‘Twas the Night Before (the HOA’s) Christmas

‘Twas the night before the HOA’s Christmas, and through the community
Not a complaint was heard, there appeared just pure unity;
The thank-you notes were placed by the bulletin board with care,
In hopes that the board and manager would soon see them there;

The homeowners were nestled all snug in their beds,
No worries of paint or roofs bothering their heads,
And the Vice President in her condo, and I in mine too,
Had just settled down for a break from reviewing the dues,

When out in the courtyard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my balcony to see what was the matter.
Away to the railing I flew like a flash,
Only to see neighbors with gripes to rehash.

I couldn’t figure out in the dark of the night
Exactly what they thought gave them the right,
But I knew from my time on the homeowners board,
Our meetings these neighbors had always ignored,

Then in a flash I noticed a visitor,
Who tried to join that group of inquisitors
He wore a red fur coat over an ample belly, and
His hearty laugh made it shake as it were jelly,

His smile quickly faded as they all turned away,
They told him that tenants had nothing to say,
The jolly man disappeared as quickly as he came here,
Amid the sound of eight snorting… reindeer?

In a moment came another, without much ado,
He arrived with a viewpoint needed and new,
I knew in a flash it was manager, Nick.
He knew what was needed and he brought it quick,

He exclaimed “Now, Member! now, Neighbor! Now, Bylaws and Covenant,
Please read the rules before bringing your comment.
Now back to your homes, and back to your castles,
Please, just for today, have a cease to the hassles”

He said “you by choice bought in a community,
Which works at its best when all live in unity,
Remember that your board serves you for free,
and consider joining a committee – or three.

“You have no busy elves, and HOAs thrive when all work as a team,
If all think only of selves, a nightmare soon it will seem.
Your association is much like a large but rowed boat,
If each rows as a solo, not for long will it float.”

Amidst headshakes and handshakes the courtyard then cleared,
And I hoped that above still flew a sleigh and eight impatient reindeer.

No reindeer or jolly elf’s labors returned to the site,
But folks reached to their neighbors, and started treating them right.
A different air began to take hold in the complex
As the Golden Rule became our theme and our text.

Manager Nick surveyed the scene, pleased,
Knowing the group a happy future had it seized.
And laying his finger aside of his face,
He ran toward his car as if in a race;

He sprang to his auto, heading home in a dash,
And away he drove as quick as a flash.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

[Readers: May peace and neighborliness permeate your communities in the coming year!]

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Snow way, Spot! How to keep your furry friends safe this season

Community association residents love their pets, so keeping them safe in the winter should be a top priority. Here are some ways you can ensure Fido and Felix stay warm, happy, and out of harm’s way even on the dreariest of winter days.

These paws were made for walking—to a point. Watch out for sidewalk salt. Pets’ paws are extremely sensitive, so prolonged exposure to sidewalk salt can be problematic. If you walk your dog regularly in areas where sidewalk salt is used during inclement weather, wipe the underside of paws with warm water and a clean towel when you go inside. Doing so also eliminates risk of ingestion if your pup licks its paws often. Keep an eye on your pet’s toe pads for severe dryness, cracking, or bleeding.

The weather outside is frightful. So bring your pets indoors. In the summer, when temperatures reach extreme highs, pets should be brought inside. The same is true for winter, when temperature reach extreme lows. This applies for daytime and nighttime. Remember, if you’re uncomfortable with the outside air temperature, chances are your pet is too.

Why don’t we bundle up, Buttercup. When pets do go outside during the winter, those with thinner fur coats may need extra warmth. Your local pet store should have an assortment of extra layers for your dog—even winter boots for pups who need extra paw protection from the cold and ice. Only add layers if your pet can truly benefit. If you’re unsure, consult your veterinarian.

All work sleep and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Keep your pets active throughout the winter. During inclement weather, when you can’t make it outside with your pup, set aside some extra time during the day to make sure they get some exercise—even 15 minutes of playtime helps. Paying attention to your pup keeps them engaged and happy, and ensures no bad behavior caused by boredom.

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Winter is coming: Prepare your home and community now

Winter doesn’t officially start until Dec. 21, but it’s already making its presence known in many areas across the country.

The cold and wet conditions of the season can wreak havoc on unprepared community associations and homeowners. Whether you’re waiting for Old Man Winter to make its first appearance or you’re already cleaning up from a pre-season storm, you should take steps to winterize your home and community now.

Follow the simple checklists below and tackle the most time-sensitive tasks:

Indoor winterizing

  • Examine doors and replace weather-stripping as needed
  • Examine window caulking and reseal where needed
  • Examine and repair vents where needed
  • Clean chimneys and flues
  • Remove items near heat vents
  • Place nonskid runners or door mats outside to help keep water, sand, and salt out of the house

Outdoor winterizing

  • Cut back tree branches and shrubs that hide signs or block light
  • Examine outdoor handrails and tighten if needed
  • Turn off electrical breakers for outdoor equipment
  • Close hose bibs
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts
  • Clear yard drains
  • Spray outdoor locks and hinges with lubricant
  • Stake driveway and walkway edges that may be difficult to find under deep snow

You and your community also should assemble, stockpile, or refresh the following supplies:

  • Batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Ice melt and deicer
  • Sand
  • Snow shovels
  • Generator fuel
  • Antifreeze

For more information and resources about community association living, visit www.caionline.org.

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How to Pick a Generator to Prevent Winter Power Outages: Frequently Asked Questions from Landlords

Winter is officially here, and if you live in a northern state, you’re gearing up for a few more months of cold and possibly snowy weather. One of the worst parts of winter weather is the power outages that can sometimes occur as the result of snow or power overload. A generator ensures that your tenants’ rights are being met by keeping them warm and ensuring that appliances run until the power comes back on.

Wondering how to choose a generator to prevent winter power outages? Here’s what landlords should know.

How to Choose a Generator for Your Rental Property:

Which Generator Size Do I Need?

The first step in figuring out how to choose a generator for your property is to consider the size. When you talk about the size of a generator, you’re not talking about its physical dimensions–you’re referring to the amount of power that it can generate.

What will you need to run when the power goes out? Here’s a list of appliances that you may need to run; keep in mind that these numbers will vary by the make and model of your appliances:

  • You need approximately 600 watts to power a refrigerator.
  • You need anywhere from 750 to 1500 watts to power a sump pump.
  • You need approximately 1500 watts to power a portable heater.
  • Lights will need anywhere from 60 to 600 watts, depending on your light fixtures.
  • You will need between 60 and 300 watts of power to run your computer.

You’ll need to determine your overall power needs beforehand to make it easier to choose a generator for your property.

How to Choose a Generator for Your Rental Property:

Which Type of Generator Do I Need?

Generators come in two types: portable and standby.

Portable generators, as their name suggests, are easy to move between locations. They are smaller than standby generators and usually have wheels to facilitate movement. Portable generators do have to be turned on manually in the event of a power outage. They’re less expensive than the larger standby generators. They’re only available up to 12,000 watts, but they’re still extremely useful for emergencies.

Standby generators are stationary and are designed to turn on automatically as soon as the power goes out. They are more expensive than portable generators–costing between $5,000 and $15,000–but the more expensive models are available in up to 30,000 watts, large enough to potentially power your entire house during a power outage.

How to Choose a Generator for Your Rental Property:

What Kind of Fuel Do Generators Use?

Both portable and standby generators can use a variety of different fuel sources.

Portable generators will usually run on gasoline or diesel fuel, so consider the cost of fuel when you purchase your generator. Diesel is usually more expensive than gasoline, but it may be more available during an emergency–for example, most gas stations in Florida ran out of gasoline as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the state.

Standby generators can run on gas or diesel, but they’re more likely to run on propane or natural gas. This makes it easier for the generator to kick on when the power goes out–you can store both propane and natural gas for long periods without worrying about the quality of the fuel degrading. The only problem with this is that large amounts of propane and natural gas need to be delivered professionally, and you may not be able to get your tanks refilled in the midst of a blizzard.

How to Choose a Generator for Your Rental Property:

What’s the Best Generator for My Needs?

In determining how to choose a generator for your property, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are my properties in a place that gets frequent power outages during the winter?
  2. What is my budget for fuel?
  3. Do my properties need full power during an outage, or can I supply basic power–i.e. phones, fridge, lights, and heat?
  4. How many appliances will need power during the outage?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a better idea of the kind of generator you need. If you just want to charge your phone and power your fridge and portable heater during a power outage, you probably won’t need more than a portable generator. If you need more power, or have properties in an area that loses power frequently during the winter, a standby generator is probably the best option for you.

Generators can be an invaluable tool for keeping food fresh, homes warm, and your clients happy during wintertime blackouts. Just make sure that you get one that has enough wattage to power necessary appliances during a power outage, and you’ll be prepared for the cold winter months.

Megan is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate, home improvement, and coffee consumption. Follow her on Twitter @Megan_Wild, or check out her blog, Your Wild Home’s weekly newsletter.

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5 Proven Ways to Thaw Frozen Pipes Before They Burst

Bitterly cold weather has gripped the majority of the Midwest and Northeast. Even Niagara Falls has frozen! These record-breaking temperatures are wreaking havoc on people’s pipes. A frozen pipe, if left untreated, can burst–causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage along the way.

Many landlords, property managers, and HOAs will need to take steps to prevent frozen pipes immediately–and to treat them if they do freeze.

Here are 5 proven ways to thaw frozen pipes–before they rupture.

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Tip #1: Use a Hairdryer to Thaw Frozen Pipes

As soon as you suspect that a pipe has frozen, try to find the problem area. It might be in your basement. It might be under a sink. Pipes located along exterior walls are most susceptible to freezing, so that’s a good place to start. Run an electric hairdryer along your pipes to warm them up and get water flowing again.

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Tip #2: Wrap Hot Towels Around Frozen Pipes

If you don’t have a hairdryer handy, try this technique. The hot towels may slowly thaw the blockage. This strategy is best used on copper or galvanized steel piping, as metal conducts heat. It will be less effective on PEX piping. As the towels gradually cool, you can place a bucket under the pipe and continually pour hot water over them. (It might be a bit messy, but if it works, it’s worth it!)

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Tip #3: Wrap Frozen Pipes with Heating Cables or Heat Tape

Heating cables and heat tape can be a lifesaver when cold weather strikes.

Heating cables are self-regulating, automatically varying their heat output based upon the surrounding temperature. You wrap the cable around your pipes (ideally before they freeze–but you can do so afterwards to thaw them as well) and then plug the cable into a regular electrical socket. The cable can be overlapped to provide extra protection.

Heat tape is a flat tape coated in rubber. The heat tape must run flat along the pipe and cannot overlap itself. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. Some heat tapes cannot be used safely on plastic, such as PVC water lines.

If you plan to use either heating cables or heat tape, measure the length of your pipes before heading to the hardware store. This will help you to determine how much heating cable or tape you need. The cords come in various sizes, usually ranging from 30″ to 80″. Once applied, the cords will help to slowly thaw your frozen pipes; and if left plugged in, they can prevent your pipes from freezing again in the future.

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Tip #4: Crank the Heat to Thaw Frozen Pipes Behind a Wall

The first three solutions won’t do much good if you can’t access the frozen pipe. If the frozen pipe is located behind a wall, one of your best (and only) options is to crank the thermostat. Sometime, heating the problem area is all you need to thaw the blockage. To speed the process along, consider using space heaters and/or infrared lamps against the wall where you suspect the frozen pipe is located.

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Tip #5: Find a Plumber with a Thaw Machine

When all else fails, it’s time to bring in the pros. Most plumbing companies will have at least one thaw machine on hand. A thaw machine is a small, portable unit that a plumber will connect between a working pipe and a frozen pipe. Once the connections have been made (which look similar to jumper cables), the machine will then shoot electricity from one end to another. This heat conduction process is usually enough to thaw even the most stubbornly frozen pipes.

How to Fix Frozen Pipes

Tip #6: Don’t Use a Blowtorch to Thaw Frozen Pipes

One thing that you should never do is use a blowtorch to thaw frozen pipes. It may seem like a logical solution, but the high-pressure heat could actually damage your pipes. You’re also creating a fire hazard if there are combustible materials nearby. Frozen pipes are bad enough–the last thing you want to do is burn the house down trying to fix the problem!

If frozen pipes continue to be an issue, considering hiring a property manager. An experienced property manager will be able to manage these stressful situations for you. They should also be able to give you sound advice on issues of all kinds, including preventing frozen pipes in the future.

In the meantime, let’s hope this cold snap ends soon! Costa Rica is looking better by the day!

P.S. For more helpful tips on thawing and preventing frozen pipes, check out this post: What to Do If Your Pipes Freeze

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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5 Tips for Landlords for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Could you use a vacation? Once the holidays wind down, it’s the perfect time to get away–but seasonal hazards like winter storms, freezing temperatures, and residential fires may have you feeling apprehensive about leaving your property at risk.

As you work hard to ensure that your residents have a safe and stress-free holiday, it’s easy to feel like you’re stretched too thin to take a break. We’re here to help you carve out time for the things that are important to you, whether that means quality time with your family or a well-earned vacation. While your properties can require your attention at any hour of the day or night–weekends and holidays included–it doesn’t need to prevent you from taking the time you need to renew your energy and motivation.

Here are 5 tips for a low-stress holiday season that you can put into action today (so you can make sure you get the break you deserve)!

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #1

Invest in Preventative Maintenance

Start by asking residents what needs fixing rather than waiting for them to call in emergency repairs. Have furnaces, smoke alarms, boilers, fireplaces, roofs, and other key points of failure inspected ASAP. Insulate pipes in exterior walls, trim tree branches, clear out your gutters, drain outdoor spigots, and take other precautionary winterization steps before winter’s in full force.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #2

Help Residents to Help You

Residents are your eyes and ears for issues like frozen pipes, power outages, and failing appliances. Keep them in the loop so they can help you to prevent issues–for instance, by leaving cabinet doors open to warm pipes on exterior walls. Make sure they know how to get ahold of you if problems do arise, and that you have up-to-date contact information for each household as well.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #3

Stay on Top of Safety

Reach out to residents with guidelines for kitchen and space heater safety. Holiday meal prep and space heater usage are disproportionately responsible for residential fires, which unfortunately peak on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition, remind residents to keep Christmas trees well-hydrated and away from heat sources, which can also result in fires. Last, be sure to test all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, replacing batteries and swapping out expired devices.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #4

Contact Your Contractors

If you haven’t already, be sure to find contractors you can trust and line up service contracts for snow clearing today–before the worst of winter weather is upon us. If you wait until a storm hits, your contractors’ other clients will take priority, leaving you and your residents out in the cold. Make sure to have a supply of de-icing chemicals and shovels on hand for residents to use, too.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #5

Don’t Go it Alone

Above all else: Consider hiring a property manager to tackle your entire to-do list, for the coming season and beyond. This year, you could spend your time enjoying your loved ones’ company rather than worrying about what’s going on at your rental properties and troubleshooting issues. To find the perfect property manager for you (wherever your neck of the woods might be), just visit All Property Management’s website.

P.S. If you liked this post, we bet you’ll enjoy this, too: 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords for a Successful & Productive 2018.

Robin Burinskiy is the Senior Content Writer and Managing Editor for the All Property Management Blog and Buildium Blog. She cut her teeth as a marketing copywriter at Wayfair and TechTarget, and she spends her free time perfecting her lifestyle blog, Feather & Flint. She holds degrees in psychology, sociology, and songwriting.

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5 Resident Appreciation Ideas to Spread Holiday Cheer in Your Community

It seems obvious, but it’s something that’s often overlooked by landlords, property managers, and HOAs alike: Happy residents are good residents, and the ones who are most likely to stick around in the long term.

Believe it or not, keeping people happy doesn’t need to cost a fortune. You don’t need to make a grand gesture to show your residents that you appreciate them. Even a hand-written note that says how much you enjoy having them as a part of your community can go a long way.

This season, round out the year by focusing on resident appreciation. Here are a few ways to spread the holiday cheer within your community.

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #1

Light It Up

It’s amazing how happy a few well-placed LED lights can make us during the holidays. You can keep it simple by putting flameless candles in the windows, or you can create an over-the-top display on the lawn of your property. We typically prefer an understated look that will appeal to all residents far and wide, including prospective residents touring units during the holidays.

Inside, add holiday lighting to the common areas. Consider decorating a Christmas tree for all residents to see, or hang lighted wreaths and garlands in doorways. There are so many ways to play with lighting displays during the holidays–and this time of year, you can typically find a string of 100 incandescent lights for under $5 at your local pharmacy or hardware store.

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #2

Dish Out Tasty Treats

For one weekend every December, my kitchen turns into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I spend hours upon hours baking cookies, candies, and other decorative sweets. I buy pretty boxes and tins to package the goodies, and then deliver a set to each resident with a card thanking them for another great year. It’s not much, but it’s the thought that counts.

A simpler option would be to order a pie for each tenant, or to leave a dish of holiday candy in the common area for all to enjoy. If you’re going to do the latter, just be sure that someone is checking in every so often to replenish the stash throughout the holidays!

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #3

Give a Small Gift

Most residents never expect a gift from their landlord, property manager, or HOA–which makes the gesture that much more impactful. Gifts should certainly be small, such as a $15 gift certificate to the neighborhood grocery store. If you have a good relationship with the tenants and can personalize the gift, that’s even better. For instance, I know that one of my tenants grabs coffee every morning on his way to work, so he’d love a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. Another tenant has a newborn baby, so $20 to Babies-R-Us would certainly be put to good use. Just be sure to keep the gift small and simple, with a note that thanks them for being great residents or neighbors.

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #4

Host a Holiday Party

You might be thinking, “But I only have 5 residents!” That’s okay–whether you have 5 residents or 500, a holiday party can be a great way for neighbors to get to know one another. When neighbors form positive relationships with one another, they tend to stick around longer–and fewer issues come up.

The format of the holiday party may vary depending on your resident profile. For instance, in properties with young children, you may consider inviting Santa to pose for photographs with the kids. Other ideas include a gift wrapping party, a Yankee Swap, a beer and wine mixer, or a pot luck supper (where management could provide an enticing main course).

If you’re struggling to determine which type of event residents would be most inclined to attend, shoot out a quick survey. Residents often love to give feedback and will often come up with an idea you had never considered!

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #5

Team Up to Give Back

The holidays are a great time to give back to the community–but you shouldn’t have to do so alone. Consider engaging residents with a canned food or toy drive, or asking residents to join you in “adopting” a local family who cannot afford gifts of their own this year. This differs from most tenant appreciation ideas in that you aren’t doing something specifically for residents, but it shows a different side of management and encourages camaraderie.

Spreading the holiday cheer isn’t just good for morale–it’s good for business. Residents who feel at home are less likely to leave, which reduces turnover and potential vacancies. Most of these suggestions, from small gift certificates to holiday decorations, are also tax-deductible.

However you decide to celebrate, just keep in mind that your residents may have a variety of religious beliefs. It’ll be a failed effort if you end up offending someone, so we suggest keeping all events, gifts, and decorations agnostic during the holidays–better to be safe than sorry!

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10 Off-Season Leasing Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

Real estate generally slows down during the winter months. Kids are back at school. People have started new jobs. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays on tap, most people aren’t eager to pack up and move until at least the New Year. Even then, it can be hard to find great tenants.

Case in point: a friend approached me last week looking for help. He bought a two-family home in a great neighborhood just north of Boston. He has one 2-bedroom unit and one 3-bedroom unit. Both were in decent (though, admittedly, not great) condition. The units are a little out-of-date, and they’re definitely small, even by typical city-living standards. He explained that he was having a hard time renting the units. Was his asking price too high? How could he get these units filled? His carrying costs were starting to add up!

I understand his frustration. Leasing during the off-season isn’t easy; but there are certain tricks we’ve learned over time that can fill vacancies faster–even in the dead of winter.

Here’s the advice I gave him, as well as a few other leasing tips you may want to consider this winter.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #1

Complete Your Online Listings

When I looked at the listings my friend had put together, I realized he didn’t include a lot of pertinent information. Are utilities included? Is there on-site parking? Don’t put it on the prospect to track down information, particularly if you’re looking to lease during the off-season.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #2

Market the Unit Differently

In my experience, it’s easier to rent 1- and 2-bedroom units than 3-bedroom units. So, using my friend’s case as an example: the rooms in his 3-bedroom unit are really small. I suggested he try marketing the 3-bedroom as a 2-bedroom plus an office. The price he wanted was still very reasonable for a 2-bedroom, so this strategy will help him capture those looking for a 2-bedroom unit who might be enticed by having the third bedroom as an office, nursery, fitness room, etc.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #3

Host an Open House

People are busy. If you want to lease an apartment quickly, consider hosting an open house (or two–one on a weekend day, one on a weeknight). This gives people an opportunity to tour the unit without having to set up individual appointments. Most people think open houses are only worthwhile when you’re selling your home; but in our experience, renters like the convenience of open houses, too.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #4

Make Easy Upgrades

The two units that my friend was trying to lease are a bit out-of-date. The kitchen has traditional oak cabinets with outdated hardware. A coat of white paint and new hardware would give the kitchen a more modern, fresh look. I suggested that he spring for a new stove while he’s at it. He could probably find a replacement stove on Craigslist–one that’s relatively new and in good condition, but is being discarded by someone who’s upgrading to stainless steel. I also urged him to swap out the light fixtures for a more modern look. These are easy upgrades that can be made in just a few days, but will present the vacant unit in a whole new light (no pun intended!).

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #5

Add Additional Amenities

If you’ve been considering adding a washer and dryer, maybe now’s the time to pull the trigger. Consider springing for a coin-operated washer and dryer that can be shared by residents; or if your space and budget allow, consider installing a stackable washer and dryer set in each of the vacant units you’re hoping to rent. Residents will be sure to appreciate the added amenity.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #6

Consider Concessions

We know that most people aren’t looking for apartments during the holiday season; so if you’re looking to fill a vacancy quickly, you might want to offer an incentive. For instance, you could offer 25% off rent in December for anyone who leases before January 1. Your carrying costs will likely outweigh that concession if a unit sits vacant. Getting someone in the door with a temporary discount is better than not having anyone at all!

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #7

Sweeten the Deal

Big apartment communities often throw in a few additional “sweeteners,” but it’s something that smaller building owners can do, too. Sweeteners–like free cable, or a $250 gift certificate to a local supermarket or grocery store–can make or break it for someone who’s comparing your apartment with others in the area.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #8

Focus on Customer Service

When the phone rings, answer. When someone emails you, respond quickly. If someone has questions about your rental, get back to them with answers as quickly as possible. It increases the chances that they’ll choose your rental over another. In addition, enhanced communication will show prospects that you’re a reliable landlord, which bodes well for the future.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #9

Try a Non-Standard Lease

Some landlords get hung up on a standard 12-month lease. However, if you’re looking to fill a unit during the winter slowdown, consider offering more flexible lease terms. Perhaps someone is moving to the area on a short-term job assignment and needs a 6-month lease; or maybe a family is interested in moving to the area, and would feel more comfortable with an 18- or 24-month lease. As a general rule of thumb, we like to stagger lease expirations and schedule them to end during peak leasing season (May through August). This will help you to avoid off-season leasing next time around.

Off-Season Leasing Tips: #10

Don’t Lower Your Standards

If you’re struggling to fill a vacant unit, it’s tempting to accept the first person who shows interest. This is a HUGE mistake that can be costly down the road. Keep your standards high when screening prospective tenants.

Filling apartment vacancies during the winter can seem daunting, but hang in there: People always need housing. People get new jobs; people get divorced; people have babies and need more space. There are all sorts of reasons why people might need to move during the winter. Follow these tips to steer those people in your direction!

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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How to Deal with an Influx of Package Deliveries at Your Property This Holiday Season

People are shopping online now more than ever. They’re buying clothes, household supplies, and even groceries online. Amazon, Blue Apron, Peapod, and countless others are making a steady stream of deliveries to residents’ doors. One poll finds that more than 25% of residents receive at least 4 packages each month.

Package delivery management is creating a major headache for some rental owners and HOA communities.

“As online sales continue to skyrocket, package delivery management is becoming a growing issue to apartment communities,” says Mercedes Sanchez of the Houston Apartment Association. “Many simply do not have the storage capacity, so they are trying to figure out how to handle the deluge of packages and are having a second look at their policies regarding this issue.”

A recent survey finds that package carriers will first try to deliver a parcel directly to the resident’s door. If that doesn’t work, they’ll try to deliver it to a management office.

An executive with Camden Property Trust says that for his property management company, package delivery management results in 10 minutes of lost productivity per delivery. “Multiply that by the 1 million packages Camden handled in 2014 and you begin to see just how big an issue package management is, especially as online shopping continues to grow,” he says.

While package delivery management issues may be exacerbated in large apartment communities, they affect owners of small buildings equally.

In fact, small buildings are less likely to have a publicly accessible common area for carriers to deliver packages. Instead, packages are just left on the front steps, or wedged between the front and screen doors. These deliveries, when visible from the street, are an indication that nobody is home?and can put the rental unit at greater risk of a break-in.

A typical apartment community receives as many as 100 packages per week?a number that can double during the holidays?and online shopping shows no signs of slowing. This means that landlords, property managers, and HOAs are going to have to get more creative when it comes to package delivery management. There’s no time like the present, particularly with the holidays upon us!

Here are a few strategies for package delivery management at your property:

1. Relinquish responsibility. Unless you have an on-site management office where staff can receive packages for residents, be sure to specify that you’re not responsible for deliveries that are lost, damaged, or stolen. A simple email reminder may be warranted as the holiday season approaches.

2. Install an oversized mailbox. If space allows, consider installing an oversized mailbox that can accommodate packages (18 x 18 x 24 inches should do the trick). This won’t solve all of your package delivery challenges, but it will at least keep a portion of the deliveries hidden from view.

3. Utilize smart locks. As building technology becomes more sophisticated, the number of smart lock solutions has continued to grow. In smaller apartment buildings, you might consider installing a smart lock system on your front door. Carriers could use a special code to unlock the front door, allowing them to leave packages in the foyer or other common area without having access to individual rental units.

4. Invest in package lockers. Amazon announced last month that it would start partnering with apartment buildings to offer Amazon Hubs: locker systems that can receive deliveries fulfilled by Amazon. Amazon will experiment with allowing other carriers to deliver their packages to those hubs as well.

Amazon isn’t the only purveyor of locker systems?there are others with varying degrees of sophistication. Most cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 per locker, but each locker can be shared by five to eight apartments. The most technical locker systems can tell which compartment is empty and will randomly assign the locker so that resident can use a unique code to get their package. Lockers can be accessed any time of the day, which allows for round-the-clock deliveries.

The investment can be worth it, given the growth of online shopping. Residents now view storage lockers as an added amenity that can help your building stand out from the rest. According to a survey by Multifamily Executive, over 28% of renters list package lockers as “very important,” or near the top on a scale of 1-10 in terms of amenities they care about most.

Despite the spike in online shopping, we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg: About 90% of shopping is still conducted in traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. If the last few years are any indication of what’s to come, package delivery management will become increasingly important for landlords, property managers, and HOAs in 2018.

As technology continues to improve, we expect to see other solutions emerge. Until then, these?package delivery management strategies should at least give you some reprieve as you get through this holiday season!

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

The post How to Deal with an Influx of Package Deliveries at Your Property This Holiday Season appeared first on APM.

Are You Prepared For Winter Maintenance Emergencies?

Winter is a stressful month for rental property owners. When the weather freezes, they must occasionally spring into action, dealing with weather-related emergencies like frozen or burst pipes, broken heaters and furnaces, and iced-over driveways and sidewalks. Now’s the time for rental property owners affected by sub-freezing temperatures to figure out how to handle these maintenance emergencies.

Make sure you're ready to handle maintenance emergencies this winter!If you haven’t done so already, have insulation, plumbing, roofing and HVAC/furnace units inspected and serviced. You’ll want to get this taken care of before the next blizzard or ice storm hits your area. You may still be able to take proactive measures if the inspection shows a problem.

If you wait until the ice storms come, you’ll have problems scheduling plumbers and other contractors to do maintenance work, even if you need it in a hurry. They’ll be busy responding to other emergencies!

Educate Your Tenants

Reach out to your tenants and tell them what you need from them. Provide them with things to look out for, such as warning signs of furnace, heating or plumbing problems, along with exactly what you want them to do in the event things go wrong.

Republish your emergency maintenance requests numbers, both for regular business hours and for after hours.

Check on Your Vendors

Now’s a good time to inspect your existing contracts with the vendors you may need in an emergency. Make sure you have any retainer arrangements in place so you aren’t forced to negotiate prices during a crisis. You won’t get the same advantageous pricing when water is pouring into the basement as you will when you’re prearranging your emergency plumbing responses! The same goes for HVAC contractors, roofers and other contractors you may need to call in at short notice.

Check on Insurance Coverage

Naturally, you will want to ensure that coverage for your rental properties is in place and adequate, together with reserves, to cover any weather-related issues.

It’s particularly important to understand the insurance concept of fair market value versus replacement cost coverage. Many insurance companies issue policies that cover fair market value of, say, a new roof. Fair market value, however, falls over time through depreciation. So if the roof incurs significant structural damage because of the weight of snow and ice, for example, a fair market value policy would not cover the entire cost of replacement. The older the roof, the less the insurance company will pay.

This is fine, if you have been regularly setting money aside to replace the roof at the end of its useful life. Between the insurance company and the savings, the capital should be there to replace the roof.

In the real world, though, rental property owners are often blindsided by unexpectedly low settlements on insurance policies. This catches them in a cash flow crunch when they need to replace a roof on short notice with an insurance check that only covers a fraction of the immediate need.

Keep Your Tenants Happy and Rentals in Good Shape

This will hopefully be a mild winter with no major blizzard events that cause major damage and disruption to the communities your rental properties are located in. But by reaching out to your tenants ahead of time and being proactive rather than reactive, you can ensure your tenants are kept happy and your rental properties remain in good shape.