In apartment community marketing, we know that first impressions can make or break a prospective resident’s likelihood to enter into a lease agreement. That’s why we pour so much time, effort, training, and expense into ensuring our community curb appeal dazzles our customers and our leasing teams are friendly, helpful, and skilled at closing the deal.
Securing new lease agreements and resident move-ins is a priority for rental housing teams. Equally important to a community’s financial success is securing renewal leases. Even in today’s market where occupancy rates are strong and many communities are experiencing such high demand for new leases that they are maintaining active waiting lists, reducing resident turnover is important to the bottom line for one simple reason: move outs are costly.
The High Cost of Resident Turnover
How costly is resident turnover? Blogger Lori Hammond of Property Management Minutes itemizes some of the expenses incurred when a resident moves out:
- Rent loss due to vacancy
- Marketing expenses associated with finding new residents
- Maintenance labor to prepare the home for residency
- Miscellaneous service and cleaning supplies
- Potential capital replacements or upgrades
In total, the cost of a single move out is estimated to range from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on market conditions. That expense is compounded by the high rate of turnover that rental housing communities experience. The National Apartment Association’s 2021 Survey of Operating Income and Expenses reveals the industry-wide resident turnover rate is 46.9%. This figure, while high, is well below historic averages which have hovered at about 53% for the past 15 years. Do the math on the cost of turnover times 53% of your rental housing portfolio, and you’ll quickly see that the expense associated with resident turnover is massive.
The 3 Most Important Words in Renewing Real Estate Leases
You are likely familiar with the old adage that says the three most important words in real estate are “location, location, and location”. That may be true for many apartment hunters as their choice of a new home is very often driven by what is convenient for their work and personal life. When it comes time for considering renewing the lease, however, I’d argue that the three most important words in the renewal decision are “service, service, and service”. Residents have already made the location choice when they signed their initial lease. Most likely the community’s location continues to satisfy. What drives the decision to stay or go now revolves around the level of service the resident feels they have received throughout their residency.
There are a number of critical touchpoints that occur throughout a resident’s lease term that provide opportunities for the on-site community team to delight the customer—and earn their continued loyalty. By nurturing a positive relationship with each resident, you increase the likelihood that they’ll sign a renewal lease when the time comes.
You can help to drive renewals at your apartment community by elevating the experience during the following 5 critical resident touchpoints:
Be Proactive Before Move-In Day
Moving is one of life’s most stressful and challenging experiences. People dread moving and expect it to be a hassle. This creates a real opportunity for apartment community teams to exceed expectations by making the move in process smooth, easy, and pleasant. Improving the move-in experience starts with some proactive steps that take place well before move-in day, including:
- Stay in touch with your resident throughout the application process. Let them know promptly what is still required and when they should expect to hear from you next.
- Congratulate them when their application has been approved. A simple celebratory email or text adds a sense of importance and festivity to their new residency.
- Arrange for the lease and other paperwork to be signed in advance. Electronic signing is easier on all parties.
- Allow residents to schedule their preferred move-in date and time and even reserve an elevator, if applicable, in advance.
- Prior to their arrival, ensure they know how to get in through any controlled access systems such as gates or lobby locks.
Make Move-In Easy and Delightful
On move-in day itself, there are many things the on-site community team can do to make the resident’s first day a pleasant one. For example:
- Ensure the apartment home is in top condition and inviting for their arrival. Their new home should be sparking clean, smell fresh, and the temperature pleasant.
- Nothing is more frustrating to a new resident than getting to their apartment door and being unable to unlock it. Test your keys or controlled access locks to prevent this aggravation from spoiling the move-in experience.
- Accompany the new resident to their new home and conduct an in-person walk-through. Use this opportunity to orient them to key features and functionality of the home, such as appliances and waste removal procedures.
- If your budget allows, a small move-in gift is a welcome touch. NAA’s UNITS magazine recently shared some fun ideas others use.
- Share staff contact information in case the resident has any service needs. If anything in their home requires attention, address it as quickly as possible.
- Use your resident app, text, or email to send a welcome message with a personalized greeting. For an extra special touch, provide a new-residents-only deal to a local restaurant for their first meal.
Exceed Expectations with Each Service Request
When a resident requests service in their home, this is another opportunity for your team to make a great impression and exceed their expectations. Some ideas to consider:
- Ensure your communication around their service request is prompt, friendly, and efficient. Confirm receipt of their request and share details so they know what to expect from your team.
- Everyone who interacts with residents, including your service team members, should be friendly, kind, empathetic to the customer’s needs, and of course, follow all fair housing regulations in their actions and conversation. Residents can be chatty when a team member is working in their home; it’s best to prepare teams so they can make appropriate conversation while they are there.
- Be respectful of the resident’s apartment home when you visit to perform service. Wipe your feet to avoid tracking in dirt, take off your shoes before you enter, or use shoe covers for sanitation. Use a drop cloth or disposable mat on the ground around the work area to keep it clean. And of course, clean up after yourself and leave no traces of your efforts behind–not even fingerprints.
- One thing you should leave behind, however, is documentation of your visit with details about the work that was performed and who completed the task. Some communities choose to leave a little something extra as a thank you, such as a wrapped candy branded with the community’s logo.
- Follow up with your resident after the service request is complete to ensure their satisfaction. A phone call, text, or email from a staff member is advised, and sending a brief satisfaction survey can allow you to track valuable information about your service.
Ensure Your Staff are Friendly and Professional Property
Management is a people-driven business. Residents are not their unit number; they are people—with names and personalities, sometimes with children and pets. Get to know the individuals who call your community home. Make them feel valued and welcome during every interaction. Here are some seemingly small actions that go a long way towards building camaraderie:
- Strive to learn residents’ names and use them when you speak with them. Ask after other members of their household, including pets.
- Provide your own name during your interactions. Be personal (“This is Shellie calling from the leasing office”) instead of impersonal (“This is the leasing office” or “This is the manager.”)
- Expect every member of the team to be friendly when encountering residents in the community. Smiles, waves, eye contact, and friendly conversation should be second nature for your entire staff.
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- When interacting with more than one resident at once, introduce them to each other. It can be hard for residents to build relationships with their neighbors; consider yourself their networking assistant.
- Greet all resident visitors to the office with enthusiasm. Never make them feel as if they are an interruption or nuisance. Instead, make them feel as if you are surprised and delighted that they dropped in.
- Keep in mind that some residents simply need someone to talk to and sometimes you are it. Be patient with chatty residents, even when other responsibilities await. Always give them your kind attention and be tactful about sending them on their way.
Resident Activities are Relationship-Builders
Finally, resident activities provide another extremely valuable touchpoint during the resident’s tenure. Thoughtfully planned, well-executed events add to the living experience and create a compelling reason for residents to stick around. Keep in mind:
- Every resident activity is a service opportunity. Even if you outsource the management of the event to a service provider, the community team should participate. This is a chance to connect with residents in a less formal setting than your usual interactions.
- Team members should be recognizable at resident events either through their uniform dress or with a nametag. And they should of course practice their usual friendly, outgoing manner.
- Whether you are serving breakfast-to-go, hosting an exercise class, or sponsoring an outside speaker to present for your residents, community events bring neighbors and staff members together. Team members should consider themselves to be the event’s hosts ensuring that all guests feel comfortable and welcome, are introduced to others in attendance, and enjoy themselves.
- Take pictures and video and share in your resident app and on your social channels to expand your reach. Residents who did not participate may be inspired to join in the next event.
When your entire community team focuses on providing outstanding service not just to prospective residents but to all residents who call your community home, you will be rewarded with your customers’ loyalty. Asking a resident to commit to a renewal lease becomes easier when your customer has received kind, responsive, and personalized service throughout the duration of their residency.
With service like that, why would they want to live anywhere else?
Source: Multifamily Insiders