Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let's Get This Party Started!

PARTY! Five simple letters thrown together creates the reason for laughter and fun. This is a pretty important part of Resident Life when living in an apartment complex, and one of the primary reasons the “complex” turns into a community. I’ve read all kinds of suggestions for the kind of events and parties apartment Community Managers should host for their residents. However, I feel it doesn’t matter what the heck kind of party you host, you should Just Do It.

From this time LAST YEAR when I arrived to take over the South Bend Region, I have looked forward to developing a team that actually enjoys hosting and planning Resident Events and Parties. In fact, this is one of the considerations I use in evaluating whether or not a potential candidate is offered a position on the team. I want the happy person who is truly a social butterfly.

I didn’t imagine though that the Leasing team would have such diverse ideas about how to go about planning a Pool Party. As it turns out, in the Student Housing market, summer is NOT the time to actually plan events. It is just too hectic and busy to spend extra moments figuring out all the little details that make for a successful event. Or, is it?

Let me tell you, a successful event can take off pretty easily as long as you have food, music, and prizes. The South Bend Region hosted its first party that only took a few days to pull off – and it was extremely successful! Although, truth be told, we had talked about this event several months ago, and when it came right down to it, with 300 move-ins in a two week period, there really wasn’t a lot of time to put in a lot of details like handmade invitations, we were able to get the word out through emails and posted flyers and little reminders taped to the apartment doors. We planned a lot of easy prepared foods rather than all the homemade fare we originally planned, plus our Maintenance Supervisor agreed to grill hot dogs (surprisingly there are a lot of people who like burnt dogs!) and no one went away hungry, not even the vegetarians. Called a friend who is a professional DJ and paid him way more than he asked for, but way under the going rate. Plus, we used ALL of our CORT Points to purchase prizes like a TV, headphones and Fitbits. We did have sandwich coupons donated from a local Penn Station to also pass out (because like kindergarteners, everyone wants to leave a party with some kind of Goodie!) Another vendor provided beach balls which we blew up in less than thirty minutes.

It was crazy – there were the early arrivals and the late arrivals; there were professors and their families, the “Cool Kids”, International student residents (some with families, too) and a lot of Singles mingling around and getting introduced. We posted pictures on Facebook and asked all in attendance to “Like” our pages, follow us on Instagram and Twitter and if they could give an honest review, please do so, too.

It wasn’t a lot of work and the pay-off was big. We had way more people show up than we expected (I was hoping for a mere 10, but there were many, many, many more than that. I had said if we got at least 50, then I would consider it a coup. Afterwards I considered it wildly successful.) When your result is so fantastic, it definitely motivates you to plan more events!

So sometimes you just have to throw your idea of perfection out the window and open the door to RELAXED expectations. To top it off, I received several Thank You emails from those who attended. Worth every minute spent putting it together.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Taking the Idea of Room and Board to a New Level

In the multifamily industry, all of our relationships are conditional, and basically, quid pro quo. Except one. And that relationship is the one that starts with the individual who has a dream, a fleeting momentary spark of imagination that gets set on fire. That first idea of, “Wouldn’t it be great if …”

Our entire world has changed since the last recession hit and dug its heels in for a “short” haul. It’s changed due to many reasons, of course, not just that one, and part of what propelled the change has to be due to all the technological advances of The Computer Age. Baby Boomers aging out of their single family houses and suburbs have added to the trendiness of moving to cities and thus relocating to apartments, rather than other, single family houses that may now be not modern with up-to-date amenities. There is a definite shift in the perception that it is hip and trendy and chic to live in cities, the preferred “Urban Playgrounds” in cities all around the country, and not just large metropolitan areas.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I am truly intrigued with apartment living, the concepts of creating communities and who participates. In my mind, I want to know, wouldn’t it be great if apartments were based around creating its own viable Walk Score? Apartment living needs to get rid of, once and for all, the idea of it being a “Complex” and start acting like a “Community.” What better way of doing this than including amenities such as onsite restaurants, onsite convenience stores, valet recycling services and meditation areas? I would love to live somewhere like this! I would pay more for an apartment that also includes these amenities because it would cut down on my need to always have to drive to purchase groceries or food, always have to tip the delivery driver of the local sandwich shop and give me the option to meet my neighbors, even if I have to initially go it alone. I think it would be nice to also include a “watering hole”: a nice wine/coffee bar with desserts, so that the fun would not have to end at 10:00 p.m. The idea of "room and board" apartment communities appeals to me.

Student Housing competes with dorm living a lot in most university towns. So what is so great about living in a dorm? Dorms are usually cramped, hot (no air conditioning) and rule-oriented. There is not a lot of education offered about independent living, such as how to select the floorplan that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle, how to read a legal binding document (lease) and how to budget your income to fulfill the lease terms. The benefit of living on campus though is it may feel more secure and you can get food pretty much any time, whether you have a meal plan or fast food options on campus and you generally don’t have to have a car, even if you go to school in the suburbs. You can usually do your laundry on campus, too.

I think it would be fantastic to offer this same kind of truly all inclusive, easy lifestyle to students who want and would greatly benefit from living off campus. I also think it would be a viable lifestyle option for those who do not want to commit to a thirty-year mortgage (or even a 15-year one) because they aren’t sure the job they have now is the job they will have in 15-30 years, much less even next year for many. Couples who are starting out, but who opt to delay marriage or childbearing may also wish to have more time to pursue fun activities like weekends away, instead of mowing grass, raking leaves, buying and preparing food and having an onsite restaurant and/or coffee shop might be just the ticket to keep them renting longer.

I can build the castles in the air. Ahhhh, someday I would like to put the foundation underneath, too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!

On Thursday, residents came home to a fine white dust covering the front stoop of the entryway to their building. It covered the railings on the steps, even the doorknobs and locks on the doors. Footprints tracked all over the landing carpeting and when I saw this I knew it was from the concrete stoop and sidewalk. I figured it the management company must be planning to replace the concrete stoop but there was no flyer on the door to alert residents of what was happening.

The next day they had installed a ramp across the area where the concrete had been removed. There was no handrail or anything and the step up was at least six inches which seemed a bit steep to me. 

It was possible to go down the one flight of steps to the mailbox; however, that was blocked by a large orange cone. Therefore, I doubt many residents bothered to get their mail. The next day the new concrete had been poured, but the ramp remained and the two large cones as well. 

It is unbelievable to me that the management of this apartment community authorized this type of work in an area where one resident walks with a cane, another is recently diagnosed with MS, and yet a third one is elderly and provide no notice. It remains to be seen if the ramp will be removed when the new week commences. However, it would behoove this Management Company to be more proactive should they need to complete this type of project in the future, and if not, then I hope they have good insurance.