2009: The Year That Was

2009: The Year That Was
By: Nicholas A. Dunlap, CPM

2009 has kept property owners and managers extremely busy with marketing and leasing at their multifamily properties. In our portfolio, we experienced multiple waves of move-outs and vacancies, starting in the holiday season of 2008. After vacancies sat through the holiday season, it became apparent that adjustments to rental rates were needed if the goal was to remain full. And then, just as we thought we were about to gain balance, we got hit with another wave of vacancies and the cycle started all over again.

Investors do not respond kindly to vacancies. In fact, most owners agree that the ability to fill an apartment home quickly is one of the most satisfying traits of a professional management company. In my role at DPG, I am directly responsible for our occupancy rates. I work with our on-site leasing professionals and managers and counsel them on rental rates, specials and marketing. Never before have I had to resort to the extreme marketing measures we have during the past year, but what I have learned is that responding quickly, efficiently and putting out 110% effort at all times is the best way to combat the downturn in any business, especially property management.

During the holidays, we attributed the vacancy rates and inability to rent to the season. Historically, properties are difficult to market and lease around the holidays as residents tend to stay put as opposed to moving. In November of 2008, we began to experience what would soon become routine for 2009: good residents losing their jobs or having their hours cut. The result: 30 day notices, skips and delinquencies. As we began to turn up our online and print advertising, spruce up our leasing offices, introduce specials and adjust rents to fit the market, BOOM! Magic happened. We established what has now become an ongoing cycle of intensive advertising and marketing at our properties. From the time a resident vacates, our engines are already running and we are working on pre-renting the apartment home. We know the marketplace so well that most of our managers could just as easily rent one of our neighboring competitor’s apartment homes as their own. Current market research that is constantly updated helps us stay ahead of the market.

In April of 2009, we had multiple vacancies at just about every property in our portfolio and our losses were at $74,200 for the month (portfolio wide). Now, in December of 2009, a majority of our properties are either at 100% occupancy or have 1 or 2 vacancies and our losses are under $48,000. By no means are these the numbers we saw during 2006 and 2007, but after a long, tough 2008 and 2009, I am certainly proud of our efforts.