to inspect the unit with regularity. Even if you can't stop in every week, alert neighbors to the fact that the unit is vacant. They can help be your eyes and ears when you're not around!

3. Avoid "for rent" signs. For landlords eager to fill a vacancy, this tip might seem counterintuitive. But the reality is that most renters will be looking at real estate online these days. For rent signs are just promoting that the unit may indeed be vacant — and that could be a big security risk.

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Interacting with Pregnant Tenants: Etiquette Tips for Property Managers

Property managers wear a wide variety of hats in their daily duties. One minute, you're a maintenance expert, ready to call in reinforcements for a flooded bathroom. The next, you're a seasoned salesperson, doing what it takes to close a deal. But there is perhaps no more important a skill for property managers to have than social grace. Those social skills come in handy, especially when dealing with pregnant tenants. 

Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management advises property managers not to overthink their interactions, but instead be generally courteous and polite. Never congratulate a woman on her pregnancy until you've heard her confirm she is indeed pregnant. Avoid touching her stomach — expectant mothers generally hate that!

Instead, offer general help when you see a pregnant tenant in need. Offer to carry packages or groceries if you see her struggling and open doors when you can. Don't, however, offer any kind of pregnancy advice on foods to eat or labor techniques. 

However you interact with a pregnant tenant, always be ready to respect her wishes first and foremost. If she turns down your offer to help in any way, respect her ability to chose for herself!

- Scott Safaid, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

3 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Property Management Skills

Down time is irreplaceable, but what if we told you your hobbies could make you more successful at work? Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends picking up a hobby or two that can help with your property management skills. Here's what he suggests:

Learn a foreign language.

Not only will picking up a new language make you more cultured and worldly, it'll make you that much more prepared to deal with foreign language-speaking prospective tenants. Spanish is the fastest spreading language in the United States, and knowing at least a few conversational phrases could win over a new tenant!

Get involved with Toastmasters.

Even if you don't have a Best Man speech to prepare for, Toastmasters can be a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. And that's a skill you'll need to be a truly great property manager! Pick up tips on speaking with strangers and commanding a room. You'll be a better leader and speaker!

Nurture your green thumb.

With all the landscaping needed on the average rental property, it pays to know a little about gardening. While it's silly to expect you'll take over the landscaping yourself, the tips and tricks you learn while gardening in your free time can better inform decisions you make about hiring a gardener. Plus, it's peaceful and you can create something beautiful! What's not to love?

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Small Renovations that Make a Big Difference

Keeping your properties up to date can be expensive, but there's no denying the appeal. Prospective tenants love the smell of fresh paint and the novelty of new appliances. Few property managers can make upgrades every year, though, so we're tackling small renovations in this week's post. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management says they're the key to balancing the old with the new, the pricey with the affordable.

So which small renovations should you consider investing in? Start with cleaning your properties as thoroughly possible. It's not a traditional renovation, per se, but cleanliness will provide you with a great blank slate on which to build. 

From there, invest in small kitchen and bathroom projects. While total overhauls of these rooms can be expensive, changing out light fixtures or faucets can do wonders for an older unit. The best part? You can chip away at these upgrades, replacing one old sink at a time.

Cabinet choices are also an easy way to change up the look and feel of your property. Good storage is always a priority for tenants, but it also needs to look good once the doors are closed. Invest in modern cabinetry with little embellishment - they'll age better and give you a better bang for your buck!

- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management


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