LeaseLock is honored to have a select group of advisory board members who graciously lend their thought leadership, guidance and support in our effort to further our mission of eliminating security deposits for good. But their insights go far beyond helping us educate the industry about lease insurance, and we want to highlight these prominent multifamily experts. So, please be on the lookout for our upcoming series of Advisory Board Q&A spotlights where we tap into their stellar minds on the latest industry trends and how they are impacting operations today and in years to come.
First up, we have the distinct honor of welcoming multifamily titan, Jennifer Staciokas, to the LeaseLock advisory board. Jennifer brings more than 30 years of industry experience and an extensive list of operational accomplishments to the board. Perhaps most notable, was her role in the launch of property management company, Western Wealth Communities, a division of Western Wealth Capital. While this was a feat in and of itself, she did it in under 30 days and during the thick of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
As Executive Managing Director of Property Management at Western Wealth, Ms. Staciokas oversees strategic operations, maintenance, marketing, training, IT, revenue management, and human resources. Previously, she has served several roles at two of the nation’s largest property management firms leading digital marketing strategies, employee development, corporate communications, revenue enhancement, and client relations. In addition, she is an active participant in NAA, NMHC, the Zillow Rental Advisory Board, the Knock Advisory Board, and the Multifamily Social Media Summit Advisory Board.
To get to know Jennifer a bit more, we sat down with her to learn some of the challenges and opportunities for multifamily, get her thoughts on new trends, and gather her advice on NOI improvement strategies:
1. The federal eviction moratorium is nearing expiration and the rental housing industry continues to feel overwhelmed with rent relief access and distribution — both issues impacting the multifamily industry. How can operators mitigate the risk of evictions and also direct their residents to rental assistance?
Jennifer Staciokas: It is important to actively work with your residents to research all avenues where they can gain assistance and be part of the application process to provide residents the information they need to submit and get approval. Our teams at Western Wealth Communities were proactive in researching all avenues to find rental assistance to keep our residents in their homes throughout this difficult period of time. We invited residents into the office to complete the paperwork together and ensure they could receive the funding they so desperately needed.
2. There’s been unprecedented rent growth in 2021, paired with a lack of supply of affordable housing. What should the industry focus on to solve affordability challenges in today’s economic climate? We’ve observed several new renter behaviors take shape since the start of the pandemic including signing for longer lease terms, using flexible rent payment solutions, shifting to remote work, relocating to more affordable markets, among others. What are your thoughts on the modern renter’s profile, and what are some ways your organization is addressing new renter preferences?
JS: We are definitely seeing a shift in what it means to be a renter. The markets where we operate (Phoenix, Dallas, Houston & Las Vegas) have been the beneficiaries of renters moving in search of a better quality of life including more reasonable rents. We have implemented a flexible rent payment solution for our residents that need to pay their rent in segments and in different patterns than our leases require. This has been a great selling feature in our portfolio that serves workforce housing in our industry.
3. Western Wealth Communities has grown significantly since its launch. What technology solutions did you prioritize to help accelerate growth and ease the change management process for your teams?
JS: We launched Western Wealth Communities in 2020 and already have nearly 11,000 units under management, so we have been in high growth mode since inception. Upon launch we rolled out mission critical technology to operate our business and have been steadily adding on to our tech stack ever since. We developed a list of all solutions we wanted (and still need) to launch and prioritized based on what critical problems needed to be solved to operate our portfolio efficiently and effectively.
4. Do you believe in pilot programs? If so, how do you ensure you make an informed decision on the best tech for your organization?
JS: I am a firm believer in pilot programs. When a new product comes to market you need to prove out its viability for your portfolio before jumping all in. It is important to roll out tech that solves a problem for your company or properties and understand what metrics you want to track and achieve at the end of the pilot to measure success.
5. What NOI improvement strategies has your organization leaned into this year?
JS: We are constantly looking at ways to increase ancillary income by collecting fees for valet trash, credit reporting, parking, package lockers as well as community maintenance. We also innovate in our amenity offerings to see where we can add value to our communities by offering a product or service that our residents would find value in.
6. In building Western Wealth Communities from the ground up during the middle of a global pandemic, what single learning do you feel has stood out the most for you and your organization?
JS: It is all about people. If you have the right people in the right seats and give them a clear vision of what you are looking to accomplish, you will have success. It doesn’t matter what technology you put on a property if you don’t have the right people in place to buy in and champion it to success.
7. What do you think is the biggest challenge for apartment housing operators in the second half of 2021?
JS: Recruiting and retaining talent remains a challenge in our industry as well as the service industry as a whole. We are hopeful we’ll see more people get back to work in the second half of 2021 to fill the open positions we currently have in maintenance. We are constantly looking at new ways to attract talent and adjust our benefits to entice candidates to choose multifamily housing as their next career.
8. Why did you select LeaseLock to offer your time, talent, and expertise as an advisory board member?
JS: It was an honor to be asked to serve on LeaseLock’s Advisory Board. I chose to offer my time to LeaseLock because their product is definitely ahead of the curve on eliminating security deposits and providing an edge to our leasing and operations efforts. They are a forward thinking company with strong backing and leadership and I look forward to providing my insights as it relates to the onsite impacts and challenges to solve for.