Lease renewals are evolving and things like social perks are less important so what attracts modern renters to an apartment community so they stay longer?
By Andrew Ruhland
Community events and amenities that encourage social interaction used to drive renewal rates and increase resident satisfaction. The idea was if residents form relationships with one another they would be more likely to renew their lease. That isn’t the case anymore – social media and digital communication flipped the script on everything.
Becoming friends with the person next door isn’t as important as it once was, and it certainly doesn’t influence renters to sign a new lease or renewal as it once did. So what attracts modern renters to a community and makes them want to stay long term? It all boils down to a lifestyle enhancing experience and technology.
Technology without a doubt helps deliver a higher caliber resident experience, leading to a better community reputation and higher occupancy and renewal rates. From smart home technologies that create convenient living experiences to the tech that improves community aesthetics, more and more residents are making renewal decisions based on the tech-centric community features that add value to their lives.
WiFi: The lifeblood of the tech experience
Smart home tech like keyless locks and smart thermostats have become increasingly popular with both residents and operators and a key that attracts modern renters.
These features make renters’ lives more convenient and also provide the edge of energy efficient living. While smart home tech has become an in-demand amenity, it’s only as good as the connectivity throughout the community.
Tech amenities like smart home require a connection, whether it’s a mobile connection, Z Wave or WiFi. The reality of apartment living is the mobile reception isn’t always great and Z Waves have some location-based limitations. Community-wide WiFi can alleviate the connection burdens, attract modern renters, and make tech amenities like smart home run smoothly, allowing residents and operators to reap the full benefits.
The renters of today have also expressed the need for WiFi as a community amenity. Technology is the foundation of modern lifestyles, and without reliable connectivity, renters won’t be afforded the convenience and flexibility they crave. Unreliable connectivity is a barrier to remote work, streaming services and other tech-supported amenities within the community. WiFi isn’t just a nice-to-have anymore – it’s a necessity.
“Technology has not only become a foundation for modern leasing, but also for community amenities and day-to-day operations,” said Andrew Kusminsky, CEO of GiGstreem, a ubiquitous WiFi provider. “The lifestyle of today revolves around technology, for work or play, and WiFi has become a major part of the apartment living experience. If renters struggle with connectivity, they’re probably going to look elsewhere to find a better experience and somewhere that better supports their lifestyle.”
Next-gen resident communication
Great communication is now an expectation of residents and many operators are leveraging technology to deliver the hyper-fast, hyper-personalized messaging that renters crave. Communication is also a key in modern resident retention, and the communication between residents and onsite teams has made one of the largest impacts on renewals post-pandemic.
Communication is also a long game; it starts once a prospect reaches out to a community for more information during their apartment search. The communication that prospect receives during their leasing journey sets the stage for their community expectations and living experience and will impact their renewal decision.
“Communities that utilize technology to communicate in an ongoing fashion typically see a higher retention rate, but there are some variables, such as submarket,” said Tony Sousa, vice president of operations of RPM Living. “Consistent and ongoing communication with residents also creates more brand loyalty. We have seen renewal boosts, but also a migration of residents to sister properties. Even if the renewal rate isn’t exactly what a resident wants at a select property, they’re still willing to consider another RPM property with the expectation that the communication style is the same. And our goal is that it is.”
Leasing teams that leverage automation, AI and trigger-based CRM functions are now communicating with residents throughout their entire lifecycle, from pre-move-in to renewal time. In the past, leasing teams have communicated with residents up until they’ve moved in, and residents wouldn’t hear from them until renewal time. That isn’t the case anymore – residents and leasing teams are always connected and it’s enhanced the overall relationship. That relationship greatly impacts renewals.
Tech-supported curb appeal
Residents may choose not to renew at a community for endless reasons, but a sneaky culprit is poor curb appeal.
Residents want to live in clean spaces, and if their community is messy or unkempt, they will likely move somewhere cleaner, and they’ll also let everyone online know. Prospects will then see reviews online – the digital curb appeal – and pass on a community that repeatedly gets called out for being a mess.
“A main reason for occupancy and renewal challenges is poor or even mediocre community reputation,” said Valerie Lacy, senior regional manager at Cushman & Wakefield. “If your residents are happy or not, they will reflect that by word of mouth, or in most cases, online reviews. If a resident is not satisfied, they will let others know, and you have to identify why they’re unhappy and fix it. One challenge we identified in online reviews was that we needed to improve the curb appeal of our communities.”
A large part of the curb appeal effort lies in reducing the amount of trash or unscooped pet waste in a community. Some solutions are purely reactive – hiring a vendor to pick up trash and pet waste once a week – and don’t actually solve the problem in the long run. Proactive solutions – holding residents accountable and immediately checking them when they litter or leave pet waste behind – eliminate the problem before it gets out of hand and yield long-term results.
“We use a biotechnology service called PooPrints and it is really making a difference in the amount of unscooped pet waste at communities,” Lacy said. “Unscooped pet waste is one of the top reasons residents complain in online reviews, so we decided to implement a tech-based DNA registration program to proactively combat this challenge and create better experience for residents. Resident satisfaction has since skyrocketed and that also reflects in our online reviews and renewals.”
Benefits for furry friends
More communities are becoming pet-friendly to cast a wider net to attract modern renters and accommodate pet-owners. Pets are an extension of the resident, and operators are looking to improve living experiences for both residents and pets. Operators are leveraging pet DNA registration to provide additional perks for pet-owners.
“When a resident moves in, the onsite team collects a DNA sample from their pet via gentle cheek swab and sends it to our lab, which we register in a DNA database,” said J Retinger, CEO of PooPrints, a pet DNA testing provider. “In the case the pet may become lost or stolen, our DNA registration can help locate that animal. It’s really a unique benefit and pet-owning residents really appreciate having that peace of mind should anything happen.”
Communities that implement technologies to improve the resident experience gain a competitive edge. Individuals are innately loyal to the people and places that treat them well, and operators are tapping into the unique services and technologies available to help them provide the best experience possible for residents and improve lease renewals.
When technology is leveraged to enhance the resident lifestyle and create conveniences and flexibility for them, they are more likely to stay at a community long-term because they recognize the value and comfort it affords them.
About the author:
Andrew Ruhland is an account executive and content writer for LinnellTaylor Marketing, which focuses exclusively on the rental housing industry, its trends and technology innovations.