(Mis)Managing a Companion Complex
SAN FRANCISCO—Wouldn't it be convenient if someone had clear, intelligent answers to most of your CRE-related questions? Problem solved. Nina J. Gruen, a.k.a. Ms. Real Estate, a.k.a. the principal sociologist overseeing market research and analysis at Gruen Gruen + Associates, is here to answer readers' questions.
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Dear Ms. Real Estate,
I manage an eight-year-old, 520-unit apartment complex located in a northwest city. Forty-five percent of the units are 1 bedroom/1 bath; 45% are 2 bedroom, 2 bath; and 10% are 3 bedroom/3 bath. All units have high quality finishes in the kitchens and bathrooms, as well as in-unit washers and dryers. The complex also offers a high level of amenities, including a pool, hot tub, community room with large screen TV, a gym, and concierge services seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. We do not permit pets, however, and over the last four to five years we find, despite the high quality of our facility, we are losing out to projects that do accept them. Our current occupants range in age from their late 20s to their mid-60s. Approximately 10% of the occupants are households with preschool age children. Should we be retooling our no pets policy?
—(Mis)Managing a Companion Complex
Since only 10% of your current households are family households, not permitting pets for those younger, non-family and older residents who have downsized as their children left home is likely to be felt as a significant deprivation on the part of many prospective renters. High quality apartment products and desirable amenities are not always sufficient to make up for the perceived loss of a non-human companion. Did you know that during our recent Great Recession, pet-related products were the one retail category that did not experience a decrease in sales? I recommend that you do reconsider your no pet policy, but implement a set of regulations/restrictions to minimize your management problems. For example, these regs might include:
- A pet deposit to pay for any future damage;
- A limit on the number and/or size of the pets;
- A no barking rule that mandates quiet after 9:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m. under the threat of losing one’s lease;
- The request that all pets must be kept on a leash when they are not in their owner’s unit.
Since you indicated your complex has full concierge service, the concierge might want to consider a bowl of dog treats to hand out when residents and their pets return from their daily walks. Such treats do appear to limit barking—particularly when more than one dog is in the lobby at the same time.
Should you opt to take Ms. Real Estate’s advice, let me know to what extent your rentals have picked up.