When we think about renewals, it’s probably tempting for most of us in the multifamily apartment industry to immediately think about the renewal ‘process.’ As we know, that process is triggered by an offer sent to a resident because their current lease is ending. That is the time when an associate at the community starts to engage with the resident to begin the conversation (or perhaps negotiation) that typically occurs when it’s time to renew a lease. The discussion continues, often over multiple conversations, until they renew or decide to move-out.
However, if you consider the resident’s perspective, the reality about renewals is that ‘process’ starts long before the pricing tool calculates the renewal rate and the offer is sent. In fact, the ‘process’ starts the moment the (then) prospective resident makes contact with us for the very first time as they begin to shop for their new apartment home. They consider their experience with us as a continuous series of events; they don’t differentiate by our lease, move-in, renew and/or move out processes…. it’s all one living experience to them. And how we make them feel as we interact with them and help make their living experience the best it can be (each and every day) is what they remember.
Unfortunately, it’s probably easier to provide examples of how it sounds when we don’t think about this renewal process from our first interaction with the resident. That’s when we contact the resident to have their renewal conversation and they say something like “from the minute I moved in everything has been a disaster, my apartment was not ready…”, or “I haven’t heard from you for months, I still have broken items in my apartment, and now you’re calling to increase my rent!”. We know intuitively that building a relationship with our residents makes sense, and that the renewal conversation is much smoother if we engage in ongoing and meaningful communication instead of just contacting them when we want them to renew. However, we are busy and that means that sometimes we don’t make it a priority. So, the first tip for handling renewals is:
1. Create time (and reasons) to make contact with the resident throughout their residency - this might be through phone calls, email, or in person at events, etc.
In addition to regular communication, the following tips will make renewal conversations easier:
2. Be prepared - Understand the resident’s rental history and life history in the apartment. Review notes and survey responses to understand any challenges.
3. Involve the team - Discuss renewals in daily huddles to understand changes in resident priorities so the entire team can be aware when interacting with residents.
4. Stay up-to-date: Shop and update competitor information – Residents have as much information at their fingertips as we do. Ensure that you are well-informed about competitors.
5. Communicate the renewal process (including how we calculate renewals) with residents prior to renewal offer – Ensure you understand the renewal offer as well as the various pricing options for shorter/longer lease terms prior to meeting with the resident.
6. Discuss renewal with the resident – Offer to set an appointment at a place and time convenient for the resident (either in person, by phone or email) to ensure personal attention; and avoid outside interruptions (i.e. going to apartment to discuss renewal if resident prefers).
It's important to remember that the resident wants to feel valued, listened to, important and informed about the options and it’s our role to make sure that happens!