This article was posted on Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012

As individuals, we all have our own little pet peeves.  What may turn off one prospect may not bother another.  As apartment professionals, we cannot afford to turn off a single customer, and image is everything.

Keeping our communities neat and clean is not only easy to do, it is generally an inexpensive way to attract customers and create a pleasant property atmosphere.  Take a look around at your community.  Do any of the following situations exist?  Here are 10 ways your apartment community may be turning off prospects:

Sad Signage

If a monument sign looks scruffy, it creates an expectation that the rest of the community will be the same or worse.   Poor signage includes worn and tattered signage, signage that is too small or difficult to read or just plain unattractive.  Signage that directs prospects throughout the community can also prevent customers from walking in your door.  A poorly designed directional will lead the driver to find the nearest exit instead of walking in your front door.

Do your signs have an equal housing opportunity logo on them?  I am not an attorney, but one does not need a law degree to know that we should welcome everyone, so why not add it to your sign?  Don’t forget the parking signs either.  This is the last thing prospects see before they get out of their car.

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Each visual that guides people in and out of your community should be in tip-top shape.   It does not have to cost a fortune either.  Better to be simple and well done than extravagant and poorly executed.

Lackluster Curb Appeal

Keeping the driveways, walkways and landscaping free of discarded items goes beyond creating a neat community appearance; it is also a good step towards crime prevention and risk management.   Take a quick look for broken glass, rubbish, sharp items that may have accidentally fallen out of trash bags and cigarette butts.  No matter how pretty the flowers may be, having litter and unsightly items in view will deter a potential renter.  Ensure that sidewalks are easily navigated and do not pose a trip hazard.Lousy Landscaping

While some lump landscaping into curb appeal, I have a different viewpoint.    Landscaping is more than just what is next to the curb, and it can have a major impact on a property’s marketability.  For the record, when I say marketability, I also include the re-sell, or renewal of the lease.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that your resident will not drive through the competition when considering their renewal.  If the grounds look better than yours next door, they may just decide to stop in a “look” – a deadly potential for your renewal.

I see so many communities that pinch pennies on mulch and only place sparse flowers in front of the monument sign.  This pennywise, pound-foolish approach does not serve your property.  Landscaping should be considered throughout all major thoroughfares when planning for flowers.  Be sure to add color in front of the model as well.

Poor Parking

Unkempt parking areas and parking areas that are uneven, cracked or unmarked are all turn offs.  I still see parking areas that do not have designated handicapped parking.  This is not only poor customer service, it is against the law in most places!  Parking should be easily accessible, well marked and close to the front door for inclement weather conditions.

Employees should never park in the closet spots.  Leave the premium spots for residents and prospective residents.  Vendors should be told to do the same.

Abhorrent Amenities

Green swimming pools are one of my top turn-offs.  So are sagging tennis court nets, frayed and or sagging volleyball nets, wobbly slides, broken wings and pool areas that have faded and cracked furniture.  Pools covered in leaves or uncovered during winter are telltale signs of poor maintenance in my book.  Your prospect will think the same.

Interior amenities can also be a turn-off.  Placing a used computer running Microsoft Word 2000 is not impressive.  Even worse is a “fitness center” where half of the machines are inoperable.  Again, what the prospect sees creates an expectation of what to expect in their home.  When viewing things that are in disrepair, they may wonder if the icemaker or dishwasher will work when they move in.  This doubt will cost you the lease.

Messy Models

There is never a good reason for a model to be dirty.  Customers will not pay attention to the great features in your model when staring a dead bug in the antennae.  When your prospect notices the toilet has been used as a public bathroom, it can be repulsive.  Toilet seats should be down and covered.  Another personal pet peeve is toilet paper that has been clearly used and just hanging.  If toilet paper is there, it should be folded like an upscale hotel.

Prospects do not wish to see sinks with drink stains and water stains.  A dirty refrigerator will turn most prospects away.  If model refrigerators must serve double duty for resident functions or other office use (I suggest refraining from this), they must be cleaned regularly.  Dirty carpet makes a model look tired, no matter how nice the furnishings may be.  Discolored tubs and sinks are simply not acceptable.

Not-So-Neat Notices

In this era of technology, there is no excuse for displaying handwritten notices (often penned sloppy handwriting) on the office door at the mailboxes.  How many times have you approached a business with a hand-written note that reads “Out to lunch” or “Be right back”?  Not often, right?  When you do see this, what is your impression of the establishment?  I bet it is not very favorable.  It is too simple to print a sign from our computers or use pre-printed signs.  Printed signs simply look more professional, and signs with hard-to-read handwriting can be a customer turn-off.

Burned-Out Bulbs or Poor Lighting

Replace any burned-out light bulbs as soon as possible.  Make sure all customer areas of the clubhouse, amenities, model and parking areas have ample lighting and take into consideration renters with aging or less-than-perfect eyesight.  Your community should be well illuminated for all customers.  This also includes signage.  Nothing looks worse than a poorly lit sign at night.

Offensive Odors

Customers understand that if they visit a lawn and garden center, they will have to deal with the smell of fertilizer.  They may find fresh-paint smell of a newly renovated apartment a positive – although if the smell is over-powering, it could all backfire. Certain odors are understandable and may even appeal to the prospect’s sense of smell.  However, renters don’t want to smell an employee’s lunch drifting across the clubhouse.

Smells can be helped by using neutralizers to combat any offensive odors.  Avoid anything too strong – that includes deodorizers.  Smokers beware!  Many people who smoke cannot detect the smoke odor and therefore may overlook a smell that is unpleasant to a prospect or resident.

Disorganized Desks or Work Areas

This is something that I personally struggle with, so for those creative geniuses who just don’t see the value in organizing and all the “minutiae” of de-cluttering, listen up:  Just do it!  If your desk looks like a bomb went off, what should a prospect expect their apartment to look like on move-in day?  First impressions create an expectation; the prospect may wonder if you can keep track of his or her rent check if you are having problems putting your hands on a document you touch on a daily basis, such as a floor plan.

Maintenance staffs are not off the hook either.  A messy shop DOES get noticed.  So does the golf cart with rubbish on the seats and work buckets with a mish-mash of items hanging out.  Being messy is like having company come over and not cleaning; it sends a message that you do not take pride in your personal living space.  You “live” at work for at least eight hours a day, so make it presentable.

 Create a daily checklist and use it religiously.  It is easy to overlook seemingly small details when you work in the same spaces day after day.  Someone once said, “The devil is in the details.”  I say the dollar is in the details.  Good luck and happy leasing!

Rebecca Rosario is a national trainer with more than 20 years of multifamily marketing, training, sales and management experience.  For more information, email her at [email protected], call 866-29-TRAIN or visit her website at  Reprinted with permission.



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