News for Community Managers in Winston-Salem

According to the Mercer’s list of World’s Cheapest Cities for Expensive Living 2011 Winston-Salem is the cheapest city to live well in the country.  Here’s the description from the site, which ranks Winston-Salem number 18 in the world:

This city of 230,000 people is the least-expensive U.S. city in Mercer’s survey. Winston-Salem, home to Reynolds American (RAI)—the holding company of cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds Tobacco—as well as Wake Forest University, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center,Novant Health, and Hanesbrands (HBI), has a median household income of $41,979 and a poverty rate of 13.5 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Unfortunately the site also claims this:

Monthly rent, unfurnished 2-br luxury apartment: $500

I think that might come as a bit of a surprise to our members in Winston-Salem:)

Pooljackers

According to this story on Fox8 when the temperature rises so does the number of uninvited guests to community pools:

Residents at Madison Place Apartments in Kernersville said the pool gets crowded early.

“You come in the morning, you don’t have a seat,” said one resident of the 204-unit complex.

Apartment Manager Jo Caton said she catches uninvited guests at the pool almost every day.

“If they have enough nerve to sneak into the pool, then it doesn’t bother them to get thrown out,” Caton said.

Caton said the trespassers will park in a different area and walk through the complex acting like residents. Caton said the pool crashers were so bad one day that she had to call police.

Residents at a Jamestown apartment complex said nobody really enforces the rules there, causing them to not be able to enjoy the pool  they’re paying to use.

Residents of several Triad apartment complexes said while the rules are similar, the enforcement varies widely.

More on Using Facebook

A second post at Aptly Spoken about engaging members on Facebook provides some helpful tips on building your Facebook presence, especially if you’re just getting started.  For instance, here’s some info Facebook places:

With Facebook Places, you can easily share where you are, what you’re doing, and the friends you’re with. . It helps people discover new places or businesses by seeing where their friends are.

Here are some benefits to adding your community to Facebook Places:

  • It will come up when people try to check in to anywhere nearby (building awareness)
  • By people checking in it will appear in their Facebook newsfeed (brand awareness)
  • You can add more information about your community to the check in description (website, phone number, address, etc.), so when they check in on their phone they find out more about your community instantly
  • If people find you on Facebook while on their computer they can get directions to your community

It is quite challenging to add your business to Places, especially without a smartphone!  The best description I found on the Internet that led me through it quite painlessly is the website for Dummies

Be Engaging on Facebook

There’s a good post by Tracey Heitzman at NAA’s blog on how to engage your residents on Facebook:

With its 600 million users and average daily session time of 25 minutes, Facebook provides an exceptional opportunity for visibility, Google indexing, live search ability, and fan engagement.

But, if you build it, will they come? And if they come, will they stay and engage?

She then provides lots of tips on how you can keep your Facebook presence interesting, timely and lively.  It’s definitely worth a read.

NAA/NHMC Guidance on “Credit Score” Disclosure Effective July 21

This important information is in the latest issue of NAA’s AIMS Update (you can now find AIMS Updates in the “News” section of PTAA’s website):

NAA/NMHC have issued a new members-only guidance document to help member firms understand new “credit score” disclosures that go into effect on July 21.  As a result of a provision in last year’s Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform law (P.L. 111-203), a firm using a “credit score” in the rental screening process that takes an adverse action against a rental applicant may have a new disclosure obligation.

If you or your resident screening service provider use a credit score and take an adverse action, you must comply with this new notice requirement.  Importantly, if you or your resident screening company do not use a credit score as defined, but use a scoring model specific to the rental decision (i.e., one not used in the loan process), then it is likely that you will have no additional notice obligations.

NAA/NMHC’s guidance highlights the key elements of the new credit score disclosure obligations.  NAA/NMHC encourage you to discuss this new rule with your provider and counsel to determine applicability to your specific rental screening process.

You Can’t Please Everyone

I’m constantly fascinated by the perceptions that different people will have of one business. For instance there’s a BBQ restaurant that I absolutely love, I think it’s the best in town, but during a casual conversation about weekend plans I had a relative tell me she thought the food was terrible.  I couldn’t for the life of me understand it.  On the other hand I have friends who LOVE a certain downtown restaurant that I think has mediocre food (at best) and terrible service.  I gave the place three tries and in my mind it failed to please all three times so it struck out with me.

From a business’s standpoint it just has to try and please enough people enough times that it can be profitable.  Of course it, or rather the people who run it, should always strive to improve and provide the best product/service possible, but they will never please everyone all of the time.  I was reminded of this when I read this comment at Consumerist about the service one family received from American Express:

In 1989, my father died while traveling in another country. We were told by the State Dept. that we needed to deposit $2500 into an account to cover all costs of cremation, processing, and shipping him and his belongings home. Any monies not spent would be refunded to us.

It was a Sunday and none of our banks were open. My mom was frantic. In the course of a conversation with… someone from one of the banks? I don’t remember… the woman whispered into her phone that if I had an AmEx card, I should call them, but not tell anyone she had suggested it.

So I called AmEx and spoke with an impossibly perky 15-year-old-sounding person who promised to take care of everything for me. Fifteen minutes later, she called with the transfer confirmation number and said that the State Dept. now had our funds. She also wanted to send the AmEx rep to take care of everything, but by then my poor dad was so wrapped up in red tape that no one could have gotten near him or his stuff.

In the course of the next few days, the State Dept. managed to lose my father in transit so he missed his own funeral, but that’s another story. During that time, I got two more calls from managers at AmEx, asking if there was anything they could do to help us…

I know a lot of vendors don’t take AmEx because their fees are higher, but I will never forget what they did for us when we had no other way out, and that they actually paid the substantial State Dept. fee for us and wouldn’t let us repay them.

We have a friend who has had similar experiences with AmEx.

It’s a pain to have to pay it all off every month, but well worth it to me, just to ensure that they are in my corner if, God forbid, I ever need them.

The same relative who disagreed with me about the BBQ place has a lifelong animosity towards AmEx for a reason I can’t remember, but I can tell you that hell will likely be frozen over before she ever uses an AmEx card again. There again we have the same company with two wildly divergent perceptions.  Obviously AmEx has pleased enough people to build a very profitable business so I suspect the ‘lovers’ outweigh the ‘haters,’ but it’s good for all of us to keep in mind that no matter how well we think we’re doing we absolutely have someone out there who isn’t pleased with us.

BTW, my wife and I just applied for our Costco/AmEx card.  Hopefully we’ll find our experience to be more like the Consumerist commentor’s and less like my relative’s.

Posted by Jon Lowder.

PooPrints

Have dog owners in your community?  Do they let their precious little pooch poop anywhere it pleases and then not bother to pick it up?  Well, we might have a solution for you:  a doggy doo-doo DNA testing service called PooPrints.  From the website:

We all love our pets. We also care about our environment and would do anything possible to keep our communities green and clean! With dog ownership rapidly increasing in the U.S., waste is really starting to “pile up” in communities like yours across the nation. We have the solution to your pet pollution, and we want you to get started today! 

Each property will have their own reference database to include all community dogs

To build your database, a DNA profile is created for each dog using a cheek swab collection kit

Samples are mailed to BioPet’s lab. DNA from cheek swabs are analyzed to create a unique genetic profile for each dog

Each genetic profile is uploaded to your property’s private and secure database provided through the DNA World Pet Registry

Once all genetic profiles are complete, PooPrints is fully enforceable by means of simple comparison 

 

Piedmont Triad Vacancy Rate Decline is Among Three Sharpest in US

From the Wall Street Journal:

The average effective rent, the amount paid after discounting, was $997 in the second quarter of the year, up from $974 a year earlier, according to a report scheduled for release Thursday byReis Inc., which tracks leasing data for 82 markets. Second-quarter rents rose in all but two markets.

Rent levels rose fastest in San Jose, Calif., to $1,501 in the second quarter. The average effective rent in San Francisco was $1,806; Wichita, Kan., $495, and New York, $2,826.

Vacancies, meanwhile, fell in 72 of the 82 markets during the second-quarter vacancy rate to 6%, the lowest since 2008 and compared with 7.8% a year earlier, according to Reis. Vacancies declined fastest in Charleston, W.Va., Greensboro/Winston-Salem, N.C., and Richmond, Va. (emphasis added.)

“Rising rents and falling vacancies are the perfect situation for landlords,” said Rich Anderson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets. “It’s like drinking without the hangover.”

That’s some good news!

Governor Signs Residential Rental Inspection Bill Into Law

From the Apartment Association of North Carolina’s (AANC) website:

 In a major victory for North Carolina rental housing providers, the Apartment Association of North Carolina-initiated Bill – Residential Building Inspections – was ratified by the N.C. Legislature on June 18th. Once signed by Governor Perdue, the bill will become law immediately, and will rein in advocacy-minded local units of government who have exceeded – or might want to exceed – their statutory limitations on housing inspections. The Bill:

  • Requires units of government to have reasonable cause to believe that unsafe housing conditions exist in order to inspect private housing, via landlord history, reports, or actual knowledge by a unit of government. This provision allows resources to be used to focus on unsafe conditions, problem properties and irresponsible owners and landlords.
  • Requires government housing inspection programs to be administered in a non-discriminatory way regarding housing type or ownership.
  • Provides local governments the authority to make an exception to the reasonable cause test in order to conduct periodic inspections as part of a targeted effort to arrest blight within designated Community Development or similar zones.  
  • Prohibits local governments from requiring permits as a condition of operating rental housing – unless a property has more than 3 violations in a twelve month period, or falls within the top 10% of local crime or disorder problems.
  • Prohibits local governments from levying rental registration fees unless a dwelling unit has more than 2 violations in a twelve month period, or falls within the top 10% of local crime or disorder problems.

 Context: North Carolina cities have historically been concerned about housing conditions in their jurisdictions, especially in older, poorer neighborhoods, and have appropriately adopted ordinances calling for minimum housing quality codes. The administration of these codes are an important tool in helping North Carolina municipalities fight neighborhood decline while ensuring to housing consumers that minimal health, safety, and sanitation conditions are maintained in residential structures.

Unfortunately, some N.C. municipalities have substantially broadened these programs aimed at stemming blighted conditions and now apply them to all housing, or at least all rental housing, as part of mandatory inspection approaches. Sometimes these programs are tied into required permits and fees as a condition of operating rental property. Programs designed to systematically inspect all rental housing for the purpose of improving housing quality are bad public policy and waste needed resources that could be used to combat problematic housing.

Inspection programs in these environments amount to a “housing tax” with no public benefit. The core of current NC law gives units of government the authority to respond to housing conditions that are unsafe, dangerous, and unfit for human habitation. The new law ensures that units of government don’t exceed their authority.

Rating Site Lawsuit

It will be interesting what effect, if any, a lawsuit filed by a hotel against a couple that posted an allegedly false bedbug complaint on TripAdvisor.com will have on other rating sites.  From the piece:

A hotel in suburban Oak Park, Ill., has sued a Massachusetts couple, claiming they made a false bedbug claim on Tripadvisor.com.

The suit claims Michael Gladstone and Liora Braun posted a review saying they found a bedbug on the third and final night of their April stay at the Carleton, but when they complained, the hotel did not take it seriously. Now they are facing claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with business.Oakpark.com has the story.

A maintenance crew checked the room after the couple complained, but no problem was found, the lawsuit says. Michael Gladstone contacted the hotel manager to complain a second time, spurring the hotel to hire a pest control company. “Not a single bedbug, dead or alive, was observed,” according to the inspection report attached to the lawsuit.