by Tami Siewruk

The last time you played “let’s pretend,” chances are you were only concerned with the three R’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic). This time, we’re going to play a grown-up game of let’s pretend, where you get to be the resident or future resident—and we’ve got four R’s of an apartment community’s to contend with (Rentals, Renewals, Retention, and Results).

Several months ago, we had half of the employees at a community pretend to be residents, and the other half pretend to be future residents. They were instructed to leave the community, then return as residents or future residents in order to gain some fresh insight.  Their observations might teach you a thing or two about your own apartment community. Here’s what they found:

  • There were no clear signs in the parking lot telling future residents where they could or couldn’t park.
  • Trees and bushes had grown over the main entrance sign so that both future residents and visitors of current residents had trouble identifying the community.
  • When they took a “child’s eye” view of the community, our pretenders found the leasing center clubhouse pretty boring. They suggested hanging photographs of the leasing and service staff, along with a brief statement telling something interesting about them, like their favorite hobbies.
  • The signs throughout the community sounded like someone had a bad attitude.
  • When the leasing center was closed for a few minutes, there was no place for the visitor to sit and wait, and no system for leaving a message.
  • The staff wasn’t prepared for rainy weather, with raincoats or oversized umbrellas to share with future residents; and there were no mats to prevent water and mud from being tracked in when showing an apartment.
  • The main entry door to the office was difficult to open.

And the list went on! This very simple exercise identified plenty of areas that needed attention; and focused the employees on what was needed to more effectively deal with their current and future residents.

Try it with your own staff. If you think your staff will have trouble viewing your community objectively, invite the staff from another community to come in and pick it apart. Don’t be defensive; picking your community apart is a good thing. Imagine how much better it will be when you put it all back together—the right way!