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What's That Smell?

I love the smell of fresh Play Doh and Crayola crayons. I am not as fond of the smell coming from my teenage son’s gym bag. When I smell lilacs, I am instantly a child standing in my Gran’s bedroom smelling her perfume. Funny, how a smell can immediately transport you to a different place and time. In his new book, “Whiff! - The Revolution of Scent Communication in the Information Age”, www.WHIFFbook.com, C. Russell Brumfield states that each of us has stored a vast catalogue of imprinted feelings and responses to specific aromas. All kinds of memories are associated with the more than 10,000 smells we can each identify. We feel smell, but we can’t describe it. Brumfield uses the example of a dog. When it barks, we acknowledge its communication as a bark. When we touch it, we describe it as “furry”. What does it smell like? Most would answer “a dog”. What we smell we automatically feel, so we absently acknowledge that feeling and move on. often without ever naming it. So I ask you, where do the smells in your community transport your client? Where do they transport you? How might the smells be diminishing value perception? Think about it. Then act on it.
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Resident Retention: Please Re-Lease Me!

I see and hear reminders that 'leasing season is just around the corner.'  This makes me wonder, "Are you and I watching the same news?" Because from everything I'm reading and seeing on CNN, CNBC, WSJ, and all those other bearers of bad news, there are few new leases to be had!  I mean, yes, there will be some leasing activity, but not the volume to which we are accustomed. Not this year, anyway. I'm turning into a broken record (if you remember what that is) on the issue of retention, and here's another way of putting it: It's time to truly re-group and re-train our leasing teams and focus attention on the upcoming RE-LEASING season.  Leasing season is a nice way of saying many leases are ending, which leads to residents deciding to move, which leads to vacancies. Which we will have difficulty filling. So, now's the time to get our rears in gear and let our residents know how much we value them. This is All Hands On Deck! This is serious biz. But it doesn't have to painful... just consistent. And believe me, it will pay off! Remember I recently shared that only 76% of residents report their work orders are completed correctly the first time? One of our greatest challenges as an industry is a lack of focus on work order follow-up calls. To really WOW your residents, set a new standard that every completed work order will receive a follow-up call or email. All you have......
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E-Newsletters and a personal touch go together better than chocolate and peanut butter!

In a year when our community’s budgets are running with razor thin margins, we have to trim some fat, without sacrificing occupancy or service.  Luckily, there’s an easy way to trim money from the budget, up our resident retention, and be eco-friendly all at the same time!   Your community newsletter is one of the most important resident retention tools, but, unfortunately, it's also one of the most under-utilized. Many communities send out a monthly/quarterly newsletter that has a little bit of relevant information on the front page, but the rest of the letter is brimming with space filling articles like recipes for chicken casserole or reminders about the postage price increase. Whenever we use a filler article, we are robbing ourselves of a valuable opportunity to connect with our residents! Instead of contracting out your newsletter to a company that doesn’t know your community, why not take a few moments to produce one in-house?  Rather than giving residents a crossword puzzle that they won’t do, you could choose to view your newsletter as a chance to do some great marketing about up and coming events, mention some easy preventative maintenance tips, or even put your new residents in the know about local hot spots. It's important to get everyone involved in the process, from your maintenance to your leasing and all the way up to some notes from property manager's desk.  When you make it a team effort and everyone has a stake in it, your employees are more likely to talk......
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The Sky is Falling...or is it?

I have a  story I share in my presentations to various groups around the country that attests to what I have deemed, “The Chicken Little Syndrome”.  For those of you not up on your Aesop’s Fables lore, Chicken Little makes an assumption based on one event and single-handedly convinces the masses that the sky is falling.I would like to share my version of this story enhanced with a property management twist.Once upon a time, the great and all-knowing vice president of property management opened his many reports and began a thorough line-by-line evaluation of the properties in his care.  All seemed well until he arrived at Whispering Woods.  Alas, it appeared move outs and a strange drop in traffic plagued the community.  To his horror, the vice president realized exposure at the community would reach 13% within 2 weeks if something wasn’t done. The vice president of property management hurried down the hall to his portfolio manager’s office and said, “What is happening at Whispering Woods?  If the current trend continues, we are faced with a disaster.  You need to do something, and fast!”Then he raced back to his office to wait for a visit from the king.  The portfolio manager immediately picked up the phone and called Whispering Woods.  After the usual pleasantries with the community’s property manager, the portfolio manager said, “The great and all-knowing vice president was just in my office and we were discussing Whispering Woods.  We are very concerned at the way your property is trending,......
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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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DOING A GOOD JOB IS NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGHWe jabber so very often in our circles about Resident Retention, and what that means. We yak about do we send a letter, an email a phone call to reach out to our residents about renewing their lease. Hey, lets send them a gift too. Does any of this non-sense work? YOU ARE GRADED ON HOW YOUR RESIDENT FEELWhat if you were measured on how your Residents Feel About You and How Your Residents Feel About Your Company, would you act and react differently? Would you even stay with the company you are working for? This is a fundamental change in thinking and requires a paradigm shift. All the things you are doing or not doing suddenly don’t really matter all that much, because you don’t get to choose, Your Resident Chooses. They always have actually.THINKING LIKE A GENUINE BRAND Our Brand tells our Resident whether something will make them feel better or make life easier, better or solve a problem, or fulfill a desire. Wikipedia describes a Brand “A brand is a collection of symbols, experiences and associations connected with a product, a service, a person or any other artifact or entity. Brands have become increasingly important components of culture and the economy, now being described as "cultural accessories and personal philosophies.” ARE YOU DELIGHTING YOUR RESIDENTSSatisfied Residents are important. However, Delighted Residents become your Primary Influencers and will help you self-rent apartments. Satisfied Residents may or may not renew with you.......
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Resident Retention: Recession-Proofing your Community

According to First Advantage SafeRent, year over year, 2008 vs. 2007, application volume has decreased nationally by 7.8% and this negative trend is consistent across A, B and C asset classes (http://fadvsaferent.com).  And RealFacts reported that rents decreased across the entire U.S., with occupancy dropping from 92.9% to 92.2%.  Talk about Gloom and Doom!  Things are not looking great. When faced with a shrinking applicant pool and net effective market rent decreases, retaining existing residents who are typically at higher rent levels becomes mission critical.   But check this out:   Annual Survey Respondent Renewal Intentions How Likely Will You Be to Renew Your Lease: Annual Survey Results   2008 2007 Change Very Likely 43.6% 43.6% 0.0% Somewhat Likely 28.0% 26.7% 1.3% Not Likely 16.4% 20.3% -3.9% Don't Know 11.5% 8.9% 2.6% Refused 0.2% 0.3% -0.2%  Source: SatisFacts Research (www.SatisFacts.com)   There’s an interesting opportunity presenting itself to those who will embrace it. The message that is loud and clear is that retention is the answer to recession-proof your community.  It is critical to hold on to the residents you have, as there are fewer and fewer prospects and rental applications coming through our doors.  With accelerated job losses and the subsequent move outs those losses produce, renters with job security become very valuable assets to property managers looking to reduce turnover costs and ride out the storm.  The national turnover rate has slightly declined, although it has been consistently high over the last six years ranging each year between 59%......
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Alert, Alert, Alert!!!

Recently I have received some Google Alerts for a couple of our communities.  If you don't have these set up for your company or your communities I highly recommend you do as it's a free service offered by Google.  So let me share with you the two most recent alerts that touch each end of the spectrum.  First is Bayshore Apartments.  I received an alert linking me to MerchantCircle.com.  I'll have to say that I'd never heard of MerchantCircle.com, but it appears to be a long tail website for city/business searches.  The alert came due to a review from a former resident that was dissatisfied with us.  How great!  If I didn't have Google Alerts I may have never known about the review, and I would not have had the opportunity to respond.  Unfortunately, both reviews have now been removed (in less than a day) as they must not have represented what MerchantCircle.com was looking for in a review.  While the resident's review was obviously very negative, I'm happy I had the opportunity to respond in an apologetic way and explain J.C. Hart Company was following the terms of our lease agreement in this situation.  Nothing too detailed, but a nice apology for any confusion for the resident and for readers of the reviews.  I do find it interesting that MerchantCircle.com chose to remove the reviews.  The only conclusion I can make from this is that they were not specific to the apartments and focused on one incident vs. being an entire review.Now on to the other end of the spectrum.  I......
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Apartment Cash Back Rewards

Today I got a debit card from my electricity provider for $27 because of their cash back program. It's not going to inspire me retire to an island, of course, but I have to admit it was a nice little perk. The funny thing is that really, that's my own money that I deposited with no interest with TXU over the past year. But that's not what most people think - they will think, "Woohoo - MONEY!!" So it made me wonder if any apartment communities or property management companies overall had tried this tactic as a resident retention tool.

Not only could you use it as an apartment marketing tool, but imagine the impact when they receive the debit card! My electric company gives me 2%, but let's keep conservative and assume you gave a 1% apartment cash back reward. Time the "gift" in the middle of the holiday season or a half month before their renewal decision date, and I have to imagine that $120 (give or take) debit card in their mailbox has to make a significant impact!

(Note: This concept may fall into categories that have laws dealing with apartment deposits, which might be an issue.)

Any thoughts?

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BRAND AWARENESSWe have stumbled upon a fascinating new revenue model at Urbane Apartments. We think this is classic Urbane Way Marketing. IF…… you already have a Brand Presence locally, this technique will work for you too. If you have yet to create Brand Awareness, start with a good tagline first.To quickly frame this, we have a small boutique apartment management company. We focus extensively on the Resident Experience. To further create Resident Connections and to also provide an open forum for discussion amongst our Residents and between us and the Residents we launched a Ning Site, and named it The Urbane Lobby. Ning has created a very easy and simple platform for creating your own Social Network. A new site can be set up and operational in a few hours with minimal skills and it is pretty easy to maintain. Here is the Guerrilla Marketing kicker, ITS FREE, Yep that’s right, Free. Just invest some time next Saturday morning and voila! You have your own custom Social Network. THE VALUEBefore you start, know that just creating a virtual space for your Residents to gather, share photos, share videos, contact one another and chat online, may not be enough to keep them coming back. There all kinds of things pulling at people’s time, HOWEVER, sprinkle in some value, and you have a wining combo. That value-add could be an array of things depending on your profile type. For us, we created the Urbane VIP Card. If you are an Urbane Resident, you......
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