Resident retention is generally the forgotten element in property management, as the art of apartment marketing and leasing to new prospects is still studied, sliced, diced and pureed by the apartment industry to get optimal strategies of getting people in the door. In fact, the better a community is at apartment marketing and leasing, the more it can mask its shortcomings on the resident retention side. So much effort is made on the leasing side of the business our front line troops are called “Leasing Professionals.” Focusing on Leasing is not a bad idea; however, neglecting another half of your business can alienate your residents, cause high turnover, and severely impact your bottom line.

That is more important: Resident Retention or Apartment Marketing?

When we discuss the worthiness of Resident Retention, it is not to say that apartment marketing isn’t also quite crucial. In other words, to improve retention, we should not sacrifice leasing. That said, an increase in retention is vastly more beneficial than an increase in leasing. This will not be considered a surprising concept. When comparing a new resident to a preexisting resident, the existing resident is a lot more profitable, with almost no make-ready costs and no loss because of vacancy. Additionally, a long-term renter is a lot more prone to refer friends and coworkers when compared to a new renter would.

When you see the difference in profitability between the two groups, it really is shocking how much more we spend on prospects. While prospects and new residents get the advantage of cheaper rent and extensive marketing, existing residents, those who pay the bills, often obtain the short end of the stick. This difference can result in alienation of your current residents, a situation you should strongly avoid.

Ki Residences Sunset Way How come resident retention not on the radar?

Even though we all understand the concept of resident retention, surprisingly little is well known about how to accomplish it. Therefore, most communities choose to either ignore it all together or choose methods that do not achieve the expected goals. Let’s first look into a few of the most typical mistakes manufactured in current retention “techniques.”

Customer Service and Maintenance

Let me be clear about this: Customer support and maintenance aren’t resident retention programs. We constantly hear how important both of these items are, that is completely correct. However, instead of going above and beyond, these items are an expectation, not a perk. Specifically for Class A and Class B properties, residents do not see strong maintenance and customer service as a luxury item they ought to be impressed with. They instead see these items as a required section of living at your community. Consider a restaurant advertising that its food is served warm. Isn’t that expected at a restaurant? And when that is the best trait the restaurant can offer, would you really expect the food to be that great? For a community to advertise a feature that should be standard, they are actually implying that the rest of their service isn’t too impressive!

The infamous summer party…

Summer parties could be a fun perk, but are rarely an excellent investment. Firstly, summer parties can be quite expensive if food emerges, generally which range from $1,500 to $3,000 for a 300-unit community. Ironically, you spend less when you get a low resident turnout at these events. Imagine the price if 100 percent of one’s residents attended! However, probably, you’ll only have around 25 percent of your residents show up. Of these, it’s likely that only about 25 percent has a lease coming up to make the feeling on the renewal decision. Therefore, you are impacting only 6 percent of one’s “target audience.” This means for an average community of 300 units, you are spending roughly $2,000 to reach 18 residents – that’s $111 per resident! Even if the party influences several others that renew later in the entire year, investments in these parties do not justify the reward.

So what are some programs we can implement?

Firstly, know your community. Fair Housing laws limit how much demographic information we are able to keep about our residents, nevertheless, you should at least have a good idea of the different faces of one’s community. Additionally, rather than having one giant one-size-fits-all party, you can coordinate several smaller, targeted parties throughout the year. Having more frequent parties lets you target different demographic groups in your community at different times instead of “putting all your eggs in one basket” approach of large summer events. Spacing these events throughout the year will also guarantee that your events coincide with all of your residents’ renewal periods, this provides you with you the largest impact possible. Here a few ideas that can you can explore that are less costly:

Older Residents

Bridge or Mah Jongg Night
Dinner Rotation – This could be quite popular! Have an indicator up period for singles or couples. These groups then take turns rotating among their apartments hosting small dinner parties for each other.
Singles Crowd
Poker Night at the Clubhouse (for prizes instead of money)
Networking Night
Dance Classes
Sporting events
Children Friendly
Ice Cream Social
Kite Day
Scavenger Hunt
Also, understand that you have purchasing power! Most events around town offer group rates you can transfer to your residents. This can make them feel part of an exclusive club with great deals all the time!

The future of resident retention

Have you heard the word “Resident Portal?” In the event that you haven’t, continue reading! A Resident Portal is essentially a website for your residents, adding a true social element to your community – consider it a “digital clubhouse.” If you haven’t noticed, the vast majority of residents have a social presence online. Resident Portals take that concept and merge it with traditional apartment properties to make a true “community” environment. A basic Resident Portal carries a community calendar of events, utility sign-up features, maintenance requests, and online rent payment. However, a few resident portals offer a lot more in terms of a residential area social experience. These expanded resident portals range from about $125/month to $200/month for a 300 unit community, meaning you can find a whole year of service for the same price of one summer party. When done properly, resident social interaction can create strong emotional bonds between your residents, leading to impressive improvements in your retention rates.