“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.
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.