Tuesday, January 25, 2011

RESIDENT RETENTION

Start On Day One – Not Month Nine
Over the years I’ve seen managers spend a lot of money on gifts, tokens of appreciation, parties and incentives to entice their apartment residents to sign a new lease and remain at their apartment community for another year. Approximately 90 days before lease expiration a resident will be contacted for the first time in months and asked how things are in their apartment home. Then 60 days before lease-end they will be sent a letter asking them to sign a new lease. IN ADDITION, they are told, they will qualify for a menu selection of incentive items if they do. I am a strong believer in customer service and showing respect for your residents and this type of contact is great but your apartment residents should receive this treatment all year long.
The best way to ensure that your residents remain in your apartment community is to do everything you can to make each resident feel like they belong. Ask yourself how it makes you feel when you encounter someone who is genuinely happy to see you?  They call you by name, smile a greeting and engage in conversation. Doesn’t it make you feel good when someone you don’t know well is kind and treats you like a neighbor?  What if that person is your Apartment Manager or leasing staff?
True resident retention starts the first time you have contact with a prospective resident. The first meeting with a prospective resident is when you are showing them an apartment home that fits their needs and wants. Typically this is when a resident is at his or her happiest so why not try to build on that and set a goal to continue keeping that resident happy for the remainder of their residency at your apartment community. 
Here is a list of resident retention suggestions:
1.      Each visit to the Apartment Office is rewarded with a warm smile and personal greeting.  Call them by name.
2.      Ask “how are things in your apartment” when rent is dropped off. This may remind them of something they’ve been meaning to call in.
3.      Try to follow up after service requests when possible to confirm satisfaction.
4.      Schedule regular resident activities or events.
5.      Maintain the cleanliness and quality of grounds and all common areas.
6.      If a situation arises that upsets a resident, remember to listen and “under promise & over deliver.”
7.      Train your team to smile and greet residents when passing.
8.      At move-in confirm that everything in their new home is clean and working perfectly. If you were unable to complete any item prior to move-in, warn the resident. Your new resident has moved all day and they are tired. Now is not a good time for surprises and you don’t want them to feel they made a wrong choice moving into your community. People are generally reasonable if you are honest with them but a bad impression with an unexpected problem at move-in may be impossible to reverse.
9.      BE NICE and TREAT YOUR RESIDENTS WITH RESPECT…ALWAYS!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Demonstration:

Continue Building Interest through Your Prospect’s Emotional Side,

The Apartment Home is a sanctuary. So using your prospect’s information, identify their key wants and needs. Once you know what they are really looking for, you can feel confident that you have the right apartment home for them. You must not only show them their new apartment home, but also demonstrate all the features and benefits this apartment community, as well as their new home, has to offer.
As you walk from the leasing office, guide your prospective resident through the clubhouse area. Depending on what your apartment community has to offer, you may have several amenities to reveal. If you have a Business Center take them through the center so you can identify a valuable community asset if they lack access to a personal computer as well as educate them about any classes or tutoring opportunities available for them to increase their personal and professional computer skills. This is also a good time to discuss the available internet connection(s) in the apartment home.
From the Business Center (or the Clubhouse if no Business Center is available), a visit to the Fitness Center is next. Point out that all the items needed for a healthy workout are right outside their new apartment home. No investment in bulky, expensive exercise equipment. No expensive and restrictive gym membership fees—everything needed is right here and included in their rent. There is even a fitness trainer on staff to work with them individually to learn the different programs offered.
As you walk from the Clubhouse on your way to show them their new apartment home, take the most scenic route. DO NOT walk across the lawn for a “short cut.” Walk on the sidewalk and chat with them. You are walking with them through their potential new neighborhood and the better the rapport you build with them; the friendlier the neighborhood will feel to them. Don’t just point out, “There is the swimming pool.” Take them into the pool area and let them see the other residents having a good time. Ask your prospect if they enjoy swimming or the sun. Learn what interests they may have in/with the pool area. Turn whatever they say into a positive. If they say they have children, mention that the rules allow children swimming privileges as long as they are accompanied by an adult. If they don’t have children, point out that there is a scheduled ‘adult’ swim time that doesn’t allow anyone under 18 in the pool area.
As you walk by the barbeque areas ask them if they like to grill. Talk to them about their favorite foods to cook out and let them know if there are policies regarding the grill area hours of operation or if reservations are required prior to use. This is also an excellent opportunity to tell the prospective resident about any community gatherings like summer picnics or resident holiday gatherings.
After you present the prospect with their new community, show them the more personal side of their potential new apartment home. Point out where they will pick up their mail and which dumpsters are available for their trash. Discuss their trash service days and any limitations on debris volume or size.

Discuss the apartment community’s great maintenance staff. Tell the prospective resident about the maintenance policies regarding emergencies and repair turnaround time. Detail any resident activities that will be coming up soon. And continue to chat with them about the community and the benefits of being a part of it. It is also a good time to point out that there are several staff members who live on site (if that is the case) so you can assure them that the staff cares so much about the property because it is their community as well.
Upon entering the apartment, begin pointing out the features of the apartment and the benefits of each. Make a list of the features and benefits of your apartment homes. For instance something as simple as a plug-in on every wall is a feature. What is the benefit? It is the variety of ways that they can arrange their furniture. Discuss where they would place their furniture. Let them “feel” the apartment. Pay attention to ‘who’ they are and what they say. Do they have the latest and greatest in cell phones? They may be into electronics; you can bring up music and point out the outlets. Have you talked about food at all? If you’ve discussed cooking, you can point out the ability to plug in every kitchen appliance at once. The rapport you have built with your prospective resident will give you clues about how to present the features of your apartment home.
Continue to discuss the benefits of all the features the apartment home may have in general and for your prospect specifically. Do you feature a frost free refrigerator and or self cleaning stove? What are the benefits? How about a dishwasher? What is the benefit? Walk in closets? You get the idea. Don’t just point out the features; discuss the benefits of each feature and how it relates to your prospect. The more excited you are about the possibilities of them living there, the excited they will become as they ‘see’ their home through your eyes.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Great Year End!


I had a wonderful close to 2010.  I was assigned to work at one of Yarco's brand new senior  apartment communities in Globe, Arizona.  The apartment community is beautiful!  I love showing prospects the new apartments.  It was easy to lease the apartment homes.  But, it was not easy to find qualified prospects.  The apartment community is a senior LIHTC community; therefore the window of qualified prospects was small.  Plus, Globe is a smaller town so we exhausted the qualified residents of the area rather quickly.  Then the leasing nearly stopped!  Yikes. 

Here it is the end of the year, only two more weeks during the Holiday season to “tax out” the community and we still had 10 more apartment homes to lease. The month prior, we had rented half that amount of apartments. This was indeed a challenge.

Some of the things we did were visiting the tour bus at the nearby casino that stops with senior citizens from other areas and handed out treats and apartment fliers showing move-in specials. We also put newspaper ads in the large cities many states over. These along with calling and calling the entire past guest cards brought us enough qualified prospects to lease all the apartment homes!
Kudos go to Becky, Laura, Eileen and . . . .     
Linda Hansen, ARM, HCCP

BEFORE ANYONE SAYS A WORD.  .  . Ok, so an apartment rental prospect visits your community for consideration of their new home.  A lot m...