This article was posted on Tuesday, Sep 01, 2015

How’s your move-in experience? If it consists of getting a signature, handing over the keys, and waiting for the checks to arrive, it may leave something to be desired.

If your community isn’t putting its best foot forward with new residents, it’s time to give your move-in experience new momentum. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make yours count with this three-month plan for resident move-ins. 

Move-In Day
Little things can set your community apart when new residents move in. Most people are accustomed to no fanfare whatsoever, so making a great impression takes surprisingly little effort.

A personalized welcome sign in the lobby gets the day started right. If you place fresh flowers, a gift basket, or a sandwich plate in the apartment, residents will never forget. More importantly, they’ll tell their friends how great it was moving into your community.

Of course, all residents should receive a welcome packet with a map of the community and the area, community guidelines, a list of local landmarks and points of interest — and some branded items like pens, refrigerator magnets, and water bottles with the community’s logo.

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As your new residents are unloading the truck, a great touch is for several members of the maintenance crew to stop by to check on them and offer assistance with heavy items. Again, these small touches take little effort on your part but leave a lasting, positive impression. 

Move-In week
During the first week, preferably within a few days of move-in, you or a staff member should call to check in. Is everything working OK? Are there any maintenance issues? Are they finding their way around town? If the residents report any problems, get them fixed and follow up promptly.

End of the First Week
Schedule a formal maintenance checkup for the end of the first week. The new residents should’ve received a checklist with their welcome packet that prompts them to give all systems in the apartment the once-over and note anything that needs tweaking.

End of the First Month
At the end of the first month, schedule a second maintenance checkup. Even if the residents haven’t reported anything amiss, they’re likely to appreciate your maintenance chief stopping by to check. Schedule a similar check every 30 days for the first 3 months.

On a monthly basis, schedule a Newcomers’ Club meeting. Invite speakers who can give your new residents perspective on the local area and ideas for fun things to do—someone from the chamber of commerce would be perfect. Consider scheduling one or two additional social activities each month, like pizza parties or gathering to watch big games in the clubhouse.

End of the First Three Months
At the end of your new residents’ first quarter in your community, email them a survey to find out how you’re doing. This is your opportunity to create some true evangelists for your community. Provide free dinners out for completed surveys, along with additional premiums for Facebook “likes,” retweets, and other social sharing about how much your residents love their new home.

Once each quarter, schedule a “Newbies Night Out.” You or a staff member should join the group for a fun night at a local pub, cinema, bowling alley, or other fun spot. Your new residents may not know many people in the area, and they’ll thank you for introducing them to other residents and getting the social ball rolling.

Through social media, your website, and email list, occasionally offer additional incentives to share information about the community. For example, a referral that results in a move-in might get your new residents $100 off rent. The residents with the most referrals in a period might win a weekend getaway. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and what you think will appeal to your residents.

Seize the Moment to Make a Great Impression
It may be a cliché, but first impressions really can make or break your community’s image. Go the extra mile to make new residents’ move-in experience memorable with a fantastic moving day, frequent check-ins from your maintenance staff, ample social opportunities, and great incentives for spreading the word.

Amanda Cupp is the Senior Marketing Manager for Property Management Solutions at One Call Now and blogger at Multifamily Insiders. She specializes in working with Property Management clients – commercial and residential – to assist in communications with their tenants and residents.  Reprinted with permission of