Property Management Insider – Creative Ways to Retain Renters
By Guy Lyman | Aug 4, 2016
You put lots of resources into attracting people to live in your properties; but are you doing enough to retain renters you already have?
There are plenty of reasons renters move out, and some of them can’t be helped. Perhaps they get a new job across town, buy a home, or (as is often the case these days!) move back in with their parents.
The basics of resident retention haven’t changed. Keep the property up nicely, offer attractive amenities, provide timely maintenance, keep your pricing competitive and you’ve got the basics covered.
But too many property managers don’t do enough beyond these fundamentals. And this doesn’t make sense because finding new renters to replace the ones who leave is expensive. Keeping occupancy up is often too much focused on marketing and not enough on retention.
So what are some of the ways to get creative in order to reduce turnover?
Creating a sense of community
I’d say the one most frequently overlooked is creating a sense of home and community. Most of us have lived in apartments at one time or another. Looking back, you’ll remember the properties that seemed “cold” and the ones that were “friendly;” the ones that were simply a place to live, and the ones that felt like home. There’s a lot you can do to ensure your properties feel like home, and they’re the ones more effective at holding on to residents.
There’s an apartment community in the Dallas area whose name denotes not just a place, but a lifestyle. It’s a youthful, fun lifestyle that’s not to everyone’s taste, but it’s exactly what the owners have carefully cultivated – because there are more than enough renters who do want this lifestyle to keep occupancy high.
How have the owners accomplished this? Through marketing, sure. But it’s more than an image. The community is constantly promoting youthful events that get residents out of their apartments and bring them together – on the grounds, at the pools, and in the common areas. The beauty of these events is that they don’t have to cost a lot of money.
You’re probably already sponsoring get-togethers of some kind. But how much creativity and effort are you putting behind community-building events? Front office staff usually have their hands full of leasing and solving problems, so they’re unlikely to prioritize event brainstorming. But carving out a few hours once a month, perhaps over a free lunch, can pay big dividends.
It’s amazing how many PMCs don’t enable the sharing of successful community-building ideas between the properties they manage. Too often, each is left to its own devices. Some have great ideas, others do nearly nothing. The first thing to do is turn community-building into a real business initiative rather than an option or sideline, and communicate this to your properties. Create a channel for sharing ideas, and designate a coordinator to ensure each property is actively pursuing community-building activities.
Conveniences are key
Another key to creating loyal residents is making it easy for them to take care of business online.
Why force people to drop off checks or make payments at the front office when these days many prefer to do everything on their computers and mobile devices? By now, you should be offering online payment of rent, utilities, and fees by credit card, check, money order and other means.
You should also have an online maintenance request system that replaces burdensome phone calls to the front office. This can be coupled with a 24-hour call center that gives residents the security of knowing there’s always someone to answer their call, even after the office closes.
You might also consider extras such as a concierge service to accept and hold deliveries when residents are away.
A portal to participation
All of these online activities should be channeled through a friendly community portal that becomes the online analog of their apartment “home.” Here, they can take care of business, receive messages and announcements and communicate with front office staff, or even with other residents.
I recently interviewed a retired lady who used her community’s portal to plan and coordinate a craft fair on the grounds of the property and get the message out to other residents. It was a huge success and a perfect example of the kind of event that costs little but has a big impact. It even brought hundreds of prospective residents to the property in a festive environment that showcased the property as a neighborly place to live.
Too many communities don’t actively foster patronage of neighboring businesses, community centers, and other assets. They leave it to residents to discover what’s around them or at the most place brochures and menus on a table or in a rack.
But neighboring businesses want your residents’ patronage, and many are more than willing to offer specials, food delivery or other incentives to earn it. Be sure your managers have developed relationships with area businesses that can contribute to your residents’ satisfaction with where they live.
Residents should also be made aware of events and facilities in the immediate area. Think of the neighborhood as an extension of the property itself in creating happy residents. People don’t want to leave a neighborhood they’ve come to enjoy, and you can help foster this enjoyment.
Chasing resident renewals
The end of a lease is a time to actively encourage the signing of a new one. At the very least, you should be letting residents know how much you enjoy having them live with you instead of only sending an impersonal email or letter with a lease to sign – a cold business transaction. This is a time for a thank-you note or incentive gift, and you should have an easy online renewal solution in place that integrates pricing with options for upgrades and other changes for the resident to consider. Make it a no-brainer to renew!
Review the suggestions above with your staff to see where you might be able to strengthen resident loyalty and boost your renewal rate. Again, every resident you can hold on to is one fewer you’ll have to replace!