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June 25, 2024

Renewal Realities and Strategies for Effective Multifamily Retention

Improve your online multifamily reputation strategy and gain insight into what impacts resident renewal decisions.

In the multifamily industry, resident retention is more than just a metric—it's a cornerstone of long-term success. 

Property managers and community leaders understand that keeping residents happy and encouraging them to renew their leases is crucial for maintaining a thriving, stable community. 

But what exactly drives these renewal decisions?

By leveraging the power of resident reviews and topic sentiment analysis, we've uncovered valuable insights that can help property managers fine-tune their strategies and create environments where residents truly want to put down roots.

Multifamily Tenant Retention

The Data

Over the past year, Widewail has created the Multifamily Reputation Index, a dataset of 400,000 Google reviews from 150 large multifamily groups.

With this data, we've identified 49 key topics that residents frequently mention in their reviews and examined how they correspond to key residential lifecycle stages such as tour, move-in, residency, and retention. 

These topics offer property managers insight into what is working well in their communities and where there are opportunities for improvement.

Key Retention Factors

Let’s take a look at 5 sentiments affecting lease-renewal rates in your community: 

1. Price Increases vs. Perceived Value

While price is not the leading driver of overall negative review volume, it’s a significant contributing factor during the renewal stage.

Mentions of price increases are 183% above the benchmark during renewal—the largest growth difference of any other measured negative topic. 

In fact, renewal reviews focus more on price increases than on topics such as general pricing, fees, and affordability. 

A sudden or significant price increase at renewal time will likely cause frustration and lead to negative reviews. To minimize this, consider the following strategies:

  • Early Communication: Inform residents of potential rent increases well in advance of lease renewal deadlines. This gives them time to adjust their budgets or make informed decisions about their housing options.
  • Clear Explanations: Provide clear, understandable reasons for the rent increases. This could include rising operational costs, property improvements, or market trends.
  • Demonstrate Value: Highlight the value residents receive by staying in your community. This could include recent or upcoming property improvements, enhanced amenities, or community events/services. 

Insight: Residents are less concerned about costs if they are well-communicated, and feel they're getting good value from their living experience.

2. Maintenance Concerns

Maintenance is pivotal in shaping resident experiences and influencing renewal decisions. The data paints a clear picture:

Maintenance is the #2 mentioned topic in positive renewal reviews—24.9% of reviews, 81.6% over benchmark. It’s also the #1 in negative renewal reviews—41.3% of reviews, 19.8% over the benchmark. 

Good maintenance contributes to positive experiences and higher retention rates. In contrast, poor maintenance is a primary driver of negative sentiment and can lead to lower renewal rates.

The influence of maintenance isn't limited to the renewal stage, it's a constant factor throughout the entire resident lifecycle. From move-in to daily living and ultimately to the renewal decision, the quality of maintenance services plays a crucial role in shaping overall resident satisfaction.

The significant impact of maintenance across the resident lifecycle highlights the need to optimize maintenance for positive renewal effects.

Insight: The quality of maintenance services can make or break a resident's decision to renew a lease. 

3. Simplified Leasing 

The leasing process is mentioned in 21.7% of positive renewal reviews, 119% above the benchmark. It’s also the #3 most-mentioned retention topic in positive reviews. 

On the other hand, complicated or poorly communicated processes can lead to frustration and may push residents to consider other housing options.

Given this significant impact, it's essential to ensure the leasing process is streamlined and well-communicated within your community. Miscommunications and disorganized processes will lead to unnecessary strain on your relationships with residents at a crucial point in the lifecycle.  

Insight: When the leasing process is satisfactory, your residents will celebrate it.

4. Sustainable Amenities  

Amenities drive 28% more positive tour mentions than the benchmark. However, they drive 80% more negative renewal mentions when expectations aren't met long-term.

While amenities work to attract customers during the tour stage, later in the resident lifecycle, they seem to fall short. 

A shiny new pool might entice someone to live in a community, but expectations shift, and once the novelty of moving into a new space wears off, practicality sets in. A well-working laundry system might end up being more of a retention factor than the initial draw of a pool. 

To ensure resident satisfaction, prioritize residential offerings that are reliable, useful, and sustainable throughout the resident lifecycle as a whole, not just at first. 

Insight: Initially attractive selling points can become insignificant if expectations aren’t continuously met.

5. Community Feeling 

Often overlooked yet important influencers like noise (negative mentions above benchmark during renewal by 24%) and neighbors (negative mentions up 32% during renewal) significantly impact renewal decisions.

In a more positive light, mentions of neighbors increase 109% during retention, demonstrating how a positive sense of community can positively contribute to retention rates.

You can’t make residents get along, but you can cultivate a community that fosters such engagement and provides a strong basis for peaceful cohabitation. 

Facilitate community-building events such as trivia or a movie night to allow residents to get to know each other.

Insight: Beyond amenities and unit features, cultivating a sense of community and ensuring high-quality living conditions are crucial for retention.

Key Takeaways: 

Successful resident retention depends on how well you understand and address what truly matters to your community members. To achieve this, you need to know what they're saying. 

By analyzing reviews through the lens of sentiment analysis, property managers can connect with residents on a deeper level to identify what they are doing well and what they can improve down the line. This data-driven approach empowers communities to:

  • Improve retention rates/reduce turnover costs
  • Enhance online reputation/attract new residents
  • Create a more stable, satisfied resident base
  • Drive long-term success and community growth

All in all, retention is not only about reducing vacancies—it's about creating a sustainable community where people genuinely want to live.

By understanding and addressing the factors that truly matter to your residents, you can build a resilient, successful multifamily community that stands out in a competitive market.

Learn more about what influences the renewal lifecycle stage, as well as the resident lifecycle as a whole, with the Widewail Voice of the Resident webinar series

Voice of the Resident Virtual Event Series Visual

Ellie Guyon

I'm a Vermont local and graduate of UVM where I studied English, Global Studies and the Creative Arts. Outside of my Review Response Specialist role at Widewail, I take on projects with local arts groups as a writer, performer/director, and musician. I am an avid reader and I enjoy collaborating on all things creative.

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