Ghost, ghouls, & good times: Halloween ideas for property managers

Amanda Maher
Amanda Maher | 6 min. read
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Published on October 20, 2015

The holidays always present property managers with a tricky decision: to celebrate with residents or not?

Halloween is no different. For some property managers, it’s not an option—they have a sweet spot for fall festivities that can only be met by dishing out bags of candy to neighborhood children. Others are hesitant, worried that Halloween activities may open the door to unforeseen costs and liabilities.

Fortunately, we’ve made the tricky decision for property managers much easier by outlining a number of creative ways to celebrate Halloween with tenants—with ideas that go well beyond just trick-or-treating!

Host a Costume Exchange

Anyone who celebrates Halloween knows that costume manufacturers can really hold you hostage. I’d love to make my own costumes, but I don’t have a creative bone in my body. This means each time I celebrate Halloween, I’m dropping at least $100 on another costume (plus accessories!). Two Halloween parties this year? Two costumes. It’s a vicious cycle, and I know I’m not alone.

If space permits, send out flyers to tenants and encourage them to participate in a costume exchange party. A resale event would work just as well. This is a great idea for adults and children alike, as parents have little reprieve for the tiny tots’ costumes, which add up just as quickly.

Host a Complex-Wide Party

A party. Sounds simple enough. But if you’re looking to take the party to another level, consider the following ideas:

  • Turn the lobby, clubhouse, or other common area into a haunted house. Include lots of twists and turns with surprises around every corner. Strobe lights and eerie music can intensify the haunted house, as can clowns (for some reason, everyone is afraid of clowns!). If there are a lot of children in your complex, it might be wise to tone down the scare-factor. In any event, spider webs, skeletons, and a fake graveyard are a must!
  • For the 21+ crowd, consider a wine or beer tasting event that is fall-themed but not necessarily Halloween-overload. Hire a sommelier that will pair autumn wines with an array of cheeses. This would require very little effort on the property manager’s part (especially compared to a haunted house!) and could be structured as a casual happy hour event. Another option: Bring in an array of Oktoberfest and/or pumpkin beers and set up 3-ounce tastings for residents to try—because let’s face it, committing to a 12-ounce pumpkin beer isn’t always in the cards for some people, but 3 ounces could pique their taste buds’ interest.
  • Lots of kids living in your properties? Bring them together on a Friday or Saturday night for an evening of ghost stories. Create a cozy setting for children to come together in a circle, while volunteers recount their favorite tales. Hand out miniature flashlights and dim the lights to create a spooky environment. (As an added bonus, these flashlights can be party gifts that children can later use while trick-or-treating.) Finish the night off by sending each child home with a candy apple.

Hold a Halloween-Themed Contest

Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned competition? The most obvious competition is for best Halloween costume (with prizes for children, adults, and pets). This falls somewhere between Halloween party and Halloween contest, as it really requires a party to be able to judge the costumes (see above for party ideas). Other contests are less ubiquitous and can work even for the property manager who only has three or four units to oversee:

  • Pumpkin-carving contest: Hand out a similarly-sized pumpkin to each unit and invite them to participate in a pumpkin carving contest. Set an end date (e.g. all pumpkins must be on display by Friday at 5 pm), then have a designated group of judges determine the winner (be sure to save a pumpkin for each judge, too, as a token of appreciation). One caveat: Jack-o’-lanterns with real candles can be a major fire hazard! Require all tenants to use electronic tea lights instead.
  • Balcony- or patio-decorating contest: If each of your units has a balcony or patio, encourage residents to get festive by decorating their outdoor space for the rest of the neighborhood to enjoy. Ghosts, mummies, scarecrows, witches—all options are on the table (or on the patio!). For property managers, this is a low-cost way for residents to show their pride and creativity in a fun way.
  • Door-decorating contest: No patio or balcony? No problem. Every unit has a door. No matter how many units you manage, a door-decorating contest is possible. I’ve seen this go in every direction—with some doors decorated as faces (think: the Joker, a Minion, or a ghost) and others decorated with tombstones, bats, cobwebs and mummified hands that reach out to greet you. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t forget to put together a prize package or gift certificate for the winner of the contest. Some property managers even offer a discount on the next month’s rent—an option worth considering, if you’d like.

Sponsor Trick-or-Treating

Okay, okay, we promised ideas that didn’t include trick-or-treating—and we offered those ideas above. But realistically, property managers are forced to determine whether or not to actively engage in or encourage trick-or-treating. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind, but most importantly:

  • Set specific hours for trick-or-treating and publicize them throughout the property leading up to Halloween.
  • Have residents sign up in advance if they’d like to participate.
  • Give all trick-or-treaters a list of participating units so as not to bother the other residents.
  • Be sure to keep a few tasty treats at the front desk or leasing office for any ghosts or ghouls stopping by for an evening that’s sure to be a good time.

Property managers don’t have to do any of the activities listed above. They can just as easily sit back and allow tenants to organize events on their own terms. The benefit of spearheading Halloween activities is that it provides the property manager with some added control on an evening that is known for mischief. What’s more, these little gestures can go a long way in creating a sense of goodwill between the owner and residents, and can help to foster a stronger sense of community among tenants: A win-win for everyone involved.

Read more on Resident Management
Amanda Maher

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a master's in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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