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13 Unique Ways to Boost Your Resident Retention

April 26, 2021

Convincing renters to sign another lease in 12 months is a property manager’s greatest challenge. These 13 tips will help you boost your resident retention.

Landlords discussing resident retention

As a property or regional marketing manager, a key part of your job is to find new residents when tenants move out. You have to list available units on online marketplaces. You'll also lead apartment tours and run background checks on prospective tenants.

And so on and so on …

Getting a great new tenant to fill a vacancy in your apartment complex takes a lot of hard work. Just think how much easier your life would be if you could keep your good tenants and not have to worry about finding new ones.

Good news, property managers! There are a lot of ways to do exactly that.

Having a strong apartment marketing strategy is a must. But you can minimize how many new tenants you need to recruit if you can maximize ways to keep the ones you already have.

That means developing a resident retention plan.

Here are 13 unique ways to boost your resident retention (and a lot of them are easier than you may think).

Why Is Resident Retention Important?

Keeping resident retention rates high will make your job easier. But there are a lot of other added benefits to doing so.

Resident retention is important because:

There’s No Guarantee You’ll Fill Empty Units

As a property manager, it’s your job to keep units filled at all times. And there’s never a guarantee that you’ll be able to re-rent an empty unit when a tenant moves out. The more properties and units you manage, the harder it can be to keep all of your units filled.

It’s a whole lot easier to keep tenants on board than find new ones.

Long-Term Residents Bring a Sense of Community

Maintaining a good relationship with long-term residents also helps to create continuity in the building. In turn, they can make other tenants feel safer and more comfortable. Residents feel most at ease when they know and trust their neighbors, so the longer those neighbors stick around, the better.

Move-Ins & Move-Outs Cost Time and Money

Moving out an old tenant and moving in a new one is a time-consuming process.

And time is money.

Just think of how much time you spend showing apartments to new tenants and doing inspections when old tenants move out. That time and money are better spent on other things, like making apartment upgrades to attract and retain even better tenants in the future.

Your Marketing Budget Will Be Cheaper

Retaining residents can also save you money on a marketing plan. The less you need to find tenants, the less you have to spend listing apartments on digital marketplaces and advertising on social media. 

See also: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Effective Apartment Marketing Plan

How to Retain Tenants (Starting On Day One)

Don’t wait until a tenant is approaching the end of their lease to start thinking about how to keep them.

Your resident retention strategy needs to start the day a new tenant moves in.

If you want to retain tenants from day one, follow these tips.

1. Establish Good Communication

Good communication is key!

From the first day of the lease, try to make yourself available and make it a priority to respond quickly to tenants’ needs and concerns. When they have maintenance issues, be sure to fix things right away. When they have noise complaints or concerns about safety issues, respond immediately.

No one will want to live in your building if you make them wait days on end to fix or address issues.

Creating a resident portal is one of the best ways to establish a solid line of communication. Set up an online resident portal where your residents can pay rent, submit maintenance requests, ask questions, and voice other concerns.

2. Keep the Entire Property Well-Maintained

Landlord snowblowing apartment complex

Resident satisfaction is key to resident retention, which means more than just providing them with a great apartment unit.

You absolutely must keep the entire property well-maintained.

Property maintenance includes:

  • Fixing the sidewalks
  • Shoveling snow
  • Fixing potholes in the parking lot
  • Landscaping
  • Regular trash pick-up

Be sure that all outdoor areas and shared amenities — such as pools, tennis courts, gyms, and rec centers — are in perfect order at all times.

If your apartment complex is pet-friendly, enforce the rules regarding how pet owners need to clean up after their animals. No one wants to step in dog poop when they walk outside!

3. Make the Building or Complex Feel Like a Neighborhood

Setting up a schedule of resident events is a great way to create a sense of community in your apartment complex. The more community events you make available to your current residents, the more your complex will feel like a neighborhood.

Host holiday parties and resident get-togethers by the pool. Start a community softball team or set a schedule for swim classes or pick-up basketball games. Throw balcony or door decorating contests around the holidays or establish your complex as the best place to trick or treat on Halloween.

The more people feel like they’re part of a community, the more likely they are to stick around.

4. Respect Their Privacy

Tenants don’t want to hear from you.

Ever.

No matter how friendly you may be, don’t ever get involved in your resident’s lives. They only want you around when there’s a problem.

You must respect a tenant's privacy at all times.

Try to make yourself available to their needs 24/7 but never, ever infringe on their rights or invade their space. The only time you should ever request or insist on access to their apartment is when there is a major issue, such as a broken pipe or a gas leak.

Many states have laws requiring that you provide a tenant with 24-hour notice before entering their unit except for emergencies.

Learn more about virtual property management. Read our Complete Guide to Virtual Property Management!

How to Retain Tenants At the End of a Lease

There’s no point in waiting until your tenant is about to move out to put your resident retention plan into action. But there are some things that your management team can do towards the end of a lease that can encourage them to stay.

If you want to retain tenants as the end of their lease approaches, here are some ideas:

5. Provide Cash Perks

A gift card to a local restaurant or a cash bonus is a great way to keep an apartment resident in place. We’re not talking a full-on bribe, per se, but a little gift just might be what it takes to convince them to renew a lease.

If the end of their lease is approaching around the holidays, disguise your gift card as a holiday gift. Even if they don't intend to stay, little perks like that can help you get referrals.

6. Offer Property Upgrades

Kitchen of a newly renovated apartment complex

One great way to get your tenants to renew their lease is to offer them a choice of pre-approved upgrades. Offer to install a new floor in the bathroom, a new appliance in the kitchen, or new paint in the living room.

A simple update may be all it takes to entice a tenant to stay. The trick is to offer upgrades that you would have to do anyway, even if the tenant was to move out.

That way, when they do move out eventually, the apartment is ready to rent!

7. Don’t Increase the Rent

You can boost your resident retention rates simply by not increasing their rent.

If you can afford to keep rental rates the same, do so.

Tenants expect a small rent increase here and there. But you can encourage them to renew their lease if you guarantee that their rent won’t go up for a year or two.

8. Upgrade Your Property to Provide the Amenities Tenants Want

Good property management requires that you know when to remodel units and provide residents with the amenities they want. Resident turnover is unavoidable. So when you're in between tenants, take the time to remodel to an open floor plan, upgrade the flooring, or install better appliances.

By upgrading your property when you lose a tenant, new amenities are more likely to get your next tenant to want to stay for a longer time.

9. Offer a Discount for Signing a Longer Lease

Another way to encourage a tenant to remain in your building is to offer them a discount if they’re willing to sign a longer lease. Instead of offering a lease renewal for one year, offer them a two-year renewal with the guarantee that there won’t be any rate or rent increases.

10. Start the Lease Renewal Process a Few Months in Advance

Don’t wait until two weeks before the end of a lease to get the ball rolling. Leasing is a commitment, and many renters spend weeks or even months weighing their options and deciding whether to stay or go.

Reach out to your tenant about three months before the end of their lease to let them know that you want them to stay!

The earlier you get the conversation going, the easier it will be to negotiate a lease renewal that works for both of you. Plus, it gives you some extra time to persuade a tenant by using some of the tips we mentioned above.

Things You Must Do as a Property Manager

As a property manager or regional marketing manager, there are certain things that you need to do day in and day out. Make these practices part of how you operate daily, and you'll have a better chance at boosting your tenant retention rates.

If you want to be a better property manager and boost your resident retention, here’s what you need to do:

11. Know the Market

People discussing resident retention strategies

Management companies and property owners often think that their apartment community is the best in the region. Still, the only way to know for sure is to know what the competition is doing.

Make sure you list your real estate at fair market value for your city. Whether you own one small multifamily property or operate a series of large complexes, you simply must know what your competitors have to offer.

Take the time to learn the demographics of your region and what your target audience is looking for. Check out your competitors on social media and online apartment marketplaces to see where they price and what they're offering.

If you have access to the local MLS or Zillow, you can also compare their price history and how long it takes them to fill vacancies.

No matter how high-end your kitchen appliances are or how stylish your bathroom fixtures are, you have to be smart about how you design and remodel.

Your tenants may be willing to pay a little extra for high-end finishes. But you won't retain any tenants at all if your rent is too high in comparison to the rest of the local market.

12. Screen for Good Tenants

There’s no point in trying to retain tenants unless they’re good tenants.

When you’re vetting prospective residents, be thorough. Run background checks and credit checks. Conduct interviews, scrutinize applications, and even ask for references.

The trick is to find good tenants that you want to keep. And that means putting practices in place that help you bring good people into your building.

If you have a bad tenant, don’t even try to keep them. A bad tenant can be worse than having no tenant at all, especially if they’re rude neighbors or leave behind thousands in repairs.

13. Be Nice!

This kind of goes without saying, but people don’t want to deal with a jerk. If you want your renters to stick around, be nice!

Treat all tenants fairly and treat them with respect.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re a terrible landlord or property manager, they’ll be out the door the day the lease is up. No one wants to pay rent to someone they don’t like, don’t get along with, or don’t feel respected by.

That old cliché “you get more bees with honey” is 100% true.

Conclusion

You can make your life easier and your property more profitable by retaining long-term tenants than having to re-fill vacant units.

And the process of retaining tenants starts before you even hand them the keys. Vet prospective tenants thoroughly to find the best ones.

On the day they move in, start the relationship on a positive note by:

  • Creating an open line of communication
  • Respecting their privacy
  • Keeping the building well-maintained
  • Building a sense of community

Towards the end of their lease, turn up the charm by offering discounts for lease renewal, agreeing that you won’t increase the rent, or providing upgrades and amenities as incentives to stay.

And always, always know your market. You might have the best apartment in the city, but you still need to be competitive. Price your units too high, and you run the risk of not having any tenants at all.

Retaining residents starts with finding the right people to rent out your units. With a 24/7 leasing agent like LeaseLeads on your website, you can connect future residents with the floor plans and amenities that’ll keep them around for years.

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