Clearing the air on the subject of turnovers

Apartment property managers have long been plagued by hard-to- eliminate cooking and pet odors and the smell of smoke left behind by former residents. "There has never been an effective, economical solution to those problems until now," says the distributor of a product that many property managers are incorporating into their make- ready processes.

196

Nearly two years ago, Simon Distributing President Pat Simon introduced Paint Scentsations, a simple to use, inexpensive paint additive that not only eradicates odors left behind by previous tenants, but turns the paint into a long-lasting air freshener. Since its introduction to the multifamily world, it has been making life easier for property managers and positively affecting their bottom lines.

“Here it is 2008 and I wonder why somebody didn’t think of something like this 20 years ago,” Simon said recently. “There’s nothing high- tech about it. It’s a very simple concept, but it sure does the job.”

An ounce of Paint Scentsations per gallon is added to the paint, which permeates the drywall, holds in the scent and gradually releases it, while eradicating any underlying odors through a patented chemical process.

“It takes between three and five gallons of paint to do the average apartment, so you’re talking about an additional $6 to $10, and you’re not adding any extra steps because you’re painting anyway. The return on investment is huge,” said Simon, noting that every day an apartment sits empty can cost the owner considerably more than $10.

Simon, who has been in the paint additive business for more than a decade, found the product that is the foundation for Paint Scentsations about four years ago in a paint manufacturing trade journal. He immediately recognized the value this product could have in the apartment property management sector. With the certainty that he was onto a good thing, he inked an agreement with the product’s manufacturer, Scentco, to create his own private label. He chose the neutral scents from Scentco’s fragrance palette most likely to appeal to the majority of potential renters, avoiding the more flowery, fruity or perfume-like options, and narrowing it down to the five scents currently offered–Fresh Air, Clean & Crisp, Sea Breeze, Vanilla Bean and Citrus Squeeze. All five scents are available in a long-lasting scented wax sampler that allows property managers to experience the scents before selecting their fragrance of choice.

Paint Scentsations works well with any kind of paint and has no effect on the performance of the paint which acts as its carrier. It can reduce unit down-time, eliminate the expense of ozone treatments, foggers, sealers and other expensive smell busters and avoids the even less appealing use of plug-in air fresheners, which is, he said, “a red flag for prospective renters.” At the NAA conference last summer in Las Vegas, Simon offered a free sample of his product to Kacey Hansberry, a property manager for an apartment community in Las Vegas. She took it home to try in her son’s bedroom in the house she and her husband recently had purchased.

“The previous owners had cats and my son’s room was where they kept the litter box. It smelled terrible. So, I painted the room with Paint Scentsations and I fell in love with it instantly because it took the smell away,” said the property manager, who revisited Simon’s booth the next day and bought the product for use at Cypress Springs Apartments, where she oversees day-to-day operations at the community that is fee-managed by The Hayman Company.

When she tells people about her success with Paint Scentsations, she said, “Some suggest the addition of a few drops of vanilla extract to the paint (an old Martha Stewart trick) works just as well to cover the paint odor. But I tell them, that may be true, but that vanilla scent doesn’t last for four to six months like Paint Scentsations and I don’t have to pay for foggers or odor treatments anymore. It’s amazing!”

Hansberry figures she’s saving in the neighborhood of $300 a month on apartment turns now that she uses Paint Scentsations, on every single make-ready.

While Vanilla Bean is her favorite fragrance, Hansberry also uses the other fragrances and always applies paint infused with Citrus Squeeze in apartments where some of the previous tenants had four legs and fur. She also finds Paint Scentsations little short of miraculous for eradicating the stench of tobacco smoke. “It used to take two to three coats of paint to get rid of the smell, and sometimes even more if they were heavy smokers. Now, it takes just one coat with Paint Scentsations and it’s done, unless the apartment is now brown, and then it will take two,” she said.

And, thanks to her success with the product, the Troy, Michigan-based Hayman Company she works for encourages the property managers to use it in all 20 of the market-rate apartment properties the company owns and manages in Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Nevada.

Quadrangle Housing, a Washington University affiliate that provides off-campus housing for students and faculty in St. Louis, Mo., has had similar success with Paint Scentsations, which Kent Allen, maintenance supervisor for Quadrangle’s 1,300 units, discovered at a trade show last year. Paul Andrews, Quadrangle’s purchasing supervisor, likes the product’s ease of use, in addition to the odor eradication and long-lasting pleasant scent of the Vanilla Bean fragrance the student housing company favors. “It’s one ounce per gallon and I get my paint in five-gallon buckets. The graduated bottle works out well,” said Andrews.

“I believe this is a good product for our industry,” said Joseph Carabetta Jr., construction manager for the Carabetta Organization, who is in charge of grounds development and preventative maintenance and oversees all maintenance contracts for the 17,000 apartments owned and managed by the family-owned company that has been a leader in building and managing affordable housing throughout New England for more than 50 years. He discovered Paint Scentsations in the pages of the November/ December 2007 issue of Multihousing Professional magazine and has been using the product for the past couple of months. “Our marketing staff indicates that prospective residents like the scent left in the apartment after this product has been used, so it definitely is helping as a marketing tool,” said Carabetta, who uses only Vanilla Bean, which, he said, appears to be favored more by his prospective residents.

Simon plans to add a new scent developed by Toni Blake, an apartment management consultant, speaker and author, to the Paint Scentsations line-up. Blake created “New Home Essence” – a room air freshener designed to infuse an apartment with the olfactory essence of a new home. Simon is re-creating the scent for use in paint. The new fragrance is a combination of cedar wood and Corinthian leather, with just a dash of patchouli. He’s been working on Paint Scentsations’

version of “New Home Essence” with Scentco’s fragrance laboratory and his local focus groups for the past six months. “It’s all trial and error and bringing the product in and saying, ‘What do you think of this and what do you think of this?’ So we’ve been going back and forth as that’s what it takes to come up with a new scent that will be acceptable to a wide audience,” Simon said.

“If a prospective residence smells fresh and clean, it can automatically make the place feel like home,” says Simon. “Smell is one of our most dominant senses and how a place smells has a direct impact on the prospective resident’s decision to lease.” And, because he believes there’s no way to eliminate odor completely from a smelly apartment without addressing every surface, he always tells his customers they mustn’t forget to paint the ceiling and clean the baseboards in order to be sure the unit will smell fresh to prospective residents. In addition, Simon is working on a carpet treatment product he plans to call Carpet Scentsations. “A lot of property managers already use a scent when they steam clean. Soon they can use a steam cleaner or carpet crystals that are going to compliment what they just did on the walls with Paint Scentsations,” he said.

In the meantime, Simon’s goal is to make Paint Scentsations readily available for both painters and property managers at their local paint store. He recently reached an agreement with Lancaster, the largest distributor of paint and sundry items in the U.S. “With seven distribution centers across the country, any paint store can now easily access Paint Scentsations within two days,” said Simon.