‘On the Ground’ with Eric Brown: Who Owns the Residents’ Experience?

What if leasing agents owned the entire resident experience, from lease to move out? What if we gave them enough autonomy and authority to actually solve resident problems?

Is your leasing person the lowest-paid position on the apartment-marketing payroll? If you are like most apartment operators, that would ring true. There are a multitude of reasons cited, but one that always surfaces is high turnover. Apartment leasing is a churn-and-burn position, a run-them-until-they-drop outlook. Before folks jump on the bandwagon of that-isn’t-the-way-it-is-here (and it may not be that way at your company), just look at the general result. Leasing is one of the highest turnover positions of all. Why is that, and does that make the most sense?

We perceive that part of the reason that leasing folks leave companies are the hours, but I am not convinced of that. Most property management companies are afraid to be open after 6:00 p.m., which are hardly late work hours. The problem is in how we perceive the position. The leasing consultant leases the apartment, and then they are done. They have little interaction with the resident after that, other than the occasional run-in. What tidally happens is that the responsibility for resident satisfaction is handed off to the property manager.

Property managers are also overworked and underpaid, but that is a different article. Are they really the right position to hand off customer relations to? The normal career path for a leasing position is not to become a property manager; it is customary for them, if they stay in the business, to move to a marketing position, regionally or in the corporate office.

What if leasing owned the entire resident experience, from lease to move out? What if we gave them enough autonomy and authority to actually solve resident problems, most of which are the same reoccurring nonsense that we just don’t ever fix? Of course, this would require allowing them to spend money, and how could we ever trust that, right? That is the problem. Most of our staff know how to solve the problems, yet the corporate gods and goddesses have such a latch control that no one makes a decision, and the resident experience suffers.

Eighty percent or more of the resident issues could be solved with a well-scripted set of site guidelines. Involvement from “corporate” on a full 80 percent of evident issues is overrated and a waste of ownership’s money.

Eric Brown’s background is rooted in the rental and real estate industries. He founded metro Detroit’s Urbane Apartments in 2003, after serving as senior vice president for Village Green Companies, a Midwest apartment developer. He also established The Urbane Way, a social media marketing and PR laboratory, where innovative marketing ideas are tested.

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