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January 15, 2020

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Keeping Property Management in Top Form(s)

There is never a dull moment in the life of a real estate manager. From conducting financial analyses to managing the elevator retrofit, to keeping residents and tenants satisfied, every day brings new challenges and problems to solve. Success requires a broad range of business and people skills as well as a standardized set of tools to get the job done.

Effective management companies compile such tools into a comprehensive operations manual that covers day-to-day operational policies and procedures. Whether in hard copy or digital format, the following components are examples of the type of information that should be included in a property-specific operations manual:

  • Maintenance and risk management objectives
  • Property information report
  • Preventive maintenance items
  • Inspection procedures
  • Make-ready and turnover procedures
  • Emergency procedures
  • Property system details
  • Contractor’s contact information
  • Leasing information (standard lease, demographics, traffic counts, competition map, etc.)

The most useful operations manuals include sample forms and checklists for use in different situations. If you’re interested in exploring various forms and checklists that may be beneficial for your operations manual or in your various roles as a property manager, IREM has published over 250 customizable forms and checklists available for purchase individually or in property-specific bundles—but free for IREM members—here at irem.org.

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Get a Free 2020 Income/Expense Analysis Report: Submit Your Data by April 1

IREM’s Income and Expense Analysis Reports set the standard for property operations benchmarking data. These comprehensive reports are used to:

  • Prepare realistic operating budgets
  • Identify ways to trim waste and address operational inefficiencies
  • Reveal emerging trends in property operations
  • Prepare feasibility studies, appraisals and financing requests
  • Understand how property operating activity differs in markets across the U.S.

To build these reports, IREM welcomes data on conventional apartments, federally assisted apartments, condominiums, office buildings and shopping centers. We accept data for residential properties of 12 units or more, office properties of 5,000 square feet or more, and retail properties of 20,000 square feet or more. The more data received, the more detailed and valuable the reports become.

All contributors receive a free digital copy of the 2020 Income/Expense Analysis Report—valued at over $565—and a free, customized building report. You don’t need to be an IREM Member to participate, receive a free copy, or benefit from the published reports. Submit your data today.

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Industry headlines

Unclean Restrooms Send Reputation Down the Drain
Buildings (01/06/20) Dennis Craven, Valerie

Bradley Corporation’s 10th annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey has found that restroom occupants continue to take precautionary steps to minimize their direct contact with germs in public restrooms. According to the survey, some 63 percent of people use paper towels on doors and faucets, 45 percent flush the toilet with their foot, 39 percent use a lining on the toilet seat, 30 percent hover over the toilet seat, and 29 percent open and close doors with their body rather than their hands. In addition, 62 percent of survey respondents said they believed soap and water kill germs more effectively than hand sanitizer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backs up that belief and recommends that restroom users thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds.

Property managers looking to enhance their building's reputation can make public restrooms an area of focus. An unclean restroom will be off-putting for occupants, who may consequently decide to avoid the building in the future. The traditional cleaning methods are "fail-safe" and should still be used consistently, but there are now high-tech ways to supplement those cleaning efforts and keep public restrooms sparkling. For example, installing hands-free elements in the restroom minimizes the risk that someone will interact with germs. These hands-free elements could include automatic sensors on toilets, doors, sinks, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers or hand dryers. Meanwhile, building managers can install software to alert them to the traffic in restrooms on a daily basis, helping them and their staffers optimize the cleaning schedule.

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The Rise of the Renter: For the First Time in Decades, Seattle Has as Many Renters as Homeowners
Seattle Times (01/05/20) Balk, Gene

Though Seattle has traditionally been a city of homeowners, recent Census data suggests that the city's population boom has correlated with a significant increase in the number of renters. Census data shows that 360,000 Seattle residents rented their housing in 2018, a record high and a 16 percent increase from 2013. That surge brought the number of renters roughly even with the number of homeowners. If growth for renters and growth for homeowners continues at their respective rates, Seattle will soon have more renters than homeowners -- a trend that has not been observed since before 1950.

The increasing number of renters is not a unique trend to Seattle. Nationwide, cities have seen more renters since the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession. In Seattle, specifically, a population boom has seen an influx of younger residents in the city. These residents may not feel the time is right in their lives to buy a house. Even those who feel ready to become homeowners may not be able to afford such a purchase thanks to the city's "supercharged" residential real estate market. Ryan Moyes, a 24-year-old professional living in Seattle, said if he and his girlfriend ever want to buy a house, they will likely return to his hometown of Las Vegas where homes are generally cheaper.

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Maximize Energy Efficiency in Class A Office Buildings with Modern Building Systems
Building Design + Construction (01/06/20)

Commercial buildings represent a large amount of energy consumption in the United States, due in part to the increased use of existing electrical equipment. But that's not the only reason why buildings use so much energy. Generally speaking, office equipment is one of the fastest-growing electrical uses in the country, accounting for 7 percent of total commercial energy use. Other major sources of energy consumption in commercial buildings include lighting, ventilation, cooling, and space heating. Overall energy consumption in commercial properties is likely to continue increasing this year, but building owners can cut down on their energy use and costs by upgrading their building systems with energy-efficient models.

Traditional HVAC systems can be inconsistent and inefficient, and their methods lead to wasted electricity and high energy consumption. But newer HVAC systems make use of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology, which decreases the amount of time and energy it takes for a room to reach a specified temperature. Another benefit of new HVAC systems with VRF technology is their ability to heat specific locations within a large property. While traditional HVAC systems wasted energy by dispensing hot or cool air throughout an entire structure, newer systems can be applied to specific rooms, thereby saving thousands of dollars in energy costs. Finally, property managers can also save on energy costs by upgrading their elevator and escalator systems to be more efficient than current models.

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Macy's Is Closing 29 Stores After Drop in Holiday Sales
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (01/08/20) Bhattarai, Abha

Macy's has announced that it will close 29 of its department stores in the coming weeks after sales dropped during the holiday season. A company spokesperson confirmed that 28 of the closed locations will be Macy's stores, while the remaining closure will be a Bloomingdale's. No specifics were provided beyond that. Macy's said that same-store sales fell 0.6 percent in November and December, a disappointing drop over the highly-anticipated holiday season. In 2018, Macy's recorded 1.1 percent growth over the same period. Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm GlobalData Retail, informed his clients in a note that Macy's "is still losing customers and market share at a rapid clip."

Macy's was founded more than 160 years ago. For decades, it enjoyed its status as one of the country's top retailers, with anchor stores at hundreds of shopping malls across the United States. In fact, for a time Macy's ranked as one of the largest apparel retailers in the country. But the emergence of online shopping and the rise of inexpensive apparel at such big-box chains as Target, Walmart, and others have cut into Macy's success and sent profits tumbling. There are currently 680 total Macy's and Bloomingdale's locations, and the company also operates 171 Bluemercury beauty stores.

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Multifamily Residence Fire Safety: Don't Skip Individual Unit Inspections
Multifamily Executive (01/02/20) Bless Jr., Ralph E.

Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency show that 70 percent of the losses from fires in the United States are from residential fires, with one-third of those losses coming from blazes in multifamily housing residences. Almost all such buildings across the country have fire alarms, sprinklers, and extinguishers to alert residents and mitigate damages when a fire does break out. In spite of these measures, one common misstep can increase the likelihood of a blaze breaking out in an apartment or condo setting -- an incomplete inspection. Municipal codes and standards typically require apartment managers to routinely inspect fire safety devices, but incomplete inspections often occur when managers and residents do not provide or have access to every room in the building.

Accordingly, managers should work with residents to ensure that they always have access to every single room in the building so that thorough inspections can be carried out, minimizing the risk of a fire. Inspections should occur frequently. Managers and staff should make daily visual checks of fire alarms and sprinklers. On a weekly basis, they should confirm that system control valves are open and unobstructed on fire safety equipment and that they are working properly. Fire alarm batteries should be checked on a monthly basis, and sprinklers should be monitored for damage. In some locales, laws may mandate that outside contractors also complete inspections to guarantee that fire equipment is working properly and positioned to help in the event of a fire.

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Valet Living Buys Trojan Waste Solutions
PE Hub (01/09/20) Dorbian, Iris

Valet Living, an amenities provider for multifamily housing, has acquired Trojan Waste Solutions. Valet Living works with apartment and condominium buildings in 40 states, offering an array of amenities ranging from concierge service to fitness and maintenance. Trojan, based in Texas, is a doorstop waste and recycling provider that also offers some cleaning and pet care services. Valet Living will add Trojan's services to its portfolio of multifamily buildings in Austin and San Antonio. Trojan also serves some areas in Dallas/Fort Worth, Florida, and North Carolina. Valet Living President and CEO Shawn Handrahan said he is hopeful the acquisition will strengthen his company's position within the Lone Star State and eventually the southwest region.

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Four Trends That Will Dominate Retail Real Estate in 2020
Chain Store Age (01/02/20) Savard, James

The retail sector could turn in any number of ways this year, jumping on different trends and thriving in a new landscape. One prediction for 2020 is that shopping malls will evolve further to meet modern consumer demands. One mark of resiliency is moving beyond traditional anchor stores and creating malls in mixed-use developments. Diversifying options for food, entertainment, and retail in a bid to attract more shoppers will also continue. With more space dedicated to eateries and residential units, malls will likely reduce the amount of leasable retail space. Another trend for 2020 is that technology will continue to change the way people shop in the months to come. Kroger, for example, is partnering with Microsoft to create a customized map for shoppers so that they can get every item on their grocery list in a quick and convenient manner without wandering up and down aisles.

Store formats will likely shrink in 2020. Target Corp. is an example of a retailer that has adjusted well to changing industry trends. Its small urban and college campus locations are strategically positioned and stocked with products specifically chosen for the target demographics in those areas. In the new year, more retailers will likely downsize from massive stores to smaller locations where products are carefully chosen. Finally, retail in 2020 is expected to embrace omnichannel marketing. While retailers once had to choose between prioritizing the online sales experience or the physical sales appearance, they can now emphasize both. Most consumers still want to physically hold a product, try clothes on, or inspect something in person before making a purchase. Omnichannel marketing checks both boxes to allow consumers to craft their own shopping experience.

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How Co-Working Spaces Expose Companies to New Legal Risks
Globe and Mail (01/06/20) Serebrin, Jacob

Sharing office space with other companies and entrepreneurs can be an attractive option for growing businesses. But experts warn this setup -- known as co-working -- comes with legal risks, especially in such places as Canada. Privacy and confidentiality are two major legal concerns associated with co-working. Jordan Kirkness, a lawyer in the Toronto office of international law firm Baker McKenzie, noted that Canadian privacy laws are complicated and can vary significantly across different provinces. "The potential for passing personal information, confidential information, on to the wrong person is just so much greater" in a co-working setup than in a traditional office setup, Kirkness explained.

Companies could break Canadian privacy and confidentiality laws if someone else working in the shared space overhears a conversation, or if a USB key containing unencrypted data is misplaced. In spite of these legal considerations, co-working and flexible office arrangements are growing ever more popular in Canada, which saw a 303 percent increase in flexible office space between 2014 and 2019.

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Oviedo Mall Macy's Could Become Apartments, Hotel
Fox 35 Orlando (01/08/20) Sosa, Samantha

The Oviedo City Council in Oviedo, Fla., has unanimously voted to allow a portion of what used to be a Macy's department store to be redeveloped into apartments and a hotel. In doing so, city council members have approved a new use for the Macy's land several years after the store shut down. The development would include 425 rental units and a lodging with 124 rooms. Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek said redeveloping the Macy's could give the rest of the mall where it located a kick-start without making a significant detrimental impact on the surrounding environment. "It doesn't involve knocking down any trees. It doesn't create any more impervious surface," Sladek noted. Though some Oviedo residents expressed concerns that the project would lead to a significant increase in traffic, Sladek said those fears are unfounded. "The traffic studies say this will not create any more traffic than a fully-functioning department store," she said.

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Preventing Energy Loss in Windows
MIT News (01/06/20) Gallagher, Mary Beth

In the quest to make buildings more energy efficient, windows present a particularly difficult problem. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat that either escapes or enters windows accounts for approximately 30 percent of the energy used to heat and cool buildings. Researchers are developing a variety of window technologies that could prevent this loss of energy. "The choice of windows in a building has a direct influence on energy consumption," notes Nicholas Fang, professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fang is part of a large collaboration that is working together to develop smart adaptive control and monitoring systems for buildings. “Our idea is to adapt new sensors and smart windows in an effort to help achieve energy efficiency and improve thermal comfort for people inside buildings,” he explains.

His contribution is the development of a smart material that can be placed on a window as a film that blocks heat from entering. The film remains transparent when the surface temperature is under 32 degrees Celsius, but turns milky when it exceeds 32 C. The smart window’s milky appearance can block up to 70 percent of solar radiation from passing through the window, translating to a 30 percent reduction in cooling load. Fang’s team is also hoping to embed windows with sensors that monitor sunlight, luminance, and temperature. “Overall, we want an integral solution to reduce the load on HVAC systems,” he says.

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Chubb Receives 'Green Building' Certification
Bernews (Bermuda) (12/19/19)

The Chubb Building is the first in Bermuda to be certified LEED Platinum, the highest level of recognition in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program from the U.S. Green Building Council. According to the company, "to achieve LEED Platinum certification, buildings must attain a score of 80 or more on a 100-point scale that measures environmental impact." The Chubb Building earned 81 points, up from 72 in January 2019 when it was last recertified as LEED Gold. The improved score was driven by further declines in electricity use, banning single-use plastics, harvesting rainwater for potable and non-potable use, and replacing aging equipment.

Colin Brown, Vice President of Facilities and LEED Project Manager for Chubb in Bermuda, said, "Achieving LEED Platinum certification has been an aspirational goal for us. We are gratified and honored that Chubb's efforts to continually enhance the environmental performance of this building have been recognized. We are proud to lead the way as the first and only building in Bermuda to earn LEED Platinum certification." In May, Chubb announced a companywide initiative to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent on an absolute basis by 2025 and by 40 percent by 2035.

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Texas Retail Worker Injuries Now Higher Than on Factory Floors
Texas Department of Insurance (01/03/20)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more workers in shopping malls and retail outlets that get sick and injured each year than in any other private industry sector in Texas. About 33,200 retail workers in the state suffered a job-related illness or injury in 2018 as compared to 12,300 in construction and 20,400 in manufacturing. The median time off for injured retail workers in Texas was five days. Nationally, retail was the only U.S. industry that saw an uptick in employee injuries from the previous year. "It's our job to help Texas companies provide a safe and healthy environment for their workers and to help employers understand OSHA regulations," said Chris D'Amura, director of workplace safety at the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation. "It's also our goal to help companies lower costs caused by lost productivity and injury claims."

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