How Well Do You Know Your Residents?

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A number of years ago my staff was leasing up a brand new 256-unit apartment community in suburban Dayton, Ohio. Included in the unit mix were 60 very small one-bedroom-one-bath floor plans that had less than 450 square feet of space. We called them “one-one-juniors.” When we sat down to strategize about how best to market those small apartments we decided that the most likely resident would be a first time renter — probably a young person straight out of college starting their first job, without a lot of furniture or other household items. So we set up mini-models with bar stools at the kitchen counter, place mats and silverware, shower curtains and matching bath towels. We did outreach in areas frequented by young professionals and even sponsored a happy hour at a local night spot. Several months later we had leased just over twenty of the 60 apartments and then our leasing momentum came to a grinding halt. While we were doing well on the other floor plans at the property, we just couldn’t move anymore of the one-one-juniors.

After brainstorming a variety of marketing strategies I suggested that the team pull all of the files for those residents who had rented the one-one-junior floor plan and learn more about them. We put together a detailed spreadsheet that included information about the resident’s employer, occupation, age, gender, income level, household size, previous zip code. What we learned surprised all of us. We had completely missed the mark on who we “assumed” would be the likely renter

for our one-one-junior floor plan. Here’s who our renter was: average age – 42; average household income – $60,000; gender – almost 80% male; previous zip code – either out-of-state or the same zip code in which the property was located. Huh? Our one-one-junior resident was, in fact, an older, professional man with an excellent income. He was either a divorced father whose children lived nearby or a sales rep that needed a place to stay during the week and travelled home on weekends. Boy did our initial assumptions miss the mark!

How often have you made assumptions about your resident profile? Do you rely on the summary resident profile report that you generate from your property software package? Given how competitive our marketing environment is, we need to be armed with better information about our residents so that we can target our marketing approach to reach the right prospects. As we enter a new year, now is the time to do your homework. First – make sure that you are fully utilizing the property software that you have on site and take the time to enter all of the demographic information about your residents so that you have the data available. You can also create a spreadsheet that tracks detailed information about your residents just like was outlined above.

Once you have all of the information about your residents, the fun begins. You need to be able to sort your information by unit type. We want to develop a resident profile for each specific unit type we have on our properties. Why? If you have a vacancy problem in a particular floor plan on your property you can use that profile information to determine how best to target your marketing to reach more of the kind of residents already residing in those units.

Not only does this type of segmenting help you with targeting your marketing to new prospects, it helps you with renewal strategies and assists you in planning resident events that can reach a more diverse profile. Knowledge is power and having detailed information about our residents makes us much more effective in doing our jobs well. Take the time to develop a more complete picture of your customer so that you can target your efforts and you’ll achieve better occupancy and stronger financial results.