Carol Levey, writer and creator of Ms. Management also appears as a guest blogger on Rent Sense. Her insights appear in dozens of other industry publications.
Carol is perhaps most recognized at the national level as an educator and event speaker in the real estate industry. She led the original team that produced the National Apartment Association coursework leading to the respected NALP designation. Her company Levey Enterprises has provided temporary leasing specialists, site managers and marketing offsite personnel to major apartment community operators throughout Colorado and across the U.S. Check back each month for a new set of Q and A with Ms. Management.
Q- I’m a maintenance professional that is proud of what I do at my property. I enjoy moving in residents that appreciate our efforts to provide a quality apartment home. Recently I have been transferred to a property that my company has just taken over. Several rent increases have resulted in higher turnover of existing residents after long tenancies. This means a high volume of market-ready turns along with more work required in each.
Here’s my problem. I’m getting pressure to get in and out quickly. It’s me and my new trainee and I’m losing confidence we are moving in satisfied residents. I get a lot of service requests from new residents in the first few weeks after move-in. I’m told there are surprises on leasing tours. I understand that the leasing team often talk them through these awkward moments with statements like- “No problem, this apartment will be perfect when you move in”. Well, that is just not turning out to be true; more and more. So, instead of appreciation from new residents I’m getting mad, p@#$*d off customers that come back to me to make it “perfect” or else. What can you advise before I lose my enthusiasm for being a maintenance professional?
A- This is not an uncommon spiral that plagues apartment communities from time to time. The physical condition of the apartment when toured is a compelling part of the leasing process. It says so much about resident expectations, management policies and the quality of maintenance routines and repairs. It also is a statement of whether you and your company deliver housing value at a competitive price.
Delivering what is promised and/or expected at move-in is imperative. Unrealized value by a resident at this “point of sale” will stick with them through the entire lease. It will bubble up in a variety of circumstances when you expect certain things from them including: paying rent on time, reporting service requests before major damage to the property, giving and responding to notices in a timely fashion. The list goes on and on. The point is this, right now residents are being allowed to move-in with a belief that the team is saying one thing and delivering less. If this situation continues it creates a mindset that anything goes on their end.
This becomes a critical issue for discussion in team meetings. From discussion an action plan should be reduced to writing with assignments employing the entire team to correct these conditions.
1. There needs to be a target list of move-in ready apartments. This is the list to show and requires the attention and priority of the entire team to maintain the condition of apartments on this list. Leasing members should be walking these daily as part of opening routines. Each will take responsibility to get it ready or take it off target list. Any home taken off target list for any reason needs a planned replacement.
2. A target list is only maintained If onsite maintenance team members cannot keep up with the upcoming availability. Remember, this is a team solution: a) cooperation of leasing b) prioritization by management c) temporary use of external maintenance from other company properties or outside vendors.
3. There must be a community team standard for market-ready. Your weekly team meeting should periodically be conducted inside a vacant apartment home. Everyone should be asked to closely walk the apartment with specific questions in mind. Would I rent this apartment for the quoted rent? If not, why not? What expectations would you need satisfied? Each team member should be given opportunity to contribute. This exercise over a brief period will create a team expectation of value.
4. To consistently deliver this value to every new prospective resident on tour and every move-in also requires the entire team. This is done with a ready checklist that is posted in each vacant apartment and initialed by everyone that touches the turn. An apartment is ready when the documentation, including a final walk, says it’s ready. Finally, upon move-in a team member does a personal walk-through with the resident. If there is an item needing correction a written service request is processed with urgency.
5. The same standards and procedures can be developed for the common areas including common area checklists that get the entire team identifying and delivering community value.