3 ways landlords can be a resource for struggling tennants

3 ways landlords can be a resource for struggling tenants

Everyone in the multifamily sector is feeling the pain of the COVID-19 outbreak right now, from owners to residents to maintenance workers.

“There’s a lot of stress out there,” Doug Bibby, president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, said in a webinar organized by the Urban Land Institute to examine what owners and operators of multifamily buildings can do to ease the pain of the coronavirus pandemic and the social isolation that comes with combating it. “Love on your residents any way you can.”

Bibby and the other panelists involved in the webinar noted that the recently passed CARES Act did not do enough for multifamily housing. Among other provisions, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Yentel noted that her organization will be lobbying Congress to include measures such as a national uniform moratorium on foreclosures, as well as evictions. “Small landlords cannot afford to maintain their units without rents coming in,” she said. “We all have a stake in getting this right.”

Regardless of the legislation that still needs to be crafted, the webinar also included a few small things that real estate professionals can do right now to make a real difference in their residential communities.

1. Reach out to all tenants in a proactive way

It might be tempting to limit outreach just to those who have already expressed worries about being able to pay their rent, but Bibby said this minimalist approach doesn’t cut it in a time of crisis. “Contact every single resident and assess their needs,” he said, adding that it’s important to make individual outreach efforts, not just send blanket emails to all residents. “It’s got to be one-on-one contact.”

Also, even if you don’t think a tenant is going to have any issues paying rent for the foreseeable future, it can still be helpful to let them know they’re a vital part of maintaining community stability. “Thank residents who make their payments, those that can,” Bibby said.

2. Help fill holes on store shelves

It’s important for residents to maintain the cleanliness of their homes during the outbreak, but supply-side problems may be making that more difficult for some tenants.

“It’s incredibly hard to get cleaning supplies right now,” said Megan Sandel, co-director of the GROW clinic at the Boston Medical Center. However, she noted that many local public health departments offer resources that landlords can distribute on how to turn common household supplies like lemon juice, baking soda and white vinegar into green cleaning supplies.

Sandel added that indoor air quality is more important than ever now that many are spending so much time in their homes. “We have to be thoughtful,” she said. “Our homes are not necessarily designed to be occupied 24 hours a day.”

3. Find ways to restore broken connections

Each panelist encouraged property managers to reach out to tenants to see what they need. Oftentimes real estate professionals can do the most good by simply connecting residents with people or agencies that can solve the problems they’re experiencing.

Most people are suffering some degree of isolation, but the situation is felt most acutely by seniors, according to Bibby. “The connection to loved ones is almost the most heartbreaking thing about this,” he said, encouraging webinar attendees to offer help troubleshooting video conferencing apps if possible. “There’s got to be a way of creating links.”

Sandel agreed, noting that she’s seen some senior housing complexes institute social hours where residents open their doors and wave or converse from inside their respective units as a way to encourage social connectivity.

Yentel encouraged property owners to find local food and equipment providers that might be able to help residents out. She noted that, while many libraries are closed, they might have computers or routers they can loan out to help kids who aren’t able to connect to e-learning opportunities from home. “Partnerships in this moment are critical,” she said.

For more information on how to best represent the needs of your clients, watch AgentEDU’s track on representing real estate buyers.

Staging for the post coronavirus error: 3 features buyers will want

Staging for the post-coronavirus era: 3 features buyers are going to want

There are many ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives, but one of the most obvious is that it has contained us in our homes — maybe for months.

While life on lockdown will eventually end, a calamity of this scale means lasting, permanent changes in the way we work and live. Just as the Great Depression gave rise to a “waste not, want not” generation, the coronavirus has given rise to a “work from home” revolution that’s likely to stick around in one form or another. And that, among other factors, is likely to shape what buyers want in a home. Agent Publishing talked to agents and stagers across the country to find out what will be important moving forward.

  1. Home office

At the top of the list is a dedicated home office. Remodeling site Houzz recently polled its community of homeowners and design professionals and found that the majority of respondents (55%) have a home office, but a quarter (25%) work from their dining or kitchen table, with one in ten laboring from the sofa (11%).

According to the poll, top challenges associated with unexpectedly working from home in light of the coronavirus pandemic include: Finding a private or quiet location away from high-traffic living areas (30%), securing a computer with a strong Wi-Fi connection (25%) and creating a comfortable workspace (25%).

With that in mind, agents marketing homes without dedicated offices need to get creative, said Houston agent Amber Kuhl, with The Collection Real Estate by JLA Realty. “It’s going to be super important to fit in some sort of office space where there wasn’t one before,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged office, but you do need to stay at the forefront of what clients are looking for.” Kuhl and her partner Kelly Donawa, who offer staging as part of their concierge services, suggested the following home office hacks:

  • Carve out an office space in a nook or entryway.
  • Turn a hall closet into an office by adding built-ins.
  • Install a vanity cutout on the periphery of the kitchen, in a pantry or wet bar area.
  • Utilize unused space like an upstairs landing or underneath a staircase.
  • Make the dining room do double duty.
  • Reimagine the master bedroom as a multi-function room.
  1. Private outdoor space

Showcasing outdoor space has always been important, according to Ilaria Barion, owner of Arizona-based staging company Ilaria Barion Design, but thanks to social distancing, it’s now a top priority. “Outdoor space defines the kind of lifestyle you can have,” Barion said. “We normally recommend staging as many outdoor spaces as possible. If you have to cut out anything, cut out the bedroom.”

Depending on the target market, Barion recommends focusing on one of two things when it comes to outdoor space: entertaining or family time. While family-friendly outdoor spaces outfitted with pools, fire pits and outdoor kitchens tend to sell themselves, condos and townhomes with limited outdoor space require a little more imagination.

“For a condo with a small balcony, I think having two chairs and a small table with a bottle of wine is nice. If you have outdoor space off the kitchen and facing the back of the building, then add a grill and eating area.”

Keep the furniture mostly neutral, Barion said, and add pops of color with pillows or cushions and flowers. “You’re not selling the furniture, you’re selling the experience,” she said. Outdoor lighting, rugs and plants will add a sense of luxury and help create an emotional connection that’s particularly important right now. “If someone connects emotionally, they’re less price sensitive. It’s also important to change the language in a listing to highlight outdoor space.”

  1. Mudroom

Often the main point of entry between the garage and the kitchen and a depository for coats, shoes and sports gear, the mudroom has taken on new importance during the COVID-19 pandemic as a decontamination station and place to stash potentially infected packages, grocery bags and even takeout bags.

But what if there’s no mudroom? According to Rachel Cristobal, owner of Staging Sells in Chicago, an easy solution can often be found in the garage.

“I would suggest putting in some type of a bench with cubbies for boots and shoes as close to the doorway as possible along with some disinfectant wipes for door handles,” she said. Installing a pegboard wall is another cheap and easy solution. “You can hang bins to hold packages, install shelves and get as creative as you want.”

While the garage is probably one of the best places, if that’s not available, try to carve out some space on the front porch or front entryway, she said.

Throughout history, how we inhabit physical space has been a primary defense against epidemics, and this time is no different. “We’re going to see people come out of this with a much better understanding of lifestyle and awareness of what they’re looking for in a home,” Kuhl said. “Learning to rework space makes all the difference in the world. It can be a simple re-tooling. That’s what agents are going to be tasked with moving forward.”

For more information on staging homes, watch AgentEDU’s course on staging and preparing a listing for the market.