Resident Retention Strategies: Giving Value to the Lifelong Apartment Renter

Creating Value for the Lifelong RenterMy parents think I’m crazy for still living in an apartment. I have been an apartment renter my entire adult life and I appreciate all of the benefits that come along with it. Worry-free living, neighbors who have been pre-screened, packages that are signed for you and not dropped at your door, amenities on site – what’s not to love? If I lived in a city like New York, for example, apartment living would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately I do not, so the house-buying chatter persists. Still, I remain confident and unwavering.

About ten years ago, I decided to rent a house for a year to see if home ownership was for me. I figured this would be a great opportunity to experience what buying a home would be like without making such a huge financial commitment. Within the first month, the water heater broke. This fiasco took more than a week to resolve. My neighbor would occasionally serenade us all with late night guitar solos. And then there was the issue of mowing the lawn, both front and back. In the end, I decided that I was better off not buying a house and moved back into another apartment community.

There are certainties that come with age, such as your favorite foods and whether or not you are a “morning person.” Other things are not so easy to determine. When my daughter left home for college, I decided it was time to trade in my four-door for something a little sportier. I convinced everyone that it would ease the separation anxiety when actually I was shouting to the world, “Hallelujah – bring on the good life!” I had my heart set on a beautiful navy blue Porsche with tan leather interior. Very quickly, my poor heart developed a condition referred to as “sticker shock.” Undeterred, I started researching other cars and found a more economical option. My new car was sleek, sporty and growled like any Porsche I’d ever heard. Even better was the price – no ramen noodle dinners for this girl!

Whenever I am faced with a major buying decision such as purchasing a home or buying a car, I have found it beneficial to test the waters first. This usually makes it easier to answer the “Is it worth it?” question. Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes the answer is “no.” Each year, I find myself asking this same question when I receive my renewal letter.

According to the 2011 SatisFacts Index, residents were asked to rate the value they received for the price they were asked to pay. The overall average was 3.57 out of 5.00, which is considered a low-average rating score. We all know that residents are not going to walk into your office and say, “You know what? I don’t think I pay enough to live here…please take this additional check.” But they do consider multiple factors in determining the overall value when it comes to living at your community. And in the end, the overall perceived value is going to secure the renewal.

In the same study, when asked what can be done to improve the community, 33.4 percent of residents answered “value for rent paid,” which was the most chosen option. To understand what “value” is we must look at things from a resident’s point of view. How easy is it to be a resident at your community? Is living at your community “worry free” or “worrisome?” Residents need to feel confident that the office is responsive and dependable and that service requests are going to be handled promptly by maintenance and completed right the first time. Drop the ball in these two areas and value goes out the window.

Residents don’t mind rent increases – they understand it goes with the territory. What they don’t like is being asked to pay more for lackluster service as well as unreturned phone calls and emails. You never know when a lifelong apartment renter is just one signature away from another year at your community. They, like me, will be asking themselves, “Is it worth it?”

Let’s hope the answer is yes.


Vice President of Education and Consulting, SatisFacts Research

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Lia Smith career in training, property management and marketing began in the mid 1990′s. Lia began her training career at Nextel Communications, where she was responsible for training over 1,000 Customer Care Representatives. She then embarked on a new career in property management as a Leasing Associate with Lincoln Property Company, and steadily moved up the ranks. Lia was able to merge the worlds of training and property management when in 2006 she became Director of Training and Marketing at SPM Property Management, a 14,000+ unit portfolio; this included creating SPM Academy and a Learning Management System. She also developed and managed SPM’s resident feedback program, and was responsible for providing post-survey action planning support for property teams and management. Lia has proven experience in solving training and resident retention challenges for market, affordable, senior, tax credit and student communities. These experiences have helped Lia relate to both onsite and corporate associates. Lastly, Lia has presented at key industry events such as MultifamilyPro Brainstorming on topics related to developing the operational and service skills of onsite and executive level teams. Lia Joined the SatisFacts team in 2011 as VP of Education and Consulting.

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