Retaining Good Residents When You're a Landlord

Keeping good residents — those who pay their rent on time, take care of the property, and get along with their neighbors — is important as a landlord because the key to financial success in investing in real estate is stable, long-term tenants that stay and pay and don't bother their neighbors. To plug that gap, here are a few suggestions on how to improve retention of good residents:

  • Hire nice people. The most important consideration in selecting new hires is to find the nicest people you can and put them to work at the frontline of your company. Frontline employees, such as your onsite manager, leasing agents, and maintenance personnel, have the most frequent — and often most unpleasant — interactions with residents, so you want the nicest people working up-front.

  • Empower your staff. Let your employees know that one of their most important responsibilities is to let your residents win. They need the authority to solve their customers' problems on the spot. Equally important, they need to know that the organization will uphold their decisions and provide any assistance they need.

  • Be complaint-friendly. Encourage residents to notify you of any problems they're having and be receptive and responsive when residents submit complaints or maintenance requests. Don't get defensive or consider a complaint petty; if a resident communicates a problem, then it's significant to that resident.

  • Respond quickly to maintenance and repair requests. Customers expect expeditious service and are increasingly willing to pay extra for it, with both money and loyalty. What may seem minor to you, such as a leaky faucet or a clogged drain, may be a major annoyance or inconvenience to a resident. Fix even minor problems quickly. (Respond to issues regarding heating, cooling, electricity, gas, and water within three to four hours, if at all possible.)

  • Make up for the hassle factor. When residents experience a problem with their unit, they expect that the situation will be resolved promptly to their satisfaction. They also deserve an additional benefit, something unexpected, to make amends for the annoyance.

  • Recognize and recover from service deficiencies. Look for gaps in services, and plug those gaps. To identify areas for improvement, keep an eye on your competition and listen to your residents when they communicate their needs.

  • Improve your customer ergonomics. Streamline procedures, so residents don't have to jump through hoops to have their needs met. With the electronic technology available these days, take advantage of the opportunity for immediate response. And an added benefit is that you then have written documentation of your interaction.

  • Underpromise, overdeliver. A frequent complaint of retail customers is that their suppliers have promised things they either couldn't deliver or didn't intend to deliver. The overpromise, underdeliver syndrome is prevalent in the real estate industry.

  • Thin the rulebook. It's human nature to overregulate the behavior of others. Decide which rules are absolutely essential to protecting human safety and the apartment community. Keep the essential rules, and get rid of everything else.

  • Wow your residents. Dazzle residents with an occasional, unexpected perk that you've scrupulously planned to delight them. Personally wash their cars some spring Saturday. Serve them coffee, juice, and rolls in the parking lot at 7 a.m. Throw an impromptu Memorial Day opening-the-pool party. Whatever it is, let your residents know that you love them!

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