Apartment Turnovers Inc.
In the rental business, vacant space for any length of time means dollars down the drain for property and apartment managers. Once tenants move out, it is crucial to turn over rentals and get them back on the market as quickly as possible. This takes time and resources, not to mention the added stress managers experience as a result of an inefficient process. In Rockville, Maryland, Apartment Turnovers Inc. (ATI) is alleviating the pains and headaches of the move-out, move-in process by serving as a one-stop shop for getting apartment units turned and rental ready — fast.
Smoother transitions with a full suite of services
True to its name, ATI is a one-call rental turnover solution, delivering five main turnkey services: painting, punch-work, tub/counter refinishing, carpet cleaning and janitorial service. Additionally, the company offers flood and fire restoration.
“We’re the single-call solution to help put vacant units back on the market and we’ll do pretty much anything that is necessary to make a vacant property ready to rent in a timely manner,” says Rob Roberton, founder and president of ATI. “We focus on the total turnover, allowing the change of occupancy to be easier on both property managers and tenants.”
Roberton founded the business in 2005 to help ease the burden of transitioning occupants. “When the unit is complete and the property manager walks in and is pleased with the results and the new resident walks in, turns on the lights and the unit is clean and ready to go — then we’ve done our job and made life a little bit easier for all involved,” says Roberton. If ATI delivers on this promise, Roberton feels the company has fulfilled its mission.
This contributes not only to recovering revenue streams from vacated units, but to overall tenant satisfaction, which greatly affects tenant retention. In today’s world, because of online reviews and satisfaction ratings, it’s critical to start off a new tenant relationship with everything working perfectly. ATI delivers on this promise with hundreds of units turned every day.
When Roberton launched ATI in 2005, operating with a single crew, he knew there were many trade-specific companies offering limited services. He saw a void in the greater Washington, D.C., and Baltimore marketplace for an all-in-one turnover solution. “I spent my earlier career in the pool management and pool construction business,” he notes.
“When we’d go into property management offices, there was always a big list on the whiteboard of painters, carpet cleaners, handymen and various service companies, so I envisioned this concept: to aggregate all of these services into a one-stop shop.”
Shortly after leaving the pool industry, Roberton spent a summer putting together the pieces that would become the whole of ATI. “I took carpet cleaning and lead paint certification classes and learned how to use all of the equipment needed to do a quick unit turnaround,” he says.
With the expertise he had gained from working in the service industry for so many years, along with his newly acquired skills, Roberton bought a small trailer to house his equipment and a truck-mounted carpet cleaning machine. He set out with a single mobile unit and a vision to change the industry. “Starting out, I realized the magnitude of the workload so, I quickly called on some people I knew to see if they wanted come work for me,” he says.
Hitting the ground running
One by one, Roberton added employees as his workload quickly increased. In 2006, ATI landed an account with Grady Management. “This was our first major client,” says Roberton. “We were able to get our foot in the door with a handful of Grady’s communities because of some of the relationships I’d built in the pool industry.”
During the company’s first year, Roberton hired a handful of exchange students to work on ATI crews. “The students who worked for me helped us land another account with Hampton Point Apartments, which is still a customer today,” he recounts. “We saw some pretty tremendous growth right from the start.” ATI quickly solidified its presence throughout the greater Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas. Most recently, the company opened a branch in Richmond, Virginia. New business primarily comes from word-of-mouth referrals and from the exposure ATI gets with its trucks driving around the D.C. beltway.
Today, ATI’s employee base has grown to more than 200 during the busier months in the rental business. “This is a high-volume business,” Roberton says. “There’s a natural bell curve that occurs during the busy summer months. People aren’t moving as much during the winter, but there’s a considerable increase in business in the summer, particularly in July and August.”
With more than 100 trucks on the road, ATI delivers approximately 300 turnover services per day, totaling more than 50,000 services in a year. The company has made its name by delivering reliable, on-time turnovers. “We’ve never missed a move-in date,” says Roberton. That includes turning over 600 student apartment units in just three weeks at a large university housing complex. “Our crews provided full turn services to 600 units in about three weeks to help the university prepare for student move-ins,” says Roberton. “This project was contracted through a property management firm we’ve worked with for several years. It began with a couple of hundred units and now ATI is the property management firm’s primary turnkey company for this property. Every summer during the move-out period, they turn to us to do the job.”
ATI also works for Ross Management Services, another sizable property management entity. “We perform the full suite of services — and then some — for a 1,100-unit property under Ross Management,” says Roberton. “This is an ongoing, long-term partnership for us. For three years straight, we’ve never missed a move-in date set by Ross Management.”
ATI Code provides fast answers, increases recovery dollars
With such high-volume business, Roberton has found that project management is critical to hitting move-in dates. In the last couple of years, ATI has ramped up technology, using a state-of-the-art customized Web portal that helps to deliver the highest level of customer service.
“The client portal, known as ‘ATI Code’ allows customers to schedule new jobs, issue change orders and view information such as work history, refinishing warranties and currently scheduled jobs, all from a tablet or smartphone,” explains Roberton. “This is a way for our clients to be in touch with us and it creates strong communication between management, employees and customers. No one is left guessing about whether or not something is done because as soon as a service is complete, the client is sent a notice and emailed an invoice.”
Photo evidence of the work happening on-site is also a key component of the client portal. “Properties operate on carefully maintained budgets,” explains Roberton. “By using photo documentation, ATI helps clients keep projects on-budget by differentiating between basic services and extras, which are usually billed to the tenant. ATI employees upload pictures of all extras to the portal, which helps with recovery funds for the client.”
Roberton says ATI Code is the answer to the “who, what, when, where and why” of every project. “Our crews can login and track material costs and more,” says Roberton. “We were using this program internally for quite some time. Then we realized if we gave customers access it could increase communication, efficiency and overall satisfaction. So much of the value we bring is in communication.”
Building a trusted, connected team
ATI simply wouldn’t be able to handle the thousands of turnovers it delivers every year without a strong employee base, something Roberton says not only takes time to build, but also takes ongoing investment and effort to nurture. “I believe in creating a strong, healthy work environment,” he says. “A great company culture is something we really take pride in at ATI.”
“A true differentiator for ATI in this industry is that it is employee based, not a middleman for subcontractors,” continues Roberton. “This leads to better quality and accountability. Employees are provided training and certifications leading to upward mobility in the organization.”
Monthly book club meetings, game nights, social outings, an annual pig roast and a holiday breakfast — these are just a handful of the activities Roberton says ATI’s employees take part in. The company also bands together to give back to the community that fostered its success.
“We’re very active in our community,” he says. “We contribute to a number of charities and local organizations, such as sports teams and schools. We also did a project last year for Rebuilding Montgomery.”
In March 2014, ATI partnered with the Corporate Volunteer Council of Montgomery County to renovate the home of a local single mother for a project called Rebuilding Montgomery. Over the course of three days, seven ATI employees dedicated their time, labor and materials to transform her home. They fixed plumbing issues, repaired drywall, painted, mounted new lights and fire alarms, put in new flooring and installed new safety locks. “Being able to take part of this was a truly moving experience for our team,” adds Roberton.
With a stellar reputation for reliable, timely turn service and a dedicated staff to carry the company forward, Apartment Turnovers Inc. exemplifies not only a streamlined rental process and total turnover solution, but also a customer- and technology-driven business model.
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