Seasoned property managers know that the resident experience doesn’t begin at move-in—it starts with your company’s initial communications with a prospective renter, or even before that, with your rental listings.
As of mid-2022, more renters were thinking of moving out than we’d seen in several years: 31% had definite plans to move out by mid-2023, and an additional 33% were considering it. With all of the different touchpoints in a renter’s experience, it can be hard to know where frustration, confusion, and dissatisfaction are taking place—and even harder to know how to resolve these issues before they motivate a resident to consider moving out.
To help property management companies do just that, we survey thousands of renters every year to gather feedback on a scale that would be impossible for a small or mid-sized business. In addition to asking about the amenities and technology that they want to be a part of their rental experience, we ask renters what advice they would most like to give to their property manager.
In this post, we’ve distilled thousands of responses into the top 10 most common pieces of advice that renters have for their property manager, with selected quotes so that you can hear their feedback in their own words. Their suggestions will help you close the gaps in the resident experience where dissatisfaction is most likely to occur, even in areas you may not be aware of.
#1: Show as much interest in residents’ satisfaction after they move in as before.
On a regular basis, ask your residents whether there’s anything you can do to improve their experience. It’s important to make clear that you take their feedback seriously, even if you don’t have the resources to act on every issue that they raise immediately.
A renter in Minneapolis suggested, “Take care of current renters at least as well as you try to entice new ones.” And a renter in Milwaukee wrote, “Be attentive to your renters! I feel like so much focus is made during the initial signing of lease, but relationships sour because of a lack of communication.”
#2: Set clear and consistent expectations from the get-go.
Many of the residents we surveyed told us that they expend considerable effort to respect the guidelines that their property manager has set in place, and to try to find answers about the property on their own to avoid bothering them. However, expectations that are unclear, incomplete, or inconsistently enforced can lead to frustration.
A renter in Philadelphia, PA recommended, “Be clear, concise, timely, and straightforward in all communications. Also, have detailed instructions for when residents move in so that they don’t bother other residents.”
Another renter in Honolulu, HI requested, “Be transparent about the terms for renting the space and the state of the rental property. Keep an open communication with the renters so any issues that arise can be resolved without hassle.”
#3: Provide options for taking care of standard rental processes.
76% of renters now prefer to pay their rent online, but preferences vary when it comes to the method they find most convenient and intuitive. We recommend providing multiple options for making rent payments (EBT, PayPal, and credit card, for example) and communicating with your team (resident portal, email, and text). Have an agent available by phone, as well, in case they run into any trouble.
As a renter in Springfield, MO put it: “If you manage more than a couple units, invest in an online portal for both electronic payments and maintenance requests. I always worry my bank won’t get the check through the mail on time and it can feel like you’re bothering somebody to text maintenance requests. Additionally, texting requests just seems less professional. If you want tenants to let you know about issues before they become critical, you should make reporting less personal.”
#4: Be available during the hours they’re at home.
Property management offices tend to be open when many renters are at work. Consider providing a contact where renters can direct questions outside of standard business hours, providing a maintenance contact center that can assist with emergency repairs, and offering access to a resident portal where they can complete many processes on their own.
A renter in Dallas, TX explained, “Please have a split shift [at] the office so someone can address needs after 5. Even with all the technology which reduces contact, sometimes we still need help from a person, and it takes days to work everything we need to do into a 30-minute lunch.”
#5: Let them know you’ve received their message and when to expect a response.
Renters told us that they find it far easier to be patient if they know that you’ve received their message, you’ve taken action on it, and you’ll keep them updated on any next steps—which is easy to do through a resident portal. When it comes to how you communicate with them, 49% of renters prefer email, followed by text message (46%) or phone call (39%).
As one renter in Richmond, VA wrote: “Make maintenance of the rental property a priority. Be open about maintenance delays and send updates when things are going on behind the scenes. That way, the renter won’t think you’ve forgotten them if the maintenance takes longer than expected.”
#6: Proactively care for the property without being asked.
From renters’ perspective, the energy you devote to property upkeep demonstrates the degree to which you and the owner care about the rental, both as an investment and as their home. Consider conducting periodic inspections where you can address any minor issues around the property.
A renter in Phoenix, AZ told us: “Be proactive. Come to the residence once a year to see what may need fixing or updating that the renter hasn’t brought up.”
Another renter in Santa Rosa, CA recommended: “Save some of your budget to show appreciation periodically to long-term, stable residents in the form of unit repainting, carpet replacement, [and] window washing. Those residents save you turnover costs.”
#7: Don’t skip inspections and cleanings between tenants.
A unit that doesn’t make a great first impression during showings, or that has issues right after move-in, can leave renters worried that they won’t have a good experience in the property. It also sets a poor precedent about the level of care you expect them to take while they live there.
As a renter in Florence, SC suggested, “Make sure the unit is fully clean and everything is fixed before new tenants move in.”
#8: Reach out in advance if you need them to be available, or if major work is being done.
Renters with busy schedules appreciate not having to scramble to accommodate last-minute visits. And it’s absolutely essential to let them know in advance when they won’t have access to Wi-Fi, water, or other necessities. They appreciate it if you can provide flexibility on timing, as well.
As a renter in Dallas, TX explained: “Allow scheduled repairs to be done on weekends or evenings. We work too, and now with COVID, a lot more of us are at home and can’t have noise [during the day].”
#9: They want to feel like renting is a little more rewarding.
Programs such as rent reporting, or rewards for long-term residents who always pay on time, can help incentivize consistent payments. They may also motivate residents to continue renting from you over a competing property.
A renter in Columbia, MO asked, “Just be kind and consistent. Those of us that take care of your property and are good renters would like to be rewarded every now and then, maybe $100 off for Christmas.”
Another renter in Carson City, NV suggested, “See long-term tenants as good customers, and offer incentives to renew [their] lease.”
#10: Your empathy matters more than you might realize.
Renters’ daily lives take place inside the properties you manage; and it matters to them that you keep this in mind when communicating with them. They want to know that you see them as more than the rent payments they make each month.
One renter in Minneapolis, MN suggested, “Be accessible, and consider residents as individuals who rent homes, not just people who pay rent. Please offer value for raising rent on apartment units continually.”
Another Minneapolis renter recommended, “Be courteous, respectful, and listen to what the renters are saying, because they’re the heart of the community and your source of income.”
It’s been a hard few years for renters, rental owners, and property managers alike. Perhaps, the current moment presents an opportunity for customer-service-focused property management companies to foster feelings of trust, empathy, and kindness—traveling in both directions—within these relationships once again. As one renter put it: “To stand out, prove you care about your residents, and people will spread your good reputation.”
2023 Property Management Industry Report
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Our 2023 Property Management Industry Report dives even deeper into how renters’ expectations for their rental experience are evolving, from the amenities and technologies they look for, to the factors that influence their decision to move out or stay put. Download your free copy of the report today.Read more on Resident Management