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100 Properties: A View into the Leasing Experience

100 Properties: A View into the Leasing Experience

I recently set out to visit 100 properties in 100 days. I wanted to get a truly informed understanding of the in-person experience that today’s prospects have. I wanted to see where the opportunities for improvement are and where leasing teams are knocking it out of the park.

I genuinely went into it as a blank slate not quite sure what it would reveal. So often I hear people make broad, sweeping statements after visiting only a handful of properties - as if those limited experiences represent the industry standard. My intention in visiting 100 communities was to see what the industry standard really is.

So I set out on my adventure and to say I was surprised at what I found would be an understatement. I was quickly and vividly reminded that the in-person leasing experience often is less than ideal for visiting prospects. I also humbly realized I had personally committed several of these leasing experience blunders myself. And while I understand today’s landscape has vastly changed our in-person touring options, it provides a great opportunity to discuss with your teams how to create a truly impactful experience whether virtually or in-person.
The properties I toured were all high-end apartment communities from coast to coast. These are typically the properties that are the early adopters of the latest and greatest practices and technologies that the rest of the industry eventually follows.
Here are some of the experiences and surprises that occurred on my visits:

Greetings and First Impressions: About 10 communities into this project, I called one of my co-workers and said I feel like I am treated more kindly when I check into a hotel for a one-night stay than when looking for my next home. Offices had packages, sticky notes, and file folders everywhere, and they too often were in general disarray.

Associate attire overall wasn’t polished or coordinated, and there were very few people with name tags to help me remember who I was talking to. I definitely felt like an interruption more often than not and not a priority. Nearly 50% of the time, I had to wait for someone to help me or I was sent away because I didn’t have an appointment, the office was closed or a myriad of other reasons. It quickly turned from a project I was excited about to one that felt more daunting. And I must say, when looking for an apartment you get really thirsty and even hungry. And although I was appreciative to be offered anything, repeatedly being offered water and coffee got old quickly.

The Discovery: After being asked to sit at the desk, where most people wanted to sit me down, which is not inviting and frankly, felt cold and impersonal (completely subjective), the biggest surprised came to light. STICKY NOTES! Oh my word, I truly had no idea we were still using sticky notes for guest cards at all - much less on A+ lease-ups.

It was also surprising how few questions I was asked to figure out the best apartment for me. Most of the time I was just asked about my move-in date, the apartment I was looking for, and price range. Everyone seemed to want to know my budget. I am more than just a price range.

What about the floor I want to live on? The direction I want to face? The kind of view I want to have? The type of layout? Color schemes? Many times it wasn’t until we got in an apartment and I asked about a particular feature that the team member said, “Oh! We have that, let’s go see it.” If I had just been asked more specifics about my wants not just my budget, in the beginning, we could have gone to the right apartment home immediately.

Tour and Wrap-Up:  I can say this, there are some fabulous WOW fridges out there. It felt like everyone had one but in actuality, it was about 40% of the communities. The interesting thing was when I would open it the leasing associate always said, “Yes, that’s our WOW fridge,” but most of the time didn’t invite me to take anything. And since the fridges look like a work of art, I can see how a prospect wouldn’t take anything from them if they’re not invited. Maybe there should be a  sign saying “Drink Me” - ha!

At the end of it all, the stats indicate I was shown an average of two apartments per tour. I definitely feel like I impacted that and that the number easily could have been higher if I had left things completely to the onsite team members, who often seemed more focused on showing me lots of units instead of the ones they thought were actually a fit for me.

Over the course of the upcoming months, my blogs will provide a deeper, stat-filled dive into areas I identified during my visits that are prime for improvement.
For now, l want to say I hope these general observations are an opportunity for you to pause and ask yourself if your leasing teams are truly providing the ideal experience for prospects.  Or, if you yourself are on the leasing floor, what are you delivering to your prospects? 

Our industry is filled with wonderful associates who are working very hard. But even well-intentioned and conscientious associates can make the kinds of mistakes discussed here and unintentionally undermine leasing efforts.

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Hello Karen,
I would like to compliment you on the blog, I am retired now, 38 years of PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, so done. What I've learned is that computers are running the properties. You can't even answer the telephone, the computers do. BACK TO BASICS...You are not a robot, and because upper management has put sooooo much on the leasing staff, you treat people like that. Just saying...

  Paula A Straznick
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Hi Karen,
Thank you for this! I have a new leasing agent and have been going over the "hot buttons" so this article is perfect. It is not only about getting the lease, it is about getting them the prefect home. It is about the relationship you build with this new neighbor. My opinion about the guest card / sticky note is that most companies expect the information to go into the computer while you speak with the prospect and it makes it harder to interact. I am still a proponent of the paper guest card where I can make notes while we are touring and talking. My guest cards were my best tool to personalize the tour and have recall of the conversations. Back in the good old days I had so many things on the cards that had nothing to do with our apartments but all the information I could garner about the prospect, Do they cook a lot? Did they have a pet? Did they wear expensive shoes? (meaning would they like the walk in closet with shoe tree), Did they have a home office? Did they have a lot of house plants? What was their largest piece of furniture? The computer doesn't really have a way to ask these things. Thank you and I look forward to hearing more from your visits.

  Maureen Morley
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What a great project. Nothing compares to "walking in the shoes" of another. And, actions and intentions don't always align. I firmly believe most have the best of intentions. it can be difficult to balance everything in your day and that can create actions being out of alignment with intentions.

  Kathy Vance

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