A Whole New Season

Property managers share tips on preparing communities for summer.

Photography by Joe Ownbey and Mike Miriello

By Philip Shea, Associate Editor

When it comes to preparing their communities for summer, apartment managers must bear in mind what the season represents in terms of leasing and resident satisfaction. Boosting curb appeal and providing fun yet safe amenities are essential ingredients to attracting new customers and keeping existing ones happy.

Frank Alvarez, vice president of operations at Beacon Residential Management LLC, says that summer is typically a high-influx season due to increased flexibility among families as a result of children being out of school. As such, certain cosmetic factors become priorities when anticipating the season.

“We really emphasize the spring clean up,” says Alvarez. “It really depends on how bad the winter was. If there were a lot of storms, there is going to be some curb damage and turf damage, so one of the first things is to start repairing those to have good curb appeal.”

Alvarez emphasizes the premium Beacon places on landscape presentation and highlights the need to stay both competitive and safe in this area.

“We try to be the first with mulch installation and flowers,” Alvarez says. “That’s always our goal, and we’re always trying to come up with ideas. This year we sent all the guys to [receive] hoisting training in Massachusetts. We look at the importance of curb appeal but also how to manage and be safe with using equipment.”

Steve Boyack, vice president of asset management at Laramar, says “the biggest challenge is the weather” when preparing the company’s 100-plus properties for summer and describes where nuances lay in terms of geography.

“In Florida we make sure that the property receives a full tree trimming in May before hurricane season starts on June 1st,” Boyack says. “We verify that all storm shutters and supplies are in order and order any missing supplies in advance. We host a resident training session for installation of shutters and emergency evacuation or storm preparedness procedures.”

Amenities and safety

In a post to Multifamilyinsiders.com, Michael Monteiro, CEO of Buildium, an online property management software company, states that one of the keys to a successful summer operation is having a decent array of amenities for residents to enjoy, while keeping in mind that with such comes “additional risks and hazards, many of which can be easily prevented with clear policies and a little bit of enforcement.”

Pools are among the most popular amenities residents utilize in the summer months, yet as Monteiro notes, this escape from the heat comes with various safety risks. From policies on diving to restrictions on pets and infants, regulations should be made clear to all current and future residents, even if such requires their acknowledgement in writing.

“As a landlord, it’s your job to remind tenants about smart poolside practices and to protect yourself from litigation that may result from pool-related injuries,” Monteiro notes. “Along with posting pool rules around the swimming area, you can also include the policy as a lease addendum to ensure that all tenants sign off on your property’s rules and regulations from day one.”

Grills are a far more hazard-ridden amenity that require considerable
attention from property managers. According to Monteiro, during the planning stages, managers should “ensure that the grill is not within a certain distance of [the] property’s building in order to prevent potential catastrophe at the hands of flying sparks or an out-of-control flame.” Residents should also be made aware that only adults are allowed to operate a grill.

In addition, while summer can be a time of festivity and the occasional late-night gathering, having regulations in place to limit noise and minimize disturbance is a good step to take to ensure harmony among residents and the surrounding community.

“Again, setting forth expectations or a noise policy in the lease is a good way to ensure that all tenants understand your rules and regulations,” Monteiro writes. “The early summer months are the perfect time to send tenants a reminder about building noise policies and expectations in terms of quiet times and noise levels.”

Electricity and green technology

The importance of having electrical systems, particularly air-conditioning, in working order for the “dog days” of summer cannot be overstated, as this can mean the difference between comfort and misery for many. As such, preparation needs to start long before the season arrives.

“It is important that you contact any service providers early so that you don’t fall victim to delays due to scheduling,” says Steve Boyack of Laramar.  “Landscapers, pool service providers and HVAC technicians book up quickly so scheduling in the first quarter is imperative.”

As the summer months often bring on high levels of energy usage, the incentive to go green for companies like Beacon and Laramar is as strong as ever. New standards in efficiency and environmental friendliness tend to make a difference, both in terms of cost and appearance to potential residents.

“It’s a big, big deal with all our new developments,” says Frank Alvarez of Beacon. “We [have targeted] all our new developments for the last few years to be LEED certified. Last year, we were able to lock in electric rates for at least 50 percent of our properties, and 40 percent of the electricity that we purchased was green, either from wind power or more modern electric plants.”

Alvarez indicates that summer can actually be a period of energy savings at certain types of properties, highlighting Beacon unique approach.

“One of our properties actually has a huge solar system,” Alvarez notes. “It’s in Pittsfield, Mass. and, for a couple of months, it was the biggest residential solar system in Massachusetts.
You always worry about what it’s going to look like, but it actually looks pretty cool.”

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