While marketing and resident screening can be time-consuming processes to begin with, a property manager’s real challenge starts the second your new renter signs on the dotted line. The math, at least in the ideal case, is simple: high occupancy rates + model residents = everyone is happy.
So, how do you retain your best residents?
Use Technology the Smart Way
When it comes to tech and cloud-based services, using whatever’s new and slightly edgy is a good idea, especially for Millennials, the prime renting generation right now. Having a good website, virtual tours and an up-to-date Instagram account—you know, the new basics—can take you a long way, but what about retaining residents?
Yes, some residents still want to pay their rent in cash for whatever reason, and I’m not suggesting leaving them out. In terms of options, more is always the better, and that is why focusing on today while peeking at tomorrow is always a good strategy. In terms of tech, this means efficient property management software, as well as offering options such as online payments, paperless processing and a welcoming portal for residents. In a world where 75 percent of internet traffic goes through mobile devices, the members of your community are not only online. They’re online and on the go, so you’d better keep up!
Make Communication Channels Work to Your Advantage
A huge amount of devastating online reviews—regarding multifamily communities, hospitality or the broader services sector—do not focus on the problem itself, but rather on the way it was handled and the attitude of the person receiving the complaint. The real deal breaker for good renters and the thing that scares potential residents is not a broken pipe, but rather the fact that whoever is in charge of getting it fixed is not reachable and does not communicate properly.
Centralize all your communication channels and make sure your residents can reach you through whichever means they prefer. Texts? Sure, why not, you got a work number. Leaving an office voice message? Makes sense. Facebook? The community has a page. If not, it should. Fax? OK, maybe not so much, but just to tick another box… if you still have a fax line, you can forward all of that to your work email. Just ask the IT guy.
All of these options are, in the end, pretty much cost-free and require a minimal amount of organizing for you to be on top of the situation. Don’t forget, being approachable is the best form of preventive damage control.
The hospitality world calls it “intuitive customer service”; people in multifamily property management would rather refer to it as “pro-active attitude.” Whatever you call it, the concept is simple: Address the problem before it hits, offer the perk before the client expects you to. Diplomacy rules say that handling an issue before it occurs gives you the upper hand and this can save your reputation and your balance sheet at the same time.
When nuts and bolts need replacing, odds are a good property manager will know before the resident. Of course, this will not happen every single time, but an unexpected upgrade always goes a longer way than damage control, even if it is something as small as a light bulb. If it’s in the budget, act on it! If not, can you squeeze it in? If it has to be fixed eventually, it will be in the budget anyway—this quarter or the next one—so it makes all the sense to address it as soon as you can.
The First Step to Building a Community
If you have never been to a cringy community party—and I sure hope you have never organized one—changes are you’ve heard at least a couple of horror stories. Most times, the problem comes from the fact that no one bothered to actually talk to the residents about their expectations and what would actually make them happy. It might sound basic, but it does happen all the time, and this is why the cornerstone of building a community is knowing what your tenants want.
Surveys work, and so do casual hallway conversations. You can simply slip notes into their mailboxes to let them know ideas are welcomed. Whatever it is, be approachable and help people get in touch on their own terms and in their own rhythm. And the best way to do this is by understanding their needs and expectations. First step? Ask. People will notice.
P.S.—Forgot to mention a scientifically proven fact: All of the above work better if you add ice cream.