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It’s no secret that retaining a resident is better for the bottom line than having to find a new one. The average cost of tenant turnover is $3,500, which typically includes the amount of rent lost while the unit is vacant, marketing the unit to potential tenants and making any needed repairs and upgrades.

According to the survey results from, “Getting Inside the Head of Today’s Online Renter,” conducted by SatisFacts and 30 Lines, the top five factors that renters value most when making renewal decisions are:

  1. Quality of the maintenance services provided.
  2. Sense of safety and security at the community.
  3. Quality of customer service provided by the office staff.
  4. Appearance and condition of the individual apartment.
  5. Appearance and condition of apartment community including buildings, grounds and landscaping.

These findings are not new. Doug Miller, president of SatisFacts Research, said that the driver in resident retention has always been related to work orders.

“If a resident’s maintenance request is not resolved to their satisfaction, pool parties and a Facebook page won’t have any impact on their decision to renew,” Miller said. “The quality of maintenance services isn’t just based on the maintenance staff, but on the overall service residents receive.”

When asked what could be done to ensure quality maintenance services, Miller stated that the work order process should start and end with the office staff. And that a great maintenance experience is based on three factors: speed, accuracy and communication.

“Most residents are concerned with how long it takes for a work order to be completed,” he explained. “The office staff should get a thorough description of what is wrong so the maintenance technician can show up with the tools and parts necessary to fix the issue. If the problem can’t be fixed right away, the maintenance technician should inform the office staff, so that the information can be communicated to the resident.”

Miller also advises office staff to follow up with residents once every work order is completed to make sure the resident is happy. Excellent customer service leads to satisfied residents, so training a personable and helpful property staff is a key factor in ensuring that residents renew their leases.

To his clients, Miller recommends creating a culture of responsiveness. This includes implementing a policy that all resident communications received by 3 p.m. must be responded to by the end of the day. If a resident inquiry is received after this time, it should be responded to by 10 a.m. the next morning.

Building on this, Miller also suggests that office staff should not reply to any prospective tenants until all resident voice mails and emails have been responded to, all maintenance delays have been communicated and all completed work orders have been followed up on.

Miller believes that focusing on the resident experience is essential to renewals. In addition to concentrating on the top five retention factors, Miller offers one additional area for property managers to focus on. Satisfacts’ research shows that more and more renters desire a property portal that includes the functionality for them to submit work orders, pay rent and communicate with office staff online. Miller stated that it is critical that these three items be included in any property portal. “Community activities and social media platforms help to improve communication between residents and staff, but are viewed as icing on the cake by residents,” Miller said.

Miller stressed that overall these findings validate what has always compelled residents to renew. The bottom line is that if you take care of your residents, they will take care of you.

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