Adversary in Avarice

Since the age of 10, I've had probably 15-20 different hamsters, so I'm fairly experienced with these very cute little rodents.  They were the only small furry pet that my mom would let me have because they didn't have a long tail, and tails creep her out something fierce.  One of the coolest things about a hamster is that in their mouths, they have these expandable pouches that they use to carry way more food or bedding supplies than they normally could.  When the pouches are full, a hamsters head almost can triple in size, looking like it has a VERY bad case of the mumps.  They use this little trick to empty their food bowls as quickly as they can and move all of their food to a "secret" spot in their living space, hoarding everything away and waiting on a refill.  No matter how many times you refill the bowl, they will fill their cheeks and take the spoils of scavenging to their hoarding spot.  Hamsters will do this so much that they will not be able to eat all the food that they stick away, letting it spoil and ruin the food around it faster, eventually resulting in all of their food becoming worthless.  There's something to be said for biting off more, or hoarding more, than you can chew.

I don't know if you'd categorize this behavior as greed, but it was one of the most poignant examples I could find within the animal kingdom.  The word "Greed" comes from the Latin word Avaritia, more commonly known as Avarice.  Whenever you work in business, sooner or later the accusation of being greedy is going to pop up.  We see greed function in the property management world not just our teams, but our residents and vendors too.  

Obviously, one of the first examples that we see often comes at the renewal time of a lease.  If we ask for a rental increase, we're immediately cited as greedy.  Heck, in the current market, if we don't DROP the renewal price, we are called out on it and verbally flogged.  Are we being greedy?

How about when special projects come up and we know our plate is full, but we accept the responsibility anyway, even though we know we have a coworker who could be a good asset to the project and would love the chance to contribute?

Have you ever fought over a commission with a coworker?  (Wait, I know, that wasn't greed... it was the principle of the matter, right?)

Or, my vendor friends, what about when we try to convince a prospective client to use our services, even though we are well aware of the fact that there might be a better product  for their particular needs, or that we do not fit in to their budget or business plan?

Everyone of these situations can become a very heated issue.  We get pretty darned worked up and we focus on getting the win for the problem. 
But, just like a hoard of food stashed by a hamster, all of those "wins" we accrue will eventually start to spoil and that spoilage will spread to everything.  Psychologically, one of the functions of emotions is to mask internal motivation.  Because Greed is rooted in the motivation for a particular action, that makes logic and objectivity the best tools to use when fighting any kind of a problem that you think might be rooted in Avarice.  Logic takes away the emotional quotient out of the situation and objectivity, while it is hard to come by, can illuminate other solutions or compromises. 

The hard truth of the matter is that Avarice touches everyone and it's so prevalent in today's society that sometimes it's hard to tell when we're being firm on something (I'm sorry but we cannot reduce your rent by $400 a month), and when we're being greedy (I'm well aware that you aren't in a position where you can really move so you're going to just have to deal with that $250 rent increase, despite the $150 increase we already gave you six months ago). 

When it's your job to make a community profitable, you walk a hard line.  On one side, you have your owners and company who are paying you to increase NOI and run a business.  The basic goal of any business is to make money.  This is still a capitalist country.  On the other side of the line, you have to consider that you're working in a business where you deal with people's homes.  Home is a really personal place for a lot of people, so you're working in a personal space.  Are you a tenant's advocate or a company man?  Both sides have logical points and pressures, and it's hard to know which to work with.  The answer isn't really that difficult, even though we'd like to make it that way.  One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to ask myself, "Is this good for the company?" before I acted on a decision.  What's good for a company isn't always about the initial dollars, but the dollars down the road.  If you jack the renewal rents too high, you're going to lose residents to better deals and specials at your competing properties.  You're also going gain less than stellar word of mouth.  It's not so much about choosing to be pro-company or choosing to be pro-resident.  It's about doing what makes the best business sense.  If it costs you $4500 to refill an apartment right now, and it costs you $1000 over the course of a year to give a rent decrease...kind of a no brainer.  Protect the back door and you'll protect your NOI.  Greed doesn't really function here if you're making a LOGICAL decision.

If you're fighting over a commission with a coworker (again, I'm sure it's the principle of the matter), it might be a good idea to take 10 minutes with your manager and as for their opinion and reasoning for it.  Managers usually see more of what's going on in the big picture and if you've got a good manager, then utilize their skills.  But before you approach them, make sure that you can make a calm and logical argument and that you're ready to listen to them.  If you can't...don't eat up your manager's time with a crying hissy fit.  They don't like that very much.

Step outside your emotions and play Spock for a few moments.  You'll find that a lot of the problems that might be motivated by greed tend to dissolve with the dilution of logic.

(I'm doing this blog series to promote my new seminar on the 7Deadly Property Management Sins through BTLD Consulting!  If you're interested in booking out for the seminar for your team or apartment association, shoot me an email at

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