Finding The Lost Prospects, Increasing Occupancy

For an end of the year report, I pulled some data on the number of move ins for my group. While the results are good, and show some occupancy improvement.  I’m all about the next step. What can I learn from the data? What do reports tell us about our performance?

When a property is performing well, occupancy is strong, and rent collection is excellent. It becomes increasingly difficult to expect continued improvement. Or so I thought.

The first report that I reviewed provided a list of the total number of applications received during 2016. Adding a filter identifies the number of approved applications.

Then the reality check. The number of approved applications was almost double the number of move ins. Literally 100’s of approved applications never became move ins.  Somehow they fall between the cracks of our daily busy-ness.  They never became our residents. They didn’t add to our rent revenue or occupancy number. Individuals had enough interest to pay the application fee, obtain the thumbs up for approval. Then…..lost…..stolen by aliens? This is not Area 51 in the desert.

Low Hanging Fruit

Its alarming and comforting. How could we have not done the follow-up to secure the move ins? But once again, the low hanging fruit shows us the opportunity for improvement. It’s certainly not impossible. We already have everything we need to increase the occupancy. Now, we need a process to follow-up on the approved applications.

For my group, 20 apartments will grow our occupancy 1%. Thinking that we have to find a net 40 or net 60 to achieve a 2 to 3% occupancy bump sounds like a challenge. Until we realize every one of the move ins needed is close at hand. History is already repeating itself, looking at the approved applications received this month. We need to develop a better system to track the approved applications.

Weekly follow ups

This must be a shared responsibility. Manager, leasing, regional, multi-site manager. At least two brains need to look at the applications and initiate a follow-up effort. If the process to communicate the approval status is delayed, the prospect has other pending inquiries. It would seem, that the timeline to process the application and prepare the apartment drags to the point of boredom. This results in the prospect abandoning their plans to move in. What can be done to prevent this?

Lost prospect It’s not my expectation that all will move in. But without defined follow-up we have no idea why the applications did not move in. These individuals are making important decisions. Choosing a home for themselves, and their family for the next twelve months and possibly longer. They are initiating the process to move in.. Logic implies, an application fee would not be paid if there wasn’t a strong interest in this apartment community.

Prospect Review

With each weekly site review, we will check on the status of the applications that have been approved through our screening provider. This will create accountability and awareness of every application in the pipeline. A number of our apartment communities are smaller with rural locations. The number of applications is only three or four per month. This increases the importance of follow-up and securing the lease from an interested individual.

Finding the Lost Prospects

Even in struggling markets, the number of lost prospects could make the difference to stabilize occupancy. New managers, in particular can be distracted to believe that they don’t need to be overly concerned with this applicant, because there will always be another. When this result in the apartment being vacant for another 30 days, we’ve lost a month of revenue. Taking the time to explain the impact of lost rent, by the day, the week and worst case the month, can create a greater understanding for all members of the team. Every prospect that comes through the door, and calls on the phone has the potential to be the next move in. Increased occupancy is increased rent revenue.

Do you know how many applicants are approved for your property that fall into the Lost Prospect group?  How would your occupancy improve if you could add half of these lost prospects as move ins every month?

Lori Hammond
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