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Are My Neighbors Like Me?

apartment residentsHow much does wanting to live around "people like me" come into play in somebody's choice on where to live? This could be culture, stage of life, socio-economic status, familial status, interests, or any of a number of other demographic and lifestyle factors, but people inherently feel more comfortable and safe when they are surrounded by those who remind them of themselves. The challenge is that we have such diverse communities that do our residents ever get that feeling? Do they always get the impression that they are the only person within a particular demographic? Considering that residents often only have intimate knowledge of the people/apartments that lie between their parking space and apartment door, I would venture to say that the odds of residents knowing a significant number of other residents with similar demographics is quite low outside of student housing developments. For example, as many of you know, I am a proud renter and have seven apartments immediately surrounding my own. Of those seven apartments, none seem to match my specific demographic and interests. That doesn't mean I couldn't be great friends with them, but that would require us to really "click", and unfortunately that hasn't happened. The ones that I have met are extremely nice and I enjoy chatting with them once and a while, but we just don't have similar interests or lifestyles. Therefore, since I haven't made any strong connections with any of them, they have not affected my decision to renew in any way. On the......
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Keys to resident retention begins with employee retention

I received this observation from my niece Liz Blake who is now the Marketing and Training Director for Resource Residential in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. I think her observation is worth discussion.  "From my experiance in the apartment industry, I think a lot of management companies are missing the boat when showing that they value their employees. I believe that people are a company's greatest resource and asset. One of the main keys to resident retention is truly employee retention. In our industry, our onsite team creates valueable relationships with residents that keep them from moving. I don't think upper management realizes that keeping their leasing consultant is just as important if not more than keeping up with the landscaping. I don't know many apartmentratings.com reviews or heard from residents about 'what happened to suzie manager or john leasing person?' From what I have seen, it seems as an industry we are focusing on investing $30,000 for new fitness equipment, we don't want to offer our amaizing assistant manager a small raise, ya know?!? " Have you created an employee retention plan? Do you think in these desperate times everyone will stay to "keep" their job? How are you motivating them to perform in this new market condition.  I got a sad call from one of my favorite on-site managers yesterday who told me he had to evict 8 people and was facing a huge vacancy loss. He is an example of those great people who are facing down all of these challenges on the front......
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That's Hot!

Today I had the fortune of visiting a doctor’s office for one of those tests that it nearly kills you to schedule, but that you feel pretty good about once it’s done and you know everything is still in working order. The center was new, modern and sleek and the experience completely transparent. Smiling employees guided my visit every step of the way and explained exactly what was going to happen next. The nurse directed me into a well-appointed changing room and handed me a gown. That’s when it hit me – the hospital gown was heated!Two children and a number of other medical conditions have never resulted in a positive hospital gown experience. I have spent many hours shivering in chilly doctor’s offices in gowns that are always thin, usually falling apart and devoid of any reasonable coverage. Imagine my surprise as I slipped into a toasty warm, sturdy and roomy hospital gown. The impact was profound. All I could think was, “Now that makes a difference – they really figured out what bothers people and provided a solution.” Even better yet, everyone in the waiting room was talking about the warm gowns, and I bet, like myself, they will tell one of their friends or family about their experience. What did it cost? Most likely the heating device was not inexpensive, but the return generated in client satisfaction levels will justify the initial investment.What kinds of little things do you think your residents tolerate but would never even consider......
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Resident Retention: You Had Me (or Lost Me) at Hello

I have to say it. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. How many times have we heard that? It has turned into one of those phrases we've seen and heard so many times that it doesn't mean anything any more. Let me re-introduce you to it now.  In every leasing and service situation, we have a few opportunities to make a first impression. The first time a prospect calls or emails us. The first time they drive up to the leasing office. The first time they take a tour. The first time they enter their new home as 'official residents.' First impression time is not over once they sign the lease. There is always Move In Day! And in my opinion, this is the most critical first impression you've got! I heard a great example of a fabulous Move-In Day first impression from military housing, though it translates beautifully to any move-in.  On MoveIn Day, the leasing agent saw the maintenance team had confirmed the home was clean and ready for the family, so she did a last minute walk-through to give it a double check. Everything was in order. She then reviewed the lease documents and made a mental note of all the family member names. When they arrived, she stood and greeted them with, "Welcome to Sunny Meadows! We have been expecting you." She shook hands with the husband and wife and greeted them with, "Good morning, Mr. Sanchez. It's so good to see......
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Using Social Media to Market Apartments. The start of a great divide?

I came across a great post this morning titled; Does Social Media Help or Hurt? » Customers Rock!  In it, Becky Carroll points to another great post over at Marketing Profs Daily Fix: The Customer Chasm. Are you Creating a Social Media Divide? by Jason Baer.

Both are rather short reads and raise a very interesting observation that I think is worthy of discussion in the multifamily space. Now a number of you have a passion for this subject as you have touched on it via blog posts and tweets so I look forward to your continued thoughts. I think the catalyst for the hotbed of comments came when Jason penned the following;

Are we inadvertently creating a Customer Chasm, where those who are socially media active are receiving preferential treatment compared to those who are not? And not just in customer service, but in customer acquisition too?

There are some compelling thoughts and ideas laced into Jason's examples and those couched in the comment section below his post, all of which could apply to our space.

Thanks in advance for taking the time and have a compelling week.

M

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Does Your Community's Website Retain Residents?

There are thousands of beautifully designed websites for apartment communities and management companies on the Web today yet most do little to influence their existing resident base, the ‘bread and butter' of their business. Sure these websites attract prospects. They are designed to sell a company and/or apartment community(s), but the time that has been spent crafting the prospect's online experience has - slowly but surely, and perhaps unwittingly - marginalized the process of creating and maintaining content residents actually care about. Traditionally communication with residents has been through printed newsletters and notices posted on doors or electronic versions of the same emailed or posted on-line. There is no doubt that a well designed newsletter with good content can be a desired source of information, but its quickly becoming an antiquated mode of communication. Recently Eric Brown of Urbane Apartments suggested that we ditch our newsletters and try a Community Blog in his post DITCH THE COMMUNITY NEWSLETTERS Urban Lab Project#033809 on multifamilyinsiders.com. Eric's idea is viable as one can communicate all that is needed and than some on a Community Blog and do so less expensively and in real time. Community Blogs are meant to be less formal. Although you control the content they become part of a conversation where residents can comment. They are also a great way to join residents' discussions, provide tips and insights and receive feedback. When used in a forum where one's main objective is not to sell, a deeper connection forms between residents and the on-site team. The ......
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Selling Against the Shadow Market: New Info You Need to Know!

I'm constantly researching new and different ways for our industry to lease, market, retain and manage our assets. I came across this Wall Street Journal article , The New Condo Reality by June Fletcher, this weekend and the information it contained is essential to any property that fights the condo market.If you have a prospect or resident who is considering purchasing a condo because it is a 'good deal', they need to know some facts:If the building is not fully occupied: With fewer people in the building, those who are left wind up footing the bill for all of the building's expenses, from window washing and pool cleaning to big-ticket costs like roof repair and boiler replacement.If the developer is still in the picture...the need for major repairs will inevitably come. And since many developers subsidize maintenance and amenity costs to keep condo dues low and attract buyers, you should expect that these fees will rise, possibly precipitously, once the developer leaves (hopefully because he has finally sold all of the units, not because he has gone bankrupt because they didn't sell).If the building has a lot of amenities: Keep in mind that the more fancy amenities your complex has, from exercise rooms to elevators and tiki bars, the more you and your neighbors will eventually have to pay for their upkeep. Before you buy, look at the association's "reserve study"-assuming it has one-to get an idea of replacement costs for the various items in your complex. The study also shows......
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Retaining Residents in a Price Sensitive Market

At a time when we are feeling intense market pressure to offer renewing residents the ‘same deal' as we are offering new residents, decisions not to increase rents and/or offer renewing residents some discount is helping ease the pressure. Even in good economic times, renewing residents often ask or at least wonder "What's in it for me?" at renewal time. Rewarding residents based on their length of tenure is a way your community and company can reassure residents that they are more important than gaining new ones. Additionally, a rewards program can diminish ideas residents have of moving down the street for a better deal. Offering a good product and great service is best, but it doesn't always guarantee a renewal. Life changing events cause residents to move as do tempting discounts down the street especially if someone is trying to save a buck or two.Today affordability dictates many renewal decisions and renewal programs have to include a pricing strategy. Through my experience it is preferable to stay away from offering upfront rent concessions as a renewal incentive even if a community is offering it to new residents. Renewing residents understand that upfront concessions are absorbed by the cost to move. Furthermore once an upfront concession is given as a renewal incentive it is expected from then on forward. Offering a reduced rate or percentage discount off the market rate helps make their home more affordable. Yes, one could argue that a reduced rate or percentage discount off the market rate......
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The Price Is Right...Or Is It?

Rock bottom pricing.  Lower prices.  Going out of business.  4 months free.  Buy one - get one free.  Big discounts.  Bargains galore.  All signs I have physically seen in the last 24 hours.  Question is, are any of them working?  How do we competitively price product in a market like this?  Should we be fighting for every penny or slashing rates?  Steering a smooth course can be challenging at best.  Some things to consider when establishing price points at your community/portfolio:Should you lower the price?  Do you want to be seen as a discounter?  Consumers don’t care what your “real” price is.  The price and the value is what they write the check for.  Period.  Lowering your price could threaten your brand value, as discounted brands are assumed to be lower in quality.  In addition, current residents, your most valued customers, may find themselves paying more for their apartments than an individual walking in off the street.  They will resent you, and explore other options, unless an equally competitive offer is made to them to stay.  If, for example, the client received one month free at move in, but the current concession is two months, it would make sense to at least offer an additional month free.  From the client’s perspective, that is only fair – particularly as they are being wooed by the concession down the street.Look at your product from your target market’s point of view.  Do a thorough and physical, competition assessment. (Sorry, but the market survey is......
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Resident Retention: Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's (???) Door...

Have you ever seen anything that is awesomely bad? You spot one of those songs or hairdo's or outfits from the 60's, 70's, 80's (what the heck, maybe you see someone sporting Hammer pants), and think to yourself, "Someone thought that was a good idea once." Our human history is full of those decisions that, at a particular moment, seemed like a good idea. And yet, upon further reflection or changing social norms, those decisions come back to bite us on the hindquarters. This sign, I believe, is one of those decisions. The intent? Probably to let a prospect or resident know that a closed door might not mean 'closed,' nor might an unanswered door mean, 'no one is here to help you.' And yet, I have to say, this sign awesomely, spectacularly, and most unfortunately conveys, "Your time is not as valuable as mine. If you REALLY need to speak to someone, sit around for an unspecified amount of time, and if you're lucky, someone may notice you there." I had the delightful opportunity this weekend to be treated like a valued customer, and I'm going to tell you all about it because is was so incredibly simple, but so overwhelmingly powerful. I was visiting a local golf course, and I had a question for the woman at the reception desk. Just as I stepped forward to ask my question, her phone rang. I began to swallow back the words that had been forming in my mouth, knowing that she......
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