How many times have you written an evaluation report about a targeted leasing professional only to find yourself completely without words when attempting to describe the overall community appearance – more specifically, the details of the model apartment?
Despite the intentions we might have of remembering specific details about what apartments and models we are shown by our target agents, we are oftentimes ‘blocked’ when it comes to specifics largely because what we have been shown has had very little impact on us or has over stimulated our senses to the point of no recall. As a property management professional, I am not alone when it comes to debating the effectiveness of model apartments.
Whether the model is furnished and designed by a professional or set up with rental furniture and miscellaneous thrift shop decor, a model apartment that makes no lasting impression on the customer is ineffective and needs attention. As professional shoppers of the multifamily industry ourmystery shopper reports can be invaluable to management companies and property managers. Since customers are generally not asked for their opinion on model apartments, shoppers acting as prospective residents have an opportunity to express how a model made them feel and what exactly they experienced.
Most mystery shopper reports ask that we provide a description of the community amenities and models. Rather than describing the model in terms of basic color schemes, decor, furnishings, and floor plans, we have the chance to expand on our general feedback by including what kind of impression the model left on us. Following are examples of feedback that can provide insight to companies and even go so far as to explain low closing ratios, a lack of return visits, as well as provide a different perspective on the overall management and maintenance of the community.
“…Although the tour route to the model was clean and free from trash, there were old newspapers and door flyers outside the front door and the door mat was faded and soiled with what appeared to be the community logo on it. As the leasing agent opened the front door, I immediately felt the change in temperature as the model apartment was cold and dark. The agent walked around turning on lights and opening up the blinds as I wandered through the apartment looking at the different rooms. Because closet space was important to me, I opened up the hall closet but was unable to determine exactly how large it was since it was being used to store the outdoor advertising boards and directional signs for the community. The apartment was furnished and had tasteful decorations throughout, however I got the impression that it was not attended to on a regular basis.”
The feedback provided here will inform the management company that the model is not being used as the tool that it was intended for and that it is sending an unfavorable message to prospective residents about how the community is attended to.
“The community was beautifully landscaped and the colorful buildings made it stand out against the brown desert backdrop. After looking at the impressive amenities, we headed to the model apartment, which was located up on the fifth floor. As the elevator doors opened up, we walked down a long hallway towards the model apartment. I could detect a very strong and lingering cooking odor as well as the stale smell of tobacco. The smell seemed to grow stronger as we approached the front door of the model and it was a bit of a turn-off given the high prices at the community. Unfortunately the smell was also quite noticeable inside the model which made it difficult for me to enjoy the obvious attempt at ambiance.”
In addition to the obvious odor issue which could be a huge deterrent for many potential residents, an apartment model that has been over-decorated or is furnished with pieces that one would only find in a gallery or museum can be both intimidating and appear untouchable. It is important that models reflect some of the common interests of the demographic living in the community in order to appeal to new potential residents.
By providing valuable input detailed in our mystery shopper reports, on how we feel the apartment model is being presented, mystery shoppers are letting the management company know exactly what the prospect is experiencing as well as enhancing the feedback regarding the leasing professional that we are shopping. A model apartment can be in a fantastic location but have unfavorable views, beautifully decorated yet offensively smelly, and professionally designed yet cold, dark and dirty.
This kind of imbalance can impact the way in which a prospective resident decides where to lease. As shoppers, we can impact the decisions that management companies make so that they can be sure they are presenting their communities in the most favorable and effective way.
– Julie S