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Brent Williams' Apartment Blog

Thoughts, comments, and ideas about the overall multifamily industry, as well as a property-specific focus on resident retention and apartment marketing.

Who Are Your Comps Really? A Third Take.

Gabriele Preston started this conversation with her great blog about apartment competitors and Mark Juleen continued the discussion on ILS's as apartment comps. I'd like to expand their discussion to include another group, single family housing. When I first jumped into property management, I was amazed at how our industry has seemed to have given up the fight against this competitor, and to this day, it never ceases to shock me when I hear a leasing consultant actually congratulate a resident for leaving to buy a home! It seems that our own employees have bought into the belief that we cannot compete against the "American Dream". Do we have a self-esteem issue, or have we not clarified what the true benefits are of apartment living?


single family housing


This has been especially apparent during the foreclosure crisis recently. Of course, there are issues with credit-worthiness of some foreclosed residents, but this was our opportunity to make a giant push against single-family housing. We could have institituted a marketing push to show the apartment industry with their arms open, saviors to those losing their houses. This would have gained us market share and great press. But this concept was not on the radar.

Ultimately, I think we haven't established ourselves as worthy competitors to single-family housing because we haven't coalesced a central list of benefits for living at apartment communities, which makes sense since these benefits have been relatively unimportant in our struggle against other apartment communities. We talk about great maintenance, but only in relation to our comps. We don't even mention the fact that single-family provides no maintenance at all. This concept of "hassle-free living" could easily be our driving force in a push against single-family housing.

Beyonce advertisng apartments?I think the most challenging aspect of this type of competition is that we need to establish ourselves as an industry, rather than independantly. Think about the "Got Milk?" campaign, which wasn't coordinated by one company, but rather by the California Milk Processor Board, and turned into one of the best received and executed marketing programs in history. It raised awareness of milk in ways that were never apparent before. Even recently cited on Wikipedia, "In 2008, the campaign capitalized on the poor economic condition of Americans and used financial adviser and talk show host, Suze Orman, in an effort to advertise milk as a smart and nutritious commodity to purchase.  Why can't the multifamily industry pool its massive resources and start a campaign touting our great features?

There are benefits, and potential benefits, to living in apartment communities versus single family housing, and I think it's time we showed some guts!

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

THANK YOU! I don't know why we don't pool some resources and start talking about why it's so much better to rent. I rent personally for a few VERY good reasons:
1) it's more cost effective in my market when you factor in the price of repairs and insurance and taxes
2) I don't have the time or, really, the requisite knowledge to fix things that break in my home
3) Gym memberships are between $25- $206 a month in this area (and I don't even really use the gym that much!)
4) I like my team there. They make me feel good and they take care of whatever I need them to.

Besides which, I can save back the same amount of money that would be going in to equity for a home purchase of the same size and, even at a lower interest rate, I know it's guaranteed to go up, where as a home is a big gamble in our market out here right now. I'd rather have the freedom to travel or the time to build a nest egg before I buy a house and am FORCED to stake down my roots.

A HOME is the American Dream, not a house. Big Difference.

  Heather Blume
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And don't forget condo or coop fees - they never go down.

  Holly Bray
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Thanks for the comments, you all! Heather, I LOVE your last line about "Home" versus "House". And Holly, you definitely hit on a major point about other fees that most people don't budget for. It's so easy to see a low mortgage, compare it to rent, and see it as a good deal, which is completely false! I think that, plus the uncertainty of the current market, and the foreclosure crisis could easily translate well with the current "pain point" for potential buyers/renters.

  Brent Williams
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I am in the industry and lived in an apartment for several years and recently just purchased my first home. Although I love it and wouldn't give it up for anything I do find myself sacrificing quite a lot to keep this home including shopping excursions, vacations, nights out, etc. And this comes from someone who is extremely financially responsible and did not "get in over their head". Just last week it took me two hours to change my garbage disposal because the plumbing was setup to accomodate a different style. I would have rather been watching TV. Renting is a more carefree lifestyle allowing people to "live". We need to remind people this instead of the stigma that it is just a by product until one can afford the "American Dream".

  Michelle Metzner Pendley
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In other industries, you hear references to this phrase: "Lock and leave." It's the ultimate freedom for anyone who enjoys travel, who is actively travelling for business - and you never hear the phrase used in the Apartment industry.

  April Thayer
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Michelle - Great comment about the "hidden hassles" of owning a home. And by the way - kudos for fixing the disposal in two hours! I had two friends who were roommates and it must have taken two weeks to get that thing figured out!

April - That's an interesting phrase, and I think it would work well with the jetsetter lifestyle!

Thanks for the comments!

  Brent Williams

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