Survey: Little Value in Social Media for Apartments

I was checking out NREI Online the other day.  There was an interesting article about a recent survey indicating that tenants spend very little time visiting an apartment community's social networking website.  The survey is national in scope and is being conducted by J Turner Research, a multi-family research firm.  Here's what I found interesting about the survey results:

  • Over 90% of conventional tenants (persons not residing in student housing) responding to the survey have not visited their apartment community's social networking site.
  • The contrast between conventional tenants and student-housing tenants: only 7% of conventional tenants have visited the apartment's social media website vs. 40% for students.  I wonder if/when that discrepancy will impact the "conventional tenant" demographic.
  • Of the 7% of conventional tenants who visit the social media site, 62% are checking to see what other's are saying about the apartment, 57% are conducting preliminary research and 37% are looking for discounts/deals.  (Obviously, these percentages add up to more than 100%.  I assume that the responding tenants were allowed to check more than one box on certain survey questions.)
  • Only 11% of responding tenants visited the apartment's social media website to schedule an onsite visit and only 8% tried to initiate the leasing process through that site.

As noted in the article, it is clear that social media is not driving leasing activity at this point.  My questions: is that such a bad thing?  Is that the purpose of an apartment's social media site?  Should it be?  I'm all for leveraging technology, especially online leasing, but can't that be done on a different online platform?  Shouldn't the apartment community's social media website be for building relationships w/ tenants and prospective tenants?  If the answer to the last question is yes, then the next question becomes: what can be done to add value to the social media website in order to get more "eyes" on it?

I'd love to hear from any apartment managers out there.  Are you using social media and, if so, how has it been going?

Shoppers Value Convenience. Who Knew?

I want to pass along an article from the 7/19/10 edition of the Press of Atlantic City by Sarah Watson concerning a developer's willingness to spend more than a million dollars to extend an existing dead-end so as to create an access road to alleviate area traffic.  For those familiar w/ the area, the planned development is called Gravelly Run Square, which recently received preliminary approvals from Hamilton Township.  It would be across the Black Horse Pike from Hamilton Commons (Regal Movie Theater) and current plans call for 296,000 sf of space within 8 buildings similar in design to Hamilton Commons, which was also developed by Benderson Development, the developer in question.  (Fingers crossed for a Fresh Fields!)  It is expected that work on creating the access road will begin in 2011.

Now, a developer agreeing to create an access road is not news.  Alleviating traffic congestion is admirable in and of itself and SOP to get projects approved.  (Also greatly needed in that area, as the article points out.)  But there is more to it than just reducing traffic and getting the project approved.  For one thing, the access road will benefit commercial properties other than Gravelly Run Square.  For me, though, I love the fact that the developer clearly saw the access road as a way to increase the value of the project.  Check out this quote from the developer:

“In order for businesses to succeed, they need to be convenient and traffic needs to be able to move as efficiently as possible,” Wainberg said, in response to questions as to why a commercial developer would invest so much time and money into an off-site road. “We’ve done projects of this kind everywhere, and we know what it takes for projects to be successful. They have to be well-planned.”


In other words, shoppers value convenience.  Duh!  Seems obvious, but not everybody is willing to go that extra mile. (Excuse the pun!)

If you develop/own/manage retail space, is there anything you can do to make the shopping experience more convenient for your visitors?  Granted, you may not be able to do anything about parking or traffic, but are there any smaller or unconventional ways to make the shopping experience more convenient?  If so, wouldn't greater shopping convenience add value to the property? 

Are You a Great Commercial Landlord?

Andrew Zezas is a tenant's rep who blogs at Corporate Advisor.  He recently had an interesting post that included his list of 20 attributes found in "great" commercial landlords.  The list is clearly written from a tenant's perspective and, while I don't agree with his entire list, there is at least one attribute on which we can agree: great commercial landlords know that service is key!

Do you qualify as a "great" landlord under Andrew's list?  If not, would you want to?  Any attributes with which you disagree?

ROUND-UP: Retail Traffic

OK, so the latest jobs report was disappointing and people a lot smarter than me are saying that our economic recovery is losing steam.  It's the 4th of July Weekend!  Let's focus on some more encouraging news.  Here are links to some recent encouraging stories from the fine folks over at Retail Traffic:

  • Here's an interesting piece by Elaine Misonzhnik about the growing sophistication of certain landlords' online marketing campaigns.  I was impressed by social network -- called ShopStar -- created by Developers Diversified Realty.  According to the article: "The tenants, including both retail stores and entertainment establishments, can use ShopStar to advertise special events, prizes and giveaways to shoppers. Customers, meanwhile, receive access to information about local properties and can offer feedback on what they think would improve their shopping experiences. Developers Diversified hopes the program will help build brand loyalty."  DDR's social network is a great idea and value-add to tenants.
  • Staying on technology, here is an article from EM regarding a retail-specific, Web-based property management "solutions" site called Workspeed Retail from Workspeed which "helps owners and managers track all property-related tasks, including tenant communications, preventive maintenance, accounting, security incidents and work orders, using a single online application."  There is reference in the article to some initial concern about going paper-less, which I share, but it is clear that web-based applications are the future.  Still, the argument for the application is increased efficiency -- which undoubtedly adds value -- and the leveraging that can be done by smaller management firms w/o in-house software.
  • Check out this post from David Bodamer on the TrafficCourt blog w/ evidence that a "bottom" in CRE pricing may have formed.  (Hey, we'll take our "good news" anywhere we can find it!)  Now, time to start moving up.
  •  Let's finish up w/ a piece from EM about how the flood of tenant concession requests that marked much of 2009 may be starting to subside.  If the brokers featured in the article are on the mark, it sounds like the playing field is starting to level off.  We'll take that as a positive!

There is plenty of other good stuff, both at Retail Traffic and TrafficCourt.  Please check it out.

Here's hoping that everybody has a safe and happy 4th of July Weekend.  Let's all get out there and spend some money.

Local Press Round-Up

 Here are a couple of articles from newspapers serving the South Jersey area that caught my eye over the weekend:

The first is by Diane Mastrull of The Philadelphia Inquirer about an upscale multi-family property in New York using a wastewater-recycling system designed, installed and managed by American Water, which is based in Voorhees, NJ.  The name of the property is the Visionaire, located in Battery Park, which opened in September/2008 with LEED Platinum certification, the highest of the U.S. Green Building Council's sustainability standards.

The information about American Water's efforts to become more efficient and green is interesting, but what caught my eye was the fact that the owner's decision to use the system at a cost of nearly $2 million was an incentive from NYC: a 25% reduction in water rates.  According to Russell Albanese of the Albanese Organization, developer of the Visionaire:

The city's rates have been increasing on average 11 percent a year, so the savings over time should become more significant.

The second article was from Erik Ortiz of The Press of Atlantic City about the generally still-bleak outlook for local malls and retail in Atlantic County, NJ.  What caught my eye was the efforts by the new owners of Heather Croft Square to increase occupancy which apparently will include new frontage.

The moral of the stories for me: sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

D.C. Commercial Landlords Start Posting Energy Costs

According to the Washington Post, the time has come for Washington, D.C., commercial landlords to begin complying with the District's Clean and Affordable Energy ActUnder the Act, which was passed in 2008, starting in 2010 landlords overseeing more than 200,000 square feet of office space are required by law to record energy and water usage rates in accord with the benchmarks established under the EPA's "Energy Star" program and, by the end of 2013, all buildings over 50,000 square feet must be compliant. 

Under the Energy Star program, buildings are assigned a rating from 1 to 100 based on how their energy efficiency compares with similar buildings in the country.  A building's rating will eventually be posted online, but there is a 2-year lag so landlords that must start reporting in 2010 will not see building ratings posted until 2012.  The lag in posting is intended to afford landlords the chance to install energy-efficient technologies, if they wish.

According to Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Market Transformation, D.C. was the first area in the U.S. to enact such a law.  However, in December/2009 New York City passed a law that takes D.C.'s legislation even further by also requiring multi-family dwellings to record energy consumption rates.

Am I crazy for thinking that the required reporting and posting of energy ratings could be a good thing?  I am mindful of the cost involved, especially for older buildings.  However, if done right, can't some if not all of the money spent on improving energy efficiency eventually be recouped?  I would think that a good Energy Star rating would be yet another way to distinguish a property from its competitors and add value.

Like most things "green," I suspect that more municipalities are eventually going to jump on this trend.