Real Estate Management News - 02/13/2019

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February 13, 2019
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IREM® HEADLINES
Raising Property Management’s Stature in South Africa
Communication is Key to Successful Association Management
Time Running Out to Nominate Your Rock Stars

INDUSTRY HEADLINES
5 Security Trends to Watch For in 2019
Sears Gets Out of Bankruptcy Alive
Striking the Right Balance Between High Tech and Human Touch
Brilliant Optronics’ Smart Film Turns Glass into Smart Windows
Thriving ‘Self-Care’ Sector Fuels Demand for Strip Center Space
A Plan to Trade Density for Affordability in Fast-Growing Austin
Skyscrapers Made of Wood Are Making a Comeback
Retailers Are Redesigning For Experience, But What About Safety?
Grab a Soda and Go: Convenience Stores Get More Convenient
Why Employee Learning Management Is for Companies of All Sizes
As Anchors Depart, Malls Seek New Ways to Build Traffic
New Retail Technology Aims to Bring Customers Back to the Store


 

IREM Headlines


Raising Property Management’s Stature in South Africa

Real estate companies in South Africa are feeling the strain of trying to find quality property management professionals. “It is a real challenge here,” says Professor Sam Asazu of Witswatersrand (Wits) University. “The Wits program was developed to provide practical property management education, but we can’t do it alone — this is where IREM comes in.”

Last week, IREM representatives traveled to Johannesburg to officially launch a new chapter, the South Africa Gauteng Chapter, renew and expand the CPM licensing agreement with Wits University and conduct corporate and government outreach.

The theme of improving professionalism and advancing skills resonated for IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM, throughout the trip, which kicked off with a visit to the Department of Public Works (DPW) in Pretoria. Minister T.W. Nxesi, head of the DPW, continued his support of IREM by permitting representatives to present to DPW employees. “DPW has made a commitment to making sure our employees have the right skills, and we see IREM as a pathway for this,” says Lydia Bici, DPW head of training.

Wilkerson and IREM colleagues met with employees from Pareto, a real estate company and major financial contributor to IREM’s Johannesburg program in 2017 and 2018. “Pareto strongly believes in IREM. We have already seen the proof in our own employees who we sent to the [Wits] program and now hold the CPM,” says Pareto CEO, Malose Kekana. IREM also visited other major players in the South African real estate market, including Broll, Growth Point, Redefine and Excellerate/Cushman & Wakefield.

At the chapter launch, Donald Wilkerson swore in new members. Saul Gumede, CPM, president of the South Africa Gauteng Chapter, was emotional about his 20-year journey to start a local IREM chapter. “My persistence has paid off. Having this local representation here in Gauteng Province, an outpost at the tip of Africa, will benefit not only our professionals here, but will serve as a starting point for much more.”
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Communication is Key to Successful Association Management

Communication is the most important element in ensuring successful operations as a professional property manager — and nowhere is this more true than in the management of homeowners (HOA) associations. Both HOA managers and their boards want to ensure that official messages are delivered clearly and consistently. They understand that effective, appropriate communication is essential to the success and harmony of the community and reflects the quality and caring of management.

Here are some everyday association communication tips, taken from the recently released second edition of Community Associations: A Guide to Successful Management by Vickie Gaskill, CPM, ARM.
  • Communicate often. Use multiple media — newsletters, bulletin boards, front door flyers, websites — to repeat important messages.
  • Communicate in a variety of venues. The formal annual meeting is a good setting for eliciting input from and encouraging decision-making by the majority of the members. If additional explanation is necessary, schedule informal town meetings, coffee gatherings, or other functions that allow members to express their opinions and thoughts.
  • Communicate in a positive, open, and direct manner. When announcing a board decision to the members, explain and clarify all the factors considered and the reason the decision was made. If bad news must be conveyed, do so as soon as possible, and let the members know what is being done to ameliorate the situation.
  • Let communication be a two-way process. Listen to members’ wishes prior to working toward an end they may not want or appreciate.
  • Communicate to the proper audience. Do not fall into the practice of chastising the entire community if a few members fail to comply with a rule. Make direct contact with the few; avoid spreading a negative message to the entire membership.
  • Time the communication carefully. Urgent matters dictate timely notification, whereas future events can be posted or announced in the regular newsletter.
  • Consider expense and attitude. The form of the communication should express the attitude of the message. Flyers and bulletins regarding special events are much less formal communications than a noncompliance or dues-collection letter. Timely deliverance of critical messages that could affect the health and safety of the members justifies extra expense.
For more insights into managing homeowners associations, order your copy of Community Associations: A Guide to Successful Management today.
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Time Running Out to Nominate Your Rock Stars

Companies looking for ways to hold on to their talented employees are finding that making investment in their team members’ careers can go far. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, a remarkable 93 percent of employees said they would stay at a company longer if the company invested in their careers. More and more, professional development is no longer an occasional perk or reserved for certain positions. Especially among younger professionals, it’s an employee expectation that demonstrates whether the company appreciates its people and is committed to their success.

Those companies that hold IREM’s AMO accreditation have a unique opportunity in this regard: the AMO Next-Gen CPM Leaders program. The program, available exclusively to AMO Firms, is a talent management initiative that fast tracks a cohort of young professionals through the CPM curriculum using both online and classroom delivery formats over an 18-month period and providing supplemental leadership training along the way. Attendance at the 2019 and 2020 IREM Global Summits is part of the program. It’s a win-win for the company and the employee.

AMO Firms can nominate their rock stars online — but hurry, because the March 1 deadline is fast-approaching.
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Industry Headlines


5 Security Trends to Watch For in 2019
Buildings (02/10/19) Kloepple, Sarah

Keeping tenants safe is the No. 1 priority for building owners and operators. Fortunately, there are technologies that facility management can implement to better protect them. The article's author details five tech trends in building security that are likely to take hold this year, starting with mobile access controls. Such systems have greatly evolved over the years, and several of the companies that produce them are taking advantage of the universality of the smartphone. Openpath's access control reader is one such device, enabling tenants to use their smartphone to gain entry -- a process that is completely keyless and hands-free. Another emerging trend is the use of autonomous robots that roam lobbies and corridors after hours. Such machines are becoming increasingly inexpensive and accessible.

Video analytics is a third trend. There are now cameras than can recognize an individual's gait and detect and display thermal patterns. As these cameras become even more sophisticated, so too will the ways in which their data can be analyzed. Trend four is better cyber security planning. Security experts concur: It's not a matter of if someone will try and breach your network, it's when. Such criminals will often try and wreak havoc by looking for vulnerabilities in any new technology. Such planning often entails being proactive and setting up practice breaches that involve representatives from a wide array of departments. Finally, a fifth building security trend for 2019 will be an emphasis on data protection.
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Sears Gets Out of Bankruptcy Alive
CNN (02/07/19) Isidore, Chris; Meyersohn, Nathaniel

Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain on Thursday approved the $5.2 billion sale of most of Sears' assets to a hedge fund controlled by Eddie Lampert, the department-store retailer's chairman. The decision will keep 425 stores up and running and save the jobs of nearly 45,000 employees. In his decision, Drain rejected arguments from a committee of creditors, including landlords, who had urged the court to shut the company down and liquidate all assets. The creditors contended that closing the company was the best way to return the most money. They further argued that the sales process was unfair and made it so no one but Lampert could purchase Sears' most valuable assets. Lawyers for both Lampert and the retailer countered that the sales process was fair and that keeping the company in operation would be better for all involved. In issuing his ruling, Drain said the creditors had failed to prove that they would recover more money by selling off the various stores and other properties.
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Striking the Right Balance Between High Tech and Human Touch
Multifamily Executive (02/07/19) Adriano, Adrian

Apartment property managers are called on to manage client business interests, deliver optimal customer service to tenants, and oversee vendors. And while technology innovations have gone a long way toward simplifying these processes and streamlining workflows, a new issue that has emerged is finding the balance between technology and human interaction. For significant decisions, especially those related to their apartment, most residents still want to talk to a qualified human individual. A recent Google study determined that 61 percent of mobile users call a business when they are in the purchase phase of their decision cycle. According to the research, the majority of respondents will call rather than e-mail or use an online chat, because they're looking to get a quick answer (59 percent) or speak with a real person (57 percent).

Still, not all circumstances call for personalized communication. Property portals and mobile applications have assisted in streamlining a number of repetitive tasks. Buildium's 2018 State of the Property Management Industry Report showed that apartment residents prefer to pay rent, sign leases, and submit maintenance tickets online. At the same time, today's apartment residents' concept of community is changing. More people "follow" Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for updates instead of checking the local bulletin board in the lobby or mailroom. Others share experiences in an online album or post on Instagram. Such online options open additional means of communication between apartment management and residents to share information and build connections.
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Brilliant Optronics’ Smart Film Turns Glass into Smart Windows
Tech News Blog (01/21/19)

Brilliant Optronics is a startup focused on photonics. The company's primary product is a smart film capable of adjusting light transmissions. The new technology can show three different effects. When not charged with power, its surface is clear and transparent; when charged with power, its surface can either turn dark or cloudy, or become a screen for displaying images and videos. The smart film is constructed by placing a liquid crystal molecule film between two PET films. By controlling the voltage applied to the film that forces the liquid crystal molecules to change alignments, the film can exhibit these three effects. Users simply push a button on a WiFi device or a smartphone app to activate the voltage control module that allows the film to switch between its different states. The smart film is easily installed, as users simply need to adhere it to the surface of a window. There's no need to replace or install new windows, which saves money and reduces risk, especially for commercial buildings or skyscrapers.
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Thriving ‘Self-Care’ Sector Fuels Demand for Strip Center Space
National Real Estate Investor (02/07/19) Wolf, Liz

Millennials are driving beauty, fitness, and wellness concepts, many of which operate on membership models and drive regular shopper traffic. Worldwide, the self-care sector is a whopping $4.7 trillion business, according to the Global Wellness Institute. Neighborhood strip centers are getting a particularly big boost from this booming "self-care" sector. The result has been an uptick in new leases signed by beauty, health, and fitness retailers, many of which are filling small and mid-size vacancies at such centers in both urban and suburban markets. A recent Colliers International report states that because the self-care trend allows individuals to create a "personalized menu" of what "care" means to them, new concepts continue to emerge. At the same time, many existing ones are expanding.

A number of these fitness concepts and service providers are offering monthly membership packages with access or services at a reduced rate. These businesses, many of which are franchises, essentially know that they can count on this monthly revenue and that helps them confidently sign leases in some of the nation's most prime markets. In turn, the growing expansion of wellness brands is a welcome trend among most retail landlords. Once their client bases are established, these tenants bring in foot traffic to the owners' shopping centers on a regular basis and they become relatively protected from e-commerce competition.
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A Plan to Trade Density for Affordability in Fast-Growing Austin
Next City (02/11/19) Brey, Jared

Voters in Austin, Texas, approved a record-setting $250 million housing bond last fall, making lawmakers and advocates hopeful about prospects for affordable housing. Austin Councilmember Gregorio Casar hopes to expand the number of subsidized housing projects with a proposal called "Affordability Unlocked." The proposal calls for waiving many of the city's land-use regulations, such as height and density restrictions, compatibility with neighboring buildings, setback requirements, and parking minimums. To qualify for the waivers, rental projects would have to lease at least half of their units at rates that are affordable to tenants earning no more than 60 percent of Median Family Income -- $36,120 for an individual or $51,600 for a four-person household. At least a quarter of the apartments would need to have two or more bedrooms. The city council will take up the proposal on Feb. 21. If it approves the concept, the city manager will draft legislation to implement the proposal, which could go up for a final vote in May, according to Casar.
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Skyscrapers Made of Wood Are Making a Comeback
Bloomberg (02/08/19) Skerritt, Jen

Timber is emerging as a popular building material for skyscrapers and other large building projects. Specifically, builders are using mass timber, which is wood from smaller trees that have been engineered together. The cross-laminated timber features layers of wood glued together to form solid panels. These panels can be used for walls, roofs, beams, and floors. Tests have also shown that timber has good fire resistance.

Supporters of mass timber also tout its aesthetic attributes compared to steel when it comes to interior and exterior designs. Experts say the biggest benefit may come in the construction time that is saved using wood. Mass timber arrives at a build site labeled and ready to assemble. Looking ahead, proposed changes to the International Code Council's building code to allow taller buildings using wood is expected to increase its popularity.
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Retailers Are Redesigning For Experience, But What About Safety?
Forbes (02/01/19) Pearson, Bryan

Today's shopping malls must be as prepared as they can be for such things as natural disasters, active shooters, and even flash mobs. As it turns out, more and more retailers have been quietly investing in ways and methods to safeguard their stores and shoppers from potential threats without compromising the shopper experience. Some have consulted the National Retail Federation, which runs a microsite dedicated to emergency preparedness for crowd management, disaster recovery and active shooter situations. Others have turned to the global consulting firm Safe Shopping Centers, which is dedicated to evaluating and certifying the risks and security of retail destinations. Looking at individual retailers, both Home Depot and Lowe's operate emergency command centers dedicated to tracking catastrophes and organizing relief efforts.

Threats to retail settings have become prevalent enough to secure a session at the upcoming SPECS Show 2019, a convention for retail planning, design, construction and maintenance. Titled "Building and Preparing for Threats and Disasters," the March session will include officials from Home Depot, the apparel chain Buckle, and FEMA. Shopping malls and big-box stores not only have open-access layouts, but also steady hours of operation and often draw predictably large crowds via sales events and hosted public activities. All of these factors put large groups of people in a vulnerable position in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency.
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Grab a Soda and Go: Convenience Stores Get More Convenient
Post Register (ID) (02/10/19) Liedtke, Michael; Pisani, Joseph

A year after Amazon opened its first cashier-less store, startups and retailers are racing to get similar technology in stores around the globe, letting shoppers purchase groceries without waiting in line. If they're proven to work, cashier-less stores will not only save time but maybe money also. Using cameras and sensors, the stores will know when customers pick up a product and put it down and can send them a discount to entice them to buy it. Merchants will receive more insights into how people shop, enabling them to create more space for merchandise and better track when shelves need replenishing. Still, the monitoring system underlying cashier-less technology will almost certainly raise privacy concerns about customer data falling into the wrong hands, especially if stores deploy facial recognition software in the cameras watching shoppers.

Peter Trepp is CEO of FaceFirst, a Los Angeles company that to date has only sold its facial recognition tools to retailers trying to identify shoplifters and other criminals. He remarks, "If it's used to give people a 30 percent coupon on something they want that is going to be a nice benefit. That kind of experience will help people embrace the technology." Amazon indeed has a leg up in the United States, opening 10 convenience stores in Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle. Shoppers scan an app to enter the Amazon Go store, grab what they want, and walk out. Cameras and sensors located on the store's ceiling track what's taken so their credit or debit cards are automatically charged when they exit.
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Why Employee Learning Management Is for Companies of All Sizes
Property Management Insider (01/19) Lyman, Guy

Small to mid-sized property management companies are less likely to use a formal learning management system (LMS) than their larger competitors. But a good LMS pays for itself many times over in employee job performance -- a fact larger firms have known for years. So why have smaller companies been so hesitant? It's mainly because of the perception that the benefits for a smaller property management company do not justify the expense. But the article's author calls that "a complete myth." The truth is that pricing for some solutions, most notably RealPage's EasyLMS, is adjusted for company size (units under management). Furthermore, smaller companies are no longer forced to pay for more functionality than they need in a "one size fits all" solution.

Still, beyond this, there's a sense among some smaller property management companies that they can just "wing it" when it comes to learning. This means imparting skills and knowledge from employee to employee and, sometimes, hiring outside consultants to handle certain training needs. "Not only does this result in spotty learning, lower productivity, on-the-job errors and career limitations, it can easily cost more in the long run in both hard and soft costs," the article's author warns. An LMS will move learning from the back burner to a prominent position among company missions. Smaller property managers looking to choose the right LMS should consider such factors as size and scalability, mobile readiness, and ease of use.
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As Anchors Depart, Malls Seek New Ways to Build Traffic
Albany Times Union (02/10/19) Anderson, Eric

For the Albany Capital Region's shopping malls, the half-acre trampoline park that recently opened at Crossgates Mall is a sign of changing things in the local retail sector. Department stores that traditionally anchored malls are cutting back as e-commerce surges. Wilton Mall lost a couple of its department store anchors — Bon-Ton and Sears — within the last six months. Sears, meanwhile, shuttered its department store at Colonie Center in 2017. That space continues to sit unoccupied. So, how do malls fill all of that vacant anchor space? Solutions in the Capital Region have ranged from an office containing hundreds of state taxation and finance employees filling a former Macy's store at ViaPort Rotterdam to two smaller retailers splitting a former Filene's department store at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, N.Y.

Other malls have reinvented themselves as open-air shopping centers. They include: Mohawk Mall in Niskayuna, now Mohawk Commons; Northway Mall in Colonie, now Northway Shopping Center; and Latham Circle Mall, now The Shoppes at Latham Circle. Many are adding everything from eateries and comedy clubs to hotels and government offices. Urgent care centers are also proving popular as owners and operators scramble to keep foot traffic high. "These large spaces are being filled and reconfigured for a variety of purposes that benefit the property and community," Stephanie Cegielski, vice president for public relations for the International Council of Shopping Centers, remarked. "There are many options for large spaces, and what will go into big box locations varies based on the needs of the community."
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New Retail Technology Aims to Bring Customers Back to the Store
United Press International (02/11/19) Sakelaris, Nicholas

Two startups, Pensa Systems and Birdzi, are developing technologies to enhance the in-store experience for customers and retailers so they can better adapt in the "age of Amazon." The former uses small autonomous drones to fly around stores and monitor inventory. These drones are small enough to fit in a human hand, and they are programmed to avoid customers. The latter sends personalized discount offers to customers based on their previous buying habits, alerting them to sales, and even sending personalized coupons not advertised in the store. Birdzi's technology uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to produce custom offers and coupons based on what customers buy and when. The two firms are portfolio companies of venture firm RevTech.
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