The Top Ten Ways to Boost Your Community’s Resident Retention Dave Reynolds

“Benjamin Franklin once said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Although he never owned a manufactured home community, Franklin had the right idea. When you think about the cost of replacing a resident in your community, you quickly realize that every owner’s job #1 should be to make sure that nobody ever leaves. So how can you boost your community’s rate of retention? Here are my top ten suggestions.

Make your entry impressive

Everybody likes to live in a nice place. Yet too many communities have lousy drive-up appeal. When you don’t have a nice entry, it’s a continual reminder to residents that they don’t live in the best they can afford, and they are always comparing their home to surrounding communities that have nicer appeal. You need to make sure that every single resident is proud of their residence and the entry creates – or destroys – that first impression.

Keep your common areas admirable

It’s very hard to create an atmosphere of pride-of-ownership when your community has none. You should always make sure that all common area buildings are well-painted and all grass well-mowed and edged. One important feature that many community owners miss out on is the interior signage. Rip out all of the old rusted poles and faded signs and replace them with white vinyl posts and caps, and install new, clean signs. It’s cheap and unbelievably attractive.

Create a sense of community

Time magazine wrote an impressively favorable article on the industry last year in which the writer described our properties
as “gated communities”. What the writer meant was that the resident gets much more than just a lot when they live in our
sector. They get an important support and social network. I lived in a community in Hondo while I was turning it around
following a tornado, and I was amazed at the level of help the community showed all residents. They had ride sharing before Uber as well as daycare and meals on wheels. How do you encourage this? Create areas that they can socialize and meet each other – things like playgrounds and simple picnic tables and outdoor grills.

Publish a monthly newsletter

We started doing this about two years ago, and it’s been extremely successful. Sure, it’s extra work, but the dividend is
an actively engaged community that stays informed and feels united in their choice of residence. If you break the newsletter
down into bite-sized pieces, you’ll see that producing it is not really that difficult and you might even enjoy it. The normal sections are yard of the month and other awards, other community news, suggestions on preventative measures for homes (such as change air filters and smoke detector batteries), a recipe, etc.

Hire the right manager

Great managers create high-levels of retention. People like and respect leaders that are fair and have good people-skills.
If your manager is not favored by the residents, it will be a daily turn-off to living there. Don’t settle – hire a manager and is a positive force in your community.

Establish an (800) help line

How do you know that your manager is doing the right thing and keeping your residents happy? How can you be sure that all repairs are quickly addressed and successfully completed? The answer is to establish an (800) help line that all residents
can call when things are not going well. You can have this line answered by a virtual assistant 24 hours a day, and the
information you garner is priceless.

Reinforce the value at every rent increase

We all know that the lot rents in manufactured home communities are ridiculously low nationwide. But don’t just raise them without giving visual support for the raise. Send your residents a bar graph showing the median home price and average apartment rent vs. your lot rent with all increases, and it will be obvious to residents what a great deal they’re getting.

Fairly enforce collections

It’s simply not fair for some residents to pay their rent promptlyand others to skip it altogether. Some managers pick their
favorites and the whole community knows that they can get away with making partial payments. The only fair way to enforce
collections is with a “no pay/no stay” policy that treats all residents the same and makes them feel secure in their treatment.

Maintain reliable rules

Is it fair for the owner of the home that is in perfect cosmetic condition with the well-mowed yard and waxed car to look out the window onto a home that is falling apart with grass a foot high and a car that is non-running (and don’t forget the dog tied on a chain in the yard)? Certainly not. To have high resident retention, you have to ensure that all residents make good neighbors. This all harkens back to the “gated community” nature that Time magazine described.

Create positive public relations in the greater community

One thing we have excelled at recently is positioning our communities with positive public relations in the greater city. We support school sports teams, donate to fire and police departments, and provide assistance in home repair to veterans, elderly and people in need. This reverberates through the greater community and creates a sense of local pride. And proud residents stay put.

Conclusion

Every community owner has the ability to massively improve resident retention if they will make the effort. Here are ten
great ideas, but feel free to add your own. You hold the powerto make everyone in your community a happy customer.

Dave Reynolds has been a manufactured home community owner for almost two decades, and currently ranks as part of the 5th largest community owner in the United States, with more than 23,000 lots in 28 states in the Great Plains and Midwest. His books and courses on community acquisitions and management are the top-selling ones in the industry. He is also the founder of the largest listing site for manufactured home communities, MobileHomeParkStore.com. To learn more about Dave’s views on the manufactured home community industry visit www.MobileHomeUniversity.com. This article originally appeared in the Manufactured Housing Review, subscribe for free here.

Why Being 1,000 Miles Away From Your Community May Be a Good Thing

The distance between my house and my first manufactured home community was only 15 minutes of drive time. Even worse, I decided to office out of that property for the first year, to learn the business first-hand. What a colossal mistake that was! What I learned from being that close to my community was that perhaps the best thing when you own a property is to be 1,000 miles away from it, or farther. Why?

No value-add

Contrary to what you may try to convince yourself, your physical presence at the manufactured home community you purchased has absolutely no value-add. This is not that type of business. Sure, the owner of the Italian restaurant you enjoy so much goes table-to-table to make sure that every diner is 100% happy, and it wouldn’t be the same without him. He gets there at 5 AM to make sure the freshest food is purchased, oversees that the sauces are perfect, makes sure the waiters are dressed impeccably, and then watches for any problems until closing time. But you have no such contribution. You rent land to the resident, and make sure the common areas are mowed and the utilities working. That business model does not need you to help out. The sooner you acknowledge your lack of importance, the better.

Familiarity breeds contempt

When the owner hangs around the property too much, the typical end result is that many residents hit them up for personal loans, or to let them not fully obey the rules. And many owners, given that pressure from near-professional systems users, will give in. That gets communicated throughout the property and next thing you know nobody is paying rent on time or following minimum standards. Unless you can say “no” without a second thought, and stay aloof from your residents’ constant attempts to loop your into their woes, then it’s best you stay 1,000 miles away.

Too much attention to meaningless items

In my first community, I was there every day from 9 to 5. After a couple weeks, I was completely bored. So I started overthinking everything that I did. I decided the laundry buildings would look better if they were painted green and not tan.
As a result I painted them. Then I decided I didn’t like that particular shade of green, so I had them re-painted again. Did
anyone care? Not in the least. The residents were perfectly happy when the buildings were tan, and thought I lost my mind when I changed the green out that second time – and they were right.

Greater focus on the systems

When you are 1,000 miles away, you have to focus on working your systems. And that’s what is really important for your success. Any owner would be better off focusing simply on the five gauges of the successful owner’s dashboard – collections, occupancy, property condition, water usage, and budget/actual/difference – rather than the trivial items that fog your visibility when you’re too close to the property. With no distractions, you can really give quality time to your property from 1,000 miles away, while the owner that lives nearby often gets too distracted and that only hurts the returns.

The quality of the deal is far more important the geographic proximity

This is one of the biggest reasons why you are best off being 1,000 miles away from your property: it allows you to cast a
bigger net. Setting the requirement that you will only buy a manufactured home community that is near your home is extremely limiting. As a result, you’ll miss out on a ton of better opportunities that are farther away. Any owner is better off with
a community that has a great location, strong infrastructure and good economics that is 1,000 miles away rather than one that is lacking in these areas but is located 15 minutes away. Finding the right property is a volume business, and you simply get more volume of deals to look at when you draw a circle 1,000 miles from your home versus one that’s only 10.

Conclusion

It’s actually easier to succeed with a manufactured home community that is 1,000 miles away than one that is close to home. Being physically separated requires you to focus on the key profit drivers and allows you to avoid petty distractions. And when you throw in the fact that you can cast a much bigger net in finding that perfect property, the evidence is overwhelming that distance and success are not correlated.

Frank Rolfe has been a manufactured home community owner for almost two decades, and currently ranks as part of the 5th largest community owner in the United States, with more than 23,000 lots in 28 states in the Great Plains and Midwest. His books and courses on community acquisitions and management are the top-selling ones in the industry. To learn more about Frank’s views on the manufactured home community industry visit www.MobileHomeUniversity.com. This article originally appeared in the Manufactured Housing Review, subscribe for free here.