Building Community

Welcoming the Stranger

The news is filled with stories of immigrants and refugees in Europe. However, this is nothing new to those of us in the United States.  We've been a nation of immigrants since our beginning. Now is a great time for us to continue to lead the way in not just acceptance, but providing hope and dignity to people removed from their homes. 

This is an issue near to the heart of many of us in the apartment industry.  Lots of immigrants live in apartments.  They have different customs, different languages, they cook different food with different smells and they often keep to themselves.  This kind of behavior can make them seem aloof or different.

Thankfully there are many working to help refugees and immigrants get integrated in their new homes.  One such organization, called Abounding Service has connected with a specific apartment community in Phoenix and together they are trying to break down barriers and cycles of fear and poverty in these populations.  It begins with language learning and help with navigating the American system.  And it has introduced volunteers to some of the most amazing people.  Like Rose Mapendo.  Rose is an immigrant from the Congo who lived through tremendous loss. Rose lived in an apartment community and spoke broken English so she couldn't let people know that she was the recipient of the UN's Humanitarian of the Year award.  Or, that she was the feature of a documentary about immigrants called Pushing the Elephant.  Or that she had a foundation that works to help nations pursue peace and reconciliation. 

Knowing Rose has changed my life. And there are many more Rose's than you can imagine.  How might you work to eliminate barriers among neighbors who are so different from each other?  How might you better celebrate global diversity in your community?  

Uniquely You

I recently spoke to a group of parents about establishing a family identity. When you're a young parent and the weight of forming the character and behavior of another human finally sinks in, you'll often turn to anyone claiming to have an answer. I don't have an answer, but I do have a suggestion--figure out who you are and what your family needs and build a strategy around that. And don't try to be someone's idea of a family. 

It's the same thing I preach in business. Know your clients. What do they need? What do they want? What do they not even know that they want or need? Then, figure out who you are; what it is you are uniquely able to bring to the table to address your client needs. But don't skip the most important part--capitalizing on your strengths and personalizing them to your clients. 

Our CARES programs have been helping communities create unique identities for more than a decade. Because we are part of the community, we are able to not only implement unique strategies, we are also assessing whether or not those strategies are working. We'd love to come alongside your team to help implement your unique brand!

When Smaller Is Better

When my kids were small I instituted a birthday party policy that said they could have a big, blowout birthday party every other year. On the off year, however, they could only invite one or two friends to a fun event or dinner out with our family. I remember sharing this plan with them and there were lots of complaints and sadness--mostly about the lack of birthday gifts they would receive.  But as we settled into this routine, a funny thing happened. After a number of years, the kids always chose a smaller, more intimate party. They explained that the big parties were never as much fun because no one really cared about them or the fact that it was their birthday. Even the allure of more gifts did not tempt them to invite hoards of teenagers to their celebrations. They preferred smaller.

I don't believe they're alone in that. In a recent resident retention blog, Brent Williams dared to question the effectiveness of large community parties to truly connect people. He observed that smaller gatherings are much more likely to facilitate good conversation and, therefore, better connections. In a larger gathering it is easy to get lost in the crowd and never really get to know people.

That doesn't mean larger gatherings are not effective. At Apartment Life, our community development strategy includes both. Well executed large parties are great for creating a sense of excitement and first introductions. But deeper connection primarily occurs in smaller gatherings. And that's the kind of connection that creates loyal residents and brand ambassadors. We'd love to help you consider ways to leverage all sizes of gatherings.  

Renewal at the Next Level


For one beautiful year I've been a Premier Gold member with United Airlines. Along with the flashy card, I get lots of other benefits, like seats with more leg room for free and automatic wait listing for first class and priority boarding. There are times when another airline might be slightly less expensive, but you can bet I'm flying United if at all possible. This approach seems appropriate to me. I've shown my loyalty and it makes sense that I get some reward. As opposed to phone companies and cable companies who seem dead set on rewarding fickle customers who are willing to leave at the first sign of something shinier. Which is sometimes how we treat our residents.

What might it look like to draw in new residents while still making longer term residents feel appreciated in more than a token way? There are some great articles on tiered events out there that might give you some ideas.  But I want to address the 'why'. Why reward longer term residents when they're probably going to stay even if you don't? 

I believe there are many reasons, but the one I'm going to focus on is how it impacts new residents. There is data to suggest that often a new resident often makes their decision about renewal within the first 30 days of move-in.  Particularly if move-in wasn't a great experience and the difficulty was not resolved. But what if prospective residents and new residents knew there was a reason to stay? What difference might it make if they felt they were wanted in the community; that you were an organization that understood loyalty?

At Apartment Life, we know that renewal decisions are made with the heart, not just the mind and giving a resident some recognition for their loyalty can change the way they are feeling about renewing from day one. 


A New Start. Let's Begin With Our Residents.

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There's nothing magical about the January 1 calendar date. Starting a new year is really just a continuation of the current trajectory of our lives.  Unless...

Unless we take the time to evaluate and make adjustments to our course. It doesn't even have to be at the beginning of the calendar year! Crazy, right?  But, since we're here, let's take a few moments to ponder any tweaks we might want to make in our community. And, let's start with customer service. What is one, actionable item you could do to improve your customer service? 

Stephen Covey suggests that good customer service begins with how you treat your team.  "Always treat your employees the way you want them to treat your best customers." This is more than just advice for creating a healthy functioning staff, it is an invitation to a more integrated style of leading. This is particularly true in an environment where our customers can walk into our working environment at any time and sense any tension or negativity.

My mother taught me that I could tell how a boy was going to treat me by how he treated his mother. This was eerily true. And our residents get a picture of how they will be treated as they observe your treatment (or the effects of your treatment) of your team. 

How might you improve your interactions with your team? How might you encourage them to treat each other more like your best residents?  Our jobs are all about community. Let's create an attractive one in the office.

Resident Involvement


I'm always amazed at the level of effort many parents are willing to expend to make a school event successful. Thriving school communities are aided by an army of volunteer labor. Parents and our communities owe a lot to these warriors who willingly give up their free time, evenings and weekends to coordinate a fundraiser or manage ticket sales at the football games. 

For a brief period of time, I attended the meetings for my oldest son's grad night planning committee. These people weren't kidding around. There were things that needed to get done -yesterday. And they all required a high degree of involvement. More than I was willing to give.

So why did these volunteers invest their precious time and valuable skills? I'm sure there are a plethora of reasons, but I observed a few points:

1.  A love for their son or daughter and a commitment to creating a positive experience for him or her.

2. Pride in the reputation of both the school and the event.

3. A desire to use their skill and experience toward something of lasting value--people.

At Apartment Life we've seen the results from residents taking ownership in developing community events. It is a game changer. Of course, it takes more time and work to manage volunteers, but we have seen time and time again that the results are worth it. Invested residents equals property pride. 

If you would like help from your residents in developing community events, give us a call. We would love to chat.


Would you like more information about the CARES Program and what we offer? Visit our website today. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

The Concessions Trap

What is it about living in your community that you want your residents to talk about?  The pool? The workout room?  The spacious units? The great parties?  How about the cheap rent?  Be careful before you answer that last one.  Particularly if you're using concessions as a primary incentive to move prospective residents to becoming residents.  According to one multifamily blogger, while concessions are quite popular in our industry, they often have the affect of keeping the new resident focusing on the rent--not the value of the their overall living experience. And this is on top of the obvious downside-the negative impact on NOI.  

Since concessions are used to gain a competitive advantage, where's the advantage if everyone is doing it?  What if prospective residents were truly sold on the value of the lifestyle options in your community?  Options like social events, community service opportunities, exercise groups, and possibility of meeting new friends with similar interests.  Of course there are plenty of other features that may draw residents to your community, but the human factor is one of the most attractive in our increasingly fragmented society.  

So, as you meet with prospective residents, remember that how you attract them is usually how you'll keep them. Is low rent or concessions really the thing you want them to remember?  

Would you like more information about the CARES Program and what we offer? Visit our website today. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Event Idea: End of Summer Bash

Send summer off in style with an End of Summer Bash. It can involve the pool, barbecue, or maybe you toast to a good summer with special summer cocktails. You could give away school supplies or do just about anything to say goodbye to lots of fun memories and welcome fall and all of its colorful glory.

As always, we’ve got more ideas on our Pinterest board.

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Would you like more information about the CARES Program and what we offer? Visit our website today. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Event Idea: Lemonade Stand

Everybody loves a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade! Set up a lemonade “stand” in your lobby, mailbox, or front gate and treat your residents to a refreshing glass and some happy conversation.


There are so many fun ways to display your lemonade – you could pre-pour it into mason jars and serve on ice, or pull out an old dresser for a shabby chic look.

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Would you like more information about the CARES Program and what we offer? Visit our website today. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Revenue and Retention Myths

As I write this, I'm sitting inside an air-conditioned coffee shop watching people melt as they walk from their car to the adjacent shopping center.  It's 113 degrees outside and the mere fact that I'm writing about moving is giving me a small panic attack.  If my lease were up for renewal this month I would much prefer to stay put than start trekking boxes from one community to another in brain-shrinking heat.  According to recent statistics, I'm not alone.  While heat is not the primary reason for this trend, retention rates are consistently up around the country. But (and this is a big but), increased retention is not necessarily connected to higher revenue.  This probably doesn't come as a surprise to you, but it's data that backs up your intuition.  According to a recent blog on Property Manager Insider, one reason may be that many managers are under pricing renewals.

So, is the solution simply to increase renewal rents beyond current expectations?  You may have lower renewals, but you will hopefully gain some higher paying new residents.  But, what if you could increase revenues even more with higher renewal rates for current residents?  The savings of no turnover costs and the stability of proven residents.

Our CARES program helps enhance a sense of community so residents don't want to leave--even when renewal means increased rent.  We would love to partner with you to discuss how we might partner with your team to foster a community of happy, healthy, involved residents as you enjoy steady revenue growth.

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Would you like more information about the CARES Program and what we offer? Visit our website today. You can also follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.