By Tami Siewruk
Strengthening Your Fitness Center Leasing Strategy and Promote Resident Retention

There was a time when being able to boast an on-site fitness center afforded you the best folding rowing machine in a distinct competitive advantage.  Unfortunately, those days are gone.  Today, most (if not all) of your competitors have fitness centers, and some might even be better than yours.

On-site fitness centers came into vogue as a means of attracting an increasingly fitness-conscious public.  They proved their worth as apartment residents realized the benefits of convenient on-site facilities that were comparable to those at the local gym (the keyword here being comparable), without the extra membership fees or hectic commute.  They were an “easy lease” at the start, and by and large, we’ve been leasing to them pretty much the same way ever since.

Meanwhile, the health club industry has continued to ride the wave of the fitness trend to its fullest extent, bringing the workout experience to higher heights.  Television commercials for even small neighborhood spas look like MTV videos, with flashing laser lights, shining chrome, supermodel aerobics instructors, and row upon row of mega-machines that look like they just beamed down from the Starship Enterprise.  What used to be comparable between our communities and the neighborhood gym isn’t so much anymore.

Among those communities who caught the clue, the race is officially on to design and offer the biggest and best fitness centers around, with more trendy accessories, and newer and more versatile equipment.  Where one or two good multi-exercise machines and mirrored wall were once sufficient, many communities are now filling their fitness centers with health club-quality equipment.  Existing fitness rooms are expanding to accommodate everything from new machines that look and feel like virtual-reality video games, to juice bars and multiple televisions.

It hasn’t escaped the notice of our future residents that fitness industry state-of-the-art is a tough standard to meet.  That’s why simply stating that leasing professionals have an on-site fitness center in a brochure,website or over the telephone is no longer sufficient to grab their attention – even if every other apartment community in the neighborhood doesn’t have one too, the gym down the street is a tough act to follow.  Nor is it enough to just point at the fitness center door and mention it in passing during a community tour.  If you’ve put effort into ensuring that your fitness center is worth selling, then now’s the time to sell it for all it’s worth!

“Results-Oriented” Leasing Presentations

Back when fitness centers sold themselves, Leasing Professionals didn’t have to know much about them.  Product knowledge training often goes into minute detail on each apartment home’s interior, but offers only a cursory run-through of the community’s amenities, and still doesn’t include much information about fitness centers beyond that they exist.  As a result, we know enough about ice-making frost-free refrigerators and self-cleaning ovens to spout off until a future resident leases or dies of boredom (whichever comes first).  The features and benefits of other exterior amenities are still pretty straightforward, but today’s fitness center has more to offer, and deserves to be given special attention in our presentations.  A well equipped fitness center represents a significant investment – one that an accomplished Leasing Professional should take pride in presenting as one of the best benefits of living in the community.

Not only does the investment warrant special treatment, but consumer desires also demand that fitness centers be placed in the spotlight.  Our health conscious future residents are increasingly savvy about the benefits of various types of fitness equipment, and in turn, demand more from an on-site fitness center.  This is why it’s important for Leasing Professionals to be not only aware of the value of the fitness center as a apartment community feature, but to be well versed in the features and benefits of the various types of equipment it offers.  Granted, it’s a bit much to expect all Leasing Professionals to be fitness experts too, but a little extra product knowledge can go a long way.  For example, there’s a big difference between “We have a treadmill here and a bike over there” and “Our treadmill has a variable incline” or “This bike will also monitor your heart rate”.

On-Site fitness centers may come in all sizes and in many settings, but the one thing they all have in common is that they can be used as a powerful marketing tool.  The key, as fitness centers become more commonplace, is to spotlight the features and benefits that make yours unique.

I recently came across this segment in a new fitness magazine:

“We realized that just having an on-site fitness center would not be enough,” says Pamela Hughes, President of South Hampton Property Management,  “Our goal was to have a better fitness center than the competition.” For its Monticito development, a luxury apartment complex in Houston, they installed two Textrix VR bikes – virtual reality bikes that feature interactive computer graphics and motion. “When we show our fitness center to a prospective resident, we take them straight to the VR bikes, ” says Hughes. “It really makes an impact.  They may have seen seven communities in a day, but they remember that the Monticito had something that the others did not.”

When planning a new fitness center, adding to one, or simply revamping your leasing strategy, focus on what will make your’s  stand out from your competition.  Your unique selling point may be a special piece of equipment, like one of the newer VR bikes, a rock-climbing wall, or a treadmill with the latest monitoring technology.  It could also be an accessory, such as an individualized audio/video entertainment system or an aerobics area.  It could even be an intangible benefit, such as 24-hour access or a beautiful view of the pool or skyline.

No matter what you do to put your fitness center above the competition’s, you have to train your leasing professionals to sell it if you want to accentuate its differences.  Keep in mind that a unique selling point is not a replacement for having a good fitness center.  It is that special feature which will help you close the lease.

Here are a few tips to help you get the
most out of your fitness center

1.   Add some pizzazz!  Purchasing equipment is only the first step in designing your fitness center.  After functionality, appearance should be the primary goal. This means selecting visually appealing carpeting or flooring; installing mirrors to open up the room; displaying attractive and instructional (or motivational) posters; decorating with plants; prominently exhibiting your accessories; and adding as many extras as possible to distinguish your center from the competition. Make certain you include all your fitness amenity’s in the conversation.

2.   Talk the Talk of fitness training.  Use words that those “in the know” will know.  In your brochure, ads, and presentations, make your words count!  Use hot-button terms such as “state-of-the-art,” “user-friendly,” and “results-oriented.”  Be specific about your equipment and its advantages.  The average consumer is becoming more familiar with the different types and brands of equipment available.

3.   Give your future resident a test ride.  If your community is lucky enough to have a VR Bike or other special type of equipment, strap the future resident in and let them have some fun.  If you have a great sound system, crank it up.  Make your future resident want to come back.

4.   Use the Internet.  We know that  people are using  the internet to gather information before physically visiting a community. This may now be your first line of contact, and is a fitting place for information about your cutting edge fitness center and all the services it offers.  Include pictures of your fitness center on your web site and remember to show people using the equipment in the photographs.

5.   Don’t Just Answer Questions.  When someone asks specifically about your fitness center, this is an opportunity to close the deal.  Unfortunately, the scenario usually goes like this:

Future Resident:  “Do you have a fitness center?”
Leasing Professional:  “Yes, we do.”
Future Resident:  “Does it have treadmills?”
Leasing Professional:  “Yes, it does.”

These future residents are telling you that your fitness center is an important issue to them – maybe even the deciding factor!  Take advantage of this situation by selling your fitness center and its unique features:

“Yes, we have an excellent fitness center complete with cardiovascular and strength equipment” or “Yes, as a matter of fact, we have 3 treadmills, 2 climbers and 4 bikes!”

6.   Use Incentives.  It’s easier to retain residents than it is to replace them – and you’re more likely to keep them if you can keep them using your fitness center.  How?  Give them more reasons to use it!  Many property management companies hold contests, fitness awareness classes and seminars in the center or clubhouse, or feature personal trainers during certain hours.  These “fitness-focused” programs not only encourage use, but they help create a center of activity around your fitness canter, and lend a fitness-conscious character to your whole community! Remind them of all the benfits of using the fitness center.

7.   Be Creative.   Use your treadmills for a “Walk Across America” race, or use climbers to climb the Empire State Building.  Open the contest to your entire market area, charge a nominal entry fee, and donate the proceeds to a local charity.  Programs and events like these build camaraderie among users and generate great public relations.  Use your imagination to discover new ways to use and publicize your facility.

How do you use your Fitness Center?

Your feedback and comments are welcome!  Please drop us a line and let us know how you’re using your Fitness Center as a strong marketing and retention tool.  One more thing — don’t forget to squeeze a short workout into your schedule this week.  There’s no better way to get to know your community’s fitness center (and the residents who use it) than to get in there and work up a sweat yourself!

Pump it up!



  1. Do you know the number of machines in your fitness center and the types?
  2. What are you doing to promote your fitness center to your current residents?
  3. Do you have “other” services in your fitness center? Magazines?


1.Healthy Choices for a Healthier Bottom Line

Build value in your community by reminding residents of all the great amenities your community offers. We created the Healthy Choices series to encourage residents to use the many healthful-living amenities we offer that they don’t always use to full advantage. Residents who make it part of their everyday routine to use our valuable, fitness-enhancing amenities are likelier to not only live healthier, happier lives, but are more likely to renew! These door hangers are a snap to use, and they’re designed to look great while delivering a powerful message whether you use them individually, or supercharge the message by delivering them in a series! 100 door hangers for only $15.

2. Load your fitness center up with FREE fitness magazines. Go to this link and subscribe.

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