For many apartment managers around the country, the arrival of fall is a time to exhale, at least a little bit. The large numbers of summer move-ins and move-outs and prospect visits taper off and operators can carve out time to tackle issues they have missed earlier in the year.
“When we get to the fall, it's a little bit of an opportunity to catch our breath,” said Mike Gomes, chief experience officer at Atlanta-based owner and manager Cortland. “For us, it's sometimes difficult to continue to focus on the basics every single day when you're operating at peak volumes during the summer.”
Although the busy season may be over, the work isn’t ending for property management companies. Here are three things they’re prioritizing as they work to end the year on a high note:
Now is the time that many property managers budget for next year. While rents exceeded projections over the last couple of years, operators are dealing with a different dynamic for 2023 — a slowing market.
“We’re focusing on realistic expectations for rent growth going into next year,” said Dana Caudell, president of property management at Wellington, Florida-based apartment operator and builder The Bainbridge Cos.
While the days of 30% rent increases are probably over, Caudell expects to budget “healthy” rents. “We go in more with a conservative approach about what we think is a reasonable expectation,” Caudell said.
To make its projections, Bainbridge relies on a number of different resources.
“We're looking at renewals,” Caudell said. “We have a lot of different resources. We look at the local economies and the micro markets. We look at the labor supply and demand, and we look at income. We put all of that together to help formulate the rent growth [projection] for the next year.”
Budgeting is about more than projecting rents, though. “It's an opportunity for us to assess what we believe the needs are going to be for next year — both operating needs and potential capital needs to enhance our properties,” Gomes said.
Tightening processes and testing tech
At Phoenix-based MEB Management Services, fall’s slowdown in leasing brings time to streamline and strengthen processes and daily functions, according to Denise Trentacosta, senior asset director.
In addition to streamlining systems and processes, MEB wants to seek out, test and onboard new software systems.
“We’re making sure that we’re staying ahead of the game,” Trentacosta said. “At MEB, one of our key strategies for success is innovation.”
The fall strategies are similar for Farmington Hills, Michigan-based manager Village Green, the No. 38 apartment manager in the country, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.
“We’re focused on streamlining our proptech stack to drive more efficiencies and free up the onsite team to enhance relationship-building touchpoints and customer experience initiatives,” said Diane Batayeh, CEO of the company.
Winter is coming
Property managers can’t forget maintenance and cleaning as the weather gets colder. That means things like raking leaves, cleaning and closing pools and preparing for winter.
“We have nearly 24,000 units across the country and we've got some markets that are preparing for harsh winters or are preparing for the off chance of a harsh winter,” Trentacosta said.
Cortland generally has a warm weather portfolio but will work to prepare some of its pools for the winter.
“We've got pools in Columbus, Ohio, communities in Colorado and even properties in North Carolina that will go through a level of that [winterization], but probably not until we get closer to Halloween,” Gomes said.
But property care goes beyond pools. After working nonstop during the summer, Cortland’s services team focuses on making sure things like cleaning the breezeways and doing fire and safety checks are all getting done.
“We’re really making sure we're using this opportunity to get back to those basics,” Gomes said.
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