Are You "Beyonce-Ready" to Lease Apartments?
Your leasing office may be open but are you really ready for business? You might think, well, that doesn't even make sense. If our leasing office is open, obviously, we are ready for business. But is that really true? Are we ready like it's showtime every time?
The Early Days: When Every Detail Matters
My journey might be similar to yours. I became a property manager when I was pretty young and honestly, pretty inexperienced. What I lacked in experience, I made up for in tenacity. [Insert: Nothing was going to get in my way of being the best manager and leasing pro ever. Yep, I was one of those!] At the very first community that I was hired to be a manager of, the very first day that I drove through that community I noticed every single imperfection that it had. I saw blinds that were messed up, when I drove in I noticed every pothole and of course, I noticed that the fence was kind of falling apart ... I noticed everything and I thought, "We're going to have to fix this." But then things changed.
The Progression: When I Started to Get Lax
After I'd worked there for an extended period of time, I started seeing my community through rose-colored glasses. So, I would stretch out the time period between fixing those blinds because I knew those residents were just going to mess them up again and then I'd have a hard time collecting the fees. I learned to swerve and miss the pothole. And that wrought iron fence that needed repairing became the least of my concerns.
Here's the problem. I had driven that apartment community so many times and I knew it inside and out. But I failed to remember one critical thing. The prospect, when they pull through the gates of your community, they're seeing it for the very first time with fresh eyes and they're noticing every single imperfection.
First Impressions: How Critical Are They?
First impressions are made in 30 seconds or less (some stats say way less!). That's all we have to capture our prospective renter's attention and then it's up to us to keep it. So, ask yourself, has a little bit of time passed, am I really seeing my community in an accurate way or have I started looking through those rose-colored glasses?
Remember, leasing apartments is like putting on a show. When our doors open, it's show time, baby! So let's get a little Beyonce on leasing apartments.
Making Sure We are Really Ready to Lease Apartments
Let's start with WHEN we show up. I'm about to say something that may sound outrageous, but please, hang with me. Start by making it a habit to get to your community ten to fifteen minutes early. I guarantee you, this is one of those things that is going to make you stand out as a star leasing professional and manager. This is how you take this from being just a job to actually be a career that you will love.
When you get there early, grab your inspection kit. Have a notepad, a pen, a clipboard, service requests and keep a little sparkle bucket with dust rags, air freshers, glass cleaners, paper towels, broom, dustpan, and even trash bags. Just anything that you might need as you're walking your route. And again, I call it a sparkle bucket because it doesn't have to be just an old Home Depot bucket. You can make it as fun (I'd probably add a little bedazzle). So, again have this on hand as you're ready to walk the community. For a really fun, intense look at the ol' sparkle bucket, check out this video made by Lincoln Properties here.
Your Tour Route: The Road to More Leases
Your tour route needs to be show ready. That means you have to pick your tour route before a prospect walks through the door. I learned this the hard way as a leasing professional a couple of times where I was running late and a took a prospect on a tour. I was mortified when there was a sewage backup or the dumpster was overflowing and, again, in those 30 seconds or less, that prospect had already made their decision before I had even taken them to their apartment home. All of the embarrassment could have been avoided by picking my tour route in advance and walking it before I had my prospect next to me. Another tip, avoid tour routes near eye sores. Things like dumpsters, drainage areas ... it's really hard to pretty those areas up, so avoid them if at all possible.
Don't forget about the five senses. That's how we connect to things, that's how we make impressions. So, if it doesn't feel good and it doesn't smell good and it doesn't sound good...then avoid it because it's no good!
Next, you want to be a problem finder. A lot of times people say, "What? A problem finder?" And I say, "YES! A problem finder!" Our route should be free of litter, cigarette butts, even unruly landscaping, and pet droppings (summer makes for even stinkier problems!). And again, this is why you're going to have to do this daily because something could have happened from one minute to the next or from one day to the next. Things like broken blinds, graffiti or damaged fencing, all of these reflect negatively on your community.
We don't stop at just finding the problems though. Nobody wants a problem finder that isn't also a problem solver. This is the time to make use of your inspection kit. Pick up any litter that you can. Now, I'm not saying that you need to turn into a full-time maintenance porter but you can definitely make a great impression with your inside office staff by being a team player. This will help you develop a great relationship with your maintenance staff when they see your willingness to help.
Let your maintenance team know that you have their back. Also, make notes for necessary repairs or service requests. If you're passing by unit 1201 and the air conditioner sounds like a war machine, make a note of that. That could help save your company thousands of dollars. It could help save your maintenance man several hours of time by doing preventative maintenance instead of having to overhaul an AC. (Believe me, when it's 100 million degrees outside, everyone will be thanking you!) If things just look really bad, choose an alternate route. This way you're prepared and nothing's going to come as a surprise or blindside you. (Cause your are a rockin' leasing pro...no amateur business here!)
Our Show Unit Should Be Beyonce Material
How do we know if an apartment unit is show-ready? It doesn't have to be furnished like a Joanna Gaines special but we should be putting our best foot forward. (Sidenote: A little Joanna Gaines inspo never hurt!)
As you walk that unit, have a critical eye. If you don't, the prospect will and you're dead in the water. Ask yourself, is this unit show-ready? If it isn't, then this isn't something that you need to show.
You want to be able to give the thumbs up on all of these questions.
Does it smell fresh?
Is it visually appealing?
Do I personally, as a leasing professional, feel confident to show this unit?
Does it feel inviting?
Does it feel like home and would I call this place home?
Now, at this point when I present this info, I sometimes get a little look that says "well maybe we're in an older community and I wouldn't call this place home." This doesn't have to mean it isn't show-ready. Ask yourself, is this product the best that this product can be. And if it is, you're living up to your end of the deal and you can give it a confident thumbs up.
Now, what if you find out that you answered no to any of these questions?
Then stop. Do not show this unit, it is not show-ready. If a unit is in make-ready status and somebody begs to see it, do not show it.
First impressions are lasting impressions and it's hard to get the image of what that unit looked like out of a prospect's mind. Forever they will see that stain on that carpet or a broken window or the blinds that needed to be repaired. You don't want to put yourself in that position. So, get there early, turn on the lights, spray the air freshener, pick up anything that you see in the corners, any cobwebs, anything that detracts from your apartment home.
Going the Extra Mile to Get Those Extra Leases
One of the things that I recommend is to walk your tour route in reverse. It's funny, sometimes I'll drive to work a different route and then I'll drive a whole other way and all of a sudden I notice things that I didn't notice the time before. When you walk your tour route in reverse, you all of a sudden pick up on things that maybe you didn't see on the way there so it helps you make adjustments and modify as needed.
Remember to also give attention to the common areas. Amenities paint a lifestyle, you want it to be the lifestyle that you want to project. Prospects make a decision based on lifestyle. It's so much more than just four walls. So, ask yourself, do my amenities paint the right lifestyle? If I walk into the clothes care center and there I see some bunched up dirty socks or underwear in a corner (you know what I'm talking about), that's not the lifestyle I want to project. Or if the mail center is full of trash, again, it doesn't paint the right picture.
Your Leasing Office: Your Leasing Stage
When we go back to our leasing office, we have to remember that is our stage. It, too, has to appeal to the six senses. First of all, it has to look clean and inviting with the lights on. We want our apartment office to smell fresh. Take it an extra step by adding that cozy touch with fresh baked cookies or yummy refreshments. It can be something as simple as freshly brewed coffee.
We want the seating to be inviting and to be comfy. Think about having a relaxed conversation. That doesn't always happen at our desks. Sometimes, we can have less formal interaction in our community center on a couch while we sip some refreshments and just chat. Don't forget about sound...we want the music to be appealing. If it's too loud, it's going to be irritating. If it's not loud enough, then what's the point? The other day I was at a community and the door chime was low on its battery and it sounded like a dying cat. That is not appealing as a prospect walks in and out of your door. So, it really is about crossing our T's and dotting our i's. We want to make sure that we're thinking about our niche demographics and that we're appealing to them.
Now, there're six senses. You guys might be thinking, whoa, there are only five senses that I've known of. The sixth sense is an unspoken one and it's the vibe of your team. Have you heard the quote, "Your vibe attracts your tribe." It's so true. If a staff works well together and gives off a positive vibe, you can sense it the moment that you walk into the door. If they don't, you're going to be a little bit concerned that whatever cattiness is going on is going to translate to your experience. Ughh! Who wants to feel like their in their high school lunchroom all over again. So, make sure that you all are contributing to a positive vibe. Again, it's great to work at a place where you love everybody you work with but don't get too casual. Keep it professional and avoid things like gossip or overly loud sharing of what happened over the weekend. Your residents and prospects don't need to hear about how your best friend's boyfriend acted like a fool at your BBQ this weekend.
Inspecting Your Apartment Community
Finally, inspect what you expect. If you expect to have a community that paints an A+ lifestyle, inspect it.
Inspect it daily.
It doesn't take long for a standard to go down if it isn't checked regularly. That's the reason in any business you have a checks and balances system and that's exactly what you have to institute in your community.
There has to be accountability, there has to be a daily checkpoint.
When you have that many families that live in one community, things can get out of hand quickly and a community's reputation is very hard to repair. So make it a daily practice to inspect, correct, and repeat!
So, multifamily friends, are you ready for business? Take a little page out of Beyonce's playbook and shall we say, Slay! You've got this, Sasha Fierce!
Alrighty, babes! Let's take it to the next level.
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