Please Don’t Go: How to Retain Long-Term Renters

Attracting a new customer is five times more expensive than retaining an existing one. This underlines the importance of delivering a five-star experience that leads to a stronger community and connects with residents on a new level.

By Jamie Matusek

Jamie_MatusekA positive renter experience keeps properties full, but a negative one creates strain on leasing teams, operations and budget. Attracting a new customer is five times more expensive than retaining an existing one, according to Invesp in “Customer Acquisition Versus Retention Costs.” This underlines the importance in delivering a five-star renter experience that lends to a stronger community, connects with residents on a new level and increases residents referring new residents.

Revenue is generated from maintaining current residents, so how do you focus on keeping the ones you have?

Implement a New Customer Experience 

Renewal Touchpoint Campaigns

Residents typically don’t hear from their leasing teams until six months prior to renewal. If you are not connecting with residents early and often, you are missing opportunities to develop a relationship with your renters.

Implementing rental touch point campaigns can help residents feel more valued, leading to higher renewal rates. Campaigns should start right at lease signing, including tactics like:

  • Sending a thank you email
  • Preparing a simple welcome basket to leave in the unit
  • Touching base monthly, including an invitation to let office staff know of anything they need
  • As issues occur, having maintenance leave a note in unit when a repair has been completed and having a leasing team member visit the unit the next day to see how things went

Once the lease is approaching renewal, ask the resident what they would value at renewal and then offer something from their list to create a sense of connection and value.  

Capital Investments & Service Offerings

Given that the cost savings associated with rental renewals can average up to $2500, it’s beneficial to offer small upgrades that make a big difference in ensuring renter satisfaction. This requires more than a fresh coat of paint. Changes with minimal associated costs that make living more convenient to renters such as Nest Thermostats or changing out existing wall outlets to USB functionality demonstrate a shared interest in making units more functional and appealing—particularly to long-term renters.

It always pays to ask residents what matters most to them, as it creates a connection and a sense that your team is listening. All properties budget for incentives. Have your team request resident input for possible upgrades and include those in your annual budget.

Ensure Brand Consistency

Property brands that maintain long-term renters are driven and strengthened by two important factors: consistency and interaction. Every touch point with which a resident interacts—from an ad on their device to the appearance of the front office—should tie back to your brand, and create the same emotions and experience for a resident.

  • Bring branded color into your community spaces through paint, decorative items, furniture and lighting.
  • Have staff wear clothing that speaks to the brand or brand colors.
  • Unify staff members around your messaging. Ensure employees are well-versed in your brand’s culture and values—what they are and how they can embody them.
  • Establish your brand voice. Think beyond how your brand looks to how it sounds. Specifically, consider your tone on social media and in online reviews, where most of interactions with residents and prospects can take place.
  • Consistently promote your brand. Incorporate branding into events and promotional items.
  • Don’t forget the maintenance process. Create an impact through response times, notes, and follow-ups that showcase your brand values.

Focus on Reputation Management 

Happy residents lead to positive reviews—and the significance of reviews is twofold. says: “The more reviews you have, the better. Research shows the first 10 reviews a business receives can move it from the second page of search results to the first. And 50 reviews have been proven to increase click-through rate by 266 percent.” There are several ways to accumulate reviews, and doing so at a time when residents are already likely to be happy can boost your review scores, leveraging existing tenants to draw in new prospects.

Monitoring those same reviews provides insight that is advantageous in ensuring renter satisfaction. Platforms such as J Turner Research provide a detailed view into the types of reviews you are receiving, giving operations teams an opportunity to leverage information to correct pervasive issues and understand what additional services the property should consider. For example, do people complain about trash pickup? Consider bringing in a valet trash service (this is something renters pay for, but it’s “sponsored” by the property). Other add-on services might include package delivery lockers if there are complaints about inability to pick up packages at the front office.

Unlocked Potential

At the end of the day, prioritize creating a unique and unmatched renter experience. This helps to build brand loyalty, increase renewal rates, and word-of-mouth referrals which bolster your property and establish long-term renters that positively impact your bottom line.

Jamie Matusek brings over 20 years of experience in account leadership, operations, sales, and interactive and traditional marketing to her role as president of Catalyst. Matusek leads the company’s team of experts to grow the client portfolio, expand into new industry verticals, and strengthen existing client relationships. Over the past three years at Catalyst, Matusek has been instrumental in introducing integrated marketing to the student and multifamily housing industries, while establishing key business practices, restructuring team processes and developing marketing strategies that positively drive the bottom line.


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