By Lynn Edmondson
The holiday season has begun, and for many, this is a time of celebration, family, food, and festive decorations. The same rings true for property managers and their tenants. There are many reasons to celebrate during the last month of the year including numerous holidays and a sense of renewal as we enter the new year. The holidays provide residential property managers and commercial facility managers alike with an opportunity to create a vibrant, festive atmosphere for their residents and building occupants.
When decorating during the holidays, there are a few things property managers should keep in mind to ensure the season is both festive and safe.
No property manager wants to be seen as a Grinch, nor do they want to be seen as a member of the Griswold family from the movie Christmas Vacation. The challenge for many managers comes in finding the middle ground in holiday decorations — how does one decorate enough so that the property is festive without becoming garish?
Lights, when put up safely and correctly, add holiday cheer to buildings and outdoor spaces. Simple, white lights can make someone smile when they return home for the evening or bring family over for celebrations. These types of lights are safer than bright, blinking lights that could be a distraction for tenants. When hanging up exterior lights on a building, take care to make sure there is a clear path to the front door. Holiday wreaths are also a fun way to spread the cheer. A colorful holiday tree full of lights and ornaments that occupants pass in the lobby or a common area is an easy way to celebrate the season.
Safety In Holiday Decorating For Buildings
Take caution when bringing in or disposing of natural decorations. For example, if purchasing a natural wreath, wrap a bag around it so during transportation, pine needles won’t fall and make a mess around the area. An alternative is to purchase artificial decorations so that cleanup won’t be an issue when it’s time to remove them.
Another holiday decoration that can be considered in a few ways are candles. It’s a common policy that occupants are not allowed to use candles in their units, and to set a good example, property managers should use flameless candles in their decorations. During this time of year, flameless candles also come in a variety of holiday scents.
Safety during the holiday season should be a priority for every property manager, and decorations should be thoroughly checked each year to ensure they are in good working condition. Always look for frayed or bare wiring, broken bulbs, and remember to never use more than three strings of lights on one extension cord.
Outlets and circuits can be easily overloaded and result in a fire hazard that would not only ruin your holiday, but that of your tenants as well. Many fires can be prevented by taking proper safety measures. The holidays are a great time to make sure that smoke detectors are functioning. Electrical plugs and cords deteriorate gradually, and problems can be difficult to detect; the holiday decorating season is the perfect time to ensure these cords are in their best shape.
Meanwhile, first impressions matter year-round, and potential tenants will be taking into consideration the property’s curb appeal. In cold weather areas, it’s essential to keep walkways clear. For some parts of the country, this means shoveling snow and deicing driveways. This eliminates tenants needing to scale a potentially dangerous walkway to reach the front door. To add to the aesthetic of the property, lights can be hung around the walkway, and people may appreciate being greeted at the door with a decorated wreath.
Include Building Occupants In Holiday Cheer
Properties can also invite occupants to be a part of the decorating process. Invite them and their families to cut out snowflakes, make paper garlands, or have kids draw holiday pictures that can be used as decorations. The young artists can put their names on their creations and hang them up for all to see.
Other holiday community events ideas, depending on your facility type: cookie exchange, s’mores bonfire with hot cocoa, pool side holiday movie with popcorn, a holiday themed photo scavenger hunt, or a holiday book reading from a local author. For the adult crowd, host a wine or beer tasting, or maybe even a holiday themed murder mystery dinner.
Depending on the demographics of a property, some managers may want to stick with decorations that are non-denominational in nature. Tenants come from different cultures, and while your décor can most certainly reflect this, it should not show any favoritism or contain content that could potentially be seen as offensive. HUD has determined that Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and menorahs are not considered religious in nature, but nativity scenes, crosses, bibles and Stars of David are, and therefore should not be used in public areas of a property.
This idea of nondenominational decorating can be reflected in a few ways. For example, seasonal symbols such as snowflakes, snowmen, and candy canes are fully inclusive. Using phrases such as “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” are also more inclusive than tying the phrase to a specific event.
Decorating during the holidays helps a property look like it’s in tiptop shape and can even be a tool to grab the attention of potential tenants touring the area. This is why it’s important to keep things simple and choose decorations that will appeal to a wide range of different tastes.
No matter which specific decorations property managers choose to use, as long as they are cheerful and safe, they will set the tone for a successful holiday season and a happy new year.
Edmonson is regional manager for Wendover Management where she is responsible for day to day operations. Wendover Management LLC is a property management company under the Wendover real estate umbrella. With more than 40 years of real estate and property management experience, Edmonson has overseen portfolios in both Texas and Florida exceeding more than 40 properties and over 10,000 units, as well as overseeing the successful redevelopment of numerous assets.