Besides managing properties and taking care of residents, when it comes to having a solid property management plan there is nothing more critical than taking care of our greatest asset – our employees.
Even as times change, cultural shifts take place, and technology advances in new directions, our priorities shouldn't change when it comes to developing and utilizing a solid approach to human resources (HR). At FOURMIDABLE, the HR role, like many positions in our company, will evolve over time. That said, we remain focused on these seven fundamental considerations.
Recruiting - Our economic climate calls for HR professionals to be even more in-tune with the latest methods of recruiting than ever before. Placing high-level talent goes well beyond the old methods of placing a print advertisement or an online listing. Be creative in your thinking and relentless in your efforts if you want to be successful recruiting.
Training - Continual training on safety and best practice policies is vital to protecting our employees, the company, and the properties being managed. Developing a network to help with a wide range of training topics and instituting continuous training methods is a must.
Company culture - A major shift has taken place in recent years with many companies realizing the importance of cultivating culture in their organizations. Ensuring employees are recognized for their achievements is only one piece of the puzzle. Companies must develop ways to engage their staff and explain the cultural values that are most important to the organization. Employee initiative programs need to be comprehensive and focus on developing employee unity, cultural understanding, and ongoing recognition efforts.
Benefit planning - It is essential that the HR staff focus on providing the best access to benefits. Helping employees take care of their families through health benefits and plan for their financial security in retirement are closely connected to finding and retaining top quality talent.
Compensation analysis - Know what your competitors are doing. Understanding what the job marketplace looks like is not to be underestimated. It is essential to know the base lines that impact your company and stay current with local compensation trends.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC). The world of regulation is a fact of life and any good HR approach. Work hard to maintain a thorough understanding of these rules to ensure every effort is made to provide a fair, safe workplace.
Technology advancement. Working with IT managers, and being focused on what technology can offer, is a great way for the HR staff to find new avenues to assist employees. By allowing employees access to information in an easy and efficient manner, you will enhance your company's culture.
By Michael Schocker
Over the past year our strategy focused on growth, along with an ongoing commitment to an outstanding customer service model. This led us to adding more than 1,000 new units to the FOURMIDABLE portfolio, including adding the state of Florida for the first time. And while 2019 was an amazing year, we now look forward to 2020 as a company.
Truly there are many new and exciting possibilities that lie ahead for our firm and the great work of our clients and staff. Let me take a few moments to share with all of our partners and clients the plans and prospects we have ahead for 2020, especially since this year represents the 45th anniversary of our company's founding in 1975.
As we enter this special year, I am so thankful for everyone who played a part in what we have achieved so far. The property management industry is a challenging one, and we have seen many competitors come and go. To say we are in our 45th year as a company is really a tribute to all the hard-working men and women at FOURMIDABLE who for years have made an intense focus on our clients and our approach to customer service.
This year we will continue to concentrate on our growth strategy. Over the next five months we are scheduled to add another 1,000 units to our portfolio. This includes some new areas for us as a company, including our first units in Iowa. At the same time, we will add the Bay St. Louis (MS) Housing Authority, Central Park (Detroit) and Gatlinburg (TN), among other new properties.
FOURMIDABLE'S attention to serving our clients will not change. We will continue to develop ways and procedures to better respond to our clients continuing needs, some of these being achieved through technology. We are also committed to finding ways to improve profitability and responsiveness to our clients. No matter what challenges we face our intent is to continually improve as a company.
This year at FOURMIDABLE will also be very much about our most valuable resource, our amazing workforce. As we move ahead, we will continue to look at ways to better train, develop and encourage our employees. Our success will always be directly correlated to each of our employee's success.
Ultimately, FOURMIDABLE is a business, a business that will continue to work on improving its financial profitability and overall standing in 2020. Like all businesses, there are very specific ways to do this – increase revenue, lower expenses and invest soundly.
I know that by using a sound combination of these strategies we will move forward in 2020 and make this year an anniversary year that is unlike any other.
I look forward to the new year ahead with all of our clients, partners and our employees. It will truly be an exciting time for FOURMIDABLE.
By Michael Schocker
Stressing the importance of good communications with residents is a must in this fast-paced information world we live in. Keeping residents informed and responding to their needs is critical. It plays such a key part of maintaining a good property, that your communications efforts should not be taken lightly. In fact, it requires we plan and organize our approach as much as any other aspect of taking care of the property.
Personal involvement in ensuring great communications at all of our properties is a hallmark of FOURMIDABLE and guides us in our efforts to work closely with management, staff and residents.
There are several essential aspects to a solid communications game plan I would like to cover briefly.
Have a good response plan for resident requests
Sometimes we forget to prioritize our response to the needs and requests of residents. To make sure there's a focus on great customer service, and to help protect a property, FOURMIDABLE uses a service that monitors phone calls around the clock, including emergency calls.
During closed business hours, residents who call the office will hear a recording that allows them to choose an option for emergencies. The calls are monitored, and appropriate responses are implemented, escalating, if necessary, directly to me.
How we respond to calls and requests from residents are always discussed with new residents during their move-ins. The communications policy is written into the lease as well as posted on our property website.
Respond to complaints or concerns
You must absolutely respond to concerns, questions, problems, and complaints in timely manner. This is not always a fun part of the job, but there are no excuses for not responding. If the issue is not an emergency, I highly recommend a one-day response for any residents' concerns. How the response is made depends on what works best in the moment. This isn't rocket science, there are multiple ways to reach out and respond - a phone call, an email, even a text sometimes, just to show you received the message and are working on a solution.
Often people just want to be heard and have a chance to explain an issue from their perspective. It's our role to be gracious under fire and respond in a personal and non-confrontational way.
Try various ways of communicating
Good communications can take many forms, and often times I suggest using several approaches, through things like letters direct to residents, notices throughout the property (bulletin boards can be a big help) and even on a website or Facebook page.
Most communities have monthly newsletters for residents that can be emailed, printed and distributed on the property or published on a website. Newsletters allow you to share important dates, updates to procedures or policies, news from the community, staff changes and anything else unique to your property.
Another great venue for encouraging communication is during resident events and activities. Communities who host regular meetings or social parties, like game or movie nights, have a unique opportunity to let everyone connect and share information. It's even a chance to respond personally if you are in attendance.
Be available and flexible
Ultimately, the goal is to respond in a timely fashion, communicate in a regular manner and ensure you're available when residents are available. If you have to, adjust office hours to what works best for the most residents. Learn to be flexible and accommodate the needs of residents. It will pay off with residents who, in being well informed, also become highly-satisfied, long-term residents.
By Michael Schocker
Conducting a Capital Needs Assessment (CNA) is an excellent tool to help property owners and managers understand their potential capital improvement needs over both a short and long-term timeframe.
In fact, Fourmidable believes a thorough CNA is so critical to operational success that we highly recommend you make it a top priority in the upcoming year. This analysis is well-worth the time and resources needed to complete it. More importantly, it will help set your team on the right course for the future.
So, what is a Capital Needs Assessment? Essentially, it is in-depth property inspection that will provide a cost roadmap over whatever effective timespan you may want to consider. Most CNAs cover anywhere from five to 20 years and create a foundational base of data that helps when it is time to budget for major improvements or changes to the property.
The goal of a Capital Needs Assessment is to collect enough information through detailed inspections to help determine the remaining lifespan of important “big ticket” items like roofs, windows, HVAC systems and more.
For example, by working through a CNA you can determine the number of doors or windows that may need to be scheduled for replacement sooner than later. You can develop a renovation plan to protect building roofs and equipment, even the property grounds and items like sidewalks and drive ways. Most important, it allows you to identify potential urgent needs before they become an expensive and unexpected problem.
Most needs assessments can be handled by the property team, but there are also plenty of firms qualified to assist. If you hire an outside company and their team of inspectors, they will need your cooperation. In the end, you will receive an in-depth review with detailed estimates of costs and a project schedule for the coming years.
Evaluating the property from this physical standpoint will help in the next step, which is to focus on identifying the resources and potential vendors that will be needed and to develop a project timeline to carry out the improvements in a timely and cost-effective manner. Once the “what” is completed, it becomes easier to focus on the “how”; how to improve your property in way that sets it apart from others.
Think of a Capital Needs Assessment as another important way to focus on long-term, strategic planning. This is a fundamental step to ensuring a high-quality property that meets both residents' and owner's needs.
By Michael Schocker
When it comes to successfully transitioning a property to a new management agency there are a series of important steps that need to be taken to ensure a smooth changeover with as little disruption to the residents and the property itself.
Our role in ensuring a successful transition of our properties is a hallmark of Fourmidable. Essentially, it begins with basic steps, each of which cater to the specific circumstances of the property and residents and helps head off any problems that might arise during the changeover process.
The goal is to follow these steps and in an order that makes the most sense.
First is communication. We communicate with the residents, notifying them of what is happening from the very beginning so that everyone has the same information. This can take several forms (and often using several approaches is recommended) such as letters to residents, notices throughout the property and potentially the website or Facebook pages.
Host a resident gathering or meeting to explain who we are and how we work. Introduce our key people. Encouraging everyone to connect is a great approach to sharing information and meeting people.
Besides communications, evaluating the physical needs of the property is an essential part of any good management agency turnover. Following a preliminary inspection review of 100 percent of the units (both occupied and vacant), it is important to develop and implement a strong preventive maintenance program.
Understanding the current conditions of the property is a must. This includes the common areas and overall grounds as well as the units themselves, roofs and overall structural conditions. This allows for a thorough assessment of what work needs to be done immediately and work that can wait for the long-term. It also allows a preventive maintenance program to be focused on the proper issues.
Like the property, it is critical to perform a resident file audit – determine whose name is on each unit, who lives in the unit, what their rent is and when their lease expires. At Fourmidable, we look to see if the rent roll matches up with leasing paperwork in the file. Sometimes we find that the resident's lease is expired or maybe they were paying the wrong rent per month.
Lastly, it's a good idea to do a technology evaluation and upgrade. Quite often there are old computers, fax machines or phone systems that don't work and need to be replaced. And they certainly won't have Fourmidable's software. Helping with this is Sheldon Olson and his IT team at Fourmidable. They evaluate the existing tech/phone systems and make recommendations to the property owner. Our focus is to provide them the latest ideas, trends and software to make sure the property is running in a 21st century mode.
Ultimately, thorough and orderly preparation following a logical step-by-step process goes a long way to ensure transition to a new property management agency that is both smooth and without disruption for the property and the residents living there.
By Sabrina Bollinger
The issues of diversity and inclusion are essential to developing and extending the value of people with different backgrounds. One area where FOURMIDABLE is making a difference in the lives of our residents is through the strength and diversity of the people who make up our workforce.
Taking care to extend the opportunities that exist at FOURMIDABLE is just one step in a process. Our hiring efforts extend to recruiting employees that are racially, ethnically and generationally diverse as well as hiring multilingual staff to better communicate with our residents.
Closing language barriers is one area where we've been able to get closer to meeting the needs of our clientele. We've accomplished this at Schoenherr Towers by reaching out to resident translators for help when needed.
The Sterling Heights Housing Commission and Schoenherr Towers worked together to take specific steps to extend that help through a series of English as a Second Language classes.
Diversity in the area of language as well as ethnicity is important when the goal is to create a stronger society. We begin by having conversations with our residents and implementing their specific needs to the best of our ability.
At FOURMIDABLE, we recognize the challenges and we are continually taking steps to become more diverse at the properties we manage and the employees we hire.
The benefits are priceless, and the effort is more than worth it.
By Michael Schocker
Creating and sustaining a company culture that invites employee initiative, engagement and participation doesn't just happen. It requires a commitment by the president, CEO, office managers and HR team to collaborate and share a vision for what the work place should be like for everyone.
At Fourmidable, there are cultural values essential to our success and building a successful staff who will go above and beyond when assisting our clients, giving back to the community and developing an attitude that is focused on inspiring each other every day.
First, we strive to be a place where people can feel free to share ideas openly and with the knowledge that they will be heard.
Next, Fourmidable is a place where people are willing to pitch in and foster an environment where everyone helps out their coworkers. We call it an “All for one, one for all” mindset.
Third, it is critical that our people understand the goals of the company so that we can work together to reach those goals in a fun and fulfilling way.
Last, but far from least for us, is the idea that everyone should enjoy life at Fourmidable, and have a bit of fun while doing so, especially since there are times when we spend more time together than with our families.
For an employee-focused culture to work, you have to both secure leadership's backing and develop a budget for what we call an “employee initiative plan,” setting aside the resources each year for the things you want to do.
So, in practical terms here are some examples that have helped Fourmidable perfect this highly important idea of engaging our team.
It all begins with employee recognition. This is so important, it should be a top priority for everyone. We use thank you boards to recognize people going above and beyond their normal job duties. Various forms of public recognition for the team, with a client, a resident or across the company, helps make the recognition special.
Every month we seek out an individual who went above and beyond and recognize them with something like a gift card. We also encourage peer recognition and sharing success among the team.
In the works is another way to recognize someone through our new “lunch with the president and CEO” program where we will take an individual to lunch, creating a way for us to get to know each other better.
On a quarterly basis we host activities and events, like a cruise on the Detroit River with the corporate office. We have hosted bowling outings, trips to mystery/escape rooms, picnics, and even visits to the office from an ice cream truck. Monthly yoga sessions in the office are not unusual either.
Another interesting effort is arranging for an “offline” space in our office where people can go to relax. This corner pocket is designed with a dart board, massage chairs and a ping pong table.
When it comes to giving back, our team has raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project, been involved in walk/run events raising money for a local park and started a competition called “Pushups for a Purpose” to raise money. We also seek out employees who have a relative or family member currently serving in the military, whether home or aboard, and created care packages to send them.
In the end, things like procedures, processes, and quotas can only go so far. More important is developing an underlying culture of engagement, participation and fun, and honest company values that attract and hold onto talented people who are the face of the company and connect with clients every day.
By Michael Schocker
How the multi-family industry comes to calculate an apartment property's value will play out over time and is one of those basic exercises industry experts have to partake. It's also the key to the entire value equation because the accuracy of the picture you are painting is all about the details.
Of course, we have tools to help us along the way, but it is, nonetheless, vitally important that you understand how those tools work in practical terms. And when you're working with those tools—particularly the “pro forma” document that quite likely will include input from the seller of the property—accuracy is paramount.
One thing to consider in making the call as to the accuracy question is that the sale could be taking place at least in part due to the seller's unhappiness.
With that in mind, a good place to start is by taking a careful look at the assumptions upon which the pro forma numbers were based. What those pro-forma numbers should begin to reveal is the line of thinking that the seller (and a broker representing the seller) used to develop the document. What we want to do, then, is take those numbers and evaluate them against what is more or less likely when (and if) the property becomes ours.
We also care more about future performance than we do about past performance, although understanding the “why” related to expenses and income is obviously important for comparative reasons.
Identifying the gaps in various expense categories is also a useful exercise, because it challenges you to imagine a case scenario where your own management skills and those of your company are likely to affect the value.
It's those resulting numbers, generated as part of your pro-forma exercise, that start to reveal a picture of future performance for the property.
Another key part of the pro-forma process is to accurately understand what the industry standard is for various costs associated with a property. In other words, what “should” a particular category in a pro-forma statement cost and does this property come close to being what you might expect?
And, conversely, if it doesn't, is there a plausible reason why the costs aren't in line?
Find out, and you're starting to make some progress.
By Michael Schocker
When it comes to efficiencies in our key business—which is managing properties for owners around the country—it has become critically important AND extremely desirable that we understand how the delivery and management of our service offerings are organized.
While FOURMIDABLE is based in Michigan, many of the physical properties we manage are many miles away, across state lines, and in communities where the need for excellence in management of properties demands the kind of system we have built up over time.
The first step for us is understanding what specific services can be centralized and what other services require the on-site attention of professionals we bring on our team.
What has made FOURMIDABLE one of the best in the business is our ability to answer that first question.
For example, doing accounting for a specific property isn't something that requires someone in the office of a local property. And neither is the technology that gives residents the ease of paying their rent. Those kinds of services, often called “back office” in some industries, are easily—once the decision has been made to go in that direction—done by team members who support the property manager but who aren't necessarily in the same office.
Because we recruit and value the most competent, experienced and team-oriented individuals, for the kind of services I'm talking about, location isn't nearly as important as it would have been in years past. It's good for our team members who now have greater choice when it comes to where they work.
Connections in the form of technology that we've come to rely on allow members of our team to collaborate in real time, focusing on the needs of the local property manager, who may easily be hundreds of miles away.
Once we've determined that a particular service can be done just about anywhere, the advantages begin to flow, not only from our ability to recruit the best people for the job, but to design and implement a flow of work that makes the most sense.
It also helps us to better manage the costs associated with a property, an important factor that will ultimately find its way back to the people who live in our communities.
Because we are better at what we do and because these levels of excellence have quality and cost as underlying goals, the efficiencies flow very nicely.
Sure, we could work differently, with all manner of property management services duplicated in each property we manage.
But doing so would be missing the entire point of why and how we've built FOURMIDABLE into the kind of property management company that delivers value to property owners and to the people who call the communities we manage home.
FOURMIDABLE finds itself on the winning end of the equation as we find ourselves increasingly in demand by property owners such as municipal housing authorities who count on us to deliver the best quality housing at an affordable price.
We think it makes the most sense to do business this way. And we know those who connect with us agree!
By Michael Schocker
The time required to successfully manage even a single rental property is something many novice investors fail to take into consideration. The new or empty property must be cleaned, repaired, painted, and updated to be marketed at a profitable rental rate. It must be marketed and shown to prospective renters.
And the list of to-do's goes on.
Applications must be filled out and verified, credit scores checked, background checks run, deposits collected, leases signed, and move-in arrangements coordinated. Once a renter is in place, there are maintenance issues on the unit, the common areas, the amenities, and the grounds. Lawns must be mowed, leaves need to be raked, and snow must be plowed in a timely and efficient manner.
Simply put, property management is a 24/7 proposition and the time demands grow exponentially with the number of units under management.
When you ask any successful rental property owner what is the secret to their success, the overwhelming majority are going to tell you that it is having a professional property manager in place. At Fourmidable, we know that a good property manager can handle the countless details that come up with a rental property and allow you, the owner, to free up the most precious asset you have as a real estate investor – your time.
Allow me to give you a real-life example of one of the most active multi-family owners in Michigan. This owner now owns over 4,000 units, but that wasn't always the case.
In 2015, this individual owned a 24-unit complex in Eastpointe, Michigan. He had a desire to grow his business, but the time spent ‘self-managing' the one property he owned had deferred that desire. He decided to take a leap of faith when he purchased a 383-unit senior community in Southfield and entrusted Fourmidable to manage both his current and the new property.
His philosophy was simple: find a professional management company that focuses on customer service in the community. This would lead to income growth of the property and allow him to focus on becoming a profitable, growth-minded landlord in this area.
He needed a company with a proven record of reliable execution, excellent communications, and a shared vision for providing quality, affordable housing. Because his main office is in an international location, trust, communication and clear objectives have been the recipe for our successful business relationship.
Over the past three years, this client has added another 3,500 units to his Michigan portfolio and is slated to grow even more in 2019. Income growth and customer satisfaction has increased at each property. He is now free to spend his time seeking out new investment opportunities and growing his portfolio while his trusted management company handles the day-to-day management of his existing properties.
At Fourmidable, we specialize in managing, marketing, and leasing market rate rental properties, whether they be tax credit, senior and family government-assisted, public housing, middle class apartment communities, high-rise condominiums, or off-campus cooperatives. Our goal is to maximize and protect our clients' assets through effective property management, allowing them to free up all the time they need to meet the rising demand for quality, affordable rental housing.
When opportunity knocks, it's crucial to be able to balance demand and supply, especially in an industry where the need is a healthy one.
That industry—providing multifamily housing throughout America—is what drives FOURMIDABLE and it's clear that opportunities exist for qualified people who want to join a motivated team are available.
In fact, demand for staff in this industry is growing.
According to the April 2018 Units magazine from the National Apartment Association, the total number of apartment management jobs, listed in February 2018, was 4,653, an 18 percent increase over January 2018. And, with the demand for multifamily housing trending upwards over the next several years, finding apartment managers is paramount to FOURMIDABLE's continued success.
What's it like to work at a company like FOURMIDABLE? A few associates offer their perspective.
“Ten years ago, I was hired for what I thought was just a job at FOURMIDABLE. I have realized, because of the on-going training and consistent opportunities for growth, I now have a career. Not only have I have experienced growth in my professional career, but personally as well. Working at FOURMIDABLE has contributed to my maturity and my ability to handle the challenges of work and everyday life.
Gladys Neal, Regional Property Manager
“I began my employment with FOURMIDABLE on February 14, 1994 as a janitor. In 1995, I was able to achieve my level 1 & 2 maintenance certification. Within that same year, I earned an EPA certification and was promoted to service tech.”
“In 2000, I was promoted to maintenance supervisor and in 2003 I successfully obtained the status of Certified Manager of Maintenance. Since then, I've proudly held this position.”
“Each day I come to work I am fortunate to provide quality service and build trusting relationships with the many different residents I encounter. I look forward to conquering daily challenges and working with dedicated co-workers and contractors. These are just some of the things I love about my job.”
“To sum up my job reflection; I have enjoyed all of my many years of employment with my FOURMIDABLE family. This has been a wonderful company for me to be employed with.”
“The most satisfying aspect of being employed with FOURMIDABLE is that it has allowed me to provide a comfortable and stable lifestyle for my family.”
Jeff Suber, Maintenance Supervisor for Solaire Senior Apartments
“Our team at FOURMIDABLE has always made me want to do my best. It's not only a job, it's who we are! I am proud to belong to an organization with a united vision to do the right thing. I am excited to be a part of our growth and progress at FOURMIDABLE.”
Amber Coughlin, Regional Property Supervisor
Interested in being part of FOURMIDABLE's national real estate management team? Visit us at https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Fourmidable/jobs to see what exciting opportunities await you.
On April 12, 2018, Mike Schocker, president of FOURMIDABLE, was interviewed by Kevin Price, host of nationally syndicated radio show, Price of Business. Here is an excerpt of the wide-ranging interview, which you can hear on Sound Cloud at https://soundcloud.com/user-759550640/4-12-18-michael-schocker-expansion-of-company-into-ohio-and-new-multifamily-properties
Kevin Price: Welcome back to The Price of Business. I'm really excited about having Michael Schocker back on the program. He's been on before. He's with a cool company called FOURMIDABLE.
And you guys have a huge footprint, not only in the Midwest where you and I are both from—every time we get together, we go down memory lane even though we both lived on different streets, but we were in the same neck of the woods, like you say. And so, Michael, love having you on the program. Kind of give us the story of your company. And man, you've got so much expansion going on. It's phenomenal.
Michael Schocker: Kevin, thanks for having me back on. I really appreciate the time. We are a Michigan-located company just right outside of Detroit. We actually just celebrated our 43rd year in business. And generally speaking, our business is to operate apartment communities in and around the country. So presently, we have roughly 10,000 units located in 13 different states.
A lot of that expansion has taken place over the last, say, four or five years. We're really getting a pretty strong presence down south—Tennessee, Mississippi. Interestingly enough, I know you're a Michigan guy, but we're expanding into your neck of the woods, and we'll be right outside of Corpus Christi opening a new property this summer. That's our first expansion into Texas. We are as far west as Oklahoma and as far east as South Carolina and Maryland.
Kevin Price: Yeah, but you're going to take over the world.
Michael Schocker: Well, I don't know about taking over the world, but we are definitely a growth-minded company. And it's an exciting place to work. And I work with just some wonderful coworkers that allow us to really take on more properties and expand our presence in the different markets.
Kevin Price: Love it. So, Michael, kind of give us a panoramic overview of the types of properties that you have.
Michael Schocker: When we bid on different properties and things like that, Kevin, one of the things I like to talk about is not only our lengthy experience, which I mentioned with the 43 years in business and the tenure of a lot of the employees here, my coworkers, is really, really pretty strong, so we have a lot of experience, but outside of that, we do have a diverse portfolio. So, we don't specialize just in what we would call market rate or conventional properties. We also specialize in tax credit properties. Senior housing, we have a big footprint in. We actually are a public housing management company as well, and we're one of the larger providers in the state of Michigan for public housing. We manage communities for Detroit Housing Commission, Pontiac Housing Commission, Romulus Housing Commission. So, besides the experience, we definitely have the diverse portfolio type that we like to push out there as we meet with new groups because you never know exactly where it's going to go and the types of different properties that are available for us to operate.
Kevin Price: What's the good news, Mike?
Michael Schocker: Well, the good news has to do with the expansion too. As I mentioned, we are opening a property this summer in Texas. I'm actually going to head down there next week, spend a little time in Austin for a conference. And then I'm going, like I said, to Bishop, Texas, which is just southwest of Corpus Christi. And we're going to see how that property's progressing. It's a new construction, so it'll be interesting to see how things are moving forward.
Kevin Price: Talk a little—explain the expansion. What do you see happening? And why is this happening? And again, congratulations.
Michael Schocker: Why do I see it happening is just that the rental market, and really all the geography that we operate. is just really that strong. So, investors are really putting their money back into multi-family assets, whether it's purchases or new constructions. It's just the safe way for investors to invest money nowadays. And so, from the business side, even though prices have gone up and the purchase price to buy these assets are getting more and more expensive, there's definitely still a strong demand for it, which helps companies like ours because when they do purchase these things, they look for a professional management company. And that's where we fit in. So obviously, the economy is pretty strong today. The rental market is just as strong as the economy. So that's just been a great recipe for companies like ours to kind of continue on our expansion.
Kevin Price: Yeah. No question about it. I really enjoyed our time, always do, Michael. We've got just 30 seconds. I want to give you a chance for final thoughts as we wrap it up.
Michael Schocker: Again, I work for an outstanding company. I really enjoy it here. We're growth-minded. We're really getting into the new markets, which my favorite part of that is I get to meet new people and come to new areas and learn about the culture and the background and everything else like that. That's probably my favorite part of the job, the travelling and meeting new people and seeing new things. And along with the business growth, it's just been a good couple of years for us here at FOURMIDABLE.
Kevin Price: Well, it's good always to have you on. Love hearing about your progress. I hope you keep us abreast. And when I come out to Michigan, I'm going to have to come check out your facilities up there when I get there. Kevin Price is your host. This is the Price of Business. Really enjoyed my time with Michael Schocker. The website—Fourmidable—that's a u in there in that four—fourmidable.com. Make sure you check them out. And, by the way, we are nationally syndicated on the Biz Talk Radio Network.
As a valuable member of the FOURMIDABLE team since 2017, Ami Wood heads a team that ensures the company delivers on a goal of overseeing a culture that is employee-oriented and high performing in every respect. That includes the guiding and managing of services, policies and programs at FOURMIDABLE in her role as Director of Human Resources.
Ami reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer and President and advises company managers about issues related to interactions with employees.
Her credentials—including being a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and the Michigan Council of SHRM—means she is equipped to bring information about the latest trends in the industry to the FOURMIDABLE team.
From recruiting and staffing, performance management and improvement systems, to employment, compliance and regulatory issues, Ami's duties cover all aspects of human resources.
It's the ongoing development of a superior workforce at FOURMIDABLE that Ami is most passionate about.
She spends her time outside the company volunteering at the Detroit Rescue Mission and the Bravo Foundation.
Technology is pervasive in today's business environment. How well we integrate that technology impacts our time management and productivity at work. It can also affect our quality of life at a personal level.
Over the past few years, hardware technology and software used in the property management industry has shown significant improvement. Smartphones, tablets, apps, and software offerings have once again transformed many office processes involving purchase orders, invoice processing, compliance software, resident utility billing, and check scanning, to name a few. In addition, interactive websites can now feature a property's current availability, lease rates, online application, electronic leases, and online chat with the leasing agent. Resident portals offer online resident payments, mobile-based service request management and community billboards.
The above are just some examples of value-added software used in our industry, but they can also come at a cost. Typically, these services are not all managed from within one software platform, therefore requiring additional user logins, more passwords to remember, and each user interface needs to be learned and mastered. Some may not integrate with the core property management / accounting software and therefore can require duplicate data entry requirements. This, in turn creates an additional task of keeping the data up to date in multiple systems.
We have been watching our industry's leading core software companies, such as Entrata, Yardi, MRI and Realpage make moves to stay competitive. Some are acquiring the value-added software companies, others are partnering with them, and one of the known software development leaders is building these value-added services from the ground up, right into their core property management / accounting software suite. The latter option provides the key to our technological future.
We are pleased to announce that after several months reviewing the latest releases of the leading property management / accounting software available, we have selected Entrata to replace AMSI at all of our conventional, tax credit and Section 8 properties. Entrata has designed their software with much more flexible reporting and also with the end users and residents' needs at the forefront of their design. One login, one password, and one user interface are all that is needed to navigate all of the marketing, leasing, resident management, compliance, online payments, check scanning, service requests and all other modules, thereby eliminating the need to use so many different software solutions at our properties.
We will be rolling out Entrata throughout 2018 and are excited about our enhanced technological future! Stay tuned for more updates………..
When children read, their lives become more enriched, families benefit and their futures are ultimately changed.
That was the key sense of mission behind the organization of a book drive held for the benefit of children at Carriage Circle and Woodland Heights, two public housing communities in the city of Pontiac.
With the cooperation and encouragement of the Pontiac Housing Commission, employees at FOURMIDABLE in June, with the help of their family and friends, reached out for donations of new and gently used books in an effort that was coordinated by the FOURMIDABLE corporate staff.
Children at both Carriage Circle and Woodland Heights will be receiving new books throughout the summer months. There will also be a reading contest for those aged 7-12, which is intended to stimulate their interest in reading even further. Prizes will be given to the children that read the most in the contest.
The donated books will be used to establish a children's library at each of the communities.
One of the best results when it comes to reaching out to the community, as in this book drive, it is destined to have lifelong significance to those impacted by the initiative.
A new study commissioned by the National Multifamily Housing Council has concluded the need for the U.S. to build some 4.6 million new apartments between now and 2030, a dramatic increase over the rate of apartment construction in the last five years.
The study, “U.S. Apartment Demand—A Forward Look,” was prepared by Hoyt Advisory Services, Dinn Focused Marketing, Inc., and Whitegate Real Estate Advisors, LLC, concluded that the number of apartment units would have to jump to an average of 328,000 new units each year, significantly higher than the average of 225,000 completions a year.
The housing bubble fallout that began in 2007 and ended in 2010 represents a shift in the numbers of former homeowners, many of whom continue to rent their housing.
The result has been a decline in housing affordability, especially in markets on the East and West coasts, one reason being that affordability typically is achieved only with greater density and smaller-sized units, while land-use policies and the political approval processes are typically adding greater regulation and restrictions to those same markets.
A shift in demographics, along with student debts and tighter lending criteria, are all signs of a substantial demand in rental markets. Adding to the dynamic scene in the study is the potential for policies that would impact immigration rates.
The fact is, any significant decline in immigration rates is likely to hurt the overall economy.
Metro markets that have strong economies also have significant population growth that results from people moving into the area, either from abroad or from other areas in the U.S.
Among the areas most likely to see higher demand for multifamily housing are the Southern states, driven by economic growth, low costs and diversified demographic growth. Texas and Florida are markets that are ranked 5 of the top 6 places in the study, with Phoenix, Atlanta, Raleigh and Las Vegas ranking in the top 10.
As some markets embrace growth, others will experience restrictions based on geography or policy, with the results usually coming in the form of higher rental costs and lower affordability. Conversely, markets where there are rates that are seen as high for both rental and for-sale housing risk losing population bases to lower cost areas.
States that have achieved healthy balance sheets and an educated workforce will continue to attract both individuals and firms from stressed markets that have increasingly unaffordable housing dynamics.
A couple of great “known unknowns” could come into play, one being how policy changes may impact the applicability of mortgage tax deductions and thus affecting the “own versus rent” decision for people who may drive future demand for multifamily properties.
Another could be how policy changes on immigration rates will play out. It is increasingly possible to see a scenario where immigration begins to outpace natural growth (births minus deaths) by 2023, accelerating in impact to a point where population growth could be less than half that of the last decade.
Jeri Hays, the CEO of FOURMIDABLE, is a remarkable business person, but it's not necessarily the subject of business that sets her apart and makes her someone that her colleagues tend to want to emulate.
Hays, who joined FOURMIDABLE in 1986 as Assistant Controller, has a heart for people and particularly the importance of having a place to live as a basic need that can often be served through public housing.
A graduate of San Diego State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree (with a minor in Accounting), Hays is often called upon as an expert resource for advocacy groups and attorneys, successfully facilitating resolutions of complaints and requests from residents and applicants.
Professionally, she is a candidate for a Certified Public Manager designation and as CEO of FOURMIDABLE, her primary responsibility is to develop both short-term and long-term goals, objectives and strategies.
At FOURMIDABLE, Hays served as Assistant Controller for seven years before taking on the role of Director of Finance and Administration. She was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2004, a position she held for 12 years.
On a personal note, and one that reflects her passion for the importance of education, Hays set in motion an initiative that has since “taken off” at the company: a campaign to seek donations of new and gently used books for children.
New books were sent out to children at Carriage Circle and Woodland Heights, two public housing sites in Pontiac, throughout the summer break. And children ages 7-12 were given the opportunity to win prizes as part of a reading contest to see who reads the most books over the summer.
Donated books were used to establish a children's library at each community.
The book drive came as the result of Hays asking for children's books for her birthday, a decidedly selfless initiative from someone who clearly believed the greatest joy would come from focusing on the needs of others.
When it comes to honoring the achievements of our fellow citizens, it would be hard (if not entirely impossible) not to think of a group more critical to not only our future, but our heritage, as the men and women who serve in our military.
As we approach Memorial Day, our thoughts go to those who paid the ultimate price for their service.
While we certainly honor the fallen, it's also important that we not forget those who remain with us after completing their service to our country.
Those who are “Wounded Warriors” are very close to our hearts here at FOURMIDABLE. And while we play a modest role in supporting the national Wounded Warrior Project, we do so proudly and with the hope that as many of our fellow citizens will become aware of all the good our military have accomplished.
In the briefest possible terms, the Wounded Warrior Project connects, serves, and empowers wounded warriors by providing free programs and services that address their needs and fill gaps in government care.
Funds to support this enormously important cause are raised by various initiatives, and we at FOURMIDABLE are enormously encouraged by our colleagues who participated in last year's inaugural “Push-Ups for a Purpose” initiative.
Collectively, our employees raised $16,148 for “Push-Ups”—through challenges like the most push-ups done in a one-minute period, number of sit-ups done in one minute, how long holding the “plank” position, and how long holding a wall squat.
Our team gathered pledges from among their own networks for their effort.
As a nation, the contribution made by our veterans goes beyond the ordinary and it's the least we can do to contribute to a cause that not only recognizes those efforts but takes steps to “fill in the gap” when it comes to the needs of those who once proudly served in uniform.
We're happy to have played a role and we encourage others to do the same.
In business, we've also made it a matter of pride to look for opportunities to make life a little easier for our veterans to find housing that they can take pride in calling home.
Of note are two FOURMIDABLE managed communities that offer preferences and specials to veterans: Tall Oaks in Tupelo, Miss. and Fountain Square in Columbus, Miss.
We're also proud that many of our market rate communities offer rental discounts to veterans.
It's just another way that our FOURMIDABLE family can show its appreciation to the men and women who we collectively salute this Memorial Day.
By Jeri Hays, CEO, FOURMIDABLE
When the term “public housing” comes to mind, chances are it's not something that generates positive feelings or even memories about a personal experience. The fact is, the perceptions around public housing are really misconceptions that FOURMIDABLE, as the largest private manager of public housing in Michigan, are working hard to dispel.
You may know that public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. But you may not know that such public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to high rise apartments for elderly families. In fact, there are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 housing agencies, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The business of providing affordable, safe and clean housing – public or private – to individuals and families is one that FOURMIDABLE takes pride in doing every day.
Our reputation as a manager of multi-family properties is one that we've worked hard to achieve and we extend that reputation, earned through hard work, into our work with housing agencies delivering the very best experience for the people who live in public housing properties that we manage.
Of course, it takes a team to deliver the kind of performance FOURMIDABLE has achieved.
One of those key team members is Sabrina Gaddy-Bollinger, our Director of Affordable Housing and the current President of the Michigan Chapter No. 5 of the Institute of Real Estate Management.
Sabrina has been with us since 1995 and her reputation with our firm, and in the industry as a whole, is a stellar one.
Together, FOURMIDABLE continues to raise the bar when it comes to performance in the public housing sector, noted by our status as a preferred management agent with the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In that respect, we've been called upon to assist when the government is faced with housing agencies that require operational assistance and we've been honored to step up to offer our expertise.
FOURMIDABLE continues to look for ways that we can give back to the communities that we serve, applying our expertise in the best way we know how—through diligence, attention to detail and a deep commitment to excellence in housing, one of the most basic of human needs.
By Michael Schocker
I've spent much of my professional career in and around the real estate industry, but it's a career, even before I joined FOURMIDABLE in 2008, that has focused on building relationships.
I earned my undergraduate degree from Wayne State University in 1994, majoring in geography, and then continued my education at Eastern Michigan University, earning a master's in geography, with an emphasis on urban planning.
At that point, I joined one of Michigan's largest residential developers, taking on a Sales and Marketing role, where I continued to grow for about five years.
A key pivot point in my career came in 2001, when I earned my broker's license and joined one of Michigan's most respected residential and commercial development firms, overseeing marketing and sales of new home and commercial products that averaged $40 million a year in revenues.
Seven years later, in 2008, I joined FOURMIDABLE, first as Residential Manager and Regional Supervisor and then Director of Real Estate Services in FOURMIDABLE's Real Estate Service division. Thanks to a great team, we were able to close more than $82 million in sales of multi-family and commercial properties.
As President, I'm now focused on the long-term growth of FOURMIDABLE, helping to lead the company in employee growth strategies and initiatives.
But it's relationships that are among my key passions.
Indeed, in more than 20 years in this industry, nothing has made me prouder than working with a co-worker and seeing them grow and develop to become an active part of the team.
Even today, my role as President allows me to focus on employee development and client relations. The business development side helps me continue to create new business relationships that will hopefully grow over the next 20 years.
It's helping others that drives me every day. It's my position that helps bring me closer to my goals in life and that comes from being able to enjoy the fruits of strong and long-standing relationships. I have always had a strong desire to go to work on a daily basis and be happy. This is a place where I can go to work and share a common goal with people that I am proud to call co-workers.