A strong retention rate is very beneficial for your apartment community, especially if the goal is to have a higher occupancy. When there's a lesser amount of leases expiring, it's easier to navigate through seasons of heavy turnover. Leasing agents have more time to follow through with leads and conduct high quality tours, plus revenue levels remain consistent.
Unfortunately, keeping more leases isn't a given. It takes effort. While you can't control what every tenant does, you do have some control over their living experience. The better their living experience is, the more likely it is they'll build enough loyalty with your apartments that they decide to extend their lease.
Here's four actions you can take to improve your apartment community's retention rate:
1. Make sure maintenance is done quickly and correctly.
To make a case for this, let me tell you about a personal nightmare experience I once had when dealing with a maintenance issue at an apartment complex my wife and I lived in.
It was your typical workday morning, and I was packed up and ready to go to my office. But as I walked down the stairs and out towards our garage, I realized I made the mistake of accidentally leaving our door opener in the car the night before. No big deal, I thought, I just have to run over to the leasing office to grab a master key.
Every garage in this community had a universal keyhole in the center that, when unlocked, allowed you to manually pull the string attached to the unit installed inside the garage that opens and closes the door. I retrieved the key, turned it over in the lock, and yanked on the cord.
I pulled harder. Still nothing.
Now I was starting to sweat. I was cutting into my commute time, so I texted one of my coworkers that I'd be running late. Meanwhile, I desperately kept pulling and pulling on the string to no avail.
I ran back to the leasing office and told them what was going on. They said that they'd have their on-call maintenance guy come take a look as soon as he could come over. That was a huge problem. I needed my car! I didn't have time to wait for an 'on-call' staffer.
But I had no other choice. Finally, the maintenance staffer pulled up in his truck and tried doing the same thing I was doing. Then he grabbed a crowbar to see if he could crank it open from the bottom—it was fruitless. I was already an hour late to work when he told me that he needed to call a local garage door company for help.
We waited another hour for the repair man. He shows up, and realizes he doesn't have the right keys to get inside the garage either. Out of sheer luck, the person who used the garage next to ours was home that day, and was willing to open hers so the maintenance guy could see if he could 'break in' to ours.
He used a hammer to smash through the plywood connecting the two garages, creating an opening just wide enough for us to sneak through. Once inside, the garage door repairman says, "Well there's your problem! The opener was installed backwards."
I finally showed up to my office shortly after 11 in the morning, more than 3 hours late. It was infuriating. Worse, we were later billed for the garage door repairman's service, even though we weren't responsible for the installment mistake.
The point of this whole, long story is this: make sure an incident like this never happens at your apartment community. You'll struggle to keep leases if tenants frequently have an experience like the one I had.
You should have maintenance personnel always available during normal business hours, and on-call during evenings. They should know what they're doing so tasks can be completed quickly, as well as have the proper equipment to do it. They are some of the most important members you hire to be on your team for this very reason.
2. Rethink your renewal process.
Some of you can't begin your day without your coffee from Starbucks. Every morning, you have to go around the drive-thru to get that $3.75 latte. Imagine how you would feel then, after a year of making Starbucks a part of your daily routine, they told you that you now had to pay $4 for that same coffee you get every morning?
Regrettably, this logic is still applied during the renewal process at some communities. Like the Starbucks analogy above, it's essentially punishing a tenant for their loyalty. This tactic clearly won't improve retention rates.
A smarter approach would be to incentivize tenants who wish to extend their lease. Here are some of our ideas:
- Offer the tenant a rental price that's at or below market levels. They shouldn't have to pay a higher amount than their current rate.
- Be more flexible with your renewal terms. Provide them the option to renew for 12 months, 6 months, or month-to-month without risk. This shows that you're willing to do what's in their best interests rather than your own.
- Reward renewals by offering an upgrade for the tenant, such as a Nest smart thermostat, ability to paint an accent wall, free carpet cleanings, a new appliance, etc.
Rethinking your community's renewal process, and finding ways to make tenants feel more comfortable extending their lease with you, can make a significant impact on your retention rate.
3. Foster community spirit at your property.
I was scrolling through our RentVision Instagram account one day and came across a pretty inspiring photo posted by a client community of ours.
The photo featured two of its leasing agents conducting a free drive-by breakfast for tenants on their way to work. They were handing out bagels, donuts, juice, and coffee. It was an excellent example of what going above and beyond looks like.
What's stopping you from cultivating a similar mindfulness at your apartment community? How are you actively showing love and fostering a community spirit that makes people want to stay there?
You could host monthly movie or trivia nights, outdoor competitions, happy hours, or partner with a local restaurant to cater a meal. There are a variety of different options to choose from. If you're struggling to keep tenants after their lease expires, maybe it's time to explore some ways to make your community feel more like home.
4. Purchase new equipment for your community's gym.
One of the most influential aspects of the apartment lifestyle is the convenience of working out in a community gym whenever you want. Purchasing new equipment, like the Peloton or Tonal, is a great way to leverage the power of this amenity.
Think of it this way, if you updated your community gym like this, tenants could get hooked on a workout program that requires those state-of-the-art machines. When it's time for their lease to expire, they will have to ask themselves if they're willing to give up on this convenience for something less or stay because they have everything they need.