July 2006 Table of Contents

Commission (Im) Possible Commission (Im) Possible

Dave Woodward of Laramar Communities chose to accept a mission that some think is impossible: He's in the early stages of switching to a commission-based pay structure for the company's leasing agents. The mission will be a dangerous one, full of daunting unknowns, twists and turns at every corner, and even a possible explosion or two. But Woodward is ready for the journey, armed with high hopes of improving his company's on-site sales operations. Read more

SPECIAL REPORT: Cause for Alarm SPECIAL REPORT: Cause for Alarm

Apartment building safety has improved steadily over the years, but those improvements–particularly regarding fires–have been won at the cost of many lost lives. "If you look at the fire code,, you can see [a number of] things that were put in place after major disasters, when people were more accepting of changes," says Dan Jones, the fire chief in Chapel Hill, N.C. He even has a name for such disasters: "teachable moments." Read more

Rising Stars Rising Stars

Some people catch the real estate bug early in life. Maybe their fathers or aunts or grandfathers were in the business. Or maybe they got a chance to work in construction or apartment management in college. For others, it's something they fall into after school or even further along in their career. Regardless, it's obvious that's there's no one path to success in the multifamily business. Read more

Time to Double Down? Time to Double Down?

If the apartment industry was a gambler, he (or she) wouldn't want to move from the table where he's playing at the moment–he's on a roll. After several tough years, public multifamily companies this spring reported rising rents, falling concessions, and condo-related gains in 2006's first quarter. Read more

Live to Serve Live to Serve

Coming from a consumer marketing background, I've always been focused on building brands. The success of any brand depends on its reputation with consumers. For most products, that reputation is based on the product's appearance, taste, or performance. In our industry, it is based on our customers' experience while they live with us. While our product–their apartment–is central to this experience, so is the customer service we provide. And while many apartment companies say that customer service is important, they fall short because they fail to make it a part of the DNA of their organizations. Read more

A Question of Compliance A Question of Compliance

First, there was Archstone-Smith, a REIT in Englewood, Colo. Then it was AvalonBay Communities, a REIT in Alexandria, Va., and Bozzuto and Associates, an apartment owner in Greenbelt, Md. But on April 27, the nonprofit Equal Rights Center (ERC) filed suit against its biggest apartment owner to date: Equity Residential, a Chicago-based REIT and No. 1 on this year's MFE Top 50 owners list. Read more

I.D. Check I.D. Check

More than 10 million Americans fall victim to identity thieves each year, the Federal Trade Commission estimates, a number that has apartment firm owners and managers searching for ways to prevent identity theft from troubling their businesses and their residents. Read more

Bleak to Chic Bleak to Chic

From the outside, the 26-story Skyline Towers looks identical to the 1950s and '60s stock of towering high-rises that surround this Northern Virginia apartment community. But on the inside, this project is anything but just one of the pack, thanks to an extreme makeover which masterfully gave this drab, outdated building a contemporary, urban design. Read more

Money Man Money Man

Just when it looked like Michael May had tried almost everything during his 23 years at Freddie Mac, a golden opportunity fell into his lap as the Next Great Challenge: He was named senior vice president, multifamily sourcing for the financing giant, marking his first official foray into the multifamily sector. May, who has a B.S. in accounting from Old Dominion University, was up for it. Taking the reins from a good friend and mentor, Adrian Corbiere, May says he's ready to roll up his sleeves and dig into the ins and outs that multifamily has to offer. Read more

Fuel the Need Fuel the Need

For 60 years, the 0.62-acre site off a busy road in the Bronx was a Shell gas station. Soon it will house hundreds of people in a seven-story, 120,000-square-foot apartment building with a Staples store on the ground level.Woodmere, N.Y.-based Arker Cos. started construction on the$27 million affordable housing project last fall, after winning support from the New York State Brownfields Cleanup Program. When the gas station property was put up for sale, Arker saw the site's potential based on its location: It sits in a commercial district along a heavily traveled road with several five- and six-story apartment buildings nearby. Read more

Cash Crunch Cash Crunch

Jim Hurley, portfolio manager for the California State Teachers' Retirement System, known as CalSTRS and one of the largest pension funds in the country, seems anxious. With cap rates below 4 in some markets (an indicator of high apartment prices) and interest rates rising, CalSTRS and other investors risk negative leverage if they put debt on a property. Read more

Automatic Savings Automatic Savings

When United Dominion Realty Trust started automating the purchasing and invoicing for maintenance supplies in 2003, the Richmond, Va.-based REIT projected that it would save about $152,000 in the first year, after paying to deploy the technology. Even though it conducted a detailed ROI analysis beforehand, the firm was off target with that estimate–in a good way. In actuality, it saved more than three times that much. Read more

Extraordinary Borders Extraordinary Borders

Whether it's GQ or Vogue magazine, the message is almost always the same: Accessories make the look. That's also a good way to see how decks, fencing, and railings function on a multifamily building. They're the accessories, the little extras that can take a project from good to great. Read more

Packard Motor Car Building Apartments Packard Motor Car Building Apartments

The turn of the 20th century was a time of progress and prosperity for the City of Brotherly Love. Manufacturing plants blossomed and mass transit was in full swing. Philadelphia's famed Broad Street bustled with activity of all sorts, most notably automobile manufacturing. The street became known as "Automobile Row," as many of the prominent car makers at the time featured lavish showrooms and dealerships along the stretch. Read more

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