The staff of Northern Illinois Real Estate Magazine developed a roundtable discussion with four of the area’s property management experts to discuss trends, concerns and projections of the industry. These professionals were: Harvey Alter, Executive Vice President of Alter Asset Management; Nancy Capadona, Portfolio Manager at the Hearn Company; Gary Kass, President of Kass Management ] Services, Inc.; and Tom Morabito, President of Seneca Real Estate Group. We thank them for their insightful and thoughtful responses.
Morabito: Seneca is a full service advisory firm specializing in Property and Asset Management, Leasing, and Investment Sales.
What are the popular amenities tenants are attracted to? Are there certain amenities most owners offer?
Morabito: On the residential front, tenants look for “Condo-Quality” amenities. Granite counter tops, stainless appliances, in-unit laundry. With respect to the buildings themselves, even if they are not living in a “doorman” building, tenants require and search for a manager that will provide service to their unit and the building as if we had 24-hour service at the door and maintenance to serve them. So, their expectations and demands have increased.
Security concerns have changed immensely over the years. What type of security needs do your tenants require and what type do the landlords offer?
Morabito: Technology is a hugely important factor today. Most tenants are extremely savvy, and most importantly they are mobile. They want to pay their bills online, and request work orders without picking up their phone. We have systems in place at Seneca, either through our mobile app, or thru our website, that allows tenants to communicate with us, and in turn, we serve their needs without them having to get us on the phone. Similar to Amazon, they can pay and make their requests seamlessly. We send out automated email notices to each and every tenant that has requested service, detailing time and date of arrival. We have automated processes which send follow-up emails once the work is completed, along with a survey to rate the quality of work that was performed. We also follow-up with personal visits and phone calls.
How does your company interact with tenants to ensure their retention?
Morabito: Retention is the key to any real estate investment, whether a residential or commercial building. It is crucial that we maintain personal relations with all tenants. I believe we do this as well as anyone because it’s a key area of concern to us. While we utilize technology to facilitate efficiency, the success of a tenant staying or going usually rests with how well we have communicated with them over the course of their term, and how well we have served them. We strive on a daily basis to find the balance in serving tenants, as well as serving our client. It’s difficult at times, but our staff is trained to service our tenants as long as its within the fullest extent of the parameters of their lease agreement.
In terms of tenant leasing activity, are there certain industries you see as more active? Why?
Morabito: Leasing activity ebbs and flows due to the market. Right now, the residential “for rent” market is extremely hot. A lot of would-be first time home buyers have decided to rent, creating a supply of renters, therefore, pushing rents. Commercial activity is strong and a lot of retailers are back to expanding their footprint. I would say that commercial rents have not reached the levels of 2008 and 2009, but they have been increasing.
I would like to add a point about investment in real estate today. One needs to look at the township and taxing district that a property is located in, because rising future taxes on properties is the biggest fear among investors. One should consult a tax attorney prior to a purchase to see what impact a new purchase is going to have on the investment. That’s what I see as a huge risk that often seems to get overlooked in the buying process.