Oct 30

As many of you know I like data.  Okay – maybe “like” is a little weak.  Perhaps its love, or at least a dangerous obsession.

Our industry, at least in regard to small properties,  shies away from meaningful data collection and utilization.  However, you can do so much with the right data – from setting your rents in the sweets spot between charging too little and losing money to charging too much, having your units remain vacant and … losing money.  What is that house you are looking buying at really worth and how much rent can you really expect to receive? In many neighborhoods paying assessed value is paying two to three times what everybody else is paying.  In a few high valued neighborhoods assessed value is a steal.  Ask the listing broker how much rent you can expect and some will tell you the sky.

Lately we’ve been looking at a lot of data points from rents, to evictions, to city orders, to special assessments, to tax assessments in general, to foreclosures and a ton of other interesting things.

For example we are developing an internal tool for suggesting rents that is using for rent ad data, including rent amount as well as other thing such as how long the ad has appeared, how many times in the past two years has the unit been for rent and mashes that up with property data – age, size, assessed value, date of last sale, how many units are owned by that owner and a dozen other metrics. Then combine this data with city order data, eviction data, tax delinquency and foreclosure information for the subject property.  While we haven’t finalized the algorithm, we are getting close.

Another fun project is trying to identify properties that will fail.  We look at when they were purchased, if they are tax delinquent, if they are on the DNS monthly reinspection list, if there are evictions, if the water bills have been placed on the tax roll, etc.

We started doing this with database tools, Python scripts and a lot of manual acquisition.  We’ve found a lot better methods since.

One of the tools we use for data acquisition is import.io. Today I was in San Francisco for their Extract conference.  The theme was “Data Stories Worth Sharing”  There were 600 in attendance, with what appeared to be an equal distribution of data scientists, data analysts, and application developers. Oh and there was one landlord.

I wanted to attend the last two but either the timing was bad or the event was in London, which is quite a trip for a one day conference.  Today was so great I regret not attending the previous events.

If people thought I was a pain in the butt before with my data obsession, I’ll be downright dangerous now. 😉

If you want to play with the tools I play with, another one to look at is Mirador, a data visualization tool developed by Harvard and others primarily for things like Ebla research.  This is a radically cool tool  for seeing patterns in data.  Before that we were only testing patterns against assumptions.  Mirador points out the patterns for you.  

To visualize the results there is Tableau or for the more adventuresome there is a Javascript library D3

I think I should call this “Big data about small properties.”

If you are interested in data and rental hosung and want to talk about this more, drop me an email at Tim@ApartmentsMilwaukee.com

 

 

 

 

Oct 24

I recently read a book “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller.  The author is a real estate professional, but the book is not about real estate per se.  The entire premises of the book is:

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

While simple, it is a great question.  Perhaps making an entire book out of it is a small stretch, but none the less a great question.

So let’s apply it to our industry.  What is the one thing that would change everything for us?

A few ideas that come to mind:

  • Enforceable tenant responsibility
  • A cooperative rather than confrontational relationship with local governments
  • Superior screening tools
  • Access to labor
  • Reduced cost supplies
  • Software
  • Financing

What is your ONE thing that would change everything – lets decided and then decide to make it happen,  Post your ideas in the comments or over at the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group

 

 

Aug 30

Years ago I had a secret weapon … Jott an iPhone app that allowed you to speak a note and have a fairly well typed email. Unfortunately Jott was shut down a couple of years ago.

A year ago I stumbled on an excellent replacement, DO note. This app is available for both iPhones and Android.  It is free as well.

While you are out in the field you can quickly take a note of something you will likely have forgotten about by the time you get to a proper place to jot down your notes.

 

Aug 15

Milwaukee’s wave of violent crime has not subsided.

Yesterday (8-14-15) a unit prep crew for one of the other larger Southside owners were robbed at gun point while unloading their van at 8:30 AM.  The crime happened on 24th and Maple.

One work suffered serious injuries from being struck with an iron bar across the face. The guy has a broken lower jaw, upper jaw, nose and eye socket.

What did the thieves get from this violent attack?  $40.  They did not even steal any tools.  What was the most the criminals could have expected to get robbing a couple of apartment painters art work?  Maybe… $40.  WTF.  Who robs paint crews at 8:30 in the morning?

Two guys in a grey Hyundai were driving slowly down the street, as though they were looking for an address.  They pulled in and parked a couple of car lengths ahead of the worker’s van.  Two workers were unloading the stuff they needed to finish the prep.

One of the bad guys calmly walked up to a worker and asked him for a light for his cigarette.  The worker gets out his lighter, looks up and sees the gun.  Fixated on the gun, as you would be, he doesn’t see the other guy until he was struck in the face with the iron bar. Had the worker turned his head he could have been hit across the back of the neck.

The worker never had a chance to simply hand over his wallet. These criminals were willing to possibly kill someone for a couple of dollars.

How do you even protect yourself in a situation like this?   Even if the worker had a carry permit, there would have been no time to react between this being a stranger looking for a light and a violent attack.

Later that same day two people were shot in a robbery on 34th and Lincoln. A few days earlier and a few blocks east, a ten year old was shot in his own home as bad guys decided to shoot out in the street outside.  Things are seriously headed in the wrong direction.

I used to walk the neighborhood that are properties are located in every chance I got.  Today walking what use to be the fairly safe Southside, would be insane. We are close to eclipsing Detroit as the most depressed city in America.

Mar 29

 

Remember  Your handyman – cheap contractor or $60,000 mistake?

Many of you attended the Apartment Association’s Meeting earlier this month featuring employment law attorney John Murray.

Here is a link to the State of Wisconsin’s guidance on the issue.  Most owners I’ve met that call their workers contractors fail on four or more of the test outlined in the guide.  Failing only one of the nine tests will cost you substantially.  This is why we use employees exclusively, except for licensed trades like electricians.

Under section 102.07(8)1 of the Wisconsin Statutes, a person is required to meet a nine-part test before he or she is considered an independent contractor rather than an employee. A person is not an independent contractor for worker’s compensation purposes just because the person says they are, or because the contractor over them says so, or because they both say so, or even if other regulators (including the federal government and other state agencies) say so. The nine-part statutory test set forth under s. 102.07(8) of the Act, must be met before a person working under another person is considered not to be an employee. To be considered an independent contractor and not an employee, an individual must meet and maintain all nine of the following requirements:

1. Maintain a separate business.

2. Obtain a Federal Employer Identification number from the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or have filed business or self-employment income tax returns with the IRS based on the work or service in the previous year. (See note below.)

3. Operate under specific contracts.

4. Be responsible for operating expenses under the contracts.

5. Be responsible for satisfactory performance of the work under the contracts.

6. Be paid per contract, per job, by commission or by competitive bid.

7. Be subject to profit or loss in performing the work under the contracts.

8. Have recurring business liabilities and obligations.

9. Be in a position to succeed or fail if business expense exceeds income.

Note: When requesting a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) from the IRS, you must inform the IRS that you are required by Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation law to obtain a FEIN. A social security number cannot be substituted for a FEIN and does not meet the legal burden of s. 102.07(8).


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