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Talking Trash: The Value of Keeping Your Apartment Community Clean

Friday, February 17, 2017

Article written by Tim Blackwell from Property Management Insider.

Increase revenue by relying on smarter waste services for your apartment community

Trash talk is hardly sexy, especially following a discussion about high-end apartment amenities, but Shawn Handrahan gave it a try at the recent Marcus & Millichap multifamily conference in Dallas.

Handrahan is CEO and president of Valet Waste, which provides services for handling the mounds of waste that residents produce each year. Superficially, this may not sound as glamorous as discussing the draws of infinity-edge pools, but Valet Waste provides doorstep trash and recycle pickups for more than 1 million units, giving Handrahan unique insights into the ways waste removal can increase revenue and drive resident satisfaction.

According to Handrahan, cleanly removing refuse not only provides a nice amenity for residents but adds noticeable value to properties through increased revenue and operational efficiencies. As far as elevator pitches go, that’s enough to make any multifamily operator stop and listen.

Handrahan attributes Valet Waste’s success to helping properties keep clean while also saving them the costs of regular billing cycles associated with conventional haul-off services. Hauling partially filled compactors adds up over the long term, and properties can save by working with a provider that manages pickup times.

“One of the large expenses that goes unknown in multifamily is hauling fees because they have no idea how full the compactor is,” he said. “You may be paying for two hauls a month, four hauls a month depending on the property. But that compactor may only be 25-30 percent full, and you’re paying heavily for that.”

That can get especially expensive when the price of oil and gas goes up, he added.

Valet Waste uses data and analytics to work directly with contractors to make hauls only when the compactors are full. Typically, this model reduces the number of hauls and lowers compactor expenses by requiring fewer pickups.

apartment community

Maintenance staff can focus on more important resident issues

As another example, Handrahan discussed the ways that inefficiencies in the standard waste-removal model can trickle down to maintenance teams, who usually spend the first hours of their days policing properties to maintain curb appeal. With more efficient processes, a property’s maintenance staff can improve resident satisfaction and retention by reducing wait times on maintenance requests, as well as minimizing turnaround on vacancies by seeing to empty units more quickly. Plus, the maintenance techs will feel better about their jobs.

“How would you feel if you were this HVAC-certified maintenance technician, and you’re being asked to go out with a plastic bag and pick up pet waste?” Handrahan said. “It’s operationally inefficient. It drives employee morale down, and ultimately impacts turnover, which impacts resident satisfaction because you’re constantly having to reinvest in training.”

Upgraded waste and recycling services target younger demographics

As for demographics, Handrahan highlighted that Valet Waste has benefitted from the influx of Millennials in multifamily who don’t mind paying extra for someone else to handle the dirty work.

“Anything that you can provide to Millennials that differentiates yourself from the competition is useful,” he said. “It’s the reason why, as Millennials enter the market, our business has boomed so incredibly well.”

Handrahan estimates that the service can generate $40,000-$50,000 of net operating income for a property, depending on the size, and greatly impact asset value. The formula has helped Valet Waste, started in 1995, grow its portfolio to more than 450 management companies and owner groups throughout the multifamily housing industry.

Lowering costs with asset protection

Also, because these services collect trash and recycling at apartment doors, the apartment community spares itself the wear and tear of residents taking dripping, dirty refuse to the dumpster. The professional handling of waste removal ultimately serves as asset protection, which Handrahan translates into increased property revenue.

“It’s how often you pressure wash your breezeways and clean carpets, especially in high-rises,” he said. “That’s because you’ve got these folks taking their trash out. But if they’re staining that asset and you’re replacing that carpet in the common area, you’re making a capitalized expense that you don’t need to make.”

With these savings in mind, talking trash is starting to sound pretty sexy.


Best Practices for Apartment Landscaping Maintenance in Winter

Friday, February 17, 2017

Article written by Chris Lee from Property Management Insider.

The winter months do not obviate the need for apartment landscaping maintenance. Giving lawns, plants, trees and shrubs the attention during this time ensures that the apartment grounds transform into lush and colorful landscapes when spring arrives to enhance curb appeal.

The arrival of La Niña, a weather system that can cause erratic changes in Central and South America and parts of North America, has already affected many landscapes this year. Landscapes in the Southwest, for example, have dried out due to lower moisture levels and temperature fluctuations.

The temperature extremes followed the National Weather Service’s La Niña advisory in December. Over Christmas, much of the eastern U.S. hit record warm spells. On Christmas Day, the mercury was over 80 degrees in some parts of Texas, and then temperatures turned bitter cold the first week of January.

Like it or not, La Niña is here to stay.

Dry winters may increase the need for irrigation

A La Niña system changes how you need to prepare your landscape for winter. In recent years, the southwest enjoyed wetter conditions from an El Niño that ended serious drought, but these areas will get less moisture in the coming months, increasing the importance of irrigation.
Even though most plants and grasses are dormant, lack of necessary moisture and periodic hard freezes damage root systems. Water does a better job than air at insulating plant roots. Watering prior to a freeze will help keep bitter cold air from penetrating the roots and damaging the plant. The cold may damage the foliage, but the roots will survive.

Keeping sprinkler systems at the ready in drier areas is a good bet. During prolonged dry spells, landscapes need more attentive watering schedules to ensure that root systems remain healthy, especially when temperatures are warm.

Remember that a little bit of moisture can go a long away. Recent research published by two Texas A&M AgriLife institutes shows that some plants need only moderate moisture to remain healthy.

Sprinkler systems left on can be particularly susceptible to temperature changes. Freezes can damage pipes and require immediate attention, so it is best to periodically check the system for leaks using zone-by-zone tests. Drain and test winterized systems zone-by-zone for repairs after the last freeze.

Applying pre-emergent herbicides and fertilizer will help landscape keep pace

With warmer temperatures, the potential for earlier germination of weeds is certainly possible. Apply pre-emergent herbicides and fertilizers now to fight weed germination that typically begins in February in warmer climates. If not treated, a post-emergent application likely will be necessary in the spring.

Additionally, the landscape will need nutrients that it may not otherwise get from normal rainfall. Apply a slow-release fertilizer to ensure the lawn and vegetation has everything it needs to blossom in the spring. About half of the nutrients and nitrogen release in the initial application to give the landscape a jump. The rest release over the next few months to stabilize growth.

Warm days encourage general cleanup around the property

Take advantage of those warmer days to do general cleanup around the property. Clean leaves and dead plants out of beds and cut back grasses. By removing unsightly matter, the property looks cleaner and enhances curb appeal. At the same time, your landscape will have a head start for new growth when warmer temperatures return for good.

Mild winter temperatures that include spring-like days may tempt early pruning of some plants, but it’s best to wait until that last freeze has passed. Certain plants are more susceptible to freeze damage, so leaving their foliage and crowns intact will serve as insulation when temps drop. Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which plants you should not cut back during the winter.

Your best bet during a La Niña winter is to keep a close eye on your landscape and work with what Mother Nature gives you.