Seven Keys to Improving Resident Retention Rates

By John Ely, Signature WorldwideToo often, I see multifamily housing managers put all their efforts behind fancy sales and advertising promotions to bring in new tenants. New business is great—don’t get me wrong—but what if you were able to fill your entire complex without having to go to great lengths to pull in new residents? What if you were able to re-sign the majority, if not all, of your tenants with a proactive resident retention plan? What if this plan involved little cost to you? Do I have your attention yet?It’s a lot easier, and a lot less expensive, to retain a current tenant than it is to pull in a new one. Just add up the expenses. In addition to the loss of rent while the apartment is vacant, you’ll probably incur maintenance costs, such as carpet cleaning, appliance repairs and painting to prepare the unit for new tenants. Finding a new tenant will require marketing dollars, such as advertising and resident referral incentives, in addition to leasing concessions often given at the time of signing.Plus, if a tenant leaves because he was unhappy, you also incur the costs of bad word-of-mouth marketing, which may prevent future signings.So, how do you avoid all of this hassle and create an emotional bond and relationship with your current tenants that will leave them eager to stay put?As soon as the lease is signed, start planning for retention. Here’s your seven-point game plan.•  Be Proactive. A resident retention effort should begin well before the lease renewal period. Your focus on resident retention should start the day you sign a tenant, not when the lease is up. Constantly communicate with your residents to see what your staff can be doing better, and then act on their suggestions. If they’re happy with their apartment and the service they’re receiving, they won’t leave!•  Be Personal. Remember, when you receive a signed lease, you’re doing more than providing a tenant an apartment, you’re providing a home. Because the home is a personal place, you must respond with personal service.Make sure you know your tenants’ names, and keep a log of their interests, their children’s names and any additional information that is important to them. Smile and engage in personal conversations when you see them in the hall or parking lot. They’ll feel like a valued tenant and friend.It’s important your whole staff delivers personal service, from management to maintenance. Hire the best employees to help make sure all of your tenants are happy, and reward your staff for every extra mile they go for your residents.•  Be Attentive. Respond to requests immediately—no matter what the subject. In today’s fast-paced world, all consumers want immediate answers. Do your best to respond to tenant inquiries within a couple of hours with real answers to their questions and a timeline of deliverables.As the lease renewal period draws near, make renewal a priority.•  Make the Contact. Don’t wait for a resident to contact you for a renewal, and don’t bring up a new lease when you’re dealing with a negative issue like late rent or a broken appliance. Associate the renewal with something positive like sharing news of upcoming community improvements or a mail delivery.Mention the renewal in advance of the traditional renewal period. Some communities even schedule semi-annual preventative maintenance check-ups the month their first renewal conversation should occur, so the leasing consultant has a timely reason to contact the resident.•  Make The Effort. Don’t make the resident come to the leasing office for a renewal discussion. Offer to go and see residents in their homes, at their convenience. You will be able to provide undivided attention that isn’t always possible while sitting behind a desk. In addition, by meeting face-to-face, you have a wonderful opportunity to personally thank residents for their tenure and invite them to renew. This discussion will allow you to discover new wants and needs and allow you to continue building value in your community.•  Make it Your Priority. Don’t bring up the renewal and leave it in the resident’s hands to make a decision to stay or go. Review the resident’s wants and needs and address each of those areas in a follow-up conversation. Be politely persistent so the resident knows he is a valued part of your community.•  Make a Convincing Plea. Be creative in your follow-up communications to undecided residents. Send a note including a picture of your team pouting that reads, “We’ll be sad if you leave.” Or, hold a “No Place Like Home” party. These gatherings will help residents bond with their neighbors, creating more of an emotional tie to your community.Before you start brainstorming the next big promotion to reach new residents, first look to your current tenants. Remember, your best customers are the ones you already have.The most effective resident retention plans don’t necessarily have lavish perks. They start with personal, proactive service and end with happy tenants. Happy tenants translate to re-signed leases. And that translates to money and time savings for you and your team!John Ely is senior vice president of marketing for Signature Worldwide, a training and business solutions company. Ely has more than 16 years of industrial and consumer marketing experience. For more information, call (800) 398-0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com/pr.