This past week I finished shopping the last of the competitors of all our LRO properties. I visited a total of 54 apartment communities over the past 9 months and it was . . . fun!
Don’t get me wrong, it was exhausting driving from place to place, asking the same questions, seeing the same fixtures and cabinets and floor plan maps. I lost track of my fake jobs and fake families and fake pets. I eventually dropped the act completely and gained some really valuable information about everyone’s individual markets that you can’t get from pricing and occupancy trends. Here are some of my takeaways:
– Customer Service is Customer Service. I could tell from the hospitality who our “real” competitors are. These tours were really fun and educational. I learned about their renovations, resident events, opinions of the status of the market, and why they stand out from the pack. Some even suggested other properties that I should visit if I had the time! Would you be surprised to know that when I reconnected with our properties, who they felt were their strongest/weakest competitors were the ones that gave me a great tour and vice versa?
– Our industry is forever changing and we only see the half of it. If I asked you to name off the management companies of your competitors, could you? Are they renovated or planning to renovate? What amenities do they have? You may have known the answer at one point in time, but odds are, some of these details have changed. I chatted with comps who said “oh so and so is outdated” not realizing they changed management companies a year prior and underwent a major rehab. Others told me of changes and features of the “so and sos” that these properties failed to share with me. Missed opportunities and knowledge.
– Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. There has always been this secretive attitude towards market information. We call for pricing updates and move in specials and get fed overinflated rates, or better yet, an answering machine. I remember all too well at Park Shore and McDowell Place calling the comps on my cell phone to pull one over on ‘em. But why? It is easy to get wrapped up in your own property and its problems and feel like it’s you against the world. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in-person, the wall comes down. Most properties I visited, the staff was incredibly hospitable and generous with market information. Not only did they want to share with me all the great things, but we could discuss the challenges facing the market and possible solutions. This is how it should be! By meeting with these competitors face to face, they let their guard down and we were more colleagues. Some of the people I toured with are still communicating with me through email. Try it out with your comps, I bet you will be surprised.
– We can always be better. Banner is a great company! More and more with each property that I visited, it reinforced what we do right. All you Superstar Contestants are coming to this conclusion as well. We train hard, encourage creativity, and expect professionalism. That being said, there are some amazing individuals working for our competitors! When you meet them, you know they take this industry seriously. Let their knowledge motivate you to be better in your everyday performance. If a property in your area is leasing well, winning awards, and/or getting great reviews on AptRatings or from prospects, plan a trip to see them. I bet they would be flattered rather than determined to hide their “secret weapon.”
I hope some part of my experience has inspired you! Talk with your site teams and decide to learn more about your market and what makes you stand out from the rest. Ask questions that honestly interest you and bring your back findings to Banner. Say to yourself, what can we do better and then see if someone else is doing it!