Keeping projects in top shape and retaining residents were common themes at the Apartment Finance Today Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., last week.

"Be sensitive to your residents," said Rich Kelly, vice president of LumaCorp, during a panel on net operating income (NOI). For the first time in 20 years, LumaCorp will allow its residents to split payments during the month and will also accept credit card payments while eating the convenience fees.

Kelly also said there are a number of organizations in a community that can come to the aid of residents due to layoffs or other personal crises and encouraged other owners in the audience to know those groups in their markets.

Kelly also emphasized the importance of creating a sense of community. Handing out doughnuts and juice in the driveway as residents head off to work in the morning is one way to make the residents feel valued as well as connected to the on-site staff. Another suggestion for keeping existing residents and attracting new ones is to pay the largest resident referral fees allowed by your state, according to Kelly.

The NOI panelists also said you need to keep amenities such as the fitness room in clean and working order. "It’s critically important to squeeze the bottom line as best as we can," said Lee Harris, president of Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services.

Revenue management software can aid your bottom line, added Georgianna Oliver, CEO of EverGreen Solutions. However, you need to do your research and test out the products first. Oliver, for one, stressed that owners host their own data to save on costs.

Jeff Kelly, COO of Sullens & Euchner, added his perspective on how technology can save money. Instead of using a vendor to create and print your marketing materials, you can do it yourself with inexpensive technology, he explained.