In areas where renters have abundant apartment options, most property managers keep a careful eye out for marketing techniques and products that will give their lease-up an edge.
And even as a faltering home-sales market strengthens the hand of apartment owners and managers, there are plenty of markets and submarkets around the country where renters can still afford to be choosy.
What are the tricks to getting and keeping tenants in such markets?
While there are plenty of new marketing strategies that can help, it’s even more important to focus on the simple skills of targeting the right renters, giving them what they want, and serving them well, executives say.
“It goes back to the basics of having the right people staffing the property,” said Cindy Shepardson, vice president for operations for Western National Property Management, which manages more than 28,000 units in locations throughout Southern California. Customer service is key, she said, and not just for handling the needs and concerns of current residents, but also for contacting, nurturing, and qualifying prospects.
“While on the one hand we’re becoming more sophisticated in our targeting, we can’t ever forget the basics of curb appeal and the way you treat your customer in the initial encounter,” said R. Lee Harris, president and chief operating officer of NAI Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services, Inc.
Western National recently started using a dedicated call center to handle all inquiries about new properties.
“We’re finding that quite successful and are using that on all our lease-ups,” said Shepardson.
Such workers can also help qualify prospects, an endeavor Western National is finding more challenging than it expected in Moreno Valley, Calif. There, the company is leasing a 320-unit Class A property in a blue-collar neighborhood at the same time that several other apartment companies are competing for the same pool of prospective residents. “Where you might capture 50 percent of your traffic on a normal lease-up, we might be capturing 20 percent,” said Shepardson.
Both knowing the demographics from which a property will be drawing and creating a profile of target renters are crucial to reeling in prospects who will be ready to sign on the dotted line, executives say. Then managers “need to do everything in their marketing strategy to attract that profile,” said Harris.
And as always, renters are still keeping their eyes on the bottom line. Even though Western National has been able to implement rent increases of between 5.5 percent and 6 percent on average, concessions are still being used to get renters in the door. Offering quality amenities—such as high-end fitness centers, granite counters in the clubhouse, and upscale kitchens and baths—also helps convince prospective tenants they’re getting good value, according to Shepardson.
“There’s a lot of gimmicks you can use to close that lease,” she said. “But the bottom line is, the prospect is looking at the price and what they can get for their money.”