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Growing Your Business Resident Retention

Amenities such as fitness centers and community areas are high on renter wish lists. (Flickr/Milestone Management)
Amenities such as fitness centers and community areas are high on renter wish lists. (Flickr/Milestone Management)

Property managers walk a fine line of investing in their property to improve its marketability and managing finances responsibly enough to be profitable. Knowing which investments to make and which to avoid can be the deciding factor in attracting the right tenants — or driving them away. Aside from keeping current occupants happily established in their units over the long term, attracting new clients is one of the biggest factors in successful property maintenance. Now that we’ve stated the obvious, it’s time to take a hard look at the somewhat less obvious: how to do it.

Apartment Guide conducted a national survey of 6,800 property managers in which respondents were asked to name the top three most desired amenities by tenants. According to the survey, square footage/floor plans came in number one (76% of customers), followed by pool, fitness, and community centers (60%), appliances (54%), and the ability to pay rent online (45%).

Still another national survey conducted by the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) and Kingsley Associates identified the top amenities as high-speed Internet access, a patio or balcony, and unit washer/dryers.

Obviously, there is quite a bit of deviation in the results across the two surveys, and depending on your part of the country and typical occupant demographics, tenant preference can vary. Still though, the basics are the basics: living space, appliances, and atmosphere seem to fit the bill across the board.

Does your property measure up in these areas? If not, you might have some planning to do.

Room to Breathe

A spacious floor plan can attract a steady stream of eager tenants — and keep your current occupants happy. Increasing the square footage of your rental house or the apartments in your building is often not feasible without a major renovation effort. This is not only costly, but time-consuming and potentially disruptive to your tenants’ lives as well. If spaciousness is not one of your property’s main characteristics, you can still create the illusion of spaciousness by example: staging your house or model unit appropriately will inspire ideas in potential tenants.

Minor adjustments to architecture are another great way to define and enhance space. For example, varying floor levels can add a dash of interest and drama to a unit. A small step down or up can be all it takes for your tenants to psychologically experience a shift in their surroundings. You can choose to elevate the dining area to keep it distinct from the living room, or you could do it the other way around. Either way, a small change in floor level is not a terribly expensive addition to a unit. Its effect on your tenant’s perception and appreciation of the apartment, however, can be quite substantial. Subtle changes can have a big impact.

Community Spaces

Offering community areas to host events or relax allows tenants to have a great time among friends or other tenants without having to worry about a lack of space in their own apartment units. Community spaces are quickly becoming in vogue, as they offer tenants a source of freedom and ownership in their apartment complex as well as a chance to feel like part of a community by mingling with their neighbors. Lounges, pools, grill stations, community gardens, and even dog parks are all attractive to tenants looking to establish a place they can call home.

Throwing in the Extras

High-speed internet access is a great bonus for tenants and one that will surely keep them happy — but is it doable for most property managers? Likely not. If the cost is not a deterrent, the potential for outages to be pinned on your apartment building rather than the service provider might.

Should you choose to implement internet access for all of your tenants, be sure to roll the cost into the price of rent and be prepared for complaints when problems arise. If Internet access is not possible across the entire apartment complex that you own or manage, consider implementing a business center with complimentary high-speed Internet access instead. It will save both you and your tenants money.

Speaking of saving money, all property managers are well aware of the most requested amenity (though often the least taken advantage of) is an apartment gym. Apartment gyms provide tenants with a tremendous opportunity for savings. Gym memberships, not to mention gas, are extremely costly. Your gym doesn’t have to be a world-class fitness center, but consider allowing personal trainers to offer discounted sessions to apartment tenants to offer an added bonus for your clientele at no cost to you.

The NMHC/Kingsley survey noted that an impressive 70% of respondents consider that features like ceiling fans and granite countertops as important or very important. If you are going to cater to upgrades like these, make sure that you go for both form and function. Window treatments go a long way in enhancing a room’s aesthetic appeal, and plantation window shutters are both durable and are energy-efficient. Ceiling fans, another addition that is often taken for granted, offer tenants the ability to decrease utility bills and save energy, as well. Don’t overlook the little things. Potential clients don’t.

Make sure you opt for high-quality products and appliances. Items that are cheaply made also tend to break down quickly. Remember that you are enticing tenants to make your apartment building their home. No one wants to move into a unit that has obviously been set up with bargain-basement materials and amenities.

Efficient Property Management

Lastly, the most attractive apartment complex in the world will send wise tenants running for the hills if it is not properly managed. A knowledgeable, professional staff that is fully capable (and happy) to address tenant concerns, no matter how unreasonable, is important to keeping tenants satisfied. Consider adding infrastructure like an online payment system that allows tenants to conveniently pay their rent on time without ever changing out of their pajamas. We all know that this is an amenity that almost everyone can appreciate. While bells and whistles are all great for attracting new clients, what keeps them happy is an efficient property management system. Be sure that you have one in place.

Do Your Homework

Making your property a catch for new tenants is a significant investment. It’s important to understand that location, demographics, and other factors all play a role in determining what your current (and future) tenants want. Before making any big decisions, reach out to your existing tenants with a brief survey to see which amenities or possible upgrades are most important to them. They will appreciate your attentiveness, and it will give you key insight into which amenities can potentially give you the most bang for your buck.

Attracting and keeping good tenants is an ongoing challenge for many building managers. By giving them the amenities they want to enjoy the most, you not only increase your chances of landing the kind of tenants who will appreciate your property, but you also end up with happy tenants living in homes they love. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

Beth Clymer