Who’s Driving The Car ?

Let’s talk about “Curb Appeal”. All of us in the management industry know and love this terminology. For those who might be just beginning their multifamily careers, this may be one of the top 10 things I’d like you to take away from our Blog today, or any day! I’ll start with a detour into the maintenance side of this curb appeal thing. Here is my  5 classifications of maintenance items in order of importance:

  1. EMERGENCIES (Life threatening, Fire, Pouring water, etc)
  2. CURB APPEAL (Yes, it’s number 2)
  3. MAKE READIES ( You cannot lease it if it’s not READY $$$)
  4. ROUTINE MAINTENANCE REQUESTS (Normal plumbing clogs, sticking doors, light fixtures, disposals, etc)
  5. OTHER (Touch up paint, etc or, any item that won’t inconvenience the Resident if it’s scheduled later in the week)

Emergencies are pretty much self explanatory, so let’s discuss “Curb Appeal”. How come it’s in the 2nd spot? How can it be that important? Curb appeal covers a multitude of items that make your property desireable, attractive, clean, safe and secure. Curb appeal is applicable to various areas of your property such as:

  • Grounds ( grass, trees, shrubbery, etc)
  • Common Areas ( parking, drives, hallways, stairs, pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, dog parks, grill areas, gates, fences, etc
  • Buildings (exterior doors & windows, signage, flags and poles, golf carts, mailboxes, etc

Ok, to make the point memorable, here is a scenario that I use when training a management class:

Once upon a time there were three properties on Elm Street. All three were garden type, three story brick apartment buildings. All three properties consisted of multiple buildings of similar age, about twenty years old. As you drive down Elm Street, all of the properties were within three blocks, and all happened to be on the west side of the street. We will assume that if you were driving on Elm Street going south, the three properties would be visible on the right side of your vehicle.

I will describe the subjects as property “A”, “B”, and “C”. As we cruise down Elm Street we pass by property “A” and notice the following:

  • There is a wood framed sign at the entry drive. The paint and lettering has faded somewhat and the “Now Leasing” sign that hangs from the bottom has a broken chain on the right side, and the sign is hanging from the left chain. There appears to be remnants of some flowers that were planted in a box nailed to the bottom of the sign. The front building on the right side of the entrance drive has a storm window from one of the lower level units lying in the grass (mostly dirt) propped against the brick. As we go past the drive a school bus pulls up and discharges about 20 children. They are dropping paper, trash, and running through what’s left of a few shrubs at the edge of the entrance drive. The curbs have weeds growing in them and there is paper and trash visible across the front of the next two buildings. Two of the front buildings have loose gutters and the downspouts are falling off. One building has several shingles missing from the roof. There is a vehicle in a front parking slot that has a flat tire and no license tag.

We continue south on Elm Street and approach property “B”, The same school bus is discharging children at the front drive of the property. However, there are several parents waiting at the drive to assist all the children coming off in an orderly manner. We also notice the following:

  • There is a lovely wood framed sign on the lawn next to the entry drive. it appears to have been freshly painted and is landscaped with mulched flowers and decorative rock. There is a decorative wood sign on a single post (with flowers at the base) that says “Welcome Home”. The grounds are neat, mowed and all the trees are mulched. The buildings are attractive with mature shrubs, clean edged walkways and awnings over the entry doors. We decide to drive through the property for a closer look. The asphalt drives have been recently sealed and directional signs are clearly visible for the different buildings. There are wooden picket fences surrounding the commercial dumpsters and the playground is spotless (and in use). There is a beautiful pool with a cookout area. As we turn the car around, a maintenance person in a uniform (with the complex name and his name sewn on) approaches and asks if he can assist us in any way. We say we are impressed with the appearance of the property and are there any vacancies? He politely directs us toward the leasing office and tells us to ask for Belinda.

As we arrive in front of property “C”, its’ appearance is very similar to that of property “A”, with poor exterior maintenance and shoddy grounds.

Although you may think that the comparisons are obviously meant to convey a point, the reality comes when we ask the question “Who’s driving the car” that toured past these three properties?

Driver #1 is a couple who are looking to rent an apartment home. It’s your guess which property they will visit….

Let’s say that driver #2 is a drug dealer……which property is he going to target as a prime place to sell his drugs?

Driver #3 is from the local Housing Authority……????

Driver #4 is the local district Councilman or woman……..

Driver #5 is a contract property Inspector for the lender that holds the mortgage for two of the properties, #1 and #2.

Driver #6 is a burglar…..

I haven’t even discussed which property you think is fully occupied, has the highest per unit rents and has the highest resale value!!

Homer Says:


CURB APPEAL……It’s Important.

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