By Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, SKY Properties
- Question: Dear Kari, Should I be doing anything differently to lease my apartments now that things are opening back up?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth new ways of living, thinking and even breathing, literally. So, it should not be much of a surprise that changes need to be made for better leasing these days. Being adaptive to change is a great way to stand out and help be proactive for all that is happening in our culture and what is to come. Here are a few fundamentals that I would like to share with you to get the best out of renting your vacant units. Cleanliness, being present and staying positive are factors today that may or may not be the seal for closing deals, but without them, you are bound for doom.
Be Sure to CLEAN, CLEAN and CLEAN Some More
Your apartment unit does not have to be the cheapest or offer the best discount to get it rented. It does not have to be in a specific location, a certain floor plan, a definite square footage or have the best finishes for people to be interested right now. People will overlook a lot of things but cleanliness is not one of them – especially now. To be “Clean,”, means to be free from dirt, marks or stains. However, just this may not be enough in today’s world. Clean, today may mean more to being uncontaminated or disinfected. This new way of determining whether a unit is clean or not may seem excessive for last year’s way of thinking. However, it may be the standard moving forward.
Here are ways to make sure you are promoting this modern thought of a “clean unit”.
- Attend to the senses: Sight, Feel, Touch and Smell. Studies indicate that the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing, yet the conscious mind seems to be able to process only 50 bits per second. Attending to the human senses in relation to what seems clean, will put you in a great mindset to try to cover all aspects to a variation of prospects. Showing vacuum carpet lines, having light pleasant smells and perhaps signs blatantly stating this has been cleaned help prospects consciously and subconsciously acknowledge and appreciate that your unit is clean.
- Offer disinfecting gels, wipes, or foot booties upon entering/exiting the unit. Being proactive with these added items also gives a good impression that the landlord or leasing team is aware and proactive on addressing dirt or germs.
In the end, there is no substitute for a clean unit. Do not lose prospect interest by something that is 100% in your control.
Be Sure to Be PRESENT
I have heard that many renters have experienced only seeing or hearing from their Landlord on the day rent is due and have no other communication or interaction with them. Or, once they have signed the lease, they never spoke to their landlord until moving out. I think it is important to convey to potential renters and current renters that you are here and you are proactive, particularly during times like these where we are facing a global pandemic and community protests.
Being present, believe it or not, is one of the best ways to keep renter’s and prospects happy. In turn, putting your best foot forward for leasing during COVID-19. As they say, the best defense is a good offense. Except for those renters who will inevitably move out, a great way to keep your unit leased is having current renters satisfied in their home. Staying in touch with them and communicating with them on a consistent basis has a significant influence when it comes to the decision to renew their lease.
As for those units that do become vacant, doing your research, and knowing the price of your unit is crucial. It also helps to go look at one or two units listed in the same market and see if the advertising is accurate, how the unit shows and see how the rental rate compares with yours. This is especially well worth your time if your unit is just sitting and not renting. Keeping up with what is happening in your area and doing your market research and analysis is the best way to stay in the present and keep competitive with other units for rent.
In summary, practice being present to enhance leasing by:
- Keep in contact with present and future renters. This pays when renewals come up and when prospects are deciding where to go. Communicating and following up consistently gives a good impression.
- Answer your phone and return emails promptly.
- Keep up with Market Research – stay competitive with other units for rent in area
Be Sure to STAY POSITIVE
The world may seem like a crazy place right now. We turn on the news and we see reports on things happening that we never thought possible. We are all living in the same place, dealing with the same issues and circumstances – so no need to reiterate the bad. Instead, people are looking for new homes, new change. For good or for bad reasons, finding a new home has underlying elements that are always presented: change and a new beginning. Be sure to take the side of the cup half full. A new home can offer:
- Hope – A better life; a better home
- Financial Aid – Downsize and save money
- Growth – Expand for a larger family or more space; start up business
- Opportunity – New job; change of scenery; fulfilling a goal or dream
It is important that we promote these things and relay this feeling to potential renters. People naturally are inclined to feeling good. Helping them get there is our responsibility and service. We do this by keeping positive.
When speaking to a new prospect, whether in an email, over the phone or while touring a unit, focus on the positive by talking about the amenities the area, building and unit you are showing. Talk about the potential activities the area has to offer. Whether its walking distance to somewhere or quick access to freeways; eateries that you can order food from or remote location that offers peace and quiet; ease of street parking or being in such a highly desirable location – it’s all how you relay what is offered.
Sometimes, not even so much what you are saying but how you are saying it gives the feeling of positivity. Focus on your body language, enjoyment, and genuineness. As a smile can be contagious, so can your positive energy. There is no point to discussing how bad things are right now, especially when you could possibly make someone’s life change for the better with a great apartment and great landlord. Leasing during COVID-19 has taken many Landlords and Leasing Agents out of their comfort zones. People are being thrown off by doing things that may have worked in the past but are not working today. Following these fundamental practices to cleanliness, being present and staying positive will undoubtedly lead you in the right direction to better leasing. Home is a sanctuary and we want to help you find one or keep one.
Be Sure to do Your MAINTENANCE During COVID-19
Make sure you have all the proper gear – the Personal Protective Equipment referred to commonly known as PPE. Know what the CDC recommends and look at best practices published by the National Apartment Association and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. For example, they recommend that you wash your hands frequently. In regards to going into a tenant’s apartment use common sense and be sure to put on a fresh pair of gloves, wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, put on fresh shoe booties, wear eye protection when working on plumbing. Please ask residents to cancel service if they are sick or have been around someone sick. Post Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols in the lobby or mailbox area.
Because everyone is home 24/7 it is important to keep up on a/c maintenance. Ask tenants to change or clean their filters – provide the filter and ask them to set the dirty one outside their apartment so you can keep track of which ones have been done. If they are unable to do so please ask them if they will allow you to change it. Take extra care to clean common areas to show residents that you value their tenancy and their health is important to you. Communicate that you want happy tenants – you want them to be happy in their homes. Ask what you can do to make their apartment comfortable.
Be Sure to COLLECT RENT during COVID-19
If you are going to collect rent in person take all necessary precautions for you and your tenant. Really, this is the time to set up on-line payments or auto drafts or any type of payment that does not have to be done in person. Sometimes there is no avoiding it but also our mail has been slow and it bills are always due. Make paying rent as easy for your resident as possible.
The ”key” is keeping residents informed of their rights and their responsibilities which are not often explained well in the City of Los Angeles’ Eviction Moratorium Ordinance. This is the time to be transparent. Be flexible with your residents and waive credit card fees. We have been able to find resources for our residents.
Be patient and show kindness to your residents. We are so used to seeing rent collection as a mandatory part of our job and it is but demanding rent from someone you know is affected is not the right thing to do at this time. At this time, we should be asking how we can help. There is no reason to waive rent or give discounts but there is good reason to show compassion. I have taken a soft approach on the collection of rents as we have no recourse anyway and this has proved to be a good approach as tenants are coming to us with a plan and that is what we hoped they would do.
If a tenant moves out owing money, they can be sent to collections.
Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. For questions, you can reach Kari at Kari@SKYprop.LA.