Model Misbehavior: What to Avoid to Sell More Prospects

home decor

Apartment models can leave a lasting impression with potential renters, making the difference between securing a new lease and watching the one that got away. Models staged to meet current trends and designs are more inviting to prospective residents, say apartment industry style gurus who presented at the recent National Apartment Association’s Education Conference & Expo.

To put it simply, a model that’s out of date will do little more to sell a prospect than a vacant unit.

Industry consultant Heather Blume, CAS, Dana Pate of Matrix Residential and Eric Clark of Altman Companies discussed what’s getting attention and engaging prospects when they walk into a model. And what’s not.

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What’s hot today in apartment models

Blume, of Behind the Leasing Desk Training and Consulting Services, says color, furniture, rugs, defined lines, types of beds and the little things make a big difference in how a model sells.

Monochromatic color palettes are huge right now, she says. Using variations of single colors, particularly gray, gives models a warm, organized feel even before furniture is staged. Adding a darker shade can give the room pizzazz. “You want to add one specific color pop,” she said. “That kind of interrupts what the eye is taking in. It really causes you to take notice.”

Blume also says fainting couch sectionals are in demand, much like the big sectionals of the early 2000s, and that you can’t go wrong by adding texture with tufted furniture. “I’ve seen people who have tufted towels,” she said. “That’s a very big trend at the moment.”

On the floor, asymmetrical rugs help smaller spaces look larger. If you’re concerned that guests may trip over the edges, Blume suggests running a strip of caulk around the corners.

For the 20-39 crowd, using clean, defined lines at urban properties is a win. And platform beds are a nice fit to make lower ceilings look taller.

Don’t forget the little luxuries, either, Blume says.

“Think of little, tiny touches that you can do, like the curved shower rods,” she said. “We’ve been talking about these for at least five years, and they are still considered to be a really big thing. In fact, a lot of people are expecting them to be standard in new construction. So keep that in mind.”

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How to sell the story (and lease the apartment)

Clark and Pate say that apartments can learn from the retail industry about how to create engaging experiences when prospective residents set foot in models. Retail clothing, grocery stores and big furniture outlets are prime examples of how visual merchandising is used to move products.

“It’s just selling a story and using product and merchandising to do it,” Clark said.

Theme displays like those in department stores can create a mood that sells. For example, he said, if your model has a balcony that overlooks a pool and it’s summer, set the unit up so it looks like the resident is getting ready for a barbecue. Fixins’ on the table will tell the story. You may also consider capturing the spirit of the local university by blending team colors into the model’s decor.

Clark says technology is a big player and suggests tying in sight, sound and motion. Run a DVD of the property on a flat screen TV. Interactive displays that enable prospective residents to touch something are also a good idea.

And don’t forget those special offers. Grocery and department stores are known for their clearance racks to engage shoppers, and apartment communities can do the same through promoting amenities and other features. One suggested example is putting signs on appliances, such as an energy-saving dishwasher, to emphasize environmental perks.

Pate says IKEA does a great job of drawing consumers into the furniture buying process by creating small displays that highlight products. The same can be done in models.

“IKEA’s store models are meant to inspire you, and help you visualize yourself in that space and in your home,” she said. “They encourage you to interact with the displays – sit down on the couch, open up the kitchen cabinet – so you can better connect with their products and feel like they are yours.”

Pate and Blume say it is most important to know your community’s demographic when outfitting a model. You want to fill out the apartment with the types of accessories that prospective renters are likely to have.

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What not to do when decorating your model

Don’t overcrowd the apartment with furniture, loud and cluttered designs and junk, says Pate. Carefully position furnishings to create an open feel with sufficient seating.

Incomplete or broken fixtures in models can be deal killers. Replace burned out light bulbs and make sure all exposed bulbs match.

According to Blume, fuzzy toilet seat covers are out, and fake plants need to go. Avoid overdoing it by using a half-dozen pillows on the bed, and instead use about half that many.

Placing multiple wine bottles on kitchen counters is too much, and so is that knife block. While you’re at it, get rid of those decorative olive oil bottles that were so fashionable a few years ago, as they’ve probably turned colors and just aren’t desirable to look at, Blume says.

And, finally, clean up the clutter. Electrical cords should not be seen angling from behind furniture onto the floor. If they must emerge from furnishings, neatly tuck and fasten them along baseboards.

“A model should look like someone could live in it, not that someone is living in it,” Blume says.

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Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

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Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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