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Resident retention ideas that improve satisfaction and lower turnover

Four must-read resident retention ideas that positively impact the resident experience at your multifamily communities

Coming up with new resident retention and renewal ideas can be challenging. But appealing the preferences of today’s renters can really help you improve your retention rates.

In our 2023 Resident Experience Management Report, we reveal that the average resident retention rate in 2023 is 56%.  By focusing on resident experience management to improve resident satisfaction at your communities and implementing these four easy resident retention ideas, you may be able to improve your retention rates.

Why is resident retention important?

Focusing on new resident acquisitions is always going to be a priority for apartment operators. But resident retention is just as important because it has positive financial impacts on your business.

That’s because resident turnover is costly. In fact, Zego has tracked turnover costs since 2021. And each year they hover around $4,000 per resident.

If you can keep existing residents in your community, it benefits your NOI. Plus, it saves your on-site team with the heavy workload that comes with turning over a unit.

A chart describing the costs of resident turnover costs. Happy renters won't result in turnover, which can be very costly. For 2023, resident turnover costs is $3,872.

The good news is that if you are making an effort to keep residents happy, you can lower turnover. In fact, you might be able to see a positive financial impact.

Consumers are willing to spend more money with businesses that have given them good service. So even if you are raising rents, if your resident has had a positive experience with your community, they may be more inclined to renew.

How can property managers build resident retention?

To build resident retention, first you have to make sure you offer a pleasant living experience at your community. Positive living experience are always dependent upon frictionless interactions and good customer service throughout the renter lifecycle. This starts with the move-in process and encompasses all the touchpoints of day-to-day living in your community. The more convivence you can provide renters, the happier they’ll be.

You will also build resident retention by making sure your on-site teams are focused on residents and not buried in menial tasks. Because when your community staff is spending too much time on manual tasks it leads to burnout, which also leads to staff turnover. And our findings show that companies with higher rates of staff turnover have lower resident retention rates.

A graph highlighting the link between staff retention and resident retention. Staff retention is one of three main focuses to optimize property management.

Technology-focused resident retention ideas should be prioritized

When it comes to brainstorming resident retention ideas for apartments, technology is an important component of your strategy. That’s because renters are increasingly demanding modernized living solutions that offer them self-service, connectivity, and convenience. In fact, Zego’s Resident Experience Management Report found that 75% of property managers say that resident expectations have increased over the past year. And do you know where their expectations have increased the most? Community technology.

This is especially true for Gen Z, the fastest-growing segment of renters. They are digital natives and have never lived without internet, social media, or online commerce. Technology is an integral part of their lives – and they expect living experiences that reflect those desires.  As you consider new resident retention strategies, be sure to think about how you can weave technology into that experience.


2024 Resident Experience Management Report

Thanks to a survey sponsored by American Express, we’ve gathered perspectives from over 1,000 renters and 600 multifamily companies to provide a dual perspective on the current state of the multifamily resident experience.

Start reading now

Improving resident retention: Four resident retention ideas that lower turnover costs

  1. Building community
  2. Enhance communication with residents
  3. Survey your residents
  4. Improve maintenance services & response times

Resident retention idea #1: Building community

Arguably the most important resident retention idea is creating a sense of community. When people know and like their neighbors, they have more emotional ties to a home. This makes renters more reluctant to move out of a community. It’s likely they can find a comparable apartment anywhere. What can’t be easily replicated is the sense of community they feel because they are friends with their neighbors. So it’s important to foster friendships among residents to give them emotional ties to your community.

Studies prove this is a top factor of the resident experience. SatisFacts’ annual survey of renters found that “a sense of community” is the number one value driver for residents from 2013 to 2021. Residents want and need to feel connected to what’s going on where they live, which is why they continually vote for this as a top priority.

By focusing on providing a stand-out resident experience and helping residents feel connected to their community, you provide value to your residents. That, in turn, compels them to want to live in your community longer.

Host events that appeal to your resident base

Clearly, bringing residents together is important. Organizing community events strengthens the odds that your renters will form friendships with one another. The more creative and interesting the event, the more likely residents will show up.

Some of our favorite events we’ve heard of from clients include:

  • Goat yoga
  • Build your own bouquet
  • Tequila and terrariums

However creative you are, you’ll see better turnout if the event is targeted towards the lifestyles of your renters. Think about who lives in your community and what would appeal to them.

For instance, let’s say you have a community with a lot of pet owners. A free pet grooming service or a pet photo contest would probably stir up a lot of interest. Or, if you have several young families living in your community, events that are kid-friendly would most likely see the most turnout. Find what is unique to your community and tailor your resident retention ideas towards that.

Asking for RSVPs improves turnout

Once you’ve got an event organized, it’s a best practice to get residents to RSVP. When residents respond that they are going to attend an event, they are more likely to show up because they feel like they have committed.

Luckily, spreading the word about events and collecting RSVPs isn’t much work if you have a community app like Zego Mobile Doorman. You can publish events so residents are informed of the details. Then, they can RSVP to it within the app so you have an accurate count of attendees. This not only helps hold residents accountable to show up, but gives you a better idea of supplies you will need and if your event space is big enough. Thus, you can create a successful event that helps with resident retention.

Give them the tools to facilitate their own events

You might have residents that want to interact with their neighbors outside of planned community events. Maybe they want to start a book club, or have an impromptu happy hour. Or they might even have belongings they want to sell.

resident app

Another resident retention idea is to give residents a platform to communicate with their neighbors. This helps establish community without any effort on your part. Within mobile community apps are usually a bulletin board feature where residents can create their own posts. Here, they can invite others to whatever event they are planning, ask questions, or post items for sale.

Connect residents to local businesses

Finally, it’s not just the friendships among residents that creates a pull to where they live. Feeling connected to places that are nearby the community also bond renters to their home.

An additional resident retention idea that helps build community is to encourage residents to visit nearby businesses. This can easily be done by using your community app if you have one. For instance, in Zego Mobile Doorman, the marketplace feature showcases exclusive resident discounts to businesses near your community. Getting perks because they are a community member adds value to their living experience.

Resident retention idea #2: Enhance communication with residents

For some, communication may seem like it’s not a relevant resident retention idea. But the truth is that good communication between residents and on-site teams plays a major role in someone’s decision to renew. NMHC found that 31% of residents don’t renew because they want better apartment management. And communication falls into this bucket.

Residents have high expectations about how property managers communicate. When they need to reach out to on-site teams, they want easy ways to get in contact with someone. And, they want a fast response through their preferred channel.

Renters want communication on their terms, not yours

Using all forms of communication in order to cater to your renters’ preferences is another important resident retention idea. According to NMHC’s Resident Preferences Report, most residents want to communicate through digital channels. This includes email, text messages, social media, online portal/property app.

But of course, everyone is different. And it can be challenging for on-site teams to determine how to communicate with each individual resident. Asking residents to specify their preferred communication methods takes out the guesswork for your teams. Ideally, any forms renters have to fill out during an apartment tour or at lease up will include this question. Then, you can include that in their profile information.

Once you know how residents want to be communicated with, how do you execute on that? Community apps like Zego Mobile Doorman let on-site teams compose messages that will automatically be sent using the method each resident requests. The messages are also within the app so residents can read it at their convenience.

Adding self service eliminates any communication issues

Happy residents are the key to boosting retention rates. And residents are happy with the community when they get what they need without waiting.

You don’t need to have your staff working around the clock in order to provide this to residents. Instead, you can offer self-service options. In many cases, residents prefer self-service instead of interacting with a human.

Here’s how self service can be used in apartment communities.

self service resident options

Resident retention idea #3: Survey your residents

One of the best ways to understand how to retain residents is to ask them. Your on-site teams may have several assumptions about why residents stay or go. But ultimately, getting feedback directly from residents can help you understand how their living experience is going. And with that information, you can come up with some fresh resident retention ideas.

What to survey residents about

Surveys are great for gauging a renters’ overall satisfaction with the community. But you can also use them to gain information about a specific topic. They can be given after any touchpoint a renter has had with your community. Here are a few examples of surveys that might give you good resident retention ideas.

resident retention ideas list

Best practices for resident surveys

When you send resident surveys, there are a few things that can help make them more successful.

  • Send resident satisfaction surveys each quarter: Regularly asking residents for feedback lets them know that you value their experience and opinions. Quarterly surveys are frequent enough that residents will remember any issues or positive experiences. But yet, it’s not so frequent that it feels annoying.
  • Act on their feedback: Once you get survey responses, it’s important to act on their feedback to show residents that you value their opinions and suggestions. If you can’t implement their suggestions let them know you appreciate their feedback and offer an alternative solution.
  • Measure resident net promoter score (rNPS): Net Promoter Score is a metric used in customer experience programs. It measures the loyalty of customers to a company using a single-question survey. Your score will range from -100 to +100. This lets multifamily companies track the satisfaction of your residents over time.
  • Use your community app to manage surveys: There are a few reasons that mobile apps make resident surveys easy. For one, you can customize questions and answers no matter how many surveys you have. You can set up surveys to automatically deploy after a resident makes a certain action. For example, if the resident submits a maintenance request, you can arrange for the survey to go out as soon as the work order is completed. Survey requests will come up on the resident’s mobile phones so they can complete it at that moment. Through the admin portal, you will be able to collectively review survey results. The information from these surveys will help you brainstorm resident retention ideas that are sure to keep your renters happy.
  • What's Your Resident Experience Score?

    Take this 10-question diagnostic to find out how your Resident Experience program stacks up! At the end, you'll get a set of customized recommendations and resources to help take your score to the next level.

    happy resident using resident experience software
  • Question 1 of 11

    What's your name?

  • Question 2 of 11

    How many units do you manage?

  • Question 3 of 11

    Do you provide an online forum for residents to connect with each other and/or their neighborhood?

  • Question 4 of 11

    Are your residents able to self-serve when they have common questions? (e.g. package retrieval, guest registration, etc.)

  • Question 5 of 11

    Do you offer residents multiple payment options for rent?

  • Question 6 of 11

    Do you provide a self-serve option for residents to create and track work orders?

  • Question 7 of 11

    Do you collect feedback from residents following the completion of work orders?

  • Question 8 of 11

    Do you send resident satisfaction surveys on a regular basis?

  • Question 9 of 11

    Do you offer lease renewal incentives?

  • Question 10 of 11

    Do you have goals around resident retention and/or turnover reduction?

  • Question 11 of 11

    What's your email address?

  • Your Resident Experience Score 75/100

    Action Items

Resident retention idea #4: Improve maintenance services & response times

Did you know that dissatisfaction with the maintenance process is one of the top reasons residents decide not to renew their lease? In fact, the NMHC Resident Preferences Report showed that 31% of residents said maintenance was a factor in their decision to leave a community.

It makes sense. One of the top reasons people rent is because they want maintenance-free living. But just because repairs aren’t their responsibility doesn’t mean that it’s always a smooth experience for residents. Even if you ultimately fix things that are broken, there are still several touchpoints that can frustrate residents. Implementing resident retention ideas that improve the maintenance services and processes are sure to boost your retention rate.

Make it easy to submit a work order

Let’s say the kitchen faucet in your renter’s unit is leaky. They want someone to fix that irritating dripping sound. If they have to pick up the phone and call their property manager, or go into the office to report it, they may think that the process of getting it fixed is more irritating than the constant drip, drip, drip.

Having to verbally relay an issue is inconvenient to residents. And, it makes it vulnerable for details to get lost in translation. Without meaning to, property managers occasionally neglect pertinent information when relaying the issue to the maintenance team. Then when the technician arrives at the unit, they won’t be adequately prepared to resolve the issue.

Digital work order solutions are ideal for residents. NMHC’s data shows that 64% of renters think the most convenient way to report an issue is by using a community app. If you compare mobile work order solutions to the traditional ways of reporting an issue, it’s easy to see why.

With community apps like Zego Mobile Doorman, residents can quickly create, submit, and track work orders. Within the “Maintenance Request” menu, they write a short description of the issue, and add a photo. The renter can also give staff permission to enter their unit. Then, they click submit and their ticket is instantly received by a maintenance tech.

If needed, the maintenance tech can ask questions about the issue before they enter the unit. And if the resident submitted a photo, the maintenance tech can actually see the problem before they enter the unit. This lets the maintenance tech properly prepare ahead of time.

Keep residents updated on the status of their work order

Making it easy to submit a request is just the beginning. Residents want to stay updated about the maintenance process from the moment they submit their request to the minute the issue is fixed. Communicating with them about what’s happening at every stage of the process is extremely important. This is especially critical if the issue might take some time to resolve.

Think about a business that communicates order status exceptionally well: UberEats. Once you place an order, you can see the ETA in real-time. You can even track your meal from the restaurant, to pick-up, to delivery. Residents appreciate the same transparency, especially since it involves their home.

Collect Rsat score after maintenance visits

We already mentioned the value of surveying residents. And the maintenance process is something that deserves a dedicated survey.

After a work order is completed, send out a quick one question automated survey to determine their Resident Satisfaction Score (Rsat). This can be done by having each resident rate their experience on a scale of 1-5. Over time, you will be able to track if the average score goes up or down so you can identify any trends about what’s making them happy or unsatisfied with the process.

Improving every aspect of your maintenance services is an easy resident retention idea you can implement to improve renter satisfaction and lower turnover costs.

More ideas and best practices on resident retention

There are so many other areas of the renter experience that might trigger some good renewal ideas for apartments. To thoroughly examine the resident experience, look no more. Our 2023 Resident Experience Management Report covers all the bases. We offer recommendations that improve the community living experience and resident retention rates.

Elevate your resident experience

With Zego, you can not only boost resident satisfaction but also improve NOI. Request a demo and see how you can elevate your resident experience, reduce turnover costs, and take your multifamily community to new heights.

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