How to Compete with that New Building on the Block

Lisa: What’s so special about this game anyway? It’s just another chapter in the pointless rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world’s largest pizza, so we burnt down their city hall.
Homer: Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, they swore they’d get us back by spiking our water supply. But they didn’t have the guts.
Marge: [drinks the tap water] Ooooh. The walls are melting again.

-The Simpsons

The multifamily industry is hot now, and that’s all good for all of us. Tons of people are renting. Which also means that new apartments are being built all the time. And, just because you have a new building that’s attracting residences now doesn’t mean in a few months a new building will be developed with even newer amenities. To quote Heidi Klum, one minute you’re in, and the next, you’re out. (Ouch, by the way. Klum is gorgeous and is clearly very business savvy. Why not leave us normals in peace?) So, how do you compete against other nearby buildings?

Depends. To attract new renters, you could go the route of upgrading your amenities. Like if your laundry room smells like mildew and female residents tend to bring mace down. Or if your business center has dial-up modems. Or if the gym consists of three barbells and one of those old fashioned vibrating belt things. It probably couldn’t hurt to go for an upgrade then. But what if you can’t afford a renovation, or if your stuff is still pretty new? Or what if you end up in some weird apartment building Cold War situation, where you and all your competitors start stockpiling amenities and upgrades, and pretty soon there’s no place for anyone to live? (But at least there’d be a water slide then. Worth it!)

Your best bet is to focus on retention of your current residents. If your residents are happy, they’ll keep paying you. And you might even be able to attract new residents by word of mouth.

After all, just because those other buildings on the block are new doesn’t make them better. As Gretchen Wieners so astutely said in Mean Girls, “Why should Caesar get to stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smushed under his big feet? What’s so great about Caesar? Hm? Brutus is just as cute as Caesar. Brutus is just as smart as Caesar. People totally like Brutus just as much as they like Caesar. And when did it become OK for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Rome is about.”

Totally.

Here are some suggestions on how to make your building the envy of all the other property managers on the block.

Always a good decision.

Have fun programs for residents (that they’d actually want to participate in). If people are involved in their apartment building and know and like their neighbors, they’re definitely more likely to stay. It’s all about creating a community, as opposed to renting out rooms. Maybe have a Biggest Loser competition so people who are looking to lose weight can reach their goals together. And I’ve said it before, no one can resist an ice cream sundae social (actually, that might be a problem if you also have a Biggest Loser contest, but c’est la vie. Ooh, you could have a French club!)

Make technology tweaks. Don’t go nuts with upgrades, but in this day and age you really should offer a way for residents to pay their rent online. You might even be able to set up a system where people can choose to pay automatically each month. Then they won’t even think about rent.

Keep track of your online reviews.  Are people saying bad things about the community (don’t worry, there’s always one in the bunch)? If they are, respond to the review and fix it if you can. And don’t be a jerk by writing fake reviews about other buildings or a dweeb by writing fake positive reviews about yourself. There’s all sorts of weird algorithms that can figure that out now. And if people find out, you’ll lose all credibility. And, seriously, not cool. You’ll look like one of those people who send themselves flowers from their “girlfriend” who’s a “model” “abroad.” Dude, do you have no shame? If you’re going to do it, at least send yourself candy so other people can have some.

Make sure your staff responds to concerns from residents. People may say they would leave their job because of a low salary, but most people end up leaving a job because they’re mistreated by their boss. Same concept goes for apartments—it’s about the relationships, not the money. The super should stop by to fix that overflowing toilet when he says he’s going to (this isn’t the cable guy, you know). The landlord should be visible, and not just went she’s looking for rent payments. The pool boy should always, always, stop by, even if there is no pool.

Lower your rent. OK, maybe it’s about the money a little bit.

What are some of your other suggestions for competing against other buildings in the area?

-Jessica Fiur, News Editor 

Photo credit: MSPhotographic