by Elaine Simpson | Occupancy Solutions, LLC
Keeping the following in mind, the focus of your community team throughout the year should be reaching and maintaining high occupancy rates: staying at or above budgeted rental rates; managing a low turnover rate; renting to prospects with strong landlord references and high credit scores. Remember that each apartment that is not filled is one that is losing money. It doesn’t matter if it is just that one apartment you are trying to fill or if you have an entire new building to lease up, you need your team to work together to get the apartments filled at the desirable rents. There are plenty of ways to achieve those higher occupancy rates as a team.
Start By Understanding Needs
Before establishing team goals, quickly determine what is not working and eliminate those programs and their associated costs . Stop and think about what factors are limiting your success in filling your building. There usually is no single thing that is holding you back, so it is essential to talk to every one of your team members to get their perspective and feedback. For example:
- Does your community compete well with others in the area? If not, why not and what can you change? If they have two bedrooms, two bath floor plans and yours are only two bedroom, one bath, there is nothing you can do. However, if they have a concierge and you don’t, perhaps you could ask your leasing team to offer a few extra “services” in the office such as making reservations for residents. If they have a community garden and you don’t, consider finding a place within your community to create one for your residents or teach them how to do container gardening. Each one of your team members should go visit your competition and come back with ideas.
- Does your community appeal to everyone? Why or why not? Drill down on any cancellations and reasons for move-outs and keep a list of why the applicant cancelled and where the move-out rented. Review these with all team members. If someone wanted a bigger apartment and you did not have any; that is a reason for move out beyond your control. If the reason was bad customer service or waiting too long for maintenance to fix something, then you have issues to discuss with the team. Look at the building itself. Is it clean? Do you need to dress it up a little or even a lot?
- Does your community have social or communication problems? What are they? An example of a communication problem might be that a resident complaint or work order did not reach the manager or maintenance supervisor in a timely manner in order to respond to the resident or complete the maintenance request per policy. If this happens, you must look at who is taking messages and how they are relayed. Review processes and operations. Modify, eliminate or replace the ones that are not working.
- What are you doing to encourage a better brand image? Review your marketing efforts. It might be time to create a new brochure and update your community website. Send your leasing staff members off site to do outreach marketing. Are you utilizing all of your free or low cost resources?
Outline what your specific areas of concern are after talking to your team. It is important to know what you are up against before you can take a step forward.
Outline Specific Goals for Each Person
It’s up to you to determine what factors will ultimately lead to improvements within your location that will lead to better economic occupancy. Once you know what each member of your team needs to do to help you earn that goal, create objectives for those people. Keep in mind, though, that you need to create fair goals for everyone. This includes for your property managers, leasing professionals, and maintenance staff.
- Outline specific goals for each person or team. Ensure that these goals are fitting for each person.
- Be sure to note exactly what the person needs to do to achieve their goal. Don’t just state “improve landscaping.” Outline what specifically needs to be accomplished.
- Every step or objective needs to be specific, outlined, and understood by the person who will be doing it.
- You need to have a measurable way of tracking success. Whether you want your leasing manager to make 5 cold calls a day or you want your property manager to meet with area planning commissions, you need to ensure the goals are measurable so you can track success.
- Work closely with them, not just to encourage and show support, but also to understand their needs and to learn what they are finding out throughout the process. Most importantly, you want to be their motivator since their achievement is going to help your business.
Once you have a plan in place, put it into action. You’ll want to set a timeframe for completion and a way to track success. The process takes some work, but it can help you to improve your location completely from just about every aspect. That’s very powerful.
Ultimately, you’ll need to work through your team of professionals to achieve your goals (your goals being to improve and maintain your occupancy rates by working towards improving the areas of need you have outlined above.) You need to create an incentive plan or some type of reward or competition to get people focused on achieving these goals.
You are probably paying your employees a salary right now. If you want them to work harder and help you achieve that high occupancy goal, encourage them to work towards earning the bonus or other incentive you plan to offer. Give them more than just saying “thank you” but don’t forget to say that too. To really drive them, pit them against each other in a competition. However, to do this, you’ll need to carefully consider every aspect of the process.
What you offer to your employees working to achieve these goals is really up to you. It should be something people will work hard to earn. They have to want it. You also should specifically state what it is they will earn, how it will be earned, and when it will be paid. Don’t leave out these details or you may find yourself scrambling to meet everyone’s expectations.
In addition to providing incentives for this type of competition and motivational approach, you should also consider the benefits of improving communication.
- Encourage your employees to talk to you openly about what they think your community needs to improve.
- Encourage new marketing ideas and methods. Include the entire site team when discussing marketing ideas and methods. By including maintenance, you will be able to tap into their experiences at other properties as well as help them understand their role in the goal.
- Be sure to communicate with your employees about the importance of the success of this promotion or activity. The bottom line is that improving occupancy rates helps them and keeps them in their jobs. Be sure they understand the importance of the process.
- Track progress and share it. Meet with people throughout the process to ensure they know what they are doing and what they could be doing better. This isn’t the type of process that you give people objectives and wait for them to achieve them.
- Allow them to work with each other and support each other to achieve their goals. It is often necessary to encourage good interaction with your staff throughout this process.
Is a competition going to work for you? This depends on how you structure it and what steps you take to ensure it is a success. Most importantly, you need to ensure that everyone involved is very much motivated to help your organization to succeed not just to reach a prize or incentive level but also to help it to grow and to flourish for years to come.
Occupancy Solutions specializes in these and other property management issues. Consulting, marketing, training and education through in-person and on-line webinars and e-learning is our specialty. To discuss further or request a free consultation, please visit www.occupancysolutions.com or call 1-800-865-0948 today.
Elaine Simpson – Owner, Occupancy Solutions, LLC
Operations, Leasing, Marketing Consultant and Training Specialist
Elaine Simpson has been employed in the housing industry since 1986. Starting on site as a leasing agent, she moved up, working as assistant manager, site manager, executive director and finally senior regional manager with communities in several states and portfolios containing more than 1400 units. Ms. Simpson has worked for local and national industry leading companies and throughout her career, has trained new managers across the country, assisted in creating “Best Practices” and procedure manuals, participated in numerous task forces during national mergers, acquisitions and dispositions and headed “turn around” teams assigned to troubled communities, successfully increasing income while decreasing expenses and allowing the property to recover economic viability.
With over 30 years of experience in the multi family industry, Elaine Simpson founded Occupancy Solutions, LLC to provide on site operations, human resources, housing program compliance, maintenance, marketing, leasing, training and consulting services for multifamily professionals of market rate, senior and affordable housing communities throughout the United States. Occupancy Solutions assists communities by providing proven, cost-effective techniques and strategies that achieve increased occupancy, improve resident retention, minimize expenses and increase net operating income.
Ms. Simpson is a licensed real estate broker in Michigan and Arizona, a Certified Senior Real Estate Specialist, a member of the National Speakers Associations, a National Apartment Association Education Institute Faculty Member, an Accredited Resident Manager a Certified Assisted Housing Manager and John Maxwell Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker. Let Occupancy Solutions create solutions for your community. To learn more about the vast range of services and trainings Occupancy Solutions can provide, please visit www.occupancysolutions.com for more information.