This article was posted on Friday, Mar 30, 2012

If you are to be effective in property management, you must continually strengthen resident retention.  With resident retention so important, why do so many sad-isfied residents tell me, When I was considering renting, they waited on me hand and foot.  Now that I’ve moved in, it’s my turn to wait for everything!
While there has been a revolution in service in our industry, many residents indicate it’s only Lip Service!  How effective are you in living up to commitments made to your residents?
Ask yourself this question, What does a satisfied resident look like?  When I recently asked this of a group of landlords and property managers, they said that satisfied residents do some of the following actions:

¢  Smile when they pass you or speak in pleasant tones and in a warm, friendly manner over the phone
¢  Call you by name when they greet you
¢  Pay their rent on time
¢  Take their garbage all the way to the dumpster (in multi-unit buildings)
¢  Refer others like themselves to your rentals

I recall one landlord who took resident retention on as her personal mission.  She remarked, I want to make sure that living in the property is the pleasant experience I represented when I first leased them the home!
It was obvious that she was looking for opportunities to create resident retention.  Her attitude was the most important factor.  She responded with solution-oriented feedback when her residents presented her with problems.  She also sought out areas where challenges might occur and modified these conditions before they became problems.
By sending resident surveys, she was able to receive specific feedback on potential areas of improvement and desired upgrades.  She then worked to implement those improvements that were economically feasible.   When confronted with an angry resident, she tried to remain calm, professional and most importantly, realistic about a solution.  She attributed her success in working with angry residents to consistency and fair treatment to everyone.

It is critical to set resident retention goals and institute programs that meet those goals.  I’ve isolated four specific stages where individuals are making a decision on whether or not to remain or become a resident:

¢  Prospective Resident
¢  New Resident
¢  Residing Resident
¢  Intent to Vacate

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Prospective Resident
Do you paint a realistic picture for prospects when they are first considering renting?  We found that in some situations sad-isfied residents were created by landlords overselling the rental; i.e. promising features and property or neighborhood attributes that were not truly present in order to simply rent the place.

New Resident
The greatest impact you have on resident retention occurs when the prospect becomes a resident.  His/her first impression of living in your rental occurs then.
What programs do you have in place to cement that relationship?  Here are a few possible approaches to this goal

¢  Move-In Package “ Develop a special move-in package you will give each new resident.
¢  Market-Ready Move-In Checklist “ Create a checklist to ensure every apartment is 100% ready when the new resident moves in.
¢  Local Area Service Guide “ Create a list of all the services and merchants available in your area, such as schools, stores and recreation.

Residing Resident
It is at this time that a resident is most often forgotten.  They were given special treatment when first applied and moved-in.  During the move-in and property acclimation process, they received a great deal of attention from you to ensure they were settled into their new home.  What specific programs do you have in effect to create resident retention during this time?  Here are a few of the many ideas developed:

¢  Resident Rewards Program “ Offer resident access to exclusive discounts to local merchants and restaurants.  [AOA has the Resident Discount Club specifically designed for this purpose1]
¢  Resident Newsletter – This device should be used to keep residents informed of rental policies and ways you celebrate accomplishments of your residents (or their children).  For example, yard of the month, birthdays, good grades, etc.
¢  Referral Program “ If a referral program is legally permitted in your area, it is a tremendous way to thank residents for referring new residents to your community and fill unwanted vacancies.
¢  Anniversary Gifts “ on their rental anniversaries.  Offer to give small or relatively low-cost property improvements, upgrades to your residents each year.  Examples of what I’m talking about could include one room of their choice carpet cleaned, one room of their choice painted, maid service for a day, lawn or landscaping service for a day, new flooring in the bath or kitchen or one complimentary pest control treatment.

Intent to Vacate
Landlords should concentrate lots of energy on possibly saving a resident who has given notice to move.  Once a resident begins making plans to leave, they are certain to talk about your rental for a period of time after they move.  What will they say, What a great place, sorry I had to go or Was I glad to get out of there!  ‘s up to you.

Intent to Vacate Program: Determine the real reason a resident is leaving.  If they have a job transfer or are buying a home, it’s difficult to save that intent.  However, if a resident loses a roommate or runs into a temporary financial crisis, there may be a way to work it out.  Every canceled intent to vacate is like two rentals.  Are you interviewing every resident giving their intent to vacate?  Are you willing to paint, shampoo or even re-carpet a home to save a resident?

Cost of Moving: Develop a simple flyer that shows residents the real cost of a move.  New deposits, new phone, address changes, renting a van or moving company add up to significant dollars!

Resident retention is not a destination, but a journey.  It is your personal statement, This is my work product.  I’ve put a measure of my time and life into creating a great home that I can be proud of.

Russ Sandlin is a management consultant and can be reached at  Reprinted with permission of the Wisconsin Apartment Association News.

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