By Diana Mosher, Editorial Director
Boston—Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can make the biggest impact on operations—but these tried-and-true solutions may fall by the wayside during times of staff turn-over and when seemingly better new ideas come along. At the National Apartment Association Education Conference & Exposition in Boston, educational sessions like “60/60—60 Tips from Pros with 60 Years of Experience” revisited pointers that are as valid for larger operators as for independents. Jim Stewart, Mike Butler, Dan Lieberman and Brent Sobol took turns sharing a number of ideas designed to have a positive impact on operations.
For starters, the panelists stressed the importance of getting prospects to leave other sites such as Craig’s List for your apartment property website. Remember the ultimate objective is to capture their email address, so make sure there’s a clear call to action that will accomplish this goal. Connecting with prospects is much easier when they like what they see on your homepage. If you’re not yet using 3D floorplans in your marketing efforts, don’t delay. And remember that in many cases prospects view their pets as “family,” so hosting a pet page on the website—where residents can share pictures of their pets—can differentiate you from the competition down the street… so can other pet amenities. Carve out space for a pet park and/or a pet grooming room where residents will congregate. And don’t forget how popular Halloween Pet Parades have become.
Invest in any number of resident activities that will encourage friendships. This “glue” will make a community stickier and residents will be much more likely to renew their leases. Resident surveys are huge, according to the 60/60 panelists. Finding out what they like and what they’re willing to pay more for is an excellent way to get good residents and keep good residents. Don’t be surprised if the fitness center still rates high on a survey (even though hardly anyone uses it). It remains one of the most highly ranked amenities.
In climates that permit, keep the pool open year-round. Another popular amenity that is not used as much as you’d expect, the pool can contribute to the property’s curb appeal but detract from it when it’s covered up for the off-season. Also, keep finding new ways to make apartment units more valuable. Ask yourselves, “How can we make this unit ‘pop?'” If you provide a feature that the competition doesn’t have, the units will rent quicker.
Resident testimonials are powerful marketing and nothing beats video testimonials. Offer $100-$200 for resident referrals and get those happy residents on camera and on the website. Having a resident say it for you is 10 times better. Another way to get testimonials is by holding a contest such as, “What Do You Like Best About Living Here.” The winning response receives a gift certificate or prize. If you give the staff $5 for every response they elicit from residents, so much the better; but, remember that you don’t need 60 responses for marketing purposes. You only need two or three great ones.
When it comes to the “haters,” the 60/60 panelists suggest that it’s usually people who were evicted in the past. “You have to combat negative online apartment ratings,” they advise. “You can’t ignore them. Pay $198 a year and give your property manager access to respond to any bad rating. Tailored responses are most effective.”
In terms of curb appeal, never underestimate the importance of signage. Directional signs to the leasing office are key, as are reflective signs that help police and firemen locate the property at night. Send someone who’s never been to the property to find out whether your signage is as effective as you think it is.
Reduce or eliminate inefficiencies by compiling and maintaining checklists for every task at the property level. The painter, cleaner, maintenance team member will know exactly what tasks are expected—and the property manager will be able to determine if any steps have been left unfinished or not completely up to the standards.
In terms of fire safety, good practices will save money in the long run. Try two super-easy but important measures: a smoke alarm with a 10-year battery and a stove top “fire stop” device that will quickly extinguish a tenant cooking fire. This simple canister, installed under the stove top, is “the most under-talked-about great thing out there,” according to the 60/60 panelists.
Their good ideas remind us that whether running a single multifamily asset or overseeing an enormous portfolio, property management is critical to multifamily success. What great ideas are driving your resident satisfaction and stretching operational dollars? Share them with MHN and we’ll share them with the industry.