As individuals, we all have our own little pet peeves. What may turn off one prospect may not bother another. As apartment professionals, we cannot afford to turn off a single customer and image is everything. Keeping our communities neat and clean is not only easy to do; it is generally an inexpensive way to attract customers and create a pleasant property atmosphere.
Take a look around your community. Do any of the following situations exist? Here are ten ways your apartment community may be turning off prospects:
1. Sad Signage
If a monument sign looks scruffy, it creates an expectation that the rest of the community will be the same or worse. Poor signage includes worn and tattered signage, signage that is too small or difficult to read or just plain unattractive. Signage that directs prospects throughout the community can also prevent customers from walking in your door. A poorly designed directional will lead the driver to find the nearest exit instead of walking in your front door. Do your signs have an EHO logo on them? I am not an attorney; one does not need a law degree to know that we should welcome everyone, so why not add it to your sign? Don’t forget the parking signs either. This is the last thing prospects see before they get out of their car. Each visual that guides people in and out of your community should be in tip-top shape. It does not have to cost a fortune either. Better to be simple and well done, than extravagant and poorly executed.
2. Lack luster curb appeal
Keeping the driveways, walk ways and landscaping free of discarded items goes beyond creating a neat community appearance; it is also a good step towards crime prevention and risk management. Take a quick look for broken glass, rubbish, sharp items that may have accidentally fallen out of trash bags and cigarette butts. No matter how pretty the flowers may be, having litter and unsightly items in view will deter a potential renter. Ensure sidewalks are easily navigated and do not pose a trip hazard.
3. Lousy Landscaping
While some lump landscaping into curb appeal, I have a different viewpoint. Landscaping is more than just what is next to the curb, and can have a major impact on a property’s marketability. For the record, when I say marketability I also include the re-sell, or renewal of the lease. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your resident will not drive through the competition when considering their renewal. If the grounds look better next door than yours they may just decide to stop in and “look”; a deadly potential for your renewal. I see so many communities that pinch pennies on mulch and only place sparse flowers in front of the monument sign. This penny wise, pound foolish approach does not serve your property. Landscaping should be considered throughout all major thoroughfares when planning for flowers. Be sure and add color in front of the model as well.
4. Poor Parking
Unkempt parking areas, parking areas that are uneven, cracked or unmarked are all turn offs. I still see parking areas that do not have designated handicapped parking. This is not only poor customer service; it is against the law in most places. Parking should be easily accessible, well marked and close to the front door for inclement weather conditions. Employees should never park in the closest spots, leaving the premium spots for residents and prospective residents. Vendors should be told to do the same.
5. Abhorrent Amenities
Green swimming pools are one of my top turn offs. So are sagging tennis court nets, frayed and or sagging volleyball nets, wobbly slides, broken swings, and pool areas that have faded and cracked furniture. Pools covered in leaves, or uncovered during winter are tell tale signs of poor maintenance in my book. Your prospect will think the same. Interior amenities can also be a turn off. Placing a used computer running Microsoft Word 2000 is not impressive. Even worse is a “fitness center” where the half of the machinery is inoperable. Again, what the prospect sees creates an expectation of what to expect in their home. When viewing things that are in disrepair they may wonder if the icemaker or dishwasher will work when they move in. This doubt will cost you the lease.
6. Messy Models
There is never a good reason for a model to be dirty. Customers will not pay attention to the great features in your model when staring a dead bug in the antennae. When your prospect notices the toilet has been used as a public bathroom it can be repulsive. Toilets should be down and covered. Another personal pet peeve, toilet paper that has been clearly used and just hanging. IF toilet paper is there, it should be folded like an upscale hotel. Prospects do not wish to see sinks with drink stains and water stains. A dirty refrigerator will turn most prospects away. If model refrigerators must serve double duty for resident functions or other office use (I suggest refraining from this), they must be cleaned regularly. Dirty carpet makes a model look tired, no matter how nice the furnishings may be. Discolored tubs and sinks are simply not acceptable.
7. Not-so-neat Notices
In this era of technology, there is no excuse for displaying handwritten notices (often penned in sloppy handwriting) on the office door or at the mailboxes. How many times have you approached a business with a handwritten note, reading: “Out to lunch” or “Be right back”? Not often, right? When you do see this, what is your impression of the establishment? I bet it is not very favorable. It is too simple to print a sign from our computers or use pre-printed signs. Printed signs simply look more professional and signs with hard-to-read handwriting can be a customer turn-off.
8. Burned-out Bulbs or poor lighting
Replace any burned out light bulbs as soon as possible. Make sure all customer areas of the clubhouse, amenities, model and parking areas have ample lighting, and take into consideration renters with aging or less than perfect eyesight. Your community should be well illuminated for all customers. This also includes signage. Nothing looks worse than a poorly lit sign at night.
9. Offensive Odors
Customers understand if they visit a lawn and garden center they will have to deal with the smell of fertilizer. They may find the fresh paint smell of a newly renovated apartment a positive; although if the smell is overpowering, it could backfire. Certain odors are understandable and may even appeal to the prospect’s sense of smell. However, renters don’t want to smell an employee’s lunch drifting across the clubhouse. Smells can be helped by using neutralizers to combat any offensive odors. Avoid anything too strong-that includes deodorizers. Smokers beware! Many people who smoke cannot detect the smoke odor and therefore, may overlook a smell that is unpleasant to a prospect or resident.
10. Disorganized Desks or work areas
This is something that I personally struggle with, so for those creative geniuses who just don’t see the value in organizing and all the “minutia” of de-cluttering, listen up: Just do it! If your desk looks like a bomb went off, what should a prospect expect their apartment to look like on move in day? First impressions create an expectation; the prospect may wonder if you can keep track of their rent check if you are having problems putting your hands on a document you touch on a daily basis, such as a floor plan. Maintenance staffs are not off the hook either. A messy shop DOES get noticed. So does the golf cart with rubbish on the seats and work buckets with a mish-mash of items hanging out. Being messy is like having company come over and not cleaning-it sends a message that you do not take pride in your personal living space. You “live” at work for at least eight hours a day, so make it presentable.
Create a daily checklist and use it religiously. It is easy to overlook seemingly small details when you work in the same spaces day after day. Someone once said “The Devils is the details”. I say the dollar is in the details. Good luck and happy leasing!
Rebecca Rosario is a national trainer with over 20 years of multifamily marketing, training, sales and management experience. Her programs are designed to achieve the highest potential rent through exceptional sales training along with strategic human resource selection and development. For more information email her at Rebecca@FullHouseMarketing.net, or call her at 1-888-29-TRAIN.