6 Tips for Resident Retention

Demonstrate excellent customer service with these key features, says Jessica Weathers of Stonemark Management.


Jessica Weathers

With apartment occupancy at historic highs, leasing units is easier than it has ever been. In some hot markets, units are leasing sight-unseen. While it may be tempting to use this as an opportunity to take a deep breath, it can also be a tremendous opportunity for the entire onsite team to cultivate fresh strategies to encourage retention.

There are only a few reasons you might be happy to see someone go. Either they bought a house or landed a great new job making them move to another location. If not, you want to give them a residence they are comfortable in, proud of, and happy to call home. You do that by creating the sense of community.

Touring Opportunities

A retention strategy actually starts prior to move-in, at the time they are researching and touring the community. You want to make sure future residents see all the best parts of the community, not only the amenities, but the customer service of onsite teams. They see a community that has been taken care of as if it were a place you yourselves would want to move into. You want to ensure that the apartment they have not been able to see is in the best condition possible. That means making sure everything works—with no outstanding maintenance orders—and is appealing to the eye.

Everyone knows how stressful moving is, when that new resident moves into your community that they already have fallen in love with, how exciting is it for them to see a gift in their kitchen or on the fireplace mantle. This gift can be anything from a card welcoming them to their new home attached to a custom set of wine tumblers, a candle, or even those toiletries we all lose in boxes when we are trying to unpack.

Extra Level Care

The next—ongoing—step is to give them an extra level of comfort and care. This can include adding clean towel bars at the fitness center and pool and offering complimentary sunscreen stations. Go back to the basics, making sure you stock free waste disposal bags at the dog parks and set up easy-to-clean outdoor pet spas near the car care centers. (Speaking of pets, encouraging the maintenance team to carry a few dog treats in their pockets is great for building goodwill.)

Resident Investment

Creating a budget that helps give residents a sense of belonging is important. While keeping true with fair housing, you can also celebrate victories for your residents; you could give residents fresh flowers. This can be for those living in premium units—or for special occasions such as a new baby, a graduation, a promotion or passing a certification or Bar exam. A little goes a long way. While we’re talking about flowers—investing in curb appeal is never wasted. Keep the shrubs trimmed and plant beautiful seasonal blooms. You want everyone to feel good when they approach their home. Make it a place they are excited to show their friends and family.

Routine Maintenance

Paying special attention to one or more buildings a month helps schedule preventive maintenance—but it can also do much more. In addition to routine pressure washing and other tasks, the team can reach out and ask residents what they might need in terms of maintenance. It’s also a good time to offer paint touch-ups, to assist with moving something heavy, or maybe to give small but thoughtful “thanks-for-living-here” gifts.

Human Connection

That human connection is extremely important. If a resident drops by the office on a regular basis, it may seem irritating. Instead, it could be an opportunity to strengthen a relationship. Thinking ahead and adjusting the workflow for a regular visitor can give an opportunity to talk about their hobbies, children or grandchildren. Remember, people don’t live where we work—we work where they live!

Building a Community

Managers can build a sense of community by organizing charitable efforts such as food drives, back-to-school donations or toy collections. Morale-builders could also include a movie night at the pool, a weekly food truck or a game that offers a prize. It doesn’t have to be the perfect party. Anytime you try something new there is a possibility that something may go wrong. And if it does, use it like any other challenge—learn from it, focus on what went right and try again.

Don’t forget about those who also decided to renew their lease with the community. The entire term of their residency, you have made the community a place they wanted to continue to live in. Having their front door freshly painted and gifting them a wreath or a doormat not only says, “Thank you for renewing,” but also spruces up the exterior of the community.

Where do these ideas come from? Everywhere—and from everyone! You can encourage new, out-of-the-box ideas at team meetings. Note interesting details at restaurants, hotels and other public places. Pinterest can yield great inspirations. Visiting comparable properties can help as well. After all, we’re all in this together!

Overall, thinking ahead and working to retain residents can reinforce to them that they made the best choice when they decided where to live. This can lead to positive word-of-mouth in person and on social media. At the end of the day, demonstrating excellent customer service makes things better for everyone—residents, owners and managers included.

Jessica Weathers is a regional manager for Stonemark Management.

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