CARES: Creating Community in an Apartment near You
- Jul 26, 2011
Resident retention plays a large role in maintaining a healthy bottom line. But competitive rents and updated amenities can only go so far. Sometimes a sense of camaraderie is the best way to keep your residents around. Since 2000, non-profit CARES by Apartment Life has helped apartment owners create communities that attract and retain residents.
By Michael Ratliff, Associate Editor
Resident retention plays a large role in maintaining a healthy bottom line. But competitive rents and updated amenities can only go so far. Sometimes a sense of camaraderie is the best way to keep your residents around. Since 2000, non-profit CARES by Apartment Life has helped apartment owners create communities that attract and retain residents. Stan Dobbs, CARES founder and chief executive officer,got the idea while serving as a pastor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in a ministry of lower-income communities.
“We spent a lot of time in these apartment communities and saw that the industry, while they did a great job operating the property, really struggled with the human dimension of the business and meeting the needs of the customer,” says Dobbs.
Dobbs now fills that void with a CARES team, the basic unit of his program. A CARES team is usually comprised of a married couple or family. They receive a two-bedroom unit in the complex where they work in exchange for building a sense of community among residents, staff and property management.
When a new resident moves in, the CARES team is there to give a warm welcome and assess move-in satisfaction. The renter is introduced to his or her new neighbors at the three events CARES plans each month, ranging from community breakfasts to Super Bowl parties.
“Statistics show that the more friends a resident has, the more likely they are to renew their lease,” says Dobbs. “Fifty-three percent of apartment residents say they don’t have a single friend who lives in their community,” he continued, referencing a Witten Advisors report that has tracked CARES communities since 2003.
Aside from greeting and getting residents together, CARES teams are there to lend a hand when life hits a rough patch, whether it be divorce, illness or job loss. When it comes time to renew, the team visits each resident to asses satisfaction and encourages them to stay. CARES does everything it can to smooth out any qualms and provides management with retention alerts and reports.
While the program is inherently hospitable, its effectiveness comes down to the numbers. CARES adds approximately $138,000 in annual financial benefits to an average community through reduced turnover, according to Witten Advisors research. A CARES team costs roughly $20,000 per year based on fees and on-site housing.
There are currently 325 CARES teams, about 650 people, operating in 14 cities primarily in the South. Greystar, which has over 50 CARES teams, found that the program increased resident retention rates by 5 percent. CARES is seeking to expand on its success, and will continue making neighborhoods out of buildings.
“Our 10-year vision is to have 2,000 CARES teams,” says Dobbs, who has sights on California, Florida and Washington, D.C. “We have very aggressive expansion plans in place.”