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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.

Stopping the Buying Mode

I'm a big believer that one of the main reasons we struggle with turnover so much in our industry is the process of renting itself. We tend to not act like we are renting a home, but just a temporary one-year hiatus until they find their next temporary one-year hiatus. And this mentality is built into the lease itself. Right from the start, there is an expiration date on their lease, that puts the requirement on the resident to actively think of whether they want to stay or find something else by that particular date. The problem is, we don't want our residents to actively think!  :)  When that process starts, it puts them into a "buying mode", which is where advertising works most effectively.

Take cell phones, for example. Do I have a clue as to what cell phone plans are out there? Not at all! I am satisfied with my phone and my service and, most importantly, my plan auto-renews at the same price. So I'm never put into a buying mode unless my phone breaks or a really incredible competing product comes along. So there is never a pre-defined date that I'm supposed to make a decision as to whether I should stay with Sprint or find something else. And yet this is exactly what we are doing with our leases!

Once a person goes into buying mode, they transition from being completely oblivious about competing products to actively looking and considering every one of your competitors. So what to do? My first thought is to make leases auto-renew, and you could even probably get away with an inflation adjustment every year without putting them into a buying mode. However, this may or may not be legal. So in the short term, maybe a little bit of psychology could help. What about instead of calling it a "lease end date", call it a "renewal date" and have this concept and frame of mind instilled into the resident/prospect from day one. I know it sounds small and insignificant, but it may be enough to slightly alter the perception of the date from a defined ending to just a day to do paperwork.

Any thoughts? Any other ideas that could stop a resident from going into buying mode?

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