Mother Nature hits Des Moines


The snow is not the only thing that has been falling over the Eastern half of the United States. As I loaded up on Vitamin D, and a very much needed dose of sunshine last week, I really started thinking about all the implications that this bad weather has had on the apartment industry and the conversations I have had with my colleagues and clients over the last month. I found that the more I listened, the more I learned, and the more compassion I had for those who have persevered.

Isn’t it interesting how the conversation always turns to weather? At least in Des Moines it can be approached with more excitement this year, as snowfall hit 62.3 inches, closely closing in on the all time record of 70 inches set in 1911-1912. Needless to say, this set me up for some incredible conversations as I muddled my way through the streets, parking lots, sidewalks and entries leading to apartment communities of all shapes and sizes throughout the Des Moines area. Inevitably, all conversations got to the weather at some point, and then with exasperation it turned to the fall out, from the snow fall. Having been off-site for nearly 14 years now, it really made me think hard about some of the comments I was hearing.

  • “We spent our entire season of snow removal dollars in one month”
  • “As of December 31, 2009 I was $17,000 over budget”
  • “I own my own duplex, as well as managing a portfolio, and I’m already at $400 over budget at my duplex”
  • “We are ranging from 30-50% over budget depending on the community”

Measurable statistics, but then what about this:

  • “I am saddened by the toll it has taken on my maintenance team, both physically and emotionally”
  • “All this time shoveling to make the community “safe” has taken away from service and normal maintenance routines, where my current residents suffer, and it just keeps coming”
  • “Can we talk about ice dams on the roofs, and the number of leaks we are having. Nothing makes a resident angrier than to have their personal belongings wet, and emotions are flaring. Until it stops I can’t fix it”
  • “Water extraction, sheet rock and painting have never been a part of the snow removal budget; I may lobby to change that as I am over budget in those line items as well”
  • “I’m really not sure I want to do this another winter. Our residents expected more from us than they would expect from themselves if they owned a home”
  • “I wonder what my lawn looks like under all this snow and what impact it will have on the landscaping”

What is Mother Nature trying to do to property managers – what have they ever done to her? They are truly being tested! Doesn’t she know they are also dealing with record high vacancies in addition to this snow, creating a unique set of issues on its own, with a huge trickle down effect? This will be the time to see what the true Property Manager is made of. Mother Nature, my money’s on the Manager.

Please take a moment to thank these teams for all their hard work this “SNOW” season, and think about what it really meant for all of the on-site personnel – – remember, the snow was not the only thing that fell this winter.

I think I will call some of those deserving and invite them to lunch, maybe a picnic in the park, if the temperature doesn’t fall. After all, its 40 degrees and only 15 inches of snow left on the ground in Des Moines. It is March!