US Census 2010 data shows that rental vacancy rates are at the highest points they’ve been since the 1950s when the data begun being tracked. Today rental vacancy rates are 10.6% or 1 in 10 homes do not have a tenant. One might ponder; how can this be given all the foreclosures and new renters in the market?
There are 3 primary reasons and by taking a few critical steps you can cut your vacancy rates in half or more. Read on if you are a property manager or landlord and don’t want to fall into the trap so many other property managers have in today’s declining real-estate market.
- We’re in a recession. Despite our government telling us it was over in 2009; it’s not for most of us, especially those in the real-estate or property management business. Because times are tight right now owners are skimping on maintenance such as putting off the new paint job or new carpet until next year when times are better. That line of thinking will ensure that next year will be no better. The maintenance has to be done eventually anyways, and if the money to do it can be scraped up to repair the problem today, the outlook for tomorrow will be much better because your vacancy rates are going to go down. Fact is, tenants do shop and it is more of a tenant’s market today than ever, so if there is a better house available (that doesn’t need new carpet for instance), you are going to lose that tenant. If you manage your own properties make the decision to keep up the maintenance, and if you manage somebody elses properties, provide them this compelling data so they will. Pay specific attention to these items, in order of importance: Exterior paint, front yard landscaping, front door and entryway, living area & kitchen.
- Who is your customer? Running a property management software service we hear from a lot of property managers, owners, as well as tenants. What is the #1 gripe from tenants these days we’re hearing? “We’re not treated with respect”. Property managers often forget that their customer is the tenant. It can be easy for us to get wound up in the screening process and be so strict, for the protection of the property, that we reduce our friendliness to the prospective tenant. Make your customer love you and they will not go somewhere else! This starts with the application process, showing the property, and the continued relationship. One huge mistake in this process we see time and time again is making the tenant wait on your schedule to see a property. If a property cannot be shown until tomorrow and they can see a property today from your competitor you just lost a customer and have done a disservice to your client, the property owner, by further increasing their vacancy rate. I feel it’s important to have the staffing available to bend over backwards for tenants and treat them as equals, or better yet, in the same way you would treat a property owner looking for a manager, in the utmost respect and courtesy.
- Do it better. Great property managers and landlords today are providing services to their tenants to make their lives easier. Make your tenants fall in love with you by providing them something that makes their lives easier and most importantly, something they won’t get if they move away. Be creative, every market is different; however, here are a few examples that work in almost every market.
Offer automated ACH
. Automated ACH not only makes your tenant’s life easier because the rent happens automatically, but it also increases your retention rate and level of importance for a tenants monthly expenses. It’s also been observed that an automated payment isn’t as emotionally stressful to a tenant as if they have to write a check each month for what is often their largest monthly bill.
Offer a tenant portal. 80%+ of your tenants today have online access and that number steadily grows every year. Tenants check their bank balances online, pay their bills online, and merchants have embraced online tools to save them time and money along with providing an extra convenience to their customers. These same tools are available to landlords now, and if you aren’t providing them and your competitors are, guess who’s making their tenants more happy which is equating to longer term tenants and lower vacancy rates.
Keep up on maintenance. Even when occupied it’s important to inspect and maintain a property. More often than not your tenants are not cleaning the carpets or painting the walls. If the home gets run-down, even if it is the fault of the tenant, they will feel less happy with the home and always be eying a fresh new place to live that is being kept up. There’s an emotional factor to a clean, maintained home that keeps tenants longer.
Vacancy Data Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/hvs/historic/files/histtab1.xls