It might not be something you can check for in an apartment application, but in my experience, the best tenants are those who care about each other. If you own an apartment building and can manage to build community for residents there, you benefit them by bolstering their sense of fellowship in the neighborhood, and you benefit your property by making the residents more likely to respect it.
When I was a kid growing up in Woodland Hills, the apartment building my family lived in offered free bagels and cream cheese in a common area on the first Sunday morning of each month. I remember the thrill of excitement every time, itching to get up early and run down the hall to eat my freebie. I also remember the adults all talking and getting to know each other. I couldn’t believe the building owners were willing to spot us breakfast like that every month. I now know it’s a great example of the impact a small and relatively inexpensive gesture can have.
Community creates a home, and if your tenants feel at home instead of like they’re just passing through, they’ll take better care of their space. A strong sense of connection will also ultimately make your property more desirable to renters, and thereby worthy of higher rent in the long run. We’re all searching for community in one way or another. Creating it for the people who rent from you can make owning apartments a uniquely rewarding experience.
Perhaps nothing creates community more effectively than shared experiences. Of course, you can’t send your tenants backpacking across Europe together, but you can spring for bagels and cream cheese. Sometimes providing a shared experience is as simple as organizing a communal event, like a delivered meal, a potluck, or a happy hour. For instance, wine tasting is all the rage these days (who doesn’t love wine?) and setting up a community tasting for residents only costs the price of a few bottles. If you work with a property manager you trust, they’ll handle the organization and make sure it goes off without a hitch.
I recommend creating a calendar of community events and distributing it to tenants. This way, you can integrate annual events that are useful to your residents, like an electronics recycling day. This particular example is usually well-received, and will keep your trash bins from becoming the final resting place for items that don’t belong there. I’ve also seen tenants have a great time at a pre-trick-or-treat Halloween gathering for families, with a gift card prize for the best costume. One of our clients sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner where landlord and tenants alike contributed to a feast that the whole building enjoyed together, and we heard nothing but glowing reviews from the tenants for weeks afterward. With online reputation mattering more than ever (especially on outlets like NextDoor), this is no small victory.
It’s a Win-Win
Building community at your rental properties applies the evergreen philosophy of property management—leading with care now could make all the difference later. In general, a building full of appreciative and friendly tenants who’ve built relationships there will translate to an easier experience as a property owner. When we organize events like these for our clients, I like to think that there might be a kid at one of them who’s in awe at the magic of free stuff, just like I was. You never know what will stay with a person.
David Crown is the C.E.O. of Los Angeles Property Management Group, and has over thirty years of experience managing all types of income properties. A hands-on leader who has managed properties in 16 states, Mr. Crown has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council. He can be reached directly at 323-433-5254.