move-in day student housing

First Impressions Matter: The Impact of Move-In Day on Resident Retention

Imagine this – It’s move-in day, the last day of the student housing turn. Your on-site staff is up early. Hundreds of residents are moving in today. There’s a steady stream of nervous students and their overprotective parents pouring in and out of the leasing office all day. 

A smooth and seamless move-in day is key if you want to make the kind of first impression that leads to renewals.

Why this matters?

There’s been record demand for multifamily units over the past few years. Occupancy rates and rent growth hit record highs in 2021 and 2022. However, those good times may be coming to an end. 

We’ve seen a surge in multifamily permitting activity. In 2023, we witnessed the biggest increase in deliveries in almost 40 years, with nearly 440,000 apartment units completed throughout the year. For 2024, scheduled completions in the U.S. total another 670,000 or so apartments.

A healthy supply of new apartments coming to the market means renters have options. Operators are under more pressure to improve the resident experience to keep retention high. 

Those who focus on resident retention can reap the financial benefits. Why? Turnover costs are incredibly high. Lost rent and costs related to marketing available units, screening potential residents, cleaning and repairing units and potential capital expenses for upgrades can cost between $1,000 to $5,000 per unit, according to an article from the National Apartment Association. Not to mention the extra burden this puts on your on-site teams who are responsible for turning the empty units.

Tried-and-true tips for resident retention

Move-in day can make or break the renewal strategy in student housing. 

  • Make communication a core value. Your residents should be your top priority. The best way to show them is to be dedicated to open and timely communication. In fact, according to a report from SatisFacts, 66.8 percent of renters aged 18-24 prefer apartment staff to communicate with them via text messaging. Actively responding to text messages, emails, answering calls, and engaging with your residents via social media will prove to your residents you’ve got their back.
  • Prioritize resident repair requests. If you’ve ever needed someone to fix something in your home, you know the time it takes for them to arrive and fix the issue is directly correlated to your satisfaction. Your residents feel the same way. Make it easy for them to submit requests and set their expectations by giving them a reasonable window in which maintenance will arrive. If the request is urgent, residents want immediate action. Make sure your team is sticking to that window!
  • Keep your property looking impeccable. We can all agree the environment we live in is just as important as the physical structure. Keeping your property trash-free, the landscaping manicured, and the amenities up-to-date will go a long way toward creating an extraordinary experience for your residents (and their parents) will love.

Student housing is a little different

Most leases in student housing have one-year terms, which means students start planning their housing for the following year early. Since there is limited time to build connection and trust with residents before asking them to stay another year, the move-in day experience becomes that much more important.

How do you ensure the best move-in day experience?

Make sure your on-site teams are doing the things they need to do to leave a lasting first impression. Here’s how to set them up for success well in advance.

  • Processes. If you’re like a lot of operators out there, your turn board still lives in Excel. This limited functionality can leave you open to human error, potentially costing you  significant time and money. You need thoughtful, effective processes in place so things don’t fall through the cracks. From tracking key returns, to managing each phase of a unit inspection, such as cleaning and painting, Leonardo and Turnable simplify your turn processes by allowing you to manage everything in one location.
  • Communication & collaboration. If each of your properties still have their own turnboard, it’s nearly impossible for regional managers to see a clear picture of their properties should any issues arise. Whether they are physically on property or not, your teams need the means to stay connected in real-time. With both desktop and mobile versions, Leonardo247 users can communicate seamlessly between devices no matter where your team might be. 
  • Expectations. According to a report from Zego, fewer companies are setting resident retention goals, and 7 in 10 companies think their resident retention rate is going to increase. That may have worked when demand and occupancy rates were high. But, with the increase in new inventory, operators need to be realistic around their goals for resident retention. Setting goals and budgets ahead of time ensures that the entire team is on the same page. Turnable’s budget and expense tracking feature provides a holistic view of your expenses, making it easy for you to make informed decisions around future expenses.

Software to make the move-in day experience smoother

Without the right data in the right hands at the right time, properties risk moving residents into poorly turned units. That’s why a software tool to help teams manage turn better and smarter is a must. If you take care of your team, your team can take care of your residents.

With the combination of Turnable and Leonardo247, student housing operators now have one platform for all their maintenance, operations, and turn needs. Learn more.

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