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Resident Retention: If it weren't for all the residents, I'd love apartment management!

   Browsing some other multifamily blogs today, I noticed one that read, "Do New Residents Make People Move Out of Your Apartments?" I liked the author's line of thinking, because the heart of the matter is that perception of Value.  As we wine and dine any prospects we can get our hands on, offering discounts, upgrades, vacations and what not, our long-term residents can begin to feel, "What am I? Chopped liver?" Quotable quotes from real resident satisfaction surveys: "The attention and service from the leasing and office staff is great before moving in; after you move in, it all stops." "The biggest problem to me is to get a response from the person who was my leasing agent. I have tried to set up a meeting with the manager about my concerns, but have had no luck." "Getting a returned call or email now that I have moved in would be nice." Yikes! As we place more focus on closing the back door, remember it's a question of whether the resident is seeing the value your community provides. Yes, the rental rate is one big aspect of value, but another aspect of value is what they get for that rate they are paying: - Quick resolution of submitted service requests - Quick responses to calls and emails - Notification of delayed work order resolution, or upcoming inconveniences (slurry seals, office closures, etc.) - Convenient service offerings, such as online work order submission, online rent payments, text work order submission The decision......
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Couponing Can Increase Your Leases, But You Have to Do It Right

We all know couponing has increased during this recessionary economy.  I've directed you in the past to such sites as Coupon Cabin, Retail Me Not and others. But this time, I need to give you some direction on just HOW to use coupons for your particular apartment community or building. We're doing it as an industry, but unfortunately, we are not doing it well.According to a poll by Harris Interactive, 54% of Americans reduce their discretionary spending during a recession. We've seen up to 60% of individuals polled in an AdAge survey say they are giving up their designer coffee (remember what I told you; DON'T discontinue the free coffee service at your properties...keep promoting it! And give those residents logo'ed travel mugs to take your coffee to go! ) It's no surprise that Netflix and Campbell's Soup are doing well; they offer inexpensive alternatives for budget conscious people. That same Harris poll said that 63% of Americans would hesitate to purchase something if there wasn't a coupon attached. And they are less likely to search for coupons via traditional sources, such as direct mail. Where do they search for the majority of coupons? Online.So here's how to make your coupons as effective as possible:1. Give the coupons a dollar value. Don't simply say, "Present this coupon and we will waive your application fee." Add the dollar amount of the application fee. If you're waiving the administrative fees (which many properties are now doing) make sure the VALUE of the coupon......
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Resident Retention: S-E-R-V-I-C-E! Find out what it means to me!

I grew up in a town where the nearest Nordstrom was a 6-hour drive away. Needless to say, the folk-lore surrounding the Nordstrom level of service was the stuff of legends by the time I moved to Southern California and had no less than 3 of the stores within a 15 mile radius of my home. You can imagine the anticipation that had built up as I walked through the doors of this promised land. I was going to buy a New Suit. From ‘Nordy’s,’ as those in the know call it.

I walked through the appropriate department, eyes bright, scanning for that most-helpful-in-the-world sales person. There she was! I couldn’t imagine how the exchange would begin. I smiled. I held my breath. She was speaking with another woman. I slowed my walk to allow their conversation to finish. It did not. I slowed even more. This was going to be great. I came to a full stop at a rack of suits within her line of sight, maybe 5 feet away. I noticed the other woman was also a sales person. Surely they would stop what they were doing! Surely they would be more than happy to help me find my New Suit. But they didn’t. They weren’t. I got a glance. A look up and down. And their conversation continued.

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Live the Life - The Year of the Resident

Last November at the Indiana Apartment Association "Industry Outlook" presentation, the speaker said a dirty word when sharing his thoughts about 2009.  It was much longer than four letters, beginning with a "C" and ending in "onsessions".  After that night we began brainstorming about overcoming this obstacle.  What we came up with was "The Year of the Resident."  Why every year isn't "The Year of the Resident" I really can't tell you, but maybe we just needed to hear that dirty word to get refocused?  Where that extra focus is for us, is where we're choosing to spend our marketing dollars.  In 2009 we've made the decision to focus more of our marketing dollars on our residents.  While many of our competitors are spending more on advertisements and giving away free rent, we're taking that money and spending it on our communities and our residents.  A couple examples include increased "Resident Relations" budgets, increased "Resident Event" budgets, capital improvements for clubhouses, and some "Special Promotions" geared toward getting more involved with our residents.Some of you may have already had a chance to see what's been going on with our first "Special Promotion" called the J.C. Hart Live the Life Video Contest.  This contest asks for J.C. Hart Apartment Community residents to create a two minute video or less on why they love living in their J.C. Hart Community.  The videos were posted to YouTube.com to enter, and since have been narrowed down to the top 5 finalists in our 6 winning......
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Great (or Horrible?) Marketing Idea...You Tell Me!

On http://www.consumerist.com/, there's a GREAT story about a pizzeria in San Francisco that has taken ‘marketing is a conversation' to a whole new level.They have taken 1 star customer reviews about their restaurant from the consumer review site http://www.yelp.com/and placed them on employee tshirts. Bold move? I'll say!I checked some of the 1 star reviews on Yelp for Pizzeria Delfina. Here's what the servers there could be wearing on their tshirts based on the reviews I read:*Never again**I will not be back**A four year old could do better by pouring some tomato sauce on a piece of bread**My wine was about as interesting as Kool Aid*As I said, bold move. But quite possibly a brilliant one. Think about it. It puts the idea of writing a Yelp review right in the face of every customer. And it probably keeps the ideas of the potentially bad reviews in the forefront of everyone's mind who works there. And it makes people talk. Like me. Like the Consumerist and who knows how many other bloggers out there.And if I go to San Francisco anytime soon, I might just have to go into Pizzeria Delfina and see if the wine really IS like Kool Aid and if a four year old could make better pizza.Seriously, though, I am liking this idea more and more! While I probably wouldn't use the lowest possible ratings, I think taking some great testimonials from AptRatings.com and placing them on staff tshirts is a really interesting idea. With summer coming up and......
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Resident Retention: Just the Facts, Ma'am

 Have you heard the phrase, "Perception is reality?" It's a phrase that is tossed about rather frequently, and I think it's time to shake up our perceptions a little bit. Once we've been in 'the biz' for any number of years, we become accustomed to certain situations, certain challenges, certain personalities, etc. In response, we develop personal systems, catch phrases, solutions that can easily address those certain situations, challenges, etc.  It's how we adapt. It's how we avoid what has come to be known as "re-creating the wheel." However, times change, customer requirements and preferences change, and our stock solutions, phrases and systems must change with them.  For example, historically the assumption has been that if a property is low-income, the residents may not have as much access to, or savvy regarding, technology (internet, in particular).  The facts show otherwise. In a resident technology study SatisFacts conducted for NMHC in 2006, we found that across all demographics 78% of all residents surveyed used computersand the internet at home and 74% used the internet at least 1 day per week. That was 2006. I guarantee that number has increased dramatically in 3 years.The 2008 SatisFacts Index showed that 59% of residents indicated email as the preferred method of communication with their leasing office. That's up from 30% in 2007. What do your residents prefer? Stop guessing. Stop assuming! Resident preferences change, and in times like these, we can't afford not to know the facts about what is most important to them.  THROW YOUR......
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Affordable Video Shops Provide a Clearer Picture

Today many apartment communities are competing for fewer prospects. Having top sales teams in place is essential to keeping apartment communities afloat. Yes pricing, marketing, product condition and appeal all play a hand in the success of a community, but none more than the quality, talent and drive of a Property Manager and his/her sales team.To make certain your sales team knows what the expectations are in handling prospects, training is essential. Knowing you really have the right people...mystery video shopping provides a better answer. Mystery shopping has long been used as a control and training tool in our industry. Video shops offer a reality that written and audio shops do not. With written shops, we largely depend on the objectively and integrity of the shopper to provide reliable answers. With audio shops, we hear what was said and can make better determinations, but with video shops (utilizing a hidden camera) we can really see what our representative's look like, their body language and the surrounding distractions that play into the shopping experience for the prospect.I recently hired a company that provided mystery video shop's on DVD for $150 and delivery via streaming video for an extra $15. The shop looked like a 20/20 undercover investigation. I could see the representative and the surrounding area from waist or chest height up. The picture and sound quality was decent enough to get a feel for the shopper's experience.Overall the video shops provided a clearer picture of what was happening during a prospect's......
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Resident Retention: Love You Long Time... I think

I've lived in a handful of apartments over the years, and though I might not be able to tell you what I ate for dinner two nights ago, I can tell you how long I lived in each of my apartments. There was my first apartment in a historic home. No A/C, poor heat, but I loved it. Just over a year. Next one? 1 year. Then 2 dreadful months. Then 18 lovely months. I could go on, but I won't. The 18-month place, I would have stayed for years, but I ended up moving out of state. The next long-term apartment was 2 years, and I would have stayed there longer too, but we bought a house. I remember how long (or short) I stayed and exactly why. Most residents do. However, very few property owners bother to track length of residency for their residents. They look at turnover, occupancy, traffic conversion, but not length of residency. And why not?  This one metric tells you so much. It can be one of those indicators of how well (or badly) things are going on site. Check it out: In 2008, out of more than 30,000 satisfaction survey respondents, we found that nearly 30% had been living in their apartment for 1-2 years. Over 16% had lived there for 3-5 years, and over 10% claimed more than 6 years in their current apartment. Are these residents celebrated? They should be. These are your bread and butter customers, the foundation upon which your......
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The Move-In Experience...Moment of Truth (Part II)

When I first began working as a Leasing Consultant in this industry, my company's move-in procedure with new residents consisted of presenting the lease, an addenda or two, reviewing a few points such as where the mailbox and laundry facility were located (on a site map), collecting the remaining portion of the security deposit and first month's rent, handing the resident the keys with a logoed keychain, shaking their hands and welcoming them to the community and yup, basically smiling and wishing them luck. "See yah!" "I hope everything goes well with your move." Internally I would be thinking, "I hope their apartment is okay." "Gosh, I would hate to see them come back unhappy." "I really like them."Well that was two decades ago and many companies have improved their move-in procedures. Luck has nothing to do with customer satisfaction or retention. You can control the resident's move-in experience and ensure it is superior with these additional critical steps:5. Provide VIP Treatment - On the resident's move-in day introduce the Community Manager. Preferably the Community Manager should come out of his/her office and welcome the new resident(s) to the community with a smile and small talk. He or she should give them their business card and advise them to call him/her if they should ever have a problem or concern. This is an important part of building a good relationship with your residents. If they meet the Property Manager and feel that he/she genuinely cares for them, they will be more......
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Hand Jive

Recognizing when a client is ready to walk away from the bargaining table, in contrast to when they are open to negotiation can be catamount to leasing success.  Richard Newman, a professional body language coach offers the following tips in the March issue of Forbes:  Putting hands palm down is a sign that someone means business.  When haggling over price, for instance, Newman says “palms down” is often a clear, nonverbal signal that a potential buyer intends to walk away.  By contrast, when someone keeps his or her hands open and palms up, it suggests he or she is open to negotiation

The next time you find yourself negotiating a renewal, or trying to seal a deal, watch the hands.
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