4 Things to Complete before Busy Season.
I typically tell people slow season in property management in Fort Collins is between end of September and beginning of April. Students are in school and people are not as excited about moving during winter as during the summer months, so we get a “slow season”.
With busy season beginning, here are 4 things to do to get ready for it.
We used to set these rents during March, but with CSU’s housing fair beginning earlier and earlier, we set them sooner and sooner.
This is always an interesting time for our property managers. Between the 2 of them, they have 40+ years of experience and still it is an anxious time because of the uncertainty of where the market is going.
We have so much new construction in Fort Collins. Many of these newer apartment complexes are having their first “turn-over” of units. We are fortunate that there are so many people moving to Fort Collins. If that trend stops and all of these units come on line, there could be many property owners and investors scrambling for renter and offering significant concessions.
Currently, the feeling is that it is still a hot market for landlords and rentals. A well-priced property will not sit long and should be leased within weeks if marketed properly and intentionally processed. A year ago, a landlord could throw a property on the market with a random absurdly high number and have 4 people submit applications within 24 hours. We aren’t that hot of a market any more.
You should be gathering market information on rent prices, vacancy, absorption and new units being added. Hopefully you have some comparable properties you can contact the property manager/landlord to get rental rates from. Compile all of this information, use the technology you may have at your fingertips (revenue management systems, rent generators etc) and decide on your new rents.
Rent setting now needs to be strategically set and the leasing team should know that slacking will not be tolerated. It’s a new season and more competition = a higher level of work required.
Send out Lease Renewals
Once your rents have been set, it is time to send out lease renewals. A trend I’m seeing is an increased days requirement for notice to vacate. We used to only require 60 days. We’ve since moved to 90 and 120 days, but landlords requesting 6 months is not out of the question. There are multiple advantages of having more notice of vacating units.
Aggressive rental pricing
If you have 180 days to get your property leased out, you can be more aggressive with the rental amount you are seeking. Set your rent at a premium and then systematically decrease it if you are unable to get it rented.
We will discuss staffing more below, but as it regards lease renewals, the earlier you know how many units will be vacating and renewing, the sooner you can understand your summer staffing needs.
Get the renewals sent out and once they begin rolling in you will get a sense of how much turnover you are going to have. This will help you decide how much maintenance is going to be required as well as the need for leasing consultants.
Walk of Properties
The summer months are here and with the 5-6 months of solid warm weather, comes the ability to get those exterior projects done. Even with 300 days of sun, the cold weather and uncertainty of it, do not allow for extended projects to be taken on.
We walk the properties every month, but when spring comes rolling around, we walk them with a different mentality, that of improvement. What can be done to increase curb appeal? What needs to be done to ensure the integrity of the building? Are there any emergencies that have to be taken care of? What does your budget look like to be able to do these projects?
We just finished walking 3 of our properties and came up with a list of action items. Our must haves, our wants and our dream list. Our must haves include tree limbs growing onto the roofs to be removed. Our wants would be new concrete in certain areas where it may have shifted. Finally, our dream list is the large ticket items. The parking lots, new roofs and painting. Unless these items are needing to be done, or causing the building damage, these large ticket items are put on our list of dreams.
With our smaller operation, we do not budget in these items over the years. We signal the need for these items years in advance and inform ownership of the need. Ultimately, each owner has his or her goals for each property and the investment into these repair categories need to be within those goals for them to be completed.
Summer Vendors/Seasonal Staff
If your rental property has an A/C unit, do you have an HVAC tech who you set up annually to service it? How about sprinkler/landscape techs? Our techs are responsible for starting up the sprinklers, fertilizing our turf and also its aeration. We do this on all applicable properties even if the tenant is responsible for mowing their lawns. We also schedule pest control service at one of our larger complexes to mitigate wasps, bees, ants etc.
Summer is a busy time for all, so having reliable vendors who you have relationships with will pay dividends to both your stress levels and bottom financial line.
Do you need to bring on summer maintenance techs or leasing consultants to help with the additional work that is to be done? By now, hopefully you already have a leasing consultant working part time. It is important to use the slow time so they can be taught sales techniques, property features and locations. If you haven’t hired your leasing consultant, start the marketing for hire.
Fort Collins is a great college town and there are always college kids looking for work. You could hire construction management majors for help with the maintenance side, or horticulture majors to help with the landscape side. We take full advantage of the resources Colorado State University has to offer. We have 4 full time maintenance technicians throughout the year and 2 part-time. During the summer, our part timers become full time and we bring on 1 additional full-time tech.
Although there are many things you can and should be doing during “slow season” to better both your company and the properties, it is getting warmer and soon is GO TIME! These four things to do before busy season will set you and your properties up for success.