Vacancy is a problem for all rental property owners, and while we can list dozens of strategies to help you shorten your vacancy time, here’s the easiest way to avoid it:
Keep the tenants you currently have.
It may not seem that simple, but it can be. When you invest the necessary time and resources into implementing a sound and serious tenant retention plan, you’ll find you keep more of your residents in place, which means you earn more and spend less in both the short and long term.
You need to actively work towards encouraging your residents to renew their lease agreements at the end of the tenancy. This is something most landlords leave up to chance: will they or won’t they renew?
Be proactive and provide your residents with a number of good reasons to stay.
When you don’t have a strong tenant retention plan in place, you’re missing an opportunity to increase what you earn by avoiding vacancy and turnover costs.
What if you aren’t thrilled with your tenants and you wish they’d leave?
Well, that’s another story and another blog. Today, however, we’re focusing on the tenants you do want to keep. These are the residents who pay rent on time, help you maintain the home, and communicate openly. They pay attention to the lease agreement. They’re good neighbors.
We have some resident retention ideas that might make a difference to what you earn and how you measure the success of your South Jersey investment property.
Let’s take a look.
IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY FOR TENANT RETENTION
LEASING MUST BE EASY
Will residents find it’s easy to work with you during the leasing period?
Your retention plan needs to begin even before a tenant is placed. You’re establishing some pretty serious expectations before they even sign a lease agreement and collect the keys.
Residents will pay attention. In fact, you’re giving them some valuable information about what type of landlord you’ll be as soon as they call or message to inquire about a property.
|Responsive and Accommodating?
You’ll likely attract those great residents to your property easily, and developing a professional and positive relationship will not be difficult. Expect easier retention.
|Busy and Can’t Be Bothered?
Tenants will remember this. And, even if they rent your home, they won’t have a great feeling going into the relationship. They might hesitate to reach out to you when necessary.
Be helpful during the leasing process and act as a resource for your potential residents.
Here are some of the ways you can do this during the leasing period:
Tenants will not be willing to call you over and over again. Answer your phone and respond to messages. Eliminates vacancy and sets a communication standard for the whole residence.
|Provide Self Showings
Self-showings are popular with tenants during the leasing period. And, you’re showing them you’re modern and willing to invest in technology. They’ll be pleased with this at renewal time.
Before you get to the formal screening process, ask some questions that will tell you if you’d like to have these residents living in your property for the long term. Can they pay and take care of the home?
|Provide Rental Criteria
Let your prospective residents know what you’ll be looking for when they apply. You won’t screen them again at renewal time, so share your expectations now.
|Accept Online Applications
Again – tenants want to know you understand technology and won’t hesitate to provide ease and convenience. They won’t bother looking for a new home after the tenancy ends.
During the lease and even before the lease – thank tenants for their time, their attention to detail, their actions. This appreciation goes a long way at renewal time.
When you work with residents proactively during the application and screening process so they know you’re proactive about getting them approved and moved in. Don’t make them wait to find out that they passed your screening; send an email or make a phone call as soon as you have gathered and analyzed all the data you need and verified all the information you have.
MOVING DAY IS STRESSFUL – MAKE IT EASY
Moving is fun and often full of new energy, but it’s also not fun at all. It’s stressful and there are constantly changing details that need to be managed.
Providing a simple, stress-free move-in experience will allow you to create a good relationship with your residents. Good relationships lead to better retention.
A checklist for moving day:
|Make sure the lease is signed before move-in day.
|Collect the move-in funds before move-in day.
|Discuss the lease agreement in detail with new residents and answer any questions they have.
|Provide a simple orientation to the home. Make a video or leave a binder with instructions on how to set the thermostat and where to find the breaker box.
|Leave behind a move-in inspection checklist so tenants can make any of their own notes and sign off on the condition of the property.
When South Jersey residents move into a home easily and efficiently, and that home is in excellent condition and perfectly clean on day one, you’re setting a great foundation for your tenant retention plans.
Think about leaving a welcome gift for your new residents. This is the kind of gentle and gracious gesture that will leave a mark on your resident’s memory. They will remember that they felt good when they moved in. They will remember their landlord was kind. This won’t be forgotten at the end of the lease term, when they’re wondering if they really want to move again.
GOOD COMMUNICATION LEADS TO RESIDENT RETENTION
How can you retain residents if you’re not communicating with them?
Good relationships start with good communication. This is true whether we’re talking about personal relationships or business relationships. When you’re thinking about how you can best provide service to your residents so that they stay with you year after year, it’s important to be open, transparent, available, and accessible.
Never leave your tenants guessing what you expect from them. Let them feel comfortable reaching out to you. If they have to pay rent a few days late one month because of an unexpected problem, do you want them to let you know immediately or do you want them to cower in fear of delivering the bad news?
It’s better to know right away.
So, create the kind of safety within your relationship that your residents will feel comfortable coming to you when they need help.
What Will You Talk About?
There’s no need to be overly friendly. But, you should expect to communicate with your tenants about things such as:
|Rules and Regulations
You’ll want to be known as the landlord who answers questions promptly.
How will you communicate? In whatever way works for your tenant.
Be available by:
- Social media
Every resident will be different. Some might need the personal connection a phone call can deliver. Others are busy and will send a quick text without anything extra. Take the time to understand what your tenants need when it comes to communication. Some residents are going to over-communicate. They’ll check in for absolutely no reason. That’s okay. Others will not want to check in at all, unless there’s a problem. That’s okay, too.
Invest in technology, but keep communication personal. Check in with your residents once in a while to make sure they’re having a good experience. Otherwise, you should leave them alone to enjoy the property. A good balance and proactive communication will lead to better retention of great residents.
How to Be a Resource to Your Residents
|Be a source of support to your residents.
That’s going to keep them in place because just about every tenant has had at least one bad landlord. Don’t be the bad landlord that tenants remember – be the supportive landlord that tenants enjoy renting from.
If you can provide a positive rental experience, you’ll retain tenants. Provide resources and keep in touch without being overbearing. Tenants are looking for privacy, and you don’t need to be over-friendly. But, when you can provide resources, pass on some interesting information, or express gratitude for an on-time rental payment or help coordinating maintenance, you should get in touch.
MAINTENANCE AND IMPROVEMENTS
Maintenance is likely not one of your favorite parts about being a landlord. Especially today, those repairs you have to make are often expensive, frustrating, and difficult. Costs are rising and even finding good vendors to help you can be a challenge with the labor market squeezed. Sometimes, those emergency repairs are nearly impossible to manage, especially when you have a resident who is upset.
There’s no possible way to rent out a property without having maintenance needed on it once in a while. There should be a solid preventative maintenance plan in place.
In fact, when you do a better job of maintaining your home, you do a better job of retaining your residents.
If you’re slow to respond or you ignore the requests altogether, your tenants are likely to leave at the end of the lease term. So make maintenance a priority, and respond to repair needs with a sense of urgency. Even if they’re minor issues that you’d rather ignore.
|How to Communicate Your Maintenance Procedures to Residents?
Even if you can’t fix something right away, let your tenants know where things stand and what you plan to do about the problem moving forward.
Does Improving Your Property Retain Residents?
Yes it does.
Improvements and updates are not like maintenance in that they’re not generally required. However, if you want to improve the condition and value of your investment while at the same time retaining tenants, consider making some cost-effective renovations, especially if your tenants have a specific request.
Do they want a more efficient dishwasher? Consider installing one.
New paint before they sign a renewal? Go ahead and do it.
The best residents in South Jersey want to live in a home that’s attractive and comfortable. Some of the cost-effective upgrades you can make to attract and retain them include:
- Replacing out-of-date appliances and installing energy-efficient models.
- Painting walls that have become faded or chipped.
- Cleaning or replacing carpet.
- Eliminating carpet and installing hard floors
- Updating the landscaping and curb appeal.
Updates like these will help you motivate tenants to renew their lease agreements. You can offer a new washer or a freshly painted bedroom. Maybe your tenants want a backsplash in the kitchen or better lighting outside.
If you’re willing to hear your tenant’s requests and update your property to make it attractive and competitive, you’re going to have an easier time keeping your tenants.
PET-FRIENDLY PROPERTIES RETAIN TENANTS
Have you considered what pets can do to help you keep your best residents in place?
It makes a difference.
Pet-friendly properties always see less turnover.
Why wouldn’t you allow pets when you know it can improve your retention?
Your residents don’t want to pay a new pet fee every year by moving into a new property. They also don’t want to spend a lot of time finding another rental home that will allow their pets. When you’re willing to consider pets, you’re likely to keep your pet-owning tenants longer.
INCENTIVES FOR LEASE RENEWAL
As the time approaches where you have to ask your tenants if they intend to renew the lease, think about what you’ll be willing to negotiate.
How can you entice them to stay in place?
|Fresh paint on the walls
|A new appliance!
|3-month gym or yoga studio membership
|Gift card to a local restaurant
|Free cable and/or Wi-Fi for 3 months
Small gifts demonstrate gratitude. If your tenants know that you want them to stay, they’ll feel valued and appreciated.
Make Rental Increases Reasonable
The best incentive for a lease renewal will be the amount of rent you charge.
This is going to be a huge driver in whether or not your residents choose to stay with you.
You will likely raise the rent on your South Jersey property at renewal time, and your tenants will more than likely expect it. They know the market and they understand that rents have been rising while they were living in your property.
Don’t shy away from increasing the rent when you’re working on tenant retention.
There should be an increase because your expenses are going up as an owner. You’re paying more for maintenance, repairs, insurance, and other fees.
Raise the rent, but raise it responsibly.
Study the South Jersey rental market and look at homes that are similar to your rental. Chances are, you’ll be able to raise your own rent while still staying at or just below the market prices. This will encourage tenants to stay because even though their rent is going up, they don’t have to worry about the expense and hassle of moving into a new place that probably will cost just as much.
Offer incentives for a longer lease. Maybe you’ll raise the rent $100 per month on a 12-month renewal, but only $75 per month on an 18-month renewal, for example. This is one way to increase your revenue while keeping your residents.
Have You Considered South Jersey Property Management?
We like to talk about all the great reasons to work with a property management partner in South Jersey. We can tell you about higher rents, less stress, and the reduction of risk and liability.
Retaining tenants is easier in a professionally managed home.
This is yet another benefit to working with a management company like ours. Residents prefer to work with South Jersey property management companies instead of independent landlords because it’s safer for them. We’ve said this earlier: every tenant has had at least one bad landlord. They’re never eager to repeat that experience.
Residents know that property managers have systems, processes, and communication tools that deliver a positive rental experience. They know that property managers understand the laws and the requirements of rental properties in South Jersey.
Ready to talk about how we can help you retain residents and do better with your investment property? Please contact us at Realty Solutions, and we’ll see what we can do to help you avoid those expensive turnovers and have a profitable and pleasant rental experience. We lease, manage, and maintain homes in Audubon, Collingswood, Cherry Hill, Haddon Heights, Blackwood, and the surrounding communities.