Resident turnover is the one of the highest costs that a multifamily operation encounters. We know that least a third of that turnover can be prevented through actions management takes. Resident retention may be a stated goal of most owners and management companies. But aside from being responsive to residents and keeping their property looking good, most have not focused much energy on creating programs and systems specifically designed to make it a little bit harder for someone to want to leave your property.

While it is always critical to focus on the things that are important to your residents such as how the community looks and promptly taking care of maintenance requests, you will gain a competitive advantage by adding ‘sticky’ factors to your property. These are items that will help make your resident stick with you longer and make it harder to disconnect from your community.

A management culture that focuses on community building is a great sticky factor. Having a strong resident referral program is one of the smartest ways to spend your marketing dollars. You incentivize your residents to have their friends lease at you community. Not only do you get a new resident who has been pre-sold on the community, the resident who referred them is also now less likely to move. Not only have they vouched for the community – who wants to move away from their friends if they don’t have to? Getting the kids in your community involved in activities where they get to meet each other is also a great way to help your residents ‘put down roots’. When mom and dad are considering moving due to a $50 rent increase but little Johnny is adamant about not wanting to leave his friends, they might just consider living with the increase and staying.

A resident rewards program, properly implemented, works wonders as well. Why do you think all the airlines, hotel chains, and many retail stores have loyalty programs? Because they work! You can set up a program that rewards tenants with points for doing the things you want them to do anyway – like paying rent early, keeping their patios clean, or referring other residents. Or you can simply have one that rewards them for longer tenancies. For example, they can receive a reward at month 13 or 25 when they renew their lease with you. These can be anything from apartment upgrades to 25% off their rent for that one month to a choice of prizes – like a $300 shopping spree. You wonder why would you give something so valuable away? Because with the average cost of turnover above $2900, getting someone to stay another year is worth the investment.

Another way to build stickiness into your property is to create uniqueness with your apartments. If you are the only community with a large walk in closet with closet organizers, or you have the ultra-luxury shower that they love to use every day, it makes other places look less appealing should a resident decide to shop around. Focusing on pet owners and creating activities for them, holding special classes or services for residents only, putting together discounts at local restaurants or service businesses for residents only, and other exclusive features that they can only get from you can all make the decision to leave your community that much harder.

Certainly, getting to know your residents, going above and beyond with your service, and keeping your community looking its best is a good start. But thinking about the things that make it hard, or at least inconvenient, to leave will keep your residents sticking with you longer. When thinking retention, think sticky.