Job number one for all apartment community professionals is to keep their apartments occupied with paying residents. In addition to successfully signing new leases, this also means satisfying existing customers in order to earn their continued business in the form of a renewal lease.
To determine the best way to retain residents, it can be helpful to consider what drives dissatisfaction. When you know what residents dislike about apartment life, you can take action to ensure their experience at your community is superior.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence about what people hate about renting. Ask the renters among your family and friends’ groups and you’re likely to get animated answers and colorful accompanying stories, ranging from noisy neighbors to inadequate parking.
Firsthand tales like that have value. More actionable, however, is the information shared in the Biennial Online Rental Study published by Apartment Ratings and SatisFacts. The study includes responses from nearly 5,000 surveys completed by renters from coast to coast, weighing in on everything from their use of technology during a search for a new apartment, to how a management company’s response to online reviews impacts their perception of trustworthiness, and compares responses to previous studies conducted over the past decade. There’s a lot of valuable information in this study that can help owners and operators of rental housing to better understand their customers and improve their level of service.
Here, we offer five takeaways to highlight what residents sometimes hate about apartment life—and what property management professionals can do about it in order to drive improved resident retention.
Frustration #1: Perception of Value
According to the Biennial Online Rental Study, the top driving force behind renewal intent is perception of value. This topic has consistently been rated as “extremely important” and the top renewal driver in every study SatisFacts has done since 2015. Residents want to feel as if they are getting their money’s worth out of their rental payment, which is often the biggest bill they pay every month.
Demonstrating value to renters has become more challenging in recent months as market rents have increased dramatically nationwide. According to data from RealPage, new renters signing leases in June 2022 paid 19.2% more than the previous residents of the same units. Renters renewing leases in June 2022 paid 11.2% more per month compared to their previous lease. With the monthly rent payment taking an increasingly large bite out of residents’ incomes, it’s reasonable that residents may feel aggrieved and struggle with whether or not their apartment home is “worth it.”
What can property management professionals do to overcome this objection? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer because perception of value is subjective and my differ in the eyes of every renter. Focus on delivering exceptional service and train team members to discuss the benefits of living at a well-managed community.
Frustration #2: Quality of Maintenance
One of the primary benefits of renting rather than owning is the low-maintenance lifestyle. According to the Biennial Online Rental Study, quality of maintenance services provided has been rated as a top renewal driver in every study conducted since 2011. When something breaks, renters are relieved to know that someone else is responsible for fixing it.
However, that relief can turn to frustration when the service residents receive does not meet their expectations. Residents are dismayed by service delays, sloppy work, and poor communication. Unresolved or ongoing maintenance concerns can diminish their ability to fully use and enjoy their apartment home, which lowers their perception of value.
How can you ensure you are meeting your residents’ maintenance needs? First, make it easy and convenient for residents to communicate when service is needed. Empowering self-service options to allow residents to submit service requests via your resident app means residents can request service 24/7. Respond promptly to all requests and clearly explain any service delays. Set clear expectations so residents aren’t in the dark about when to expect a resolution to their concerns and maintain contact until their issue is resolved to their satisfaction.
Frustration #3: Safety and Security Concerns
Renters widely report that feeling a sense of safety and security at their apartment community is extremely important and greatly impacts their renewal decision. What are the reasons residents may feel uneasy about the level of safety and security where they live? Concerns may include having to park a far distance from their front door, parking areas and walkways inadequately lit or overgrown with shrubbery, and crime in the immediate or surrounding area.
While rental housing owners and managers can never guarantee the safety and security of their residents, they can take steps to address areas of concern. Proactive solutions may include assigning and managing parking spots; ensuring lighting is sufficient and well maintained through the use of regular lighting inspections; and controlling community, amenity, and apartment unit access through the use of access control such as smart lock technologies. Keep in mind that safety and security concerns are more than a customer service issue. They are also a risk and liability issue for owners and management companies. It’s important to uphold your company’s standards and messaging guidelines at all times.
Frustration #4: Quality of Customer Service Provided by the Office Staff
An apartment community office team has their work cut out for them when it comes to being responsive to the needs of both prospective residents and current residents alike. Leasing offices can be hectic and unpredictably busy. Residents can be demanding and sometimes unreasonable. Nonetheless, it’s imperative that each customer’s needs are met promptly, professionally, and with kindness and empathy.
How can a rental housing community office staff deliver on this commitment to their customers? Good service starts with having the appropriate staffing level in place to meet the needs at each community. This is especially challenging today, with record-breaking low unemployment creating an unprecedented labor shortage and open positions sitting empty longer than usual. It’s hard to deliver top-notch service when you are short staffed. Filling vacant positions ASAP is key; turn to temporary staffing services for help filling the gaps. Ensure all team members are well trained and have the knowledge, skill, and ability to meet your residents’ needs. Instill in the team a willingness and enthusiasm for delighting your customers. Use technology to automate and streamline administrative processes so that office teams can focus instead on the activities that deliver the greatest value to the customer experience.
Frustration #5: Administrative Hassles
Part of the appeal of renting is the convenience. Residents are looking to their apartment communities to make their lives easier and less stressful. When residents run into administrative roadblocks and hassles that make doing business with their apartment community team a headache, they are likely to reconsider just how convenient renting actually is.
Look for every opportunity to add efficiency and ease to your residents’ living experience. Move your processes online so residents can conduct business on their own schedule. Customers want the flexibility to do everything from reserving an apartment to lease, signing the lease, renewing the lease documents, to paying rent, and requesting maintenance service available to them from their laptop or smart phone. They also appreciate amenities and services that allow them to meet their needs from the comfort of their home or community. The ability to reserve fitness equipment, for example, saves them from wasting valuable time idling in the fitness center while waiting for a machine to become available. Highlight the many ways in which your apartment community saves your residents time, money, and effort—and always be on the lookout for upping your game.
Earning your residents’ repeat business and renewal lease is dependent upon your apartment community team’s ability to meet customers’ expectations. The Biennial Online Renter Study provides a valuable glimpse into renters’ sentiment and gives rental housing providers the data needed to rise to the service challenge.