I want you to imagine yourself in two different scenarios.
In both, you are a renter moving into a new apartment.
In the first scenario, when you walk into your new apartment, it’s freshly painted, swept and vacuumed, it has a fresh lemon scent, the blinds are slightly open letting the sun shine in… it’s perfect. Literally move-in ready. You are happy, you have no complaints.
Now imagine yourself in a second scenario. You walk into your new apartment and it’s dark, because the blinds are closed. So you walk over to the other side of the room to open them. And when you do, you find a dead bug in a corner of the living, the dust on the kitchen countertops is now evident, and there’s just a slight discoloration in the carpet that the staff didn’t tell you about. Everything else is pretty decent, but you will definitely note these issues on your move-in inspection form.
Which experience would you prefer to have?
Which experience would you prefer for a new resident?
In which scenario are you more likely to trust the management company?
In this industry, we invest a lot of time and money into marketing our properties to potential renters and training our people to build relationships with them. Then right after we convert them, sometimes we drop the ball. (Haven’t you seen those reviews that say, “After you move-in, they don’t care about you!!!”?) Why is this? Isn’t move-in one of the most important parts of the sales cycle? I believe it is! I believe the move-in experience is the maker or breaker of trust. Personally, within a few weeks after I move into an apartment, I can pretty much tell you whether or not I will renew. How about you?
So let’s talk about 4 easy ways we can create great move-in experiences.
- Ensure that the apartment is cleaned thoroughly before move-in.
What does thorough mean? Be nitpicky. Floors, countertops, windows, walls and blinds (they tend to get dusty) should be clean. All stains should be gone. Weird smells? Find ’em and get ’em outta there. Bugs! Please sweep or vacuum them out. Also, don’t forget to check vents. Those get pretty dusty as well. If you are personally not a neat freak, assign the most detailed, obsessive person on your team to be in charge of walking units before move-ins.
- Communicate issues ahead of time.
Part of creating a great move-in experience is avoiding delays on move-in day. Walk the unit and review lease paperwork a few days prior to move-in to check for any obstacles that could delay the move-in, then contact that resident right away to communicate those issues to them. I also recommend letting the resident know about any issues existing within their apartment before they move in. No surprises, k? If a resident has to mention it to you before you mention it to them, you might begin to lose their trust.
- Give a gift.
This is fun way to bring marketing back into the move-in experience. Gifts help make a great first impression, and no, I’m not talking about a folder full of coupons and cable tv promotions. Try something unique like a novelty snack item, something useful like cleaning supplies, or something they can use to explore their new neighborhood like a gift card to a local restaurant.
- Follow up with your new resident.
This is another easy way to make a great first impression. Within 2-3 days after move-in, call the resident and ask them “How is your move going?” and “What can I help you with?” So easy! I’ve lived in about 4 different apartment communities in the last 6 years and only 1 manager has ever called to follow up on my move-in experience. Hotels are pretty good at this, though.
When we create great move-in experiences, our residents will be happier, complaints will be reduced, your resident will be more likely to renew and you’ll get paid. While it’s natural for our industry to put focus on marketing and sales in order to meet occupancy goals, I’ll argue that we can reach our goals more easily when we also put focus on customer service. Instead of focusing solely on sales at the beginning of the lease and then at the end when it’s time to renew, let’s put more focus on customer service at the beginning and let the experience sell itself.