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We Were Right Along – It is the Sense of Community That Drives Much of the Renewal Decision

SatisFacts Research explored why residents renew their lease, and their findings showcased one extremely strong trend:  Residents care enormously about their connection to their neighbors.  What might be the most surprising aspect, however, is that our group of multifamily professionals seemed to underestimate related parts of the equation. In SatisFacts’ investigation, they listed a total of 27 factors from which residents could rate their renewal decision.  I have always been in the camp that believed a “sense of community” was a top factor in a resident’s decision to stay at their community, and sure enough, it was the 2nd highest rated factor.  And when we quizzed multifamily professionals, they almost had it pegged perfectly, listing it as the top factor in resident retention.  But what really blew me away was the clear theme shown at the top of the list – 4 out of the top 6 factors impacting the renewal decision all had to do with a resident’s connection with the community and neighbors!  (You can download the full results of this study, which also covers leasing preferences, by clicking here.)   Social activities (shout out to our resource for event ideas, ResidentEvents.com) was one of the big surprises, along with social media presence, which I discussed in my last blog.  Communities often put on some sort of community events through the year, but when asked how much they felt it impacted their residents’ decision to renew their lease, that factor was all the way down at 23rd on the list!  I......
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We Will Never Develop A "Sense Of Community" If We Keep Hoarding Leadership

I have a group of friends who like to play board games, and one of my friends, Nat, was the one who often planned the game nights.  In this particular group, I didn't lead at all, rather taking a backseat and simply showing up when something was planned.  I didn't take any initiative to planning things, as that role was already filled, so instead I was able to be fairly lazy about my participation, even though I liked the game nights.  In this way, I was a typical resident of an apartment community - maybe showing up for an event, maybe not, but either way not really doing anything, and having a very weak connection to the success of the event. Let's take another social example:  The Houston Apartment Association EXPO.  This is the yearly tradeshow for HAA, but it isn't simply the staff of HAA putting the event together.  Although they do much of the heavy lifting, HAA also has a committee from its membership that helps plan the EXPO, and the suppliers who have booths play a role by building their own particular space up.  So at the end of the day, a lot of people outside of the HAA staff have a role in the building and development of that event.  The end result is that many more people end up having a connection to the event because they had a hand in creating it, compared to if the HAA staff just went into the process solo. So......
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Showcasing Your Residents To Help Build A Sense Of Community

b2ap3_thumbnail_resident-table.pngI’ve been pushing for a while the idea that our residents themselves are assets, where they not only pay money to live at our community, but they bring their own selves into the community as well, which includes their talents, their personality, and everything else about them.  But oftentimes, residents don’t have a clue who they are surrounded by; they have no idea there are so many interesting and fun people living just one building over.  They are limited to a very small segment of people that may happen to be in between their front door and car door, and even then, they often don’t take the time to get to know each other in that span.  So while we have active, interesting, and vibrant residents all around, they are effectively hidden from each other. Making this problem even more difficult, when looking at someone we don’t know, it is often human nature to assume that the person is not like us, rather than like us.  This is even more true as our communities are often “one size fits all”, so there are often not obvious common threads between the residents.  This leads to people feeling somewhat isolated in their own community.  They feel comfortable with their leasing consultant, but that’s about it.  So we have the potential to significantly improve their standard of living, making them feel much more at ease, if we can make them aware that they are surrounded by all sorts of fun and interesting people.  Today, I found one o......
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Resident Retention: Is This Community Safe?

b2ap3_thumbnail_dobermans.jpg  It's the dreaded question, right? And we've learned to dance around it nicely. "While we can't guarantee anyone's safety, we have a good relationship with the local police department and we do have courtesy patrol every night..." But that's not what they're asking about, and we know it. According to new correlation studies by SatisFacts Research, "Safety and Security" is quickly rising to the top of resident and prospect priority lists. Instead of dancing around the issue and glossing over what we can't control, let's highlight what we can control: 1. Preventative maintenance It may seem like a given, but during routine maintenance and turns, ensure your teams are testing every lock on every door and window, as well as the lighting outside their front door.  Do they function as they should? If not, fix it. Residents should have absolute confidence in the basic safety mechanisms available in their home. 2. Lighting Be obsessive about conducting weekly lighting walks, including the lights outside resident doors or building entrances. Consider motion detector lighting for swimming pools. Walk every corner of your parking lot or structure after dark. Are there any dark corners? Fix it. Point out your abundant lighting to prospects and encourage residents to report any burnt out lighting that they discover. It's not as much fun to behave badly in well-lit areas, so keep the lights shining brightly! 3. Clear walkways We love beautifully landscaped communities. We don't love overgrown, hidden corners. Collaborate with your landscape vendors to w......
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Quantifying The Always Elusive “Sense of Community”

Instinctively, most of us see the value in a strong “sense of community” at our apartment communities.  It just seems reasonable that if you had to choose between a community where you were surrounded by strangers or one where you had actual friends living close by, you would probably choose the one where you had connections.  But before now, the concept was often too ambiguous to make a firm plan of attack for, beyond simply throwing money at parties and events at the community.  This made placing a priority on a sense of community very difficult for those that were more analytical minded, who wanted statistics to drive operations.  My recent trip to the NMHC OpTech conference made me realize, however, that this soon may no longer be the case. I attended a session on prioritizing lead channels, and Virginia Love mentioned how they were not just assessing leads upon move-in, but they were assessing leads upon renewal, as well.  What was particularly relevant to the discussion of a sense of community was that Waterton Residential uses RentMineOnline, which is a tool that leverages social media to drive resident referrals to their friends, family, and network.  In other words, this would mean that if someone moved in, they would already have at least one friend or connection right from the very start.  And by analyzing their renewal numbers relative to other lead sources, they should be able to quantify the “value” of that friendship in the renewal process!  Obviously, one would need to......
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Ignoring These Signs of Illegal Activity Can Cost You

I’ll admit it. One of the most exciting parts of my life as a Property Manager on a Section 8 property was getting involved in the drug busts. It was an adrenaline rush like no other, no pun intended. Part of being a Manager on any property in any community is to provide decent, safe and sanitary apartment homes for our Residents. And, yes, I call the people who live in my communities “Residents” and not Tenants simply because everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. It is also a mindset. We must adopt the notion that people want to live long term, or at least as long as necessary, willingly in our apartment communities. This will reduce turnover costs and promote a more harmonious living environment for our Residents. We must believe that there is value in creating a warm, nurturing home atmosphere for our Residents. If we are successful, they will stay longer; they will take better care of their apartment homes, and thus the property.   You never want someone to feel bad about where they came from or what their current circumstances in life may be. You want to uplift your Residents’ spirits and promote a better lifestyle. If we can impart this mindset to our Residents, they in turn will believe in themselves more and become contributing members of our communities. At least this is my personal motto.   This is why I take illegal drug activity so personally and seriously. Many people assume it is normal......
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Resident Retention Lessons From the Presidential Election

Every Presidential election includes one important step of trying to personalize the candidate; make them relatable to the average voter, whether it is as a fellow parent, someone you would love to have a beer with, or someone you admire and aspire to be like.  At this year’s national conventions, both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney attempted to humanize their husbands and show that they went through the same struggles and similar values as others throughout the country. So let’s take a leap back into property management…  There is a concept in leasing that prospects lease because of the leasing consultant more than anything.  And that is probably true – the leasing consultant personifies the community, by giving a “face” to the buildings.  A good leasing consultant will make the prospect feel safer, more comfortable, and the feeling that the prospect will like the others that live in the community.  But that personification tends to break down when the prospect imagines his or her fellow residents once they move in.  With the exception of maybe the very social, people are often wary of others around them, more likely to assume they are not like them rather than assume they are.  Think about it this way:  If a resident truly thought that his or her neighbors had similar interests, backgrounds, and values, they would have little difficulty in approaching each other and making friends.  But that clearly is not the case.   So like the Presidential elections, we need to personalize our residents.  We......
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How Pitbull Turned #Exile into Social Media Accolade

So maybe you heard about this: Earlier this year, rapper Armando Christian Perez, or “Pitbull”, partnered with Walmart and Energy Sheets in a social media campaign which took a turn for the worst. In June the trio announced a Facebook contest, in which the local Walmart store that received the most page “likes” would receive a personal visit from Pitbull so he could “share the experience of using Energy Sheets with [his] fans.

That’s when David Thorpe, writer for The Boston Phoenix and the off-color comedy site Something Awful, got wind of the promotion and hijacked the campaign by encouraging people to #ExilePitbull to a remote Walmart location on Kodiak Island, Alaska. The prank spread like wildfire season in the interior arctic, and by the conclusion of the contest, a city with a population of 6,000 incinerated the efforts of 4,000 other U.S. locations, achieving over 70,000 Facebook “likes.” 


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Analyzing The Key Elements Of A Successful Sense of Community

As an industry, let’s face it, we have a hard time creating a sense of community.  I’m not saying there are not some great success stories out there, because there definitely are, but when talking about the multifamily industry overall, we show many more failures than successes.  Obviously having 60% of your community turn over every year makes it very challenging to establish any sort of consistency among residents, as people have no interest in connecting with those that will just end up leaving within a year.  But even beyond that, I don’t think we fully understand the mechanics of how groups operate on a social basis, which makes it impossible to foster that concept at our communities.  In order to develop a strong social group, I think it is helpful to look at how established social groups already operate, and see what elements make them successful. 1)      Familiar Faces – When walking into a completely new group, everybody is a stranger.  But for an established group, you enter the room and see people you have already had conversations with or recognize in some way.  That is a simple level of comfort by consistently attending events.  So for us to reach this level, we must not just get attendance, but get consistent attendance at a frequency level that will help build familiarity.  In other words, we can’t just have once a year events and hope that they recognize each other.  2)      Shared History – This is the next level beyond familiarity......
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