Turning Over Units

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorWith summer about to officially begin, the peak season for apartment turnover is here. With rising vacancies, it is tempting to turn over apartments as fast and inexpensively as possible, but it is equally as important not to sacrifice quality in this market. First, walk through the apartment with the present…

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorWith summer about to officially begin, the peak season for apartment turnover is here. With rising vacancies, it is tempting to turn over apartments as fast and inexpensively as possible, but it is equally as important not to sacrifice quality in this market. First, walk through the apartment with the present resident before he moves out, notes Lisa Trosien, multifamily speaker, trainer and consultant. It will not only “alert you to any significant repairs that need to be made,” but will also “prep that outgoing resident for any charges they may incur,” which is critical to ensuring there is no loss of revenue.While the day of the new resident’s move-in is not his first visit to his new community, it could be the first time he sees his new home—and first impressions can be everything. Ensure that all appliances, locks and fixtures are in working order. There’s nothing as bad as receiving service requests from a brand-new resident—and he’ll certainly remember this at renewal time.Create the feel of a new homeWith tightened budgets all around, it is important to recognize how to create a seemingly “unlived-in” environment without breaking the bank. Repainting the walls is obviously one of the first steps in any apartment turnover. Kate Hart, principal designer at Hart & Associates Staging & Design, suggests using a warm, neutral color, as “stark white is too harsh and will look dirty over time.” Next, consider whether the carpet truly needs to be replaced. If so, Hart suggests opting for a light beige, sand or coffee color that would coordinate with any of the resident’s furnishings. For fairly worn carpet that could last one more year, Trosien proposes offering “carpet amnesty.” If your resident damages the carpet, he won’t be charged a fee. You get an additional year out of the carpeting, while the resident doesn’t have to worry about ruining it and having to pay for the replacement. Trosien maintains that this is particularly appealing to residents with pets. Customize the spaceThese minimal steps are what the resident expects. In fact, Hart notes, “By not taking care of your units and making these simple changes, you are actually making your competition look better by comparison.”To make your community stand out, consider “extras” that will make your resident truly feel at home. “The more people can customize their apartment, the longer they are likely to stay. And you’re increasing the value of the asset at the same time,” notes Trosien.These extra steps do not have to be particularly expensive. Hart and Trosien suggest allowing the resident to select an accent wall to paint. While this provides a sense of customization, as Hart points out, “you will not have to repaint the entire unit between renters.” Other customization options include light fixtures, window treatments, kitchen and bath hardware and closet finishes. The Green TouchMore than 60 percent of renters say they search for apartments that offer environmentally friendly amenities, and 25 percent say they are willing to pay more in rent to live in an apartment community that considers the environment in its daily operations, according to a recent Apartments.com survey. Given these statistics, it is obvious that renters are becoming increasingly more green-conscious. As Hart notes, renters are more “willing to shop around before they make a decision,” so she advises, “make sure to keep on trend with today’s hot topics.” Even if your community has never before had any green features, what better way to incorporate some eco-friendliness into your residences than during a turnover? For example, if you’re going to repaint the walls anyway, opt for a low- or zero-VOC paint. Not only can you list it as a step on your path to becoming eco-conscious, but because such coatings produce a low odor, the indoor air quality for your current residents won’t be disturbed.Retrofitting a residence is relatively simple when it’s being turned over. “Many communities today are trying to go green, so this will help them along that path,” says Trosien. “Anything a community can do to create a new niche is going to give them greater market share.”Easy Tips for Greening Your Apartment Turnovers*Recycle the carpet and pad.*Install Energy Star appliances.*Install low-flow fixtures.*Use low-VOC paints and green cleaning supplies.*Change out all bulbs to either compact fluorescent or LEDs. *Replace kitchen and bath flooring and countertops with recycled-content materials.To comment, e-mail [email protected].

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