It’s probably happened many times – someone comes into your leasing office and you think, “No one could lease to that person!”  Well, in today’s competitive apartment leasing environment, you have to be able to lease to anyone.  And, believe it or not, it can be done.  All it takes is the right information and some resourceful techniques to turn a “no way” into an “okay!”

Thanks to Wendy Muse, Vice President of Education at Tarragon Management, Inc., and Lisa Trosien, President of, The “How to Lease to Anyone!” workshop at the Multifamily Brainstorming Sessions a few years ago where they shared,  some of the most applicable tricks-of-trade when it comes to dealing with all types of customers.  Here are just a few of the most familiar personalities they discussed and their original ideas for transforming these leasing challenges into signed  leases.

Recognizing Different Types Of Customers

In A Hurry
What do you do when a person doesn’t have an appointment and just wants to run through some models quickly?  Or what if he or she doesn’t have time to fill out a guest card?  It’s time to think on your feet.  Complete the guest card as you’re walking through the models – this saves time and allows you to get the information you need.  You also can offer to e-mail a brochure to the visitor and suggest that he or she makes an appointment for a later time.  Of course, the key here is to tell the person that you know and understand how valuable his or her time is.  Make the process a convenient and enjoyable one, and you’ll have a better shot at closing the deal.

Personality Conflict
Sometimes you may just not click with someone.  Your personalities don’t mesh, and it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to work together.  In this situation, if you can make a graceful handoff to one of your colleagues with a “Why don’t I have Susie show you our model” or “John will be happy to take you through the paperwork,” go ahead and do it.  If this isn’t possible, take a moment to read the person’s body language (such as crossing his arms, leaning forward, or standing at a distance) and see if you can mirror it.  This is a diplomatic sign of respect that might help you ease the tension and move away from potential conflict.  Of course, you can always grin and bear it.  Put on a big smile and do your very best to serve this customer.  That’s your job, and you just need to give it your best.

When someone in a wheelchair visits your property and your models are on the second floor of a walk-up building, don’t immediately think that you won’t be able to lease to this individual.  According to Muse and Trosien, it’s a good idea to have virtual tours available, either via a video in the office or on the Internet.  Another option is to show the person a market-ready apartment on the first floor of the building.  Yet, the most important approach is to discuss the person’s needs in detail, never assuming what the person can or cannot handle.  From your prospective customer’s input, you will be able to tailor a presentation to his or her needs.

Blind Or Hearing Impaired
If a blind person visits your property, it is important to introduce yourself immediately.  This person wants to know who he or she is speaking to, and you don’t have time to play guessing games.  Oftentimes, someone who is blind will have a lead dog or a companion.  In these cases, refrain from touching the lead dog, and be sure to talk directly to your future renter – not through the companion.  Furthermore, never touch a blind person without speaking first; you don’t want to startle him or her.  Then, as you begin your tour, use the “sighted guide technique,” walking beside the person with your hand on his or her arm and giving explicit directions as you move through the apartment.

For the hearing impaired, the rules of engagement are clear-cut.  First and foremost, do not turn away from the person you are speaking to; that individual needs to read your lips.  Therefore, also be sure that you don’t cover your mouth while you’re speaking.  Keep the volume of your voice at a normal level – you don’t have to shout for a hearing impaired person to understand you.  Finally, don’t over-enunciate, and don’t hesitate to rephrase what you or the potential customer has said to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Looking Way Into The Future
If you think that talking to or showing models to someone who doesn’t plan to sign a contract for at least six months is a waste of time, think again.  These people are potential customers, and the best way to deal with them is to treat them like every other client.  To start, don’t hesitate to show them a model.  If they show interest, this is a great opportunity to put them on a waiting list – a skillful way to make sure that there is a unit waiting for them when they’re ready to make a move.  You also should put them on your e-mail or newsletter list, as this is a quick and easy way to stay in touch over time.  In addition, if you have planned a resident function for the near future, invite these potential residents to join in the festivities.  This kind of personal service will keep your property in the forefront of their minds.

It shouldn’t be hard to get your creditors to accept and adjusted payment plan, but it always helps to have an experienced professional on hand to fight your corner.

Pet Owners
People’s pets are often like their children.  Most people will not move without their pets, so if your property accepts them, you’ve already earned points with pet owners.  You can net even more points by catering to pets, keeping pet items in the model and making sure that the property is a welcoming place for someone’s precious pooch or frisky feline.  If you don’t take pets, you might want to consider changing your position; a “no pets” policy can eliminate 60 percent of your prospect base.  However, if you are determined to operate a pet-free complex, be sure to talk to prospective renters about the consequences associated with a violation of your policy.  You don’t want to anger a renter by delivering an unexpected penalty.

From Out Of State
Moving is a daunting experience, and moving from out of state is even worse.  These renters face a higher level of anxiety than most customers.  By letting them know that you are a true professional and that you have their best interests at heart, you’ll immediately create a comfort zone.  It’s important to be willing to help these clients get acclimated to their new environment, so it’s good idea to have some information about the surrounding areas in the leasing office.  Additionally, renters who are moving from an inexpensive area to a more pricey location can experience a bit of a culture shock.  In this case, promote the value of the apartment, not the price.

Getting Divorced
When dealing with someone who needs an apartment because he or she is getting divorced, it is crucial to be empathetic and flexible.  This individual may have some unusual requests, such as asking you not to call him or her at home (maybe because the other person in the relationship doesn’t even know about the divorce yet).  You must label your guest cards clearly to ensure that you don’t make a mistake.  Then, let the renter know that his or her privacy is of the utmost importance, and that you will do everything in your power to make sure that the entire process is discreet.  And for those people who don’t want to sign a lease right away because they are working on their marriage and might need to get out of a contract, you can discuss the different leases you offer, as well as any out clauses you may have.

Language Barrier
The Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing market segments for the multifamily housing industry.  Therefore, it’s a great idea to have a bilingual person on your staff.  If you’re not adding to your staff right now but need to be able to communicate with prospective renters for all different ethnic backgrounds, have a list of key phrases in a variety of languages handy (Berlitz Travel Guides are a good resource for this).  But be careful – many languages have a number of dialects.  Some of these vernaculars are not pure versions of a language; in fact, they’re often called “slanguage.”  Because of this, don’t depend solely on Internet translation sites like or  Members of our group suggested that you turn to local translators or even high school or college students to help with proper translations.

Overcoming Objections

Ultimately, there will be any number of different personalities walking through your door.  Your job is to listen to the needs of everyone you meet and try to resolve any issues they may have.  Some people undoubtedly will have objections, and you have to find ways to overcome them.  Wendy Muse and Lisa Trosien suggest that you approach an objection with the following steps:

·    Be prepared
·    Present it first
·    Qualify it
·    Present the other side
·    Admit it and move on

Whether it’s a bedroom that’s too small or appliances that are too old, your job is to help customers figure out which features mean the most to them and then show them how your property really does fulfill their requirements.  You have to promote all of the great benefits your property offers and let renters know that they arrived home when they walked through your door.