Property Operations In Stressful Times
Kitty Callaghan shares operational tactics that keep Wasatch Property Management in growth mode amid a shifting economy.
Despite the prolonged hardship that lingers over the economy, Wasatch Property Management strives to provide the same level of service to its residents while encouraging its associates to “keep an entrepreneurial attitude,” as Vice President of Marketing Kitty Callaghan puts it. The company manages more than 70 multifamily properties or 17,000 units across five western states—California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Washington.
Most of the properties in the company’s portfolio were technologically prepared for the work-from-home movement even before remote work became a lifestyle. But there is still plenty to do in adapting the management strategy and accommodating new duties to satisfy residents’ current needs. The robust media packages offered at many WPM properties make a solid foundation for residents who work remotely, but that is only one side of efficient and effective property operations. The other side is the amenable property management process itself, currently bustling in areas pertaining to staffing, utilities and repair schedules.
Callaghan told Multi-Housing News all about WPM’s fortitude to maintain its standards during persisting economic uncertainty, by thinking ahead.
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High inflation and, implicitly, higher rents are pushing renters to change their lifestyles to cover these increases. How is this shift perceived from the lessor’s perspective?
Callaghan: Inflation hits everyone differently. We know that rising prices not only affect rents and utilities but all daily living expenses. Hence, consumers are dealing with difficult decisions about their lifestyle choices. Eating out less often, attending fewer events, and delaying home purchases means residents spend more time in their apartments.
As housing is likely the greatest portion of monthly expenditures, it is imperative that the value and service received meet expectations. In fact, we see ourselves as much as a service provider as a multifamily housing organization. We believe that providing exceptional service to our residents will help maintain our perceived value in any economy.
Distressed times will likely continue for the foreseeable future. From a property management perspective, how is WPM preparing for the upcoming recession?
Callaghan: Wasatch has always encouraged an entrepreneurial attitude for all our associates. We view our service providers as partners and work together to provide best-in-class experiences for our residents. As the economy continues to shift, we will adjust our processes and increase efficiencies for all of us, to continue providing our signature exceptional service.
How do these woes affect marketing duties and budgets?
Callaghan: Our marketing efforts are laser-focused to provide optimum ROI for every dollar spent. We closely monitor changes to our customers’ shopping and buying habits to ensure that our marketing efforts are properly focused, and adjust as necessary. Being data-driven allows us to adjust and refine our efforts for the best results.
The right sustainability strategy can limit the impact of a recession and facilitate a quick recovery. Where do WPM properties stand in relation to sustainability?
Callaghan: We are committed to sustainability both at our properties and at the corporate level. We are aware that sustainability is so much more than simply recycling bins and reducing water consumption. Therefore, we built one of the first ‘virtual power plants’ at our solar community Soleil Lofts in Herriman, Utah, which has become a prototype for the future. We are using what we have learned through this project in all future developments.
Furthermore, as part of our property management strategy, we are also looking at adding sustainability to our existing communities by equipping them with solar panels and storage batteries.
What amenities are renters most drawn to these days?
Callaghan: As social and economic trends change, so does the desire for different amenities, so our property operations are flexible to serve our residents’ needs. Pets are a big part of the mix as many of today’s renters have pets. But, to be truly pet-friendly, it is important to offer more than dog parks. Pet grooming, doggie daycare and other services can be offered on-site or with mobile service providers. Pet owners are loyal renters and more likely to renew their leases.
Apartment shoppers still look for value when making their renting decisions. Pools, fitness centers and other amenities are important to grab attention, but it is consistent care and service that keeps them long term.
Which communication methods do you use with your residents? How often do you reach out?
Callaghan: It’s important we offer every possible communication channel between residents and on-site property operation teams. Of course, there is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Different people have different preferences and, whatever their preferred communication channel is, we need to be there.
While it’s important to listen and be heard, it’s also important not to overwhelm them with unnecessary chatter. To be effective, communication must be clear, concise and well-received.
How do you maintain positive relations with your residents?
Callaghan: Genuine respect and appreciation go a long way in creating positive relationships. As part of our commitment to our residents, we offer several unique programs such as our three-hour service response program, focused on the exceptional resident experience that helps keep our relationships positive.
What are WPM’s plans for the rest of the year?
Callaghan: Wasatch is in growth mode. We have several new markets and new developments in our pipeline. Contrary to typical conventions, we view a challenging economy as an opportunity. We will continue to watch for opportunities to improve our property operations, streamline processes and increase efficiencies.