As the multifamily spring leasing season is upon us, property management leaders share some steps they are taking to prepare as well as their go-to marketing tools. Multifamily Executive checked in with Karen Charde, managing director responsible for oversight of all asset and property management for Sentinel’s core and core-plus residential portfolio and its National Urban strategy assets; Valecia Suser, vice president of property management at Bonaventure; and Kari Warren, chief operating officer–management at Kairoi Residential.
MFE: How are you gearing up for the spring leasing season?
Charde: With the spring leasing season fast upon us, Sentinel is methodically reviewing all online marketing information, kicking off budgeted capital projects, and ensuring compliance with any and all pandemic mandates and restrictions at federal, state, and local levels. All online marketing information for our communities is being updated for any changes, including additions to our amenity offerings, new unit upgrade features, recent photography, and any new neighborhood additions. Budgeted capital projects have begun both to enhance our properties with new amenity offerings such as electric car-charging stations, as well as necessary capital projects such as pool deck resurfacing. Last, Sentinel is ensuring our properties are complying with all pandemic-related mandates and restrictions at federal, state and local levels in order to maintain a healthy leasing season for our prospective tenants, residents, vendors, and employees.
Suser: We typically budget our high-impact capital items for the first quarter of each year. Right now, our teams are busy completing amenity-based projects such as painting clubhouses and ordering new fitness equipment and pool furniture. Over the next few weeks, we will complete landscaping upgrades to ensure our curb appeal is best in class by spring. From a people perspective, winter can be tough on morale so in early February, we hold a New Year Kickoff for all BPMS (Bonaventure Property Management Services) team members. At this meeting, we align everyone with the company’s 2022 goals and celebrate our 2021 accomplishments. Nothing sets the stage for success like walking away with one of Bonaventure’s coveted annual awards.
Warren: The issue that still faces all operators is the ever fluctuating severity by region of the pandemic. The good news is that we have lived this for two years from a marketing and leasing perspective. A comprehensive “tour as you like” program is essential as we approach the spring—from self-guided and virtual tours to the support we receive from our CRM and centralized contact center, Anyone Home. Having numerous programs in place will drive the success for the season.
MFE: What’s your go-to marketing tool or initiative during the peak leasing season?
Charde: Our go-to marketing tool is always our property websites, and our initiative is to keep them current. Having an informative and intuitive online leasing tool is a must. Clear apartment availability and easy-to-read floor plans are imperative to renting apartments. Up-to-date photography is vital, especially as we enhance our amenity offerings. We have also found adding video and 3D tours to be beneficial for website traffic and engagement. Prospective residents not only need to understand what community amenities and apartment features the properties have to offer, but they also need to know the leasing office hours, pet policies, easy directions, and be able to call our leasing staff with any additional questions they need answered to make their decision to rent apartments at our communities.
Suser: The most impactful tool we use is data. Our internal business intelligence system gathers data that we use to identify which sources bring the highest conversion. We have the flexibility to increase or decrease our advertising spends, so that we can maintain the lowest cost per lease.
Warren: There isn’t one tool or resource. It’s really more about the relationships we created with industry partners for years that help us with being agile as needs of our customers change; we can pivot quickly as well.
MFE: How do you prep your properties to make the best first impression?
Charde: Best first impressions always begin with our employees. Sentinel is able to deliver excellent customer service and maintain high customer satisfaction by requiring relevant online employee training courses as well as through our vertically integrated management approach. We engage with property employees at all levels so there is a clear understanding of our expectations. Beyond our employees, we ensure that our online marketing tools clearly represent the properties, answer any questions prospective residents may have, and make it easy to locate the properties when it’s time to tour. Additionally, Sentinel strives to always maintain unsurpassed curb appeal through a well-thought-out approach to maintenance contracts and capital projects. We strive to be one step ahead of our properties’ capital needs. Examples include landscaping and flower maintenance contracts, power washing, lightbulb replacements, parking lot resurfacing and restriping, propertywide painting, and roof replacements when necessary.
Suser: Our on-site teams are instrumental in making a first impression, so we focus on that from the beginning. Prospective team members are evaluated on Bonaventure’s Core Value fit and, if hired, attend a three-day onboarding program centered around our mission statement, resident satisfaction, and company expectations. Our property and service managers attend customer service training with renowned organizations such as The Ritz-Carlton, host morning huddles, and complete random white glove inspections. Together, every team member on-site understands they are part of the process and is accountable to each other. They take pride in providing pristine curb appeal, upholding a professional image, and delivering exemplary customer service. Most important, our team members understand Bonaventure’s reputation depends on the first impression.
Warren: We set the expectations from the beginning in the interview process. Then follow that very specific operating and audit practices to ensure that the teams have all the tools and resources to be successful. The key is asking the teams “how can we help” or “what would make your job/life easier?” An example is our facilities teams having the right tools to accomplish a task the most effective and efficient way possible. I think members of those teams are “trouble shooters” and don’t want to ask. So, we approach it in a way that we head that off before it becomes an issue, especially given this climate of staffing shortages.
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