Can Senior Housing Communities Allow Underage Residents?

Question: I live in a 55 and over community and the board of directors for our association is considering a policy that would allow under-aged occupants to live in a community under certain circumstances. Would such a policy threaten the community status as a 55 and over community?  A.E. (via e-mail)

Answer: Under the right (or wrong) circumstances, yes. There are a number of requirements that a community must satisfy in order to be considered “housing for older persons,” often referred to as a “55 and over” community. The main point of being a 55 and over community is that families with children can be excluded, which is otherwise illegal under state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

In addition to having a provision in your governing documents establishing age requirements for occupants and registering with the State, the community must also perform a periodic census to verify that at least eighty percent of the homes are occupied by at least one individual over the age of 55. However, the law does not address how the community must regulate the remaining twenty percent, leaving it to the community’s governing documents.

Many communities require that every home be occupied by at least one person over the age of 55 and leave the remaining twenty percent as a “cushion” for situations where a hardship exists, such as where a spouse under 55 years old inherits the home. Other communities, though clearly a minority, simply leave the twenty percent as a “set aside” and permit non-age qualifying individuals to reside in the community.

Depending on the requirements in your governing documents, up to twenty percent of the homes can be occupied by individuals less than the age of 55 and not jeopardize the 55 and over status of the community. However, communities should be very careful in how they handle the twenty percent factor because falling below the required eighty percent minimum would likely result in loss of the community’s status as housing for older persons. In my experience, most governing documents require that every home be occupied by at least one person age 55 or over, and provide the board with the authority to grant hardship exceptions, such as the surviving spouse example mentioned earlier.

Originally posted on Florida Condo HOA Blog

 

Vendor or Partner?

Being in the property management industry, you probably work with several vendors. But my guess is that you have very few partners working on your behalf.

What is the difference?  And why is a partner better than a vendor? Vendors deliver only the service they are selling. Partners do the same, but will go above and beyond to make your job easier. Not only that, but partners are truly driven to see your business succeed.

To spot a vendor versus a partner boils down to several key things. As you read these nuances, ask yourself – Will the companies I work with be just a vendor to me, or a true partner?

Answering the Question

When you ask a question, is the answer ‘well, that is really up to you’? This is the answer of a vendor, not a partner.  Of course it is up to you, and of course they can set it up a million different ways – but you want their opinion. Presumably, they have other clients who have faced similar challenges and should have some expertise to share. That is why you invited them in to begin with. Now they need to ‘show up.’

A partner will share the pros and cons of several available options and brainstorm the best way to solve your problem. The more time they take to get to know your business, and how to best implement their solution, the more of a partner they will be to you.

For example, I was recently tasked to find a new telecom provider for our company. During an interview, I asked the question of what the ideal network design would look like. One person said ‘well, that is really up to you.’  I frowned. Luckily, another party at the table chose to be my partner and went to the white board with a marker. We talked through several options and ended the 90 minute meeting with a future-proofed network design and a new partnership.

Providing Pricing

A vendor provides pricing; a partner provides a business case to take to senior management.

Several years ago, I was managing the decision process for a CRM purchase. One of the vendors provided me with pricing that was confusing and complicated. Another vendor provided higher pricing, but explained it to me and then asked questions about what I needed to include in my presentation to senior management. When I mentioned some of the elements that I planned to include in my talk track, this vendor provided slides to support their case. Was it biased information? Absolutely. But the vendor understood that I was pulling together a comprehensive story to prove to the senior leaders that we had not only done the appropriate due diligence, but that we anticipated their questions and concerns. The second vendor was clearly behaving as a partner and they won our business.

Connection

You might think that this is about a partner connecting with, and understanding you as a person. And that is important, but I’m getting at much more. A true partner helps you to connect with others by introducing you to people that might be able to help solve other unrelated problems.

Some of the most powerful conversations I have had involve calling a partner and saying ‘I know this isn’t your area of expertise, but do you know someone who can help me with xyz?’  My partners will always take my call, always listen to my situation and always try to point me towards a helpful resource. That service is infinitely valuable and pays off in lucrative and unpredictable ways.  One of my favorite partners fed my interest in Agile by introducing me to others in the Agile community and helping line up speaking opportunities for me.  Our relationship started as recruitment but we have both long since left the roles we were in when we met, yet we continue to send each other business and connections because of our genuine mutual respect.

Partners are valuable and sometimes rare. Vendors can be a dime a dozen. I am not trying to minimize the difficulties of selecting the right vendors for your business. I know that it’s hard. Not every relationship can transcend today’s business need and grow into an expansive long-term relationship. But that is what you should look for – and it is how businesses like PayLease work with its clients.

Originally posted on Pay Lease Blog

 

5 Behaviors that Boost Resident Retention

Whether you are managing a small apartment community in rural America, or one of the industry’s largest assets, people’s expectations are basically the same. They want a quality place to live, that’s a good value for their money, and managed by friendly and reliable people.

With today’s aggressive competition trying to compete solely on price, your community needs to find a good balance between customer expectations and advantages. Here are some ways to clearly separate your communities from the competition, giving you a higher chance of retaining residents.

Good customer service can trump price

Here’s a little secret you should know: contrary to common perception, customers will NOT go almost anywhere just to save a buck. The quickest way to get people to ignore you is to not offer anything beyond a good price.

Stop trying to compete on price alone. Exceptional customer service can make a bigger impact than a good price. I’m talking more than the “please and thank you” variety. Aim higher. Strive for fabulous, prominent, outrageously great service to set your community apart.

Keep your word and your promises

If you want loyal customers, you need to get THEM to care about YOU. Trust is a huge factor in the formula for exceptional relationships. Seems like it would be easy to get people to trust you and your property, but the truth is it isn’t.

According to the Retail Consumer Dissatisfaction Survey, scary things can happen when you lose a customer’s trust:

  • 96% of dissatisfied customers do not complain directly to management or owners.
  • 90% of dissatisfied customers will choose to never return to your business.
  • One unhappy customer will tell at least nine others.
  • 13% of unhappy customers will tell at least 20 other people, even if unsolicited.

You need to make it clear that you want residents to voice their opinions, both good and bad. Lack of sincerity and concern combined with empty promises makes your credibility worthless. Offer multiple ways for them to contact you including phone, email, text, or live chat.

Use words that resonate

Many people think using a customer’s name is a powerful persuasion. This is true, but if you really want words that resonate with apartment hunters, “free”, “new”, and “guaranteed” are extremely appealing. Free parking. New appliances. Guaranteed to impress. When customers hear these words (and when the promises they imply are backed up), they’ll enjoy their experience at your community more than they would have otherwise.

Create advertising that shows your community “walks the talk”. Money back guarantees for satisfaction, 24 hour or same-day response time to service requests are examples of your credibility. Remember, it’s what you DO to back up what you SAY you will do that’s so powerful.

Put quality ahead of speed

Studies have shown that people were 9 times more likely to be satisfied when they evaluated the service given as courteous, willing, and helpful. When customers identified their service as speedy, they were only 6 times more likely to stay or purchase again. Albeit response time is crucial, it is that expectation of quality that really keeps your residents happy.

This is especially true in the property management industry. In most situations, people understand that sometimes we can’t get to their request immediately. But if they have been waiting and the problem isn’t resolved to their satisfaction, count on having an angry resident on your hands.

Show residents their business is valued

Residents and prospects want to feel like you care about their needs. It’s a little easier to convey this message in a brick and mortar setting. Online satisfaction surveys can let your on line customers know that you’re completely involved in meeting their expectations and needing their valuable input.

Today’s resident expects little extras, but at no charge. Offering complimentary coffee or bottled water in community areas is a perfect example. If you nickel and dime them for every little thing, they’ll quickly decide that you’re only interested in taking their money. By adding value at no additional cost to your customer, you could find your competitive edge and increase your customer base.

Finally, who wants to spend their hard-earned money with someone who doesn’t appreciate their business? Make sure that you offer special promotions, perks, or gifts to your long-term customers. Show them you appreciate their continued support and investment in your property and to your company.

If you can give your customer what they want, your success will be as simple as saying, “thank you” for being a valued customer.

Be your customer’s ASSET:

A-Apartment, S- Service, S- Satisfaction, E- Eliminates, T- Turnover!

Originally posted at Pay Lease Blog