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.

Daily Deals for Apartments?

From NAA’s excellent APTly Spoken blog comes this interesting post about the potential use of  “daily deal” sites (think Groupon) by apartment communities.  Here’s an excerpt:

As Paul Bergeron reported in the article, “Crowds Flock to Online Deals!” in the June issue of units, the concept excited attendees at the 2011 AIM Conference in May who were looking for new and creative ways to attract prospective residents and gain market advantage. Attendees who may have purchased discounted kitty litter on a whim the week prior.

Greg Mazanec, LivingSocial Senior Director, Inside Sales, suggested that apartment owners or their communities consider sponsoring deals, such as attaching the phrase, “Brought to you by Rolling Hills Apartments” to a social commerce offer of $40 worth of dining at a nearby restaurant.

Apartment owners or communities also could try to provide a sense of value for renting at their community by making a deal exclusive only to their current, new or prospective residents, Mazanec said. Perhaps an offer to pay $50 for $100 worth of sclerotherapy will be included in my next resident e-newsletter.

Pew Releases Results of Social Media Survey

The Pew Research Center released a study called “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives.”  You can read the full thing here if you have a few hours of spare time, or you can read this short article that conveniently provides the highlights.  Here’s an interesting paragraph from the article:

It’s not surprising that more social network users are on Facebook — 92 percent — but some of the stats for other services are surprising. For example, there are more social networkers on LinkedIn than Twitter, 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively. But Twitter users, like Facebookers, are more engaged, with 52 percent and 33 percent, respectively, using the services daily. By comparison, only 6 percent of LinkedIn users go there daily. The finding is interesting for the timing. LinkedIn had a huge public offering last month, while Facebook is preparing its IPO. Pew described Facebook as the “nearly universal social networking site,” while “MySpace and LinkedIn are occasional destinations.”

Rent an Apartment and Share a Car

From the June 15, 2011 Wall Street Journal:

Equity Residential, the country’s largest residential real-estate investment trust, hopes its latest perk for its apartment tenants will drive traffic to its doors.

The company struck a deal with Zipcar Inc. to add car-rental services to more of its apartment communities in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Seattle.

By the end of the summer, more than 100 Zipcars are slated to be parked in Equity Residential communities, giving more than 17,000 residents access to the vehicles, the company says. A small number of the company’s properties already had arrangements with Zipcar, but the program is being expanded and formalized.

Tenants receive discounts on Zipcar’s membership fees and on hourly rates. Neighbors of Equity Residential apartment complexes can also rent the cars.