The importance of community is probably greater in residential management than most industries. Not only does creating a sense of community encourage thoughtful, responsible tenancy, but it’s great for business, helping stabilize rents and strengthen portfolios — whether those comprise single-family, multi-family or condo and association properties.
However, creating a community that residents want to be involved in doesn’t happen overnight. It takes communication, relationship-building, organization and participation from members. Although it may seem like a lot of work, the results can be significant, ultimately creating longer-lasting living environments.
To truly drive home the benefits of a strong community, let’s explore why they matter, tips to get started and best practices for attracting tenant involvement to welcoming new members.
Why Communities Matter
Aside from the obvious benefits of a friendly living environment, communities can affect your bottom line and the overall health of your properties. When tenants are invested in where they live, they’re less likely to leave and more likely to take an active role in bringing people in and protecting the already-established culture. The word of mouth method to help attract people to vacancies can also be a great (and free) marketing tool. Not only does this build the connections between tenants, but also with property managers, who can get better acquainted with their tenants and learn what’s really important to them. These relationships foster a sense of responsibility to uphold rules and maintain the grounds, prompting more considerate behavior from its members.
Another huge benefit is safety. A recent Yale University study found that the more closely knit people reported their neighborhood to be, the less exposure to violence they had. In addition, a U.S. Justice Department study showed that, on average, there is a 16 percent decrease in crime in Neighborhood Watch communities. In fact, Buildium members have experienced the effects first-hand when an HOA came together to point the police in the right direction of a robber in their community. The bottom line is that neighbors who know each other are more likely to watch out for one another.
How to Establish a Community
The first step to creating a good community is accepting good tenants. Be vigilant about background checks and take into consideration referrals from current tenants who already live in the community. The next step is to get owner buy-in and designate dedicated staff to get community initiatives up and running. This includes determining the amount of funds and time that need to be allocated to community building activities and projects. Start small and be sure to measure results via a survey, a suggestion box or having an open dialogue with tenants. Once the framework is established, it’s time to encourage resident involvement – the more people that are involved, the better this will work.
Although setting the groundwork is a necessary first step, running a community isn’t a “set it and forget” it” scenario. It has to align with evolving resident needs. What better way to keep up with this than to create a core resident committee? This group of residents can help with the essentials from scheduling regular meetings to balancing the budget and organizing social gatherings. Ideally, this committee would comprise 6-8 dedicated residents – or 10 percent of your residents if you have a larger community – who meet on a regular basis to keep resident needs and concerns top of mind and help resolve problems before they impact resident satisfaction.Be sure to invite tenants from all ages, income-brackets, genders, etc. to make sure all demographics are represented.
How to Encourage Involvement
Running a community isn’t all business; it’s also about coming together to have fun and bond over common interests and causes. Consider ideas that appeal to a wide variety of residents, like a movie night in a community common area where popcorn and soft drinks are provided. Take it a step further and coordinate a pot luck dinner or a cookout where everyone can join in and contribute something. This can extend beyond the residential community, too – outings to local restaurants or group volunteer work at a local charity can be a nice change of pace. If there’s enough interest, you can also establish clubs or sub-committees for community interests, like recycling or gardening. There are numerous fun and easy ways to get people involved, and when in doubt, provide snacks!
How to Communicate
It should come as no surprise that communication is the key to running a successful community and making sure that everyone is on the same page. As vital as regular contact is, reaching out to tenants in a way that suits them is equally important. Whether it’s an up-to-date bulletin board in a high-traffic area, a resident portal or a house call, find out what works for your unique community needs. According to Buildium’s 2016 American Renters Survey, 53 percent of tenants indicated that they prefer to be contacted by email and 51 percent by text message versus 46 percent who prefer a phone call and 7 percent who opt for mail. Consider other methods, too, like creating a social media group or sending out a monthly newsletter. After you determine the best way(s) to get the word out, establish a consistent cadence for communicating, so residents can stay in-the-know.
How to Onboard New Members
The surest way to get new residents involved is to make them feel welcome from the get-go. Consider putting a welcome basket in their new home when they move in. Even simple touches like stocking their fridge with bottled water, making sure there are paper goods in the kitchen and bathrooms, or simply leaving a stack of local take-out menus goes a long way on move-in day. After they’re settled, take an active role in introducing them to their neighbors and showing them around the property – especially if there are common areas, like a pool and clubhouse or a gym. Some communities even go so far as to assign a welcome buddy, or a neighbor who can show the new residents around and serve as a resource if they have questions or concerns while getting acclimated.
Creating a strong sense of community takes work and commitment from residents, owners and property managers alike, but the end results can pay off big time from minimizing vacancies to building a safe, friendly and fun environment for all.
To learn more, visit the Buildium website and listen to our recent webinar about building a resident community.