Bluestone and Hockley Real Estate Services
Do you appreciate your tenants? I mean really appreciate them. Most tenants don't expect much. A clean and safe place to live, without too much interference from the neighbors. Most landlords can do this, but can you do more? Do you have to do more?
The answers to these questions are simple. The market is very competitive, only about 20 ”“30 percent of the national housing stock are apartments. The rest of the housing stock is made up of single family homes. If you don't create an environment for a tenant that makes it a great place to live, you will not have tenants, and the ones you get will not stay very long.
You would think that this is common sense, but many landlords believe that tenants owe the landlords more than rent, that they should be thankful for the roof over their head. In reality, tenants are fickle, they will move to an apartment where the landlord cares if you do not take care of them.
Build a community
It does not make a difference if you have 5 tenants or 100 in order for the tenants to feel at home; you need to build a sense community. Have a party a couple times of the year. Encourage your on-site manager to have an Easter egg hunt (in a family oriented property), or to organize a book club, or a baking group that meets once a month. Create opportunities for the tenants to make your property their home. If they are comfortable with it, encourage them to share phone numbers or e-mail addresses so that they can help with a security watch if they wish. Should you have tenants that travel a lot, encourage them to be involved in a buddy system so neighbors can watch each other's properties.
There are some people that don't want to be bothered. Don't bother them, but instead send them a couple of tickets to the movies or a couple of coupons for a pizza and a video rental. They will think they have won the lottery. It does not take much to make a tenant feel special, especially if they have rented someplace else, and the manger did not even thank them for the monthly rent.
Speaking of rent, I am not asking you to be extra friendly with the tenants and let them defer the rent, and I am not asking you to delay rent increases. Nor am I asking you not to enforce the property rules. These need to be done, and done in a fair manner, without playing favorites. Tenants understand that renting is not free, and they want deadbeats and those that do not cooperate evicted, so that their home is a peaceful place.
So what does it mean to appreciate your tenants?
Just last week one of our clients mentioned that he buys holiday gifts ($20 gift certificates) for all of his tenants and sends them a letter telling them that he appreciates them. This is the tip of the iceberg. What is really important starts with your attitude. As an apartment owner you want to make sure that you or your on-site manager/management company respond quickly to tenant maintenance issues. Ranges need to work, so do refrigerators and the heat. The roof shouldn't leak and pests (any kind of bugs) should not be tolerated.
Think of these as some basis ideas that tenants will appreciate:
- Thank tenants for new tenant referrals.
- Create opportunities for tenants to meet crime prevention specialists or the police department.
- Make sure that the property signage and building and apartment addresses are easily visible to emergency vehicles for a quick response.
- Insure that the lighting at night works and that that you have all the lights you may possibly need. The trade-off in increased electricity expense is tenants that feel safe at home.
- Pay for a lease renewal with an improvement to a tenants unit, install fans, closet organizers, new formica, or even a new paint job or carpeting for a long term tenant. Remember: you are not losing a tenant and don't have the turnover and vacancy expenses. You can afford to do some things to keep your property up to date as a thank you for a lease renewal.
- Give the tenant a gift certificate for an inexpensive dinner to thank them for a lease renewal.
- Don't take your tenants for granted.
Finally, don't take your on-site manager for granted. A long-term employee as on-site manager also deserves to be taken care of. Put yourself in their shoes. If your boss sent you away for the weekend because you have done a great job, wouldn't you want to come back and work even harder? The average tenure of an on-site manager is between 1 to 2 years. If you can make that 3 years or more, I can guarantee the tenants will not move as often and you will make more money. Constant management turnover creates nervousness for tenants. Give an onsite manager tickets for a play, pay for the baby sitter, send them out to dinner, pay them an annual bonus, send them a letter that tells them you appreciate them, just don't take them for granted and your vacancy rate will drop. Encourage the on-site manager to take care of the tenants and you should have a great property, whose rent can be increased every year. The bottom line is, don't forget to appreciate your tenants.