A big part of whether Chicago-based REIT Equity Residential hits the low end of its 2009 revenue guidance (-4.5 percent) or the high end (-1.5 percent) will depend on just one thing—renewals.

“We’ve lost pricing power on our renewals in 2008,” said Equity CEO David J. Neithercut at the recent Citigroup Global Property CEO Conference.

Companies such as Equity, which has units in markets hard hit by the financial crisis, are finding renters digging in on renewals. “More and more [candidates for renewals] are doing their homework and more and more are coming in and showing the comps,” Neithercut says.

That’s not the case across the industry. Throughout its portfolio, UDR, a REIT based in Highlands Ranch, Colo., sees lease prices down 4 percent to 6 percent with new renters, but prices up 2 percent for renewals.

The business incentive for closely watching renewals is simple. In a tough economy, there are many advantages to keeping your current residents happy.

A number of managers are offering incentives to entice residents to stay put. Dallas-based Riverstone Residential, one of the country’s largest apartment managers, is trying something a little different: They go to their existing residents first and offer discounts. And Atlanta-based Post Properties is offering longer-term leases for customers who want to lock in rates.