Meet Parkmerced!

A Community With A Great Story

By John Hall - July 16, 2018

We are so excited that Parkmerced, San Francisco’s unique “city within a city” and largest multifamily community, with 3231 units (and growing!), has installed a Pynwheel system to assist with their on-site leasing.  Pynwheel is a perfect addition to their leasing center, helping the leasing staff and prospective residents to narrow down all of their amazing options on a large interactive touchscreen.


Ashley Olson, the Marketing Manager for Maximus Real Estate Partners, who manages Parkmerced, described to me the history and vision of this unique community.  


Parkmerced’s story starts in the early 1940s, when construction started on residences that were designed to provide middle income housing to returning servicemen. Initially, the community was to be comprised of garden-style apartments, with an emphasis on being car-friendly. The housing shortage of the 1950s led to the construction of a series of high-rise apartment towers and more population density. As time went on, Parkmerced’s buildings were showing their age, and decisions had to be made about the future of the area.


Fast forward to 2006, when the new owners of Parkmerced set out to revitalise the entire community. Over $100 million was invested in improvements and repairs. They looked for input from community groups, government agencies, elected officials, and anyone else that could contribute to their ultimate goal. Then, they worked with designers to create a master plan - The Parkmerced Vision.


The plan was anything but simple. It called for an increase in quality housing units of over three times the current levels. That’s close to ten-thousand homes - in a city that needs every single one. It called for the creation of a transportation network that would allow for comfortable life without the need of a car. It called for the flexibility to adapt to changes in technology that will keep the community modern, sustainable, and desirable to future home-seekers.


The Parkmerced master plan was approved by the city of San Francisco in 2011, and now, it is clear to see that everything is happening! Construction is underway on multiple residential buildings, all designed by different architects to create diversity and a local feel.


Take a look at some of what San Franciscans will enjoy when living at Parkmerced:

  • A setting that is surrounded by gorgeous city views, parks, Lake Merced, a TPC golf course (hosting the 2020 PGA Championship), and the Pacific Ocean.
  • An environment that offers robust alternatives to car-ownership - with ride-share and car-share stations, shuttles to shopping and recreational destinations, and a major city bus line that will make multiple stops within the community.
  • Shops, services, and even a full-service grocery store located right where they live. There are even plans to build an elementary school!
  • Parks, sports fields, and other outdoor amenities throughout the entire community.

The Parkmerced leasing center is now showcasing their community’s unique offerings on the newest Pynwheel platform, Pynwheel 4.0. It provides the perfect digital bridge for modern home shoppers to get their bearings and narrow down their options. If you’re in the area, stop by and check it out!


Pynwheel salutes Parkmerced for their vision of enlightened community transformation!


Getting Perfect Community Photos

By John Hall - July 10, 2018

Last week, we talked about the importance of photography in your community marketing. If you missed that post, you can see it here. Now, let’s take a look at some specific methods and concepts that will make your photography more effective.

1) For exterior shots, shoot from a distance, and include the surrounding environment. You should have shots from different times of day, and even of different seasons. Early and late day photographs are the best for capturing the proper sunlight. Exterior photography should give an impression of your community’s neighborhood, since that is also an important selling point. There are some good tips for photogrpahing structures here.

2) For interior shots, seek optimal perspectives and lighting. Arrange furniture and camera angles to make rooms look their best. Shadows are always an issue in interior photography. Fortunately, there are a lot of different ways to deal with them. For more details on this kind of photograph, look at real estate photography tutorials, like this one.

3) Take more than you think you need. You can - and should - crop your photos later. Make sure you put a lot into the frame, and give yourself more options of what to keep later!

4) Then, get rid of some. Don’t let enough become too much. We have seen communities want to populate their touchscreen applications with photos of their workout facility from every angle, or with multiple shots of closets and bathrooms. If you are creating your Pynwheel gallery, you want to make sure that all of the images on the page are diverse and interesting. Think like an editor - Start with a lot of photos, and then pare down, so that each is a meaningful chapter of your story.

5) Photoshop! Taking photos is only half the battle. This is where you make them shine. Vertical correction - meaning that all vertical structure lines are vertical in your photos - is essential. Crop the photo sections you don’t want to see. Fix shadows and light with HDR Adjustment.

6) Take lifestyle photos - especially if your community is still under construction. Artist renderings are great, but they should be balanced with photos that appeal to the emotions of prospective residents. Your workout room and other amenities look a lot nicer if there are photos of people enjoying them. Remember - this is a very important difference between apartment photography and real estate sales photography.

7) Or, borrow lifestyle photos - Here is another great thing about lifestyle photos: you don’t even have to take them! There is a lot of great stock photography out there that captures the look and feel that is perfect for your community. Don’t make the mistake of relying exclusively on stock photography, but, if you balance stock photos with actual photos (or renderings) of your community, they are an excellent addition. When you choose stock photography, think of the applicants that you are trying to reach.

8) Start big! Good internet images start with large files. At some point, you are going to need to adjust the size and resolution of your photos for use on various platforms. It is easy to make a large item smaller, but very difficult to go from small to large. For touchscreen purposes, images should be be saved and uploaded as JPEGs.

9) Get creative! Sometimes, an unintended effect will create a stunning image. A little abstraction is great, especially for homepage shots. Take a lot of photos, and play around with effects and filters. You never know what art you will create!

Of course, there is one surefire way to get great photos:

Hire a pro! There are a lot of good photographers out there, and your community photos are important enough to your leasing process to make them an excellent investment.

Still, even if you hire your photography out, don’t make the mistake of not understanding the basics above. Being able to communicate what you want in a photographer’s terms will make for a collaborative process, and will help you get the photos that are looking for.


A Picture Is Worth A (Half) Thousand Words

By John Hall - July 3, 2018

When it comes to making decisions, nothing helps like good photography. Pynwheel touchscreens are great for showcasing your floorplans and location, but it is your photos that will fill out the virtual brochures that your potential residents will lean on to make their decision.


Here are some things that you should consider when you are creating a portfolio of your community:


1) Human beings remember about 10% of the information that they receive. Surprising? However, when information is paired with a picture, that number goes to 65%! Wow! Not only are your potential residents relying on photography to enhance their recollections, they are very likely relying upon it to have any recollections of your community at all!

2) While it has been found that excessive photo taking can inhibit one’s overall memory of a place or event, that effect is caused by the distraction of interaction with the camera (or smartphone). So, when you provide quality photography to your applicants, you reduce the work that they have to do, and allow them to fully interact with your tour.

3) Quality photography allows you to optimize the memories of your potential residents. When a resident looks back on some photos of features that they liked, you can give them images that have been optimized to create an even better impression of those features.

4) Photography can shine a light on benefits that a potential resident might not be able to see on a tour. Images of a community lit up at night, lifestyle photography of people enjoying amenities, shots of different seasons - All of these can help to paint a more complete picture of what your community has to offer.

5) Photography has unique emotional appeal, and choosing an apartment is an emotional experience. Lifestyle photography goes a long to create good feelings around such a drastic change. Your photography should include images of people that appeal to your target market.

6) Apartment photography and real estate photography are different in one very important way - people! Real estate purchasers do not want to see people living in their spaces. It is jarring to see people that they do not know occupying a space that they want to purchase. They might as well be seeing ghosts! On the other hand, apartment renters are not interested in the long-term value of their home. They are more interested in the lifestyle possibilities of a new community. They love to see pictures of people like them enjoying your amenities, and enjoying their lives.

7) This is especially true for millennials! They are looking for communities and lifestyles as much as structural features. Millennials are much more inclined to share spaces with others in their daily routines. Furthermore, they are the most likely people to save photos from your community on their mobile devices, and to refer back to them in the decision-making process.


Hopefully, this gives you ideas that inspire some of your photography choices. Next time, we will delve into some more specific ways to make your community photography as effective as it can be!

Go to Part 2!



Seeing Stars

Are Internet Ratings Sinking your Marketing Efforts?

By John Hall - June 26, 2018

You have created a handsome website for your community, done all of the social media work you can, and placed listings on various apartment sites. Do you know what your potential residents are more likely to see than any of these?


Search your community name online, and you will see. Before potential residents can even get to your homepage or other media, they are seeing composite star ratings - culled from online reviews - of your community.


The one thing that you have no control over is the one thing that creates the all-important first impression of your community. And here is the real problem: Most of your internet reviews are going to be written by people who have a complaint. Often, they are not even residents, but people who have been frustrated by the leasing process, and they are going to take it out on you.


At the end of the day, those star ratings can sink your best marketing efforts.


So, how can you keep these ratings from painting a negative picture of your community? Simple - You need to figure out how to get your satisfied residents to contribute to the conversation.


There are a lot of things that you can do to get those good reviews out there, and ultimately get your star ratings where they need to be!


1) Monitor your reviews. You can’t possibly know how people are rating you if you don’t look. Staying on top of what people are saying about your community can help you address things to improve, and gives you an opportunity to turn dissatisfied residents into happy and loyal ones.

2) Ask for reviews. You know when you provide good customer service. When you have a satisfied customer, you should ask them to share it with the world! Happy residents are happy to write you a positive review. You just have to ask!

3) Make it easy for people to review you. It is easy to print cards with the various links that you would like people to review you on. If you communicate via email with your residents, you can include these links at the conclusion of any service that they are likely to be pleased with.

4) Respond to your reviews online. Even if you are unable to turn a complaint around, potential residents will notice that you are responding. Online complaints that appear to fall on deaf ears are much more damaging to your business.

5) Identify - and correct - real issues. If multiple residents complain about things like hidden fees, crime, or bad conditions, those are actual issues that you can address.

6) Reward your good reviewers. Don’t just focus your efforts on the squeaky wheels. Think of a small gift with a thank you note for a resident who writes you a good review. (You would be wise to include that card with the links to other places to share reviews!)

Note that none of these involve getting people to write fake reviews. Savvy internet users can see through them, and they can be more damaging than bad reviews.


What do you do about online reviews and star ratings at your community? We would love to hear your ideas!


We Went to Apartmentalize!

and We Liked It!

By John Hall - June 20, 2018

We couldn't resist packing up some touchscreens freshly loaded with our new Pynwheel 4.0 software, and taking them to the big Apartmentalize conference in San Diego last week. We had a great time seeing some old friends, and meeting a lot of new ones.

Take a look!

Pynwheel CEO Jennifer Cyphers getting ready for the show to start. There won't be too many opportunities to get off our feet after this.

We had two huge touchscreens, plus iPads, touch laptops, and even a couple of iPhones. Our new application powers all of these devices with one set-up!

Pynwheel in action: There is nothing like letting people get their hands on our touchscreens. 

Alex is in the background showing off embedded video features. Kellie is rocking the purple hair!

Tica (here with Jennifer) made it out for Friday's session. Smiles all around!

A closer look at all of the different platforms we had running. 

I had the opportunity to visit family on the way to the show, so my wife and I opted to drive from Denver to San Diego. On the way there, this happened:

Just outside of Parachute, CO, we drove right through this fire! The freeway that we were on was closed shortly after this was taken, but we made it through. We could actually feel the heat from the fire inside the car. Fortunately, they were able to get this one under control with very minimal damage.

Then, on the way back, we got to see this:

Utah's Bryce Canyon. A gorgeous sight to behold, and a great ending to a great trip!

Next year's Apartmentalize! Expo is on our home turf: June 26 - 29 at the Colorado Convention Center. We hope that you have the opportunity to meet us, and to enjoy all that our hometown of Denver has to offer!