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Income verification startup gives property managers and tenants common ground

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Income verification startup, The Closing Docs, gives property managers and tenants objective communication tools during economic crisis.

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Calculator sitting on top of 20 US dollars ready for income verification.

For property management companies who want to better understand the capacity of their tenants to pay rent during the pandemic, The Closing Docs is a startup hoping to help.

The Closing Docs is an income verification company using automated income verification with three simple steps: Collect, Confirm, and Share. Currently 3 years in, the company supports income verification to lender offering vehicle loans and more than 700,000 landlord-managed units. This system is intended to significantly compress vacancy periods and underwriting cycles, resulting in applicants being approved in minutes rather than days or weeks.

The Closing Docs was co-founded by Mark Fiebig, a serial entrepreneur and investment property manager, and Stephen Arifin, a former engineer at Microsoft. They say that what sets them apart is that they have remained laser focused on one very specific, difficult problem in a giant market. The co-founders described when inspiration hit, “The ah-ha moment came when realizing potential customers kept telling us the same thing: They were waiting days for applicants to submit required information. A good market is more important than a good product. When you have both, you’ve struck gold.”

Fiebig said, “Because we offer instant access to up-to-the-minute income history, we are not only supporting applicant approval decisions and existing tenant renewal considerations, we are also giving property managers and tenants a tool to objectively communicate about current income status. Our data provided to both parties supports these negotiations in constructive ways.” The company claims that in some cases, using The Closing Docs decreases processing time (~30%) for rental applications and increases funding rates (~15%) for loans.

This works by the software connecting to the bank accounts of the applicants and analyzing their deposit history. It then organizes that data into an income report. Income screenings can be a standalone service or be integrated into an online rental application. Income reports provide a net income summary of an applicant, summarizing key metrics such as Annual Net Income and Monthly Net Income.

The Closing Docs pricing starts at $10.00 as a one-time payment, per user. There is a free version trial and they support workflows where either the applicant or the decision maker can pay the $10 report fee.

Yasmin Diallo Turk is a long-time Austinite, non-profit professional in the field of sexual and domestic violence, and graduate of both Huston-Tillotson University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. When not writing for AG she should be writing her dissertation but is probably just watching Netflix with her husband and 3 kids or running volunteer projects for HOPE for Senegal.

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Real Estate Marketing

Incentivizing recycled materials puts this shoe startup a step ahead

(MARKETING) Thousand Fell integrates sustainability into their brand structure by paying customers back for their recycled shoewear, which they then use to make more shoes.

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Thousand Fell Shoes, a startup incentivizing using recycled materials.

The startup shoe retailer, Thousand Fell, has a line of classic white lace-up and slip-on shoes. Based in New York City, the company was launched by Founders Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum last year. But, the brand isn’t just a regular sneaker company. It’s a full-circle economy shoe company that’s creating zero-waste footwear.

According to the company’s website, about 2.4 billion pairs of shoes are sold in the U.S. every year. As many as 97 percent of all shoes will end up in a landfill each year. It takes leather soles about 40 years to decompose in the landfill, and rubber soles take twice as long to decompose. Thousand Fell recognizes that waste is a huge environmental issue and wants to be a part of the solution with its biodegradable footwear line.

The company’s shoes are all made with materials that can either be “biodegraded, recycled to make new shoes, or upcycled into materials for new projects.” The company uses items like recycled rubbers and bottles to make soles, leather-like uppers, and next generation laces. Other ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut husks, and sugar cane are also used to offer a soft-touch feel, stability, support, and comfort.

Thousand Fell’s mission is to be sustainable and to never send another sneaker to the landfill. And to get there, it’s incentivizing its customers to recycle their purchased products. When you’ve worn out your shoes, or simply don’t want them anymore, you can return your shoes to Thousand Fell at no cost.

“Thousand Fell owns the material feeds and covers the cost of recycling, as well as the resale or reintegration of recycled material back into new shoes and the issuance of the $20 recycling cash that is sent back to the consumer once they recycle,” wrote Ahlum in an email to TechCrunch.

In partnership with TerraCycle, customers can easily recycle their purchased products through the company’s “Thousand Fell Recycling Program”. All you have to do is place your shoes in any box you have. You create an account, request a prepaid UPS shipping label, print it, and affix it to the box. Then, you can mail them via UPS. Once your shoes are scanned for return, you’ll receive $20 that can be applied to your next Thousand Fell order.

When the company receives the shoes, they are catalogued, sorted, and broken down to be used to make raw recycled materials

“We create sneakers with a life cycle you can follow—and feel good about,” the company’s website states. By taking a step forward to create a zero-waste product that can be used and reused to create a new one, Thousand Fell is going full-circle and doing just that.

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Real Estate Marketing

Midtown’s empty offices could be turned into affordable housing

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) With remote work quieting Midtown, there are plans to create affordable housing in Manhattan’s high-income business neighborhood.

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New York Midtown, where office buildings may turn into affordable housing

Since the start of the pandemic, Manhattan’s business districts have become something of a ghost town. With almost no one going to work at the office — or going out to eat or drink after work — entire blocks that were once busy and bustling have become empty. With so many New Yorkers currently struggling to pay the city’s famously high rent prices, this begs the question of whether or not Midtown should be rezoned – should some of the city’s (now obsolete) high-end office buildings be converted into affordable housing?

As someone who has always wanted to move to New York (but also values having affordable rent!), this potential rezoning plan sounds utopic. Imagine: A live-work-play neighborhood with fantastic transit, top-notch restaurants that cater to locals, and all the amenities you’d imagine for a residential area in NYC. I’m packing my bags as you read this.

And yes, it may seem far-fetched to reimage Midtown as a place to raise your family if you aren’t multi-millionaires, but, at this point, the city is trying to be creative.

Since September, only 10% of New York’s workforce has returned to their Manhattan offices. Essentially, office and hotel buildings (the former being notoriously easier to convert into affordable housing than the latter) have been collecting dust – and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, as work from home has proved itself to be a viable, economically sustainable option.

Historically, there have been major tax breaks for commercial-to-resident conversions, as was seen in the mid-1990s 421-g program, which revitalized Lower Manhattan. This is part of the incentive for developers, who would ultimately be rewarded for taking a risk during the economic uncertainty COVID-19; building permits in NYC during the first half of 2020 have hit historic lows.

And that’s not the only incentive. Did you know that many of the city’s older buildings still run on steam heat, which is extremely inefficient? Converting these buildings into residential units would result in a massive environmental win for the city, as they would need to abide by the city’s strict new building code. Cheap rent for me and lower emissions for the city? Sign me up!

It will be interesting to see how the city ultimately decides to react to the COVID-induced ghost-townification of Midtown. I do believe, however, that the vain in which they decide to rebuild will be defining of the next decade of NYC. The city will never die, that’s for sure. How it continues to live is the question.

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Real Estate Marketing

7 signs that your website design is out of date

(MARKETING) Just as styles of clothes come and go, website styles can date your business. How can you tell if your design is stuck in the past?

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Just as styles of clothes come and go, website styles can date your business. How can you tell if your design is stuck in the past? Here are 7 things to consider about your design style:

1. Sans serif or not? With 4K in full effect, serif types are coming back into vogue. A serif typeface is one with small lines attached to the end of a letter.

Sans serif typefaces, those without those small lines, were introduced for readability on mobile devices which used to have much lower resolution.

2. Are you constantly changing colors to keep up with trends? Although the “best” color for marketing changes annually, it’s not really about what color you use. It’s about consistent design with color saturation.

3. Where do you work? Sitting at a desk waiting for inspiration is a thing of the past. Get out in the world and work on your tablet to enhance your ideas and take pictures to bring more elements into your design.

4. What’s your perspective? Look through your social media account and look for variety in your photos and posts. Find a new angle for photos and text to give more interesting content.

5. Are you using trends to brand your company? Coloring books have been the hot ticket item in 2016 and 2017, but the population has already moved on to the next thing, so why would you hop on an old trend and send out branded coloring books?

Use trends in marketing, but not for branding.

6. What’s your design style? Flat design is a trend that is going by the wayside. Get one step ahead by using elements to add depth to your site.

7. Do your templates look like templates? WordPress is great for small businesses, but when you use one of the templates without any customization, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Spend a few dollars and get some help implementing your own images and graphics to fully adapt your site.

This assumes that your site has already been on the cutting edge. We’re still seeing a number of small businesses who don’t have much content about their business.

Having a website is vital in today’s economy, and even if you’re the only one in your community that provides your service or product, you cannot expect to stay on top by just having a minimal website.

Make it a part of your marketing strategy to update your site weekly and keep your customers engaged.

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