A tight-knit resident community can make a big difference for a property manager in handling the many issues that come up in managing a community.
Last month the folks from Buildium.com did a webinar to present a guide they have put together on how to build a resident community.
By John Triplett
Rental Housing Journal
How building and nurturing a resident community culture can help owners and property managers keep tenants loyal to your properties, and help you attract tenants, is the subject of a guide by Buildium.com.
Buildium.com did a webinar last month in which Darcy Jacobson, director of content marketing and Chad Mirmelli, customer success manager, discussed how creating a community culture can be good for business.
“Community and culture matter a lot more in residential property management than in most industries,” Jacobson said. “That is because in property management we really help people find and create their homes. And in many cases we are also responsible for creating the neighborhood by the choices we make as property managers along with owners.
“So that is pretty important when you think about it. There is more to it than the feel good community building part. Creating great communities is really good for business,” she said.
Why this makes sense from a business perspective
What are the sort of things you can expect to get out of the investment in community?
Jacobson said the culture in apartment communities varies and property managers may know the culture in their community, or may not know.
“I am a renter and live in a multifamily unit,” Mirmelli said. “Some years I know my next door neighbors and some years I feel like we are ships passing in the night.
“I really enjoy the renter when I know who is living near me. When I talk to a lot of my clients, I think a majority feel neutral” about the community culture. “They don’t really have any issues but they also are not leveraging a community and it’s something that is not present for them on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
However Mirmelli says as he travels across the country meeting property managers, he finds community is something they want to tap into and keep up with technology.
Findings from the poll: How is the culture in your communities?
During a poll on the webinar, they asked the question of property managers on the call about the current state of culture in their communities.
- More than half of property managers, 53%, said people were not really connecting.
- The next largest group, 21%, said people are friendly and eager to connect.
- The next largest group, 17% really don’t know what the culture is in their community.
6 reasons why tight-knit community matters in rental communities
Encouraging people to take good care of their property.
Psychology tells us people are going to feel more responsible when they are in that shared social contract, Jacobson said – when they know you and they know their fellow residents. What that means is if they know other people are going to using the space or the equipment, they are going to be more considerate of it.
They are a lot less likely to be careless if they feel they are accountable to people they know and respect. Even a little thing such as cleaning a dryer filter. If they know the next person who is going to use that dryer, they are a lot more likely to clean that dryer filter. Lint can be a cause of fires and it reduces the likelihood that you as a property manager has to send someone in there to clean it or fix it.
2. Minimizing turnover
While this is one of the more obvious benefits, people don’t like leaving a great place to live.
That is twice as true if they are leaving friends they see every day. We define ourselves by the people we hang out with, Jacobson said. If you can make your building that identity group for people then you are going to experience a lot less turnover because people do not want to leave their shared community.
“At the end of the day, tenants want to come home to place where they have friends and sense of community, and belonging, and feels like home,” Jacobson said. “Tenants may be willing to make a long commute to work to stay in a community they like.”
3. De-escalating conflict
Many of us have encountered the damage and stress when tenants are feuding, she said.
They are a huge drain on your time and resources. And, that is if they don’t escalate. If they do escalate you can be open to vandalism, violence or legal trouble. This type of feuding usually happens when neighbors lack empathy for each other.
“We tend to attribute nefarious motivations to people we don’t know,” Jacobson said. “So if you are in the back yard and you see someone to throw a trash bag on top of your little seedlings in your community garden you are more likely to hit the ceiling with neighbors if they are strangers. If they are people you know you are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt and share empathy before they escalate to you the property manager.”
A safe community is what good quality tenants are really looking for.
Studies show crime is significantly reduced when neighbors know each other. Neighbors who know each other are more likely to watch out for each other. A study in 2015 at Yale University found the more closely knit people reported their neighborhood to be, the less exposure to violence they have. The U.S. Justice Department did a study showing there was 16% decrease in crime in neighborhood watch communities. The key to the watches was to host and attend community meetings.
5. Attracting applications
When tenants really care about who their neighbors are, they sort of expect them to be friends and be part of the community they have built.
“They are a lot more likely to bring in their friends to live there.Or to take a more involved role to help you source tenants. They will use their own networks to help you promote vacancies. So that is good news for you in attracting a great quality applicant,” Jacobson said.
6. Relationship to the property manager
Residents who love their property manager tend to stay longer in their rentals.
So building out that relationship with you, the property manager, is important. Think about your brand as a property manager, Jacobson said.Ho
How to put the building blocks together
- Empowering your staff on this initiative.
- Allocate funds for planning and tracking ROI. Invest $5 to $15 a month if a smaller community, even $1 or $2 a month. It is a good allocate something so you have some money to spend. Some folks do it once a quarter, Jacobson said on the webinar.
- Measure results – Are there really results? How will we know? One way to measure ROI is a survey to ask your tenants. A question such as, “How likely is it you would recommend this property to a friend or colleague?” You want some baseline for how to measure results.
- Establish feedback channels – Solicit feedback from tenants frequently. Survey Money is a simple easy free tool for conducting surveys online. Build a foundation where tenants expect that you want their feedback. A simple annual survey is a way to start. There are lots of free tools out there to help you get tenant feedback. Are there things that need repair? Things about the property you would like to change?
- Encourage resident involvement – “If they feel invested they are going to put in more energy. You can have a party or even folks might be interested in a pot luck. The more involved they are, the better it will work. If you do not involve them, it will not work,” Jacobson said.
- Get owner buy-in – Let your owners know and explain the benefits of the business case. They might be willing to pitch in and support. We have seen some owners invest additional funds to help these initiatives, Jacobson said. “This will ensure great tenants in their property. The owners will you see you proactive as a property manager.”
- Ensure diversity and representation – Make sure everyone takes an active role. Make sure it is representative of all tenants. Avoid cliques and any divisiveness if only certain types of folks are involved. If you have young single professionals and families you want to make sure you get both participating to appeal to both groups, Jacobson suggested.
Start a core resident committee
You cannot do this by yourself.You need a group of involved residents to be your boots on the ground. This might be a handful of folks who are vocal, engaged and willing to plan. What you get with this committee is:
- Advocacy – This resident committee is an amazing way for you to understand what matters to the residents. It can be an early warning system for problems. People can have a direct line to you. It means they feel empowered to raise problems with you. Sometimes you do not learn about problems until people have left your apartments.
- Social planning – This committee can be invaluable in planning events. It keeps you from having to spend too much time doing it.
6 things you need to get started
- Group size – Plan for 10% of your group to have representation. There are always going to be people who cannot make it.
- Group make-up – Be sure to invite and encourage tenants from all ages and income brackets.
- Kick-off – Start with a kickoff meeting to announce the initiative to let folks know what you are doing – that you care enough to reach out and do this.
- Schedule – You need to have a schedule. Monthly, quarterly or annual – make sure you hold it consistently. If meetings are unpredictable they are a lot less likely to happen.
- Meeting place – A consistent place. Best if it’s in your property. You can book a library or a restaurant. Make sure you provide snacks. If you feed them they will come. Alcohol will vary from property to property so be flexible and feel out your residents about this in advance.
- Budget – Make sure you have some money, even if it’s a small budget. The group will have ideas and you do not want to be shooting down ideas because you have no budget. Be open to resident requests for more resources. The residents may chip in for more ambitious events.