At the same time property managers manage construction and turn over renters during a rehab, they must keep current residents happy. Communication is key.

With the noise, dust, extra traffic, parking hassles, and other inconveniences, residents can't be left wondering what's going on—or what will happen next. “By constantly letting them know that we are sensitive to the inconvenience, we buy their loyalty,” says Steve Heimler, president of Stratus Real Estate in Woodland Hills, Calif.

To that end, Ann Carlile, a regional property manager with Rochester, N.Y.-based HOME Properties, designates a point person to deal with residents 24 hours a day. “Let the resident know [what to expect] every step of the rehab so they can organize themselves,” she says. “There's nothing worse than taking a shower with shampoo in your hair and the water stops running.”

Companies often soften the effects of the renovations through little extras and small gifts. Stratus gave every resident a tape of ocean sounds to drown out a noisy siding replacement. Carlile also suggests offering perks. “Show your appreciation with flowers, coffee, cards of thanks for patience,” she says. “If the renovation is just affecting one resident, offer them the use of the model for the duration.” When the project is finished, she says, throw a post-renovation party.