Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 7/26/2012 | 0 Comments

A Good Time to Hit Your 60’s    


When I was a child, both of my grandmothers lived with us.  One of them eventually went to a nursing home and passed away shortly thereafter.  Few housing choices were available to seniors until the last couple of decades.  You could live in your home, live with your kids or go into a nursing home. 

Not so today.  I know that many boomers weren’t great “savers” so they are heading for retirement with little more than social security or a small retirement check to rely upon. But what marvelous housing options they now have to choose from.  I don’t think most people understand how affordable and desirable an independent living apartment community can be.

My very favorite client is Habitat America, LLC with properties concentrated throughout the eastern U.S.  They have recently opened a new senior community in Walkersville, Frederick County, Maryland.  It’s called Victoria Park at Walkersville.

It is simply lovely and extremely affordable.  A couple who make $30,120 or less with one member at least 62 and the other at least 55 can live in a large one-bedroom apartment for $716 a month.  This is an independent living  apartment community but it’s like moving to a great new neighborhood. 

The Boomer generation has slightly different values than their parents.  They want (and need) exercise.  This community has a wonderful fitness center.  They also drive and entertain.  Victoria Park understands this and provides lots of parking and charming gathering spaces to have coffee, play games and plan trips.  There are frequent educational events and residents often car pool to social, cultural and historical sites in Frederick County. 

If you live in the area or are considering relocating to a great new community, I highly recommend you stop for a visit.  Oh, I didn’t mention the second major reason I like this client – Habitat America, LLC hires the best people, trains them well and it shows in how they do their jobs.



Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 7/26/2012 | 0 Comments

A Good Time to Hit Your 60’s    


When I was a child, both of my grandmothers lived with us.  One of them eventually went to a nursing home and passed away shortly thereafter.  Few housing choices were available to seniors until the last couple of decades.  You could live in your home, live with your kids or go into a nursing home. 

Not so today.  I know that many boomers weren’t great “savers” so they are heading for retirement with little more than social security or a small retirement check to rely upon. But what marvelous housing options they now have to choose from.  I don’t think most people understand how affordable and desirable an independent living apartment community can be.

My very favorite client is Habitat America, LLC with properties concentrated throughout the eastern U.S.  They have recently opened a new senior community in Walkersville, Frederick County, Maryland.  It’s called Victoria Park at Walkersville.

It is simply lovely and extremely affordable.  A couple who make $30,120 or less with one member at least 62 and the other at least 55 can live in a large one-bedroom apartment for $716 a month.  This is an independent living  apartment community but it’s like moving to a great new neighborhood. 

The Boomer generation has slightly different values than their parents.  They want (and need) exercise.  This community has a wonderful fitness center.  They also drive and entertain.  Victoria Park understands this and provides lots of parking and charming gathering spaces to have coffee, play games and plan trips.  There are frequent educational events and residents often car pool to social, cultural and historical sites in Frederick County. 

If you live in the area or are considering relocating to a great new community, I highly recommend you stop for a visit.  Oh, I didn’t mention the second major reason I like this client – Habitat America, LLC hires the best people, trains them well and it shows in how they do their jobs.



Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 6/19/2012 | 0 Comments
Every year schools across our country invite noteworthy individuals to give their commencement address.  I cannot name the person who spoke at any of mine but I was struck by this one given by David McCullough at the 2012 Wellesley High School graduation.  His advice is timeless.  I think that all of us could benefit from a good rousing commencement address now and then.  What McCullough speaks about isn't just a generational issue - it is a cultural one.  If you could use a little advice, motivation and inspiration pretend you are in his audience, in cap and gown, with your life ahead of you and decisions to make.  It's never too late to craft an extraordinary life.  Enjoy!

"So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony.  (And don’t say, “What about weddings?”  Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective.  Weddings are bride-centric pageantry.  Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there.  No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession.  No being given away.  No identity-changing pronouncement.  And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos?  Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy.  Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator.  And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced.  A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East.  The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time.  From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special. You are not special.  You are not exceptional.Contrary to what your soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special. 

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped.  Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again.  You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored.  You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.  Yes, you have.  And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs.  Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet…But do not get the idea you’re anything special.  Because you’re not.  ...

Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools.  That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.  But why limit ourselves to high school?  After all, you’re leaving it.  So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.  Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by.  And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe.  In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it.  Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection!  Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!”  And I don’t disagree.  So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. 

You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.  In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…  Now it’s “So what does this get me?”  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors...

By definition there can be only one best.  You’re it or you’re not. If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness.  (Second is ice cream…  just an FYI)  I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning.  It’s where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison.  Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots roller skate on YouTube.  The first President Roosevelt, the old Rough Rider, advocated the strenuous life.  Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil.  Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem.  The point is the same: get busy, have at it.  Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you.  Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands.  (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life.  Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

None of this day seizing, though, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.Because everyone is.

Congratulations.  Good luck.  Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours extraordinary lives."                                                                    David McCullough

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 2/9/2012 | 0 Comments

Last August, I launched an on line training program called My Leasing Coach.  I am very proud of the quality of the content and the fact that I personally touch my students with phone and e-mail communications.  Recently, a new student posted a comment thanking me profusely for sending her e-mail.  I called her in response.  She said, “I feel as though I’m not very important to my company.  You made me feel like I mattered.”

Wow.  That’s sad!  She’s a site manager at a very good company.  It’s growing exponentially providing new jobs and developing beautiful affordable housing.  But their communities are geographically dispersed with supervisors whose plates are overflowing.  

The more time I spend with folks at the frontline of the multifamily industry the guiltier I feel, and I’ll tell you why.  We hire some of the loveliest, kindest, most enthusiastic people to stand at the front doors of our properties.  We give them initial training, hand them a procedures manual and orient them to our company culture.  Then we, their supervisors, scurry back to work putting out the fires that incessantly blaze around us.  We abandon the front line. 

What happens to them?  They work hard.  They deal with prospective customers, existing customers, vendors and the like.  They collect the money, market our product and problem-solve as best they can.  They work almost entirely on their own, but keep us apprised through regular reports, electronic data, phone calls and e-mails.   If occupancy lags or budgets bloat we suggest corrective action.  But, where are we when they need a pat on the back, a bit of mentoring or simply recognition for their daily contributions?  Too busy, I suspect.  Not surprisingly, their initial zeal wanes and we have high personnel turnover. 

Affordable housing communities may have the greatest need.  They often have older product, more problems and vacancy challenges that their staff is ill trained to handle.  Several of my colleagues have admitted that they only visit some properties twice a year.

I’m no exception.  I liken my own behavior to how I functioned as a mother.  My first child was heaven-sent.  He never fussed. I could take him anywhere without disruption.  My second child was plagued with nearly incurable ear infections.  Allergic or resistant to all but one antibiotic, he was in constant pain and could rarely be left unattended. He got everyone’s attention while his angelic brother managed to amuse himself with books and toys in his room.  They both became fine adults, but I could have done better.

Our managers, leasing agents and other frontline property staff could use a bit more attention.  They love training.  They want to better themselves and do the best job for you.  They want to be recognized when they do something right--not just when they fail in the performance of a task. 

I designed My Leasing Coach to fill the void that I perceived.  It wasn't intended to replace, but rather support, upper management.  In my role as owner or property manager, even when I visited properties, maintenance, inspections, HR and collection issues took up my time.  Rarely did I spend any substantive time coaching the most important job-- leasing and retaining customers.  I’ve walked in their shoes and I empathize.

I’ve finally found my niche in life as a frontline coach.  I don’t have to deal with the clogged toilets or the leaky ceiling or the party animals in apartment 5B.  Those things are critical and others are dealing with them.  I just teach the best leasing and retention techniques, share wisdom, motivate change, and recognize achievement.  I love my job!

Kathy Harmon, CPM, ARM, CSA, CRM
My Leasing Coach    View the Coach Video




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