Real Estate Management News

IREM ® headlines

Progress in 2019 Sets Stage for Exciting 2020

IREM highlights throughout 2019 spanned the globe and covered a vast range of issues that confronted the real estate management profession and those engaged in it. Chief among the more noteworthy events and programs were the Global Summit, international expansion, government affairs initiatives, knowledge resource development and a new website.

The IREM Global Summit drew 918 attendees to San Francisco in September to engage in debate and discussion about the industry—and IREM’s role in leading it—network with their colleagues from around the world, attend a top-tier lineup of keynote sessions and education offerings, and dine and dance at the opening premier party. The annual event was preceded earlier in the year by four regional meetings throughout the country where chapter leaders converged to learn best practices, explore opportunities for growing their local presence, and gain insights into how challenges being faced by real estate managers are being addressed.

Beyond the borders of the U.S., IREM promoted the property management profession and expanded its footprint. A record-setting total of 227 new CPMs were installed in Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa and elsewhere; opportunities in Dubai and Bahrain as well as Serbia and other Eastern European markets were explored; and the year ended with Cheryl Gray, CPM, from Toronto, Canada, taking the reins as IREM’s first president from outside the U.S.

Legislative actions and regulatory measures continued to have an impact on real estate and its management, and in March IREM responded with a Washington, DC, Fly-In that drew 55 members who converged on Capitol Hill to conduct 100 meetings with their Congressmen. This was followed by a summer Congressional Briefing to update Congressional staffers on key issues, and a series of quarterly webinars to share these updates with IREM members. State-level issues—rent control and legalization of marijuana being chief among them—also made the news and demanded government affairs attention in the form of information-sharing and calls to action.

With so much change in the industry, IREM responded to the thirst for relevant, timely knowledge through an outpouring of content delivered in classrooms, online, digitally, and through print media. Throughout the year, 110 live webinars were produced, and by year-end 85 on-demand courses were available—all supported by a new learning management system (LMS) that enhanced the student experience. Likewise, 64 blogs were posted, updates of key IREM textbooks were published, each issue of the Journal of Property Management was packed with valuable information, and a new book on asset management was released.

The year ended with a bang and the release of a new website that builds on a major rebranding initiative that kicked off earlier in the year and positions IREM as an institute focused on education and knowledge solutions to help professionals advance their careers. It offers clear steps to earning IREM certifications and better access to all of the ways to learn with IREM.

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Human Sex Trafficking—Can it Be Happening on Your Properties?

If you’ve watched a crime show on TV, chances are at some point you’ve seen one where the SWAT team bursts through the door and takes down a chain of human trafficking. Yes, it’s just a TV show, but human trafficking is a real issue going on today, and it could be happening at one of your properties. Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means for the purpose of exploiting them. The most common cases involve commercial sex trafficking and labor trafficking. It often involves women who are being housed at a location against their will, or prostitution and trafficking taking place within a location.

It could happen to anyone, of any gender, nationality or age. As a property manager, there are many signs and behaviors that you should be on the lookout for. These can be both physical signs and behavioral signs, such as several people residing in the same place, physical fatigue, malnourishment, depression or confusion.

To learn more about human sex trafficking, the signs to watch out for, or what to do if you suspect human trafficking is happening at your property, join our upcoming webinar, Human Sex Trafficking: What Property Managers Should Know, on Tuesday, January 14 at 1pm CST, presented by Frank A. Flynn, Esq. Click here for more information and to register for the webinar.

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The Growth of Package Delivery—What to Expect

Today you can buy almost anything online and have it delivered within a few hours. According to DCVelocity, package delivery volume in the United States is expected to double in the next six years (by 2026) from 50 million to 100 million packages delivered each day. That’s right—every day.

For real estate managers, the surge of deliveries raises concerns over securing these purchases for tenants and residents, managing the gridlock caused by delivery trucks around the properties they manage, and, of course, finding a place to safely store packages. These issues are even more profound in urban areas already struggling with traffic, safety and parking. New technologies can help ease these burdens, from touchscreens that allow residents to allow access to their apartments remotely, to smart storage facilities that provide property managers with data and reporting on delivery history and security information.

IREM President Cheryl Gray, CPM, recently contributed an article to NREI that explores ways real estate managers can minimize the impact of this burgeoning trend on service to tenants and residents, what to look out for, and what to expect over the next few years.

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Industry headlines

Top Tech Trends for 2020
Multifamily Executive (01/06/20) Haughey, Rick; Yaussi, Sarah

At the recent NMHC OPTECH event in Dallas, more than 2,000 apartment executives and technology partners gathered to explore new software and technology solutions, discuss evolving multifamily housing technology needs, and get practical advice on implementing new technologies. The article's authors detail five major things the leaders in tech and innovation were talking about at the event. The first was the latest generation of AI-powered chatbots. Fueled by machine learning, these digital leasing assistants have gotten so sophisticated that prospects often can't tell it's a robot responding to a thread. The second was self-guided tours. However, a lingering problem is apartment owners and managers are still struggling with the question of when humans should reinsert themselves into the leasing process.

The third major topic of discussion was intelligent buildings. More and more apartment operators are "testing the smart home waters" with intelligent building platforms hemming together smart home tech with digital remote access for maintenance and guest access, energy-saving solutions, and systems monitoring technologies like leak detection. Fourth, attendees discussed so-called "curb to community room connectivity." Finally, resident finance solutions were given major focus. New renter-focused FinTech solutions are emerging as housing affordability becomes a bigger issue in markets nationwide. Such solutions aim to reduce upfront costs, provide more financial flexibility for apartment renters, and provide operators with more efficiencies and protections against lease loss.

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Bed Bath & Beyond Strikes Real-Estate Deal
Wall Street Journal (01/06/20) Kapner, Suzanne

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. has inked a deal to sell nearly 50 percent of its real estate portfolio to Oak Street Real Estate Capital LLC and lease back the space in a transaction that will generate over $250 million in proceeds. The approximately 2.1 million square feet of space sold to the private-equity firm includes the home-goods retailer's Union, N.J., headquarters, along with an undisclosed number of its nearly 1,500 stores. Bed Bath & Beyond is set to continue occupying the various properties under long-term leases and will evaluate the remainder of its concepts, which include the Buy Buy Baby chain. Proceeds will go towards repaying debt, buying back shares, and funding a turnaround effort. In recent years, retailers have come under increasing pressure to unlock the value of their commercial real estate by selling properties and leasing them back. The tactic gives them cash up front. However, it also saddles them with long-term rent payments.

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Roof Safety Tips for Facilities Managers
Buildings (01/02/20) Penny, Janelle

It can be easy for building owners and managers to forget rooftop maintenance until it needs to be done, because they are not typically up on the roof every day. But according to Kirk Dighton, safety manager for roofing contractor D. C. Taylor Co., roof safety should be a priority with new guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) bringing roofs back into the conversation. Dighton pointed out that it is a good time for building owners to brush up on their knowledge of roof guidelines and make sure their buildings are compliant. "The problem is basically not realizing they have a hazard," he remarked. To protect against hazards, building owners are urged to complete a rooftop survey to find out their specific building's roof weaknesses and safeguard against them with both passive and active measures.

Dighton highlighted several specific roof hazards. Skylights, while attractive aesthetically, can be deadly. When work is being done on a roof, they should be covered with netting or cages. Soft spots on a roof can also be deadly if a worker inadvertently or unknowingly steps on one. A third roof hazard is the way it is designed. Specifically, steep sloped roofs can be tricky for workers and can mean serious injury if they lose their balance. Poor edge protection is another hazard that can be potentially neutralized by putting up clear signage warning workers they are approaching the edge of the roof. A fifth hazard is roof access, with the new OSHA guidelines warning against propping an extension ladder through a roof hatch. Finally, hatch and vent covers can be hazardous if they are not reinforced to withstand someone tripping on top of them.

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Proposed Bill Would Allow People to Drink Alcohol at More Shopping Centers in Virginia
WUSA9 DC (01/02/20) Volou, Khalida

The Virginia General Assembly is now considering a new bill that would expand open-container privileges at more shopping centers across the state. With this new legislation, smaller venues that qualify as "commercial lifestyle centers" would be able to obtain a license allowing people to drink openly on their premises. Under the current law, the business must be a mixed-use commercial development with at least 100,000 square feet across 25 acres of land. The retail space should include specialty chain stores, restaurants, entertainment offerings, office space, residential space, and/or hotels located in an outdoor setting. But state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) proposed cutting down the acreage requirement from 25 to 10 to make it easier for more shopping centers of varying sizes to fulfill the requirements.

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As Charleston Grows, Area Firefighters Shift Focus to Battling Apartment Blazes
Post and Courier (SC) (12/29/19) Coello, Sara

Charleston, S.C., is rapidly growing, and more tall apartment buildings than ever are going up across the city. As a result, Charleston firefighters have spent the past several years training to extinguish blazes in taller buildings. Fire Chief Mike Mixon said there was no other option. "We know we're going vertical" around Charleston, he remarked, adding that training was the only way to ensure that firefighters were ready to tackle blazes in new buildings. But the new structures come with some advantages of their own, most notably updated alarm technology to warn residents before fires turn deadly. Furthermore, better sprinkler systems and firewalls mean that fires in newer buildings tend to be more contained by the time firefighters arrive on the scene than fires in older buildings.

Nevertheless, challenges remain. According to Mixon, firefighters have to lug heavy hoses up staircases and through hallways until they get to a good vantage point above the fire. The firefighters then use the hoses to rain water on the fires from above. It can be difficult to get to that position quickly, especially if the apartment building layout is complicated or if it is tricky to find a good vantage point. Mixon said the Fire Department recently designed a more transportable hose system, but still needs another ladder truck to fully meet 2020 targets.

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How to Eliminate the Multi-Card Problem in Building Access Control
Security InfoWatch (12/30/19) Duke, Kellen

As office buildings continue to prioritize security by introducing lock systems requiring keycards for access, workers are inconvenienced by having to carry around multiple cards. A worker might need one specific card to access a lobby, for example, but a different card to access their workspace, as well as various amenities like parking lots and the on-site gym. And if workers split their time between different offices in different cities, that could mean carrying a whole host of cards around, forcing the workers to constantly keep track of a number of cards and/or fobs.

There are two ways to make the access card system more efficient for workers. The first way is to use integrated backend systems that can tie multiple access control systems together. Under an integrated backend approach, all workers have access to a number of locations and amenities with just one card. But this approach has definite drawbacks, including a steep price -- it can cost more than $80,000 -- and as a result, it is typically just very large companies with high physical security budgets that use integrated backend systems. On the other hand, moving to smartphone-based access is very likely easier and less expensive. Most workers now have smartphones, and they can install mobile credentials on their phone so the device acts as a keycard for any lock they might encounter.

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Should Malls Have Curfews? Debate Arises After Girl Shot, Killed at Concord Mills
Charlotte Observer (NC) (01/01/20) Muccigrosso, Catherine

Residents of Charlotte, N.C., are mulling over instituting a shopping mall curfew after a 13-year-old girl was shot and killed at Concord Mills late last month. The shooting was not the first time violence erupted at the site. In March, a man was shot and wounded at the AMC movie theater in the mall, reportedly over a disagreement about seating. Two years ago, a brawl involving multiple young people erupted by the mall's food court. And in autumn 2017, Concord Mills was evacuated over another fight between juveniles and young adults broke out. After the 2017 incident, a petition to institute a curfew circulated around Charlotte, gaining over 1,000 signatures of approval. Charlotte residents are revisiting that debate now, with a heated Facebook discussion showing the varying opinions in the community.

While some said that instituting a curfew and requiring adult supervision for teenagers would minimize the risk of violence or gang activity in the mall, others argued that violence is no more likely to occur at the mall than anywhere else, and teenagers need free time without parental supervision. Concord Mills did not provide any clues as to whether it is moving closer to a curfew, but several other malls in Charlotte have already taken that step. Northlake Mall, for instance, has had a curfew for over a decade, requiring adult supervision of teenagers at the mall after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Nearby Eastridge Mall has a similar policy, requiring adult supervision after 4 p.m. on weekends. And Rock Hill Galleria requires adult supervision of shoppers aged 16 and under after 5 p.m. on weekends. Even within individual malls, some tenants have instituted their own personal curfews.

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Office Cleaners Union Announces Deal to Avert CT, NY Strikes
Fox 61 (CT) (12/23/19)

Late last month, the 32BJ SEIU union that represents thousands of janitors narrowly avoided a strike in Connecticut and New York after reaching a tentative contract agreement with cleaning contractors. Many of the more than 3,000 janitors represented by the union clean large office buildings in the two states, especially in Fairfield County, Conn., and New York's lower Hudson Valley. After the union's bargaining unit reached the agreement just before Christmas, a planned strike for the new year was called off. Union officials said the tentative deal increases wages, maintains employer-provided benefits, and includes updated language prohibiting sexual harassment.

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Dallas Apartment Trash Recycling Law Takes Effect
NBC Dallas Fort Worth (01/02/20) Kalthoff, Ken

A 2018 trash recycling law went into effect on Jan. 1 in Dallas, with potential ramifications for more than half of the city's population. The law requires apartment owners to make trash recycling available for residents of all apartment communities with at least eight units. In addition, landlords are required to inform their tenants about the recycling program. More than 50 percent of the population of Dallas live in rental apartments. But Kevin Richardson with the Texas Campaign for the Environment, the group that helped draft the law, said he remains concerned that owners and operators may ignore the law.

Dallas resident Jesus Mendez, who lives in an apartment, said his landlords had not informed him about the recycling program at all. Mendez also said he believes the recycling option "would be good for the environment" and a positive step forward for Dallas, which has lagged behind other cities in implementing apartment recycling programs. According to Richardson, if Dallas residents believe their apartment building's ownership and management is not complying with the law, they can notify authorities by calling 311 or using the Dallas 311 app.

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New Mexico Now Considering Energy Efficiency of Office Space
KOBTV-4 (01/01/20)

Moving forward, the energy efficiency of buildings will be a focus of the state of New Mexico when leasing office space. New Mexico will take into account building owners' measures to reduce environmental effects, such as recycling programs, the use of eco-friendly cleaning products, and the installation of solar power, according to an announcement by the state's General Services Department. An evaluation team will take into account the environmental measures, as well as consider lease costs, property location, building quality, and available parking. The search for temporary office space for the Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department will provide the state with its first test. A request for proposals issued Dec. 23 asks prospective property managers to list the eco-friendly attributes of their spaces.

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Madison Pushes for First-Floor Businesses While Developers Struggle to Find Tenants
Madison.com (WI) (12/30/19) Mesch, Shelley K.

Madison, Wis., is seeing its residential real estate market boom, but the commercial market has been less prosperous. This comes as the city's Planning Division is requiring many high-profile multifamily developments to include commercial space on their ground floors. According to Planning Division director Heather Stouder, including ground-floor commercial space makes a thoroughfare friendlier to pedestrians. Stouder believes that having commercial space rather than additional residences on the ground floor will ultimately serve to "activate a street." Over the last few years, Madison has loosened the requirements for first-floor commercial space, but many developers believe the policy is still too strict.

As the policy stands now, developers are required to set ground-floor space aside for commercial purposes, even if there are no retailers lined up to actually occupy the space. As a result, some storefronts have remained vacant for years as developers struggle to find retailers who will rent the space. Developer Terrence Wall of T. Wall Enterprises said, in many instances, the ground-floor space would be better used by adding amenities for residents. He maintains that incorporating gyms or lounges on the ground floor would achieve the same goal of "activating the street" without creating empty space that will sit vacant as the commercial market lags behind the residential sector.

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Gensler Team Revived Chicago’s Old Post Office and Filled a Hole in the City
Chicago Tribune (12/20/19) Kamin, Blair

Gensler played an integral role in revitalizing Chicago's landmark Old Post Office building, which was in very poor shape after it been neglected over the years. It took the company three years and $800 million to transform the structure into an office hub. Locals say the new building, with 2.5 million square feet of space, has removed an eyesore for the Windy City and even revived appreciation for the historic property. Gensler's work required the removal of 1.2 million tons of material, restoring an art deco lobby, installing new escalators and elevators, and adding a variety of amenities for tenants. The exterior work included replacement or repair of limestone panels, more than 2,000 new windows, and maintaining the historic significance of the building. Gensler hopes the project will serve as a model for architectural recycling. Advocates say upgrading such old buildings for new uses is a method that can save time and urban character.

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