Renters Don’t Want You Because You Suck at First Impressions

Giving someone or something a second chance is great. Philanthropic, compassionate, sympathetic…call it what you want. To give someone your attention a second time after they initially screwed it over is kind. I get it. 

That being said, the reality of the continuous matchmaking efforts between potential renters and longing leasing agents doesn’t play by these rules. 

If you’re puzzled by how often new prospects suddenly fizzle into missed opportunities, you’re probably coming up short in your first impression game. I’m going to make an educated guess and say that you need to get yourself together in one or more of the following three areas. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the trinity of solid apartment first impressions:

Customer Service

Worldwide, 96% of consumers claim customer service is an important factor in their loyalty. Whether it requires regular employee standard meetings, close observation, or picky hiring standards, your staff needs to be the cream of the customer service crop. As they hold their post on the front lines of the resident interaction battlefield, you better hope that they exhibit exemplary efforts in two areas: courtesy and knowledge. 

  • Courtesy really isn’t that hard. Politeness, etiquette, and charm are the underlying ingredients to literally any position pertaining to customer service. At the same time, residents, rightfully so, are sensitive to their treatment in this respect. Just ask yourself, what would you want from someone you’d interact with regularly in your place of residence? Put yourself in the residents’ shoes. How are they treated? Do they receive quick responses? Are they greeted? Do they see your staff going the extra mile?  While every property management entity knows this, strangler leasing agents and front desk greeters can wreck your reputation pretty dang easily. 
  • Knowledge within your staff can’t be ignored. No amount of delightful smiles and charisma can mask the fact your staff needs to know their crap.  62% of consumers consider service insight and knowledge essential for a good experience, and smart shoppers are perfectly capable of seeing right through BS. On the other hand, (sorry to add another thing to your list) your staff also needs to have social intelligence.
    Being able to read a room, pick up on social cues, and cater to consumer interaction preferences both enhances property-resident interactions and builds organizational performance between teams and individuals. Though I’m sure they’re lovely, not everyone is going to love your staff’s initial social approach. Your team needs to acknowledge the importance of pivoting their strategy appropriately.

Hidden Appearance Hiccups

Please recall that childhood moment when your mom asked you to clean before your friend came over. Because you had the time management skills of a squirrel, you put all of your faith in your closet door as you bulldozed all of your belongings behind it at the last minute and watched protruding dirty laundry and old homework choke its hinges. My point is this: don’t expect your fancy demo apartment and glamorous lobby to distract from the junk you have tucked away in other parts of your property. Again, think from the resident’s perspective. What can they see during the trek to the demo apartment? How is your curb appeal (or lack thereof)? Do the balconies look scuzzy? Smell in particular, due to its role in emotional memory formation, greatly influences how people will later recall your property. Savvy shoppers may even ask to see the exact apartment they will lease or meet their potential neighbors.

“We’ve had prospects come in… they do an application and everything until they come back a few weeks later and look at the actual apartment they’re going to get and they’re completely turned off by the difference- the model maybe looked really good but the actual apartment wasn’t up to par.” 

Dawn Lewis,
realtor and former multifamily district manager

Online Reviews 

There’s something rather enticing about the idea of learning from others’ experiences without ever bidding the comfort of your couch goodbye. Residents do a ton of online prospecting before physically showing up at a location.

“Your first impression is what your online reviews say.”

Dawn Lewis,
realtor and former multifamily district manager  


A few years ago, online reviews were a real party pooper as consumers primarily felt inclined to publicly post their thoughts after a bad experience. 86% of consumers report that reviews of this nature impact their purchasing decisions. Now, the presence of positive reviews, which impact 90% of consumer choices, is slowly on the rise. Your marketing game plan has now changed. Positive reviews give you the chance to back up how awesome you think your property is. Include them on your website, social media, and physical marketing deliverables. Negative reviews, while difficult, give you the chance to publicly reflect the responsiveness and attentive nature of your property. Stare those angrily spat and ravenously written comments straight on and write a concerned and intentional reply. Ask questions. Own up to mistakes. Show that you care.

With all this in mind, it’s time to start converting prospects into loyal residents. Perhaps this analogy will help: the nature of prospective resident shopping is a lot like speed dating. First impressions matter and residents most likely have other options lined up. Do you want to be the guy with disheveled hair and food on your face? Or would you rather blow away the competition with your interpersonal skills, total package looks, and awesome reputation?

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