How do you keep an older property competitive as brand-new properties pop up around you offering the latest and greatest amenities? Well, you need to do more than apply a fresh coat of paint. Julie Smith, president of Bozzuto Management Co., moderated a panel that included Drew Taylor, director of asset management at Mid-America Apartment Communities; Tom Wilkes, president of Post Apartment Management; and Jim Thomas, president of multifamily property management for Sares-Regis Group. And they all had plenty of innovative ideas to share with the audience.

In addition to updating the units?kitchen and bath upgrades are a must?and the clubhouse, the panelists rely on service offerings to compete with new product. Examples include a 30-day resident satisfaction guarantee; rent payments via credit card with no extra fees; flexible lease terms; pet-friendly policies; loyalty programs with incentives for long-term customers; and a customization program for accent walls and similar design elements.

Post Properties goes so far as to let residents select flooring, countertops, kitchen appliances, blinds, and closet organization systems-for a price. "The amenity pays for itself in three [or] four years," Wilkes said. "And it's a way for the leasing office to combat when people say, 'I'm looking for granite countertops.' We can say [that] for $40 more, we can do X."

Below are the top 10 ways to make an older property sparkle again, according to the panel.

    1. Seal and stripe the parking lot.
    2. Enhance the landscaping.
    3. Eliminate anything dated (i.e. '70s-era floral wallpaper).
    4. Replace signage. Don't forget about dated stop signs outside your property.
    5. Spice up the pool area with fresh furniture.
    6. Replace outdated mini-blinds with 2-inch blinds.
    7. Add WiFi to all common areas.
    8. Refurbish the leasing office and model units.
    9. Update kitchens and baths.
    10. Offer design options for residents.