Tip #4: Take marketing into account.
Marketing involves "closing the deal," and PHAs often fall short in this area.
Conditions that contribute to successful marketing include meeting the specific needs of your customers, effective outreach, good curb appeal (including what the family has heard about maintenance performance), and positive applicant perceptions regarding security.
Marketing is an ongoing process. It involves marketing potential
and location, strategies and techniques, and attracting and selling.
Good selling points include local grocery stores, child care,
adult education centers, health clinics, public transit, and schools.
Property managers need to know their customers' needs. For example, many working families work the same hours as normal business hours for the PHA. The manager may need to show units on weekends or evenings to attract working families. Also, keep in mind that different types of developments will each have their own customers with different needs and interests. That is, a development for families should focus attention on activities and services that are geared to families with children (e.g., sports, child care, and computer labs), whereas a development for the elderly and disabled will be most interested in health care, nutrition programs, accessibility, and community services.
Outreach can be done in a number of ways. Because the Internet is a growing outreach vehicle, consider developing a PHA website or using YouTube, Craigslist, and other Web resources. In addition, flyers and brochures, a model unit, advertisements, press releases, feature articles in the local media, and community presentations are all options that should be considered.
Whatever you use, making it attractive and interesting is of primary importance. And remember to change it up — a marketing tool will only work for a limited time, and then begin to lose its effectiveness. This is where creativity is important; marketing is a never-ending process.
Selling is also an important aspect of marketing, and nothing sells better than an attractive neighborhood, a clean unit, and a friendly staff. Most families go no further in the process if there's poor curb appeal. Spruce up the neighborhood, make signage attractive, and keep the development free of litter and trash. When you show a unit, make sure it's spotless and the details are polished. Check that all points of contact are friendly and helpful. Everyone is on the selling team.
Keep in mind that current residents aren't isolated from
current or potential applicants — they talk to each other.
As a matter of fact, current residents can attract future residents.
Finally, everyone wants a safe place to live. One of the best ways a property manager can enhance security is to work closely with local law enforcement. Report crime to local law enforcement, and note that local law enforcement should be sharing information they receive regarding crime in the developments.
Some other ideas to improve safety:
- Promote legitimate activities at the property that are visible and inviting
- Enforce the lease and eviction policy
- Target key crime locations for prevention
- Keep security systems in good working order
- Remove graffiti immediately
- Provide proper lighting, and keep laundry rooms and storage areas locked
Remember, if families don't feel secure in their surroundings, they won't recommend your property to prospective renters.
Terry Provance has been a trainer and consultant at Nan McKay and Associates since 1999. He specializes in the public housing program and is responsible for writing and keeping staff updated on asset management materials. He took the lead role in creating and developing NMA's new PH Occupancy Tracking Tool, which can be used by any rental development, whether or not it's HUD-assisted, including mixed finance and LIHTC properties.