For my Friend: THE TROUBLE WITH LEASE UPS……in the beginning

A lease up is a special type of property, and to be honest, one that I take pride in as far as really knowing how to run. It’s a different species. And while everyone may think it is easy and has it perks, it really takes a lot of emotional, mental and physical dedication on your part. (On a side note here, so do troubled properties and renovation properties where you are hired to “fix” or “change an image”.)

I have a very close friend who happens to be Canadian. And I only point that out because, in truth, Canadians are by far the coolest people I have met, and she is no exception to that. She is a fellow property manager on a lease up as well. 500 miles away from me. But she reached out a couple of times just asking questions and really simply wanting support (refer to above statement about the emotional, mental and physical dedication).

Her questions went unanswered for a few day because one, I was busy and two, I really wanted to provide her the best possible answers. And to be quite frank, everything I stated to her is something she already knew. But it was interesting to read my responses to her questions and to hear her say, “I honestly look forward to your posts on Facebook and your blog”, was very cool and humbling, because again, Canadians are the coolest and to have one following my blog is pretty awesome, in my opinion.

Anyhow, I am going to lay this out based on her questions and my answers so bear with this post and how it is laid out…..(I may even do a separate blog post about one of our topics of conversation).

“Hi Brittney! I hope you are enjoying your lease up! I have found new construction to be a roller coaster of emotions. I finally have a leasing agent who will be starting a week from today! My boss is beating me up about corporate outreach. Initially they sent me in armed with only pens and brochures. After asserting myself, I have a lot more freedom. Now it’s time to bring the renters to me. What have you found that works/doesn’t work? I have been shameless on LinkedIn and have asked friends to hook me up with HR reps at their companies. As always, it’s all about referrals.”

You can see why my response took a few days and bit of thought, no? And really, I did not want to provide advice as though I was speaking with a novice, because she is not, this is someone who has been in property management a very very long time and has done her own lease up as well. So I really did not think she was looking for novice guidance as much as just, “OMG, I have XYZ number of vacants and here I am charged with the responsibility of filling them….where the heck do I start?!?!” I assure you, just like she stated, it’s a roller coaster of emotions and it is a lot to take on.

So here is where I started, again, knowing I was not dealing with a novice…..

“It sounds like you’re on the right track but, I’ll go over some of our issues and how we tackled them, starting from literally point one, down to now because we had some struggles as soon as we opened with simply lack of traffic. So let me start…..

1.       Know your property/building(s)/floor plans etc – have them all memorized. Remember knowledge is power, especially knowledge of your own community. (We have several different floor plans, eleven to be exact, with building layouts being different by building but housing some of the same floor plans….it’s a lot to know, but I assure you, the better you know it, the more power you have when leasing and marketing)

2.       Do a market study of all of your local comps, even every one of them that is not a comp with a certain mile radius. Know them. This should be fairly easy for you as you’re in a downtown market. Anyone who wants to live downtown just wants to live downtown. Period. But do one at least once every two weeks right now during lease up. (She is in a much different market, and as you can see, I bothered to point that out, because while she is conventional, it’s odd in Winston Salem, especially downtown. Truly, your demographic is going to be a lot different).

3.       This is a BIGGIE. Check every single thing on your advertising. Your information, your hours, your TFN’s, your email……CHECK IT!!!!!!!! We had one number that was going to a Texas property, we had one that the email leads were going to a lost email address, and we had another with completely worthless directions (and by worthless I mean it took them close by to one of our sub comps).

4.       Absolutely ANYTHING that has a number on it as far as a leasing sign outside of construction…….if you have a number that goes to some answering system or answering person at corporate, have it changed over to your number or the office number, immediately. Corporate tends to get busy and those get lost. If there is a generalized email where leads are going…..GET THAT INFORMATION ASAP.

Okay now on to actual outreach marketing…(which according to her I need to post something about HOW NOT TO LOOK LIKE A TOOL WHEN DOING CORPORATE OUTREACH…

We are in a unique situation here in good ol’ Alabama. We have Hyundai literally 20 minutes down the road building cars and all of their “subcontractors” as well. We also have Maxwell/Gunter AFB. In these situations we deal with a lot of corporate units, HOWEVER, we have a  company that signs the lease for 12 months themselves and we just give anyone who is interested in renting the apartment, their number. 12 month leas signed sealed and delivered, up to 3-4% of the property is corporate and someone else does our marketing in that particular realm.

Our biggest marketing has really been hitting the pavement, with some of the cute ideas you saw in my blog. As well as the standard cups/mugs/CHEAP @$$ pens/brochures/rack cards. I will be honest, marketing here is a breeze. Everyone is so excited to have us in their business and offering to cross market in any way possible. Everyone always says, “ I didn’t even know you were open!” It’s sad, because we want everyone to know we are here but, it’s good to hear when marketing because you KNOW that you’re giving people that knowledge that you’re here and you’re awesome too. DUUUUH!

The other thing is social media. One of our biggest things has just been building relationshis with other businesses. Not even necessarily in a cross marketing, cheesy kind of way, but really just helpful sort of down home hillbilly way. We help out Louis at Express Oil cause he’s just the cutest little man. We help out the Humane Society cause Cori has a thing for animals. We help out the Mind & Body Wellness Center because I’m trying this whole lifestyle change. But really, we are not just simply aiming at things we are interested in, we genuinely care about our local community and want to assist others as we want them to assist us (Golden Rule of business, no?). But social media has provided us an outlet to do that. And like you said, it’s all about referrals….get on social media and invite everyone on your friends list, your friend’s friends list and so on.

Now as far as anything else, it’s really all about building relationships. Remember when I said in a prior post that we are not provided the opportunity to join the Chamber? That is killer for us in this town. Truly. But that does NOT mean that we and I cannot network properly with anyone. It’s really all about that. And as cheesy as networking sounds, and I’ve wrote a blog about it, step away and just know that you are building a relationship with these people as a business owner. Because we are THAT as property managers. I own this property as much as my owner does……trust me, I baby it and take care of it and hire people to assist me in doing that……so when you say “fidicuary responsibility”, I say, “No! Let’s break it down, it’s MINE!”. LOL! So go into building these relationships by being genuine and being you. But maybe just step away from LinkedIn for a bit, other than on a mild basis, and reach out on your own, in person, and see what happens.

We struggled the same way. Ask my office staff. We sat in here for about a month with minimal traffic. Phones were screwed up, our advertising was a hot mess, and we were unable to show anything until we got to a certain point within construction. It was a SAD SAD SAD state of affairs to be honest. Then all of a sudden we started getting momentum. I believe it was a lot to do in regards to all steps mentioned above.

Always remember, be proactive in regards to traffic and attaining the same. Not reactive to not having it (traffic that is). Always be trying to get more and you’ll never lost it to begin with.

We ensure that someone is marketing daily, even if it’s only for an hour. Sometimes while they’re on their lunch break. It’s the only time on busy days. But just be physically out there.

I think for us, to answer a very specific question that you asked, there is nothing that “doesn’t work” on a lease up. Honestly, even if we only got on renter from it, it’s one renter. There is no set thing. It’s do it all and rent the place up. Worry about picking through the “does/doesn’t work” at a later date.

I will note here, her response was thankfulness but also one that will most definitely prompt another blog post about FAITH AND CONFIDENCE IN YOUR PRODUCT. It’s funny because she said in light of everything she is doing, she is worried about showing them an unfinished product and hurting their impression of her product. Funny, because I have dealt with the same thing before with one of my leasing consultants and it took the proverbial “beating over the head” to really instill in her the faith and confidence in what we are doing…..with or without something to show. More on that in a bit…….

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