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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

Check The Expiration Date On Your Amenities

Empty GymOlympic-Size Pool? Check

State of the Art Gym? Check

Car Detail Center? Check

 

Boy, prospects are going to love these things! Residents, not so much. Here's a little story that is all too common with apartment prospects and residents:
 

You have a brand-new shiny prospect walk in the door and boy are you relieved! Traffic has been slow, so you really take the time with the grand tour, showing off the big "closers" throughout the property. And your prospect eats it up, grinning as you move from the pool to the gym to the putting green. You've sold them and now they move in almost immediately. Fast forward 10 months and your former prospect, now resident, hasn't swam in the pool since she moved in, worked out only once after setting her New Year's resolution, and doesn't even golf at all! And now, she's put in her notice to vacate. But didn't she love the amenities and property?
 

And here's the kicker! Your soon-to-be former resident visits your rival community, "oohing" and "ahhing" as they show off their luxurious pool, top-notch gym, and car detail center. This is the same girl who didn't swim at all at your community and barely lifted a dumbbell, right? So what is going on??
 

Unfortunately, for most communities and most residents, the grand amenities that you sell to prospects have declining value and actually tend to "expire" as residents live in your community! But we really need to look at the supposed benefit our amenity offered to the prospect to begin with. Often, a move to a new home is seen as a fresh beginning, somewhat similar to the New Year's resolution phase. At this point, it's easy to see not the life they are living, but the life they want to live. It's a vision of their own perfect self. And your amenities fall directly into that category!
 

For example, people don't want to think of themselves as sloths sitting on the couch watching TV all day, but reality is that a good chunk of people tend to do that! But in their dream life, they are lounging by the pool, 20 pounds lighter (hence the gym), and have a better golf game (putting green), fancy car (detail center), or are more productive (business center).
 

But six months down the road, reality sets in. They have proof in their actions that they aren't living their dream life. They aren't getting up early to go to the gym or enjoying that new tan. They are living the life they always do. And since they are not living their dream life, your amenities now have no value.
 

But why would a competing property's amenities still have value? Well, think about that as if you would a new diet. Someone may have failed every other diet imaginable, but they haven't failed the watermelon-asparagus-tomato juice diet yet, so maybe that's the magic plan that will work! So the eternal optimism of achieving their dream life leads them to a different community even if it has similar amenities.
 

Does that change the way you view your community? Does it change your retention strategy? It should!

What do you all think?

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Can I get some more info on that watermelon-asparagus-tomato juice diet!? Nothing seems to be working for me! haha Just kidding!
I can see your point here, and it makes perfect sense- sometimes you just need someone to hit you with the "DUH!" stick!

  Abby Hopkins
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Thanks for the comment, Abby! I was wondering how people would react to this blog post as it basically tells them that their amenities are worthless (beyond that initial sale). But I think ultimately it's important to take an honest view of a situation and develop a strategy based on reality rather than a pretend version of a community!

(And for the record, I don't mean there isn't any residual value - People still like the ability of using an amenity, even if they never actually do use it. But instead of trying to quantify that minimal value, it's easier to say that the amenity has essentially expired!)

And we'll let you be the guinea pig for the watermelon-asparagus-tomato juice diet! If it goes well, we'll write a book and make millions!

  Brent Williams
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Brent - I love the post. Like it to my car stereo - has all the bells and whistles, but 2 years later and I still haven't figured out half the buttons.

SO, what would you think about giving a tutorial of the awesome lease inspiring amenities for the resident once they are past the prospect stage? Awesome care wash station? How about two days a month where the property staff wash your car? Larger than life fitness area, where even though the idea is cool, it looks substantially more daunting to use in real life? Teach them how. Ask your local fitness guru to come and offer a how-to session. Same with the pool... and the walking trails, and the stockd fishing pond... what's the point of having something on the property if you don't actively engage your residents in using it?

  Tara Smiley
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I like your comments, Tara. I think the amenities we sell to prospects fail to provide the same "wow" factor after they move in. I think we ought to use our "assets" to provide a vantage point against the competition. Great commnent!

  Sarita LaTorre
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Tara - I think there are definitely two elements here. For communities yet to be built, I think it's important to rethink some of these amenities and not just include them because they are standard-issue!

But for existing communities, that may or may not be an option, so I love the idea of "re-marketing" the amenities!! And your fitness trainer could be a great idea - Once a month for ALL residents to learn basics, re-learn basics, circuit training, etc. Having swimming instructors for youngsters or fitness options for the elderly are some ways to utilize that more effectively. I think in general apartment communities could be a lot more "event oriented" by setting up groups that use these items in a consistent way. And then allow them to invite friends for an outreach program...

  Brent Williams
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Fire the leasing agent and hire an activities director.

  Bob Schecter
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Bob, perfect solution in only nine words, although I would try to re-train for retention before I fired/hired. Our industry accepts 60% turnover as it is a law of physics, but it amazes me all the crazy things we do that make it obvious why we have such high turnover. Lesson #1 on "How to Lose Your Residents" is to make all of your front, front-line employees named "Leasing Consultants" and training them almost exclusively for the sale. Yeah, there might be a sprinkling of conflict resolution training in there, but when your community's focus is clearly on the new lease, there's no question why more than half our existing customers are leaving every year.

  Brent Williams
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Interesting...sorta like I want a new something or other--just because it's new. Sorta like a happy meal toy addiction....I want it because it's new. Once it's no longer new and exciting, I don't want it.

  Matt DeLong
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Great comment, Matt. There is definitely an element of "I want it because it's new". And when our amenities lose that new car smell, we need to adapt our resident retention strategy to factor in that decline in value to the resident. Because ultimately it doesn't matter how great we think our amenities are - it only matters how great our residents think they are.

  Brent Williams

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