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A Resident Retention Technique That Adds Value, One Service Request at a Time

Here's a resident retention technique that's fallen a bit by the wayside over the years. Now I know that some of you are still using it, but in speaking with on site professionals over the last several months, most of them had never heard of this particular technique to help 'build value' in the eyes of their residents. It's simple to deploy and in this particular economy, it makes even more sense than it did when I first heard of it years ago. All you do is leave an "invoice" (clearly fake of course),  with every service request. Label the top of the invoice "If You Lived in a House or Condominium, This Repair WOULD Have Cost You..." and then simply list the typical charges. Most of the 'standard' charges are available from a variety of your local vendors online. Here's an example:Phoenix apartment community resident Michael Jordan requested that his air conditioner be checked as it is not working properly. Here's Mr. Jordan's "value add" fake invoice:If You Lived In a House or Condo, This Repair Would Have Cost You:Air Conditioning RepairService CallFreon chargePartsTotal: $350 (I got this price from the ServiceMagic.com website)Because You Live In An ABC Managed Community, Your Repair Costs Are (of course) ZERO! Thank you for letting us be of service!Feel free to change it up any way you like it, but make absolutely certain the residents can easily tell it's NOT a real invoice. You may even want to include a short note that explains your new program -......
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The Economy Has Changed: Has Your Message?

In reviewing online and print ads while researching a program, I noticed that most of the ads I've seen really haven't changed all that much from what they were previous to the real meltdown we've seen in the economy. I can't help but wonder why most apartment properties haven't made this important shift in their messaging.Communcations firm DMB & B says:"When faced with penny pinching consumers, it helps to shift your ad campaign from messages like ‘luxury' and 'status enhancement' to efficiency and value."It would appear that seemingly this message has gone unheeded by the majority of our industry. I'm still seeing hundreds, if not thousands of ads nationwide touting 'luxury' and more. Major industries have made complete shifts in their focus, stressing concepts such as 'value', 'home', and 'peace of mind'. Take a look at the newest ad for Pillsbury; the tagline: "Home Is Calling". The actors in the commercial are even clicking their heels together, ala Wizard of Oz and the 'there's no place like home' mantra.  Other companies, such as Ikea, Toys R Us, Band Aids and more are all trying to create a sense of comfort and stability in their ads as well.So, how can you do it in your ads? Easy. Just make some of these simple tweaks (if they apply to your property, that is):1. Tout the stability of your staff, management and ownership.2. Communicate VALUE. What's included in the rent as far as services go? Don't forget to tout your amenities, too. Even coffee service......
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SOS: Seen On Site

I think it would be wonderful if we could all share some interesting/great/cool/fun ideas that we are seeing on site. So I am going to start off with two that I really like:

1. Blue jeans for the leasing office staff. Yes, blue jeans. But not just any jeans. Ann Taylor and Talbots are now carrying very nice 'dress denim' that looks great! And think how excited your teams will be to be able to wear jeans to work. They look professional, are reasonably priced and are COMFORTABLE. Love this idea!

2. Okay, this is sort of 'cheating' because I didn't really see it on site, but I DID see it on a site staffer's email. Jessica (the Assistant Manager at her property) had a perfect 'sig line' with everything in it that you need. It was followed by:

Don't miss out! Get our 2 bedroom 2 bath apartment homes for as low as $699.00

Changing this up on an regular basis is a great way to keep your 'deals' in front of your prospects. So think about adding that to your sig line if you haven't done so already.

Now it's your turn to tell me what you've Seen On Site! Let's keep this going. It's a great way to share and help others to succeed!

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When Is Free Not Really Free? Why, When It's Craigslist of Course!

I know people feel really passionate about Craigslist. I've met Leasing Professionals who would seriously DATE Craigslist if it were a person. Most everyone I know is completely enamored of it. And quite honestly, I'm getting just a teeny bit tired of it. (Well, in the interest of full disclosure I never get tired of the Best of Craigslist or the Missed Connections. Those are always way entertaining)  So, why, you ask, am I growing weary of hearing about Craigslist? I'll tell you. Because in the same breath, everyone always says the SAME THING:ohmygodwelovecraigslistitgetsussomanyleasesanditsfree!!!Hey, guess what? It's far from free. And before you argue with me (and I am sure you will argue with me, which is totally okay), hear me out, okay?1. Labor: Someone's got to put in those Craigslist ads. It takes time. And if you're ‘refreshing' and changing things up to get around the TOS (terms of service)you're putting up those ads pretty regularly. You're also going online to check them to see where you are on the pages. I know you want to be as high as possible. So tell me the truth...you go on and look when you aren't even adding an ad. You're also checking out the competition. I'll let that time slide.2. Copywriting, photography, getting your floor plans digitized and more. Hmmm...that takes time, too. And if you don't have the right photos and you need more taken, that takes time and it might even take money to pay a photographer. And digitizing those floor plans? You......
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Eight Simple Ways to Increase Your Online Ad Conversion

1. List prices in your online ads. Properties that list their pricing get 192% more traffic than properties that do not. You will also end up pretty much dead last in the search results.2. Put your floor plans in your online ads. Showing your floor plans can increase your traffic results by as much as 68%. And if you haven't bothered to get your floor plans digitized and colorized, there's no time like the present.3. Interior photos are one of the most requested items on internet listing service  (ILS) sites. Check to make sure you're not heavy on amenities and exteriors and neglecting your interior photos. And hey, spend some money on a good photographer too. It can make a huge difference in your photo quality.4. Make sure you are using every available feature on the ILS sites. Can you bold your ad? Do it. Do they allow unlimited photos? Then get as many on there as you can. Call your ILS reps and ask them what you can do that you aren't currently doing with your ad. They are happy to help you.5. Make sure you check ALL amenities that apply to you. Don't take it for granted that people know you have air conditiong or an outdoor pool. If people knew exactly what you had, they would probably skip the online search and just come straight to your leasing office.6. Make sure you're not using your brochure copy for your ads. These ads are all crawled by the search......
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What to Cut and What to Keep? A Property Manager's Dilemma

The headlines are bleak. And it appears that they are going to get 'bleaker' (is that even a word?). And everyone, it seems, is cutting back. According to Chicago based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, 20% of companies are actively cutting perks and another 10% are considering doing so. You're probably getting pressured to make cuts at your property or company. So just where DO you cut? Well, I can tell you a couple of places that you shouldn't.As companies trim expenses, they're 'de-perking' perks. And one of the first perks to go seems to be the fitness center. Whether it's an in-house center, or a subsidized membership, those are going by the wayside. So now is the time to emphasize your fitness centers more than ever. And if possible, upgrade a  machine or two (if it's in the budget). I predict fitness centers will be busier than ever over the next 18-24 months. Keep the equipment in great working order and keep the fitness center immaculately clean. This could be the breaking point for a renter's decision if they've lost their work-perk fitness center.Another area you shouldn't cut: the free coffee. Customers are leaving Starbuck's in droves as this survey, commissioned by Advertising Age magazine found:60% of Americans have scaled back on fancy or expensive coffee in the past six months; 56% report cutting back just since the beginning of the year. The culprit was overwhelmingly the economy, with 90% of survey respondents saying they are doing so to......
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What Do Ricardo Montalbaln and the Chrysler Cordoba Have to do with Leasing?

For those of you Gen Y's and perhaps some Gen X'rs, you might not know who Ricardo Montalban is. He was one of the first really famous and very successful Latino actors who appeared in television (Fantasy Island anyone?) dozens of films (for you Trekkies out there, he was Kahn in both the Star Trek series and one movie), and he won both an Emmy award and a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award. But many of us will always remember him as the velvety smooth spokesperson in the 1970's for the Chrysler Cordoba. He passed away yesterday at the age of 88.What made his presentation for the Chrysler Cordoba so memorable? Well, his Spanish accent and his impeccable voice for one. But what everyone seemed to remember was his remark about the 'soft Corinthian leather' interior. The line became the punchline for jokes for years afterwards. Today, do a a Google search for "fine Corinthian leather" and guess what you get? Ricardo Montalbaln.Now, "WHY?", you are asking, "Why is she doing all this talking about Ricardo Montalbaln and what does that have to do with apartment marketing?" I'm getting to that...Montalbaln's charming delivery, coupled with the phrase 'soft Corinthian leather' took off for Chrysler. Everyone wanted 'soft Corinthian leather' but guess what? It didn't exist! Here's the Wikipedia explanation in case you don't believe me:Corinthian leather was a phrase invented for marketing use to describe the leather used in certain Chrysler luxury cars in the 1970s. In this case, "Corinthian" does......
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Does Your Leasing Office Have "Hum"?

No...I'm not asking if people in your office hum while they work. I want to know if your office has energy; energy that people can feel when they walk in the door. Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computers ,said that he likes to have his office 'create hum', or energy that you can literally feel when you are in the offices of Dell computer. So I ask you, does you office have 'hum'?Let me give you a couple of more examples:1. Have you ever eaten dinner in an empty restaurant? What did it feel like? Not too good, I am guessing. Perhaps the word 'depressing' came to mind? Empty restaurants have no 'life' and probably make you want to leave as quickly as possible. 2. Now, think about the last time you ate any meal in a busy, bustling restaurant. It made you feel great when you got your table, right? It created an excitement to have your meal delivered. It made you want to stay and probably created a livelier mood at your table. Now I know our leasing offices aren't restaurants, but we can create the same feeling of excitement in our workplaces. Bright, lively colors make a huge difference. Even the much maligned balloon bouquet can create a feeling of fun and festivity in your leasing space. Look around your office...what can you do to make your sales environment more friendly?Cleanliness makes a big difference in how your leasing space appears to your prospective residents. Check your......
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It Ought to Begin by Being Personal, Don't You Think?

Remember these lines from the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks movie, "You've Got Mail"? (Hanks is Joe Fox, a rival bookseller to Ryan's character, independent bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly. The success of Fox's store forces Kelly to close hers.) Fox has apologized for forcing Kelly out of business, telling her it was just that - business. Joe Fox:  It wasn't... personal.Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's *personal* to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.Finding a new place to live is one of the most *personal* decisions a person can make. Are you making sure that you are taking the responsibility of helping someone find their new home personally?Multifamily professionals who take it personally make sure they LISTEN to their prospects needs and wants. They don't take them blindly to their ‘target two bedroom'. And they don't push the apartment with the added bonus on it if it doesn't fit the prospect's needs. Great leasers are great listeners who perform their job with *passion*. They realize that they're not just ‘filling the boxes' but that they are actually helping to enhance the quality of someone's life. Yes, I do mean that. Stick with me here..Have you ever lived somewhere that you hated? Just how did that affect your life? It......
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