Is it worth being nice to tenants?

“Would you have references?""I'm awfully sorry but I haven't. I just arrived in New York, and don't know a soul. Except you." I smiled but she didn't smile back. She stood hesitating, and I said, "It's true that I'm an escaped convict, an active counterfeiter, and occasional murderer. And I howl during the full of the moon. But I'm neat.” Jack Finney - Time and Again

Aaahhh - the tenant. Sad soul. Can't do anything right. Constantly fighting a (losing) battle against the bad reputation of leaving a mess, not paying the rent, breaking windows and keeping unauthorised pets. It's a sad life, shifting from house to house, constantly being appraised for their worthiness by property manager gatekeepers, dealing with piles of redirected mail from previous lost souls who probably left their home half way through last century.Well - maybe not all that bad. But almost. Its fair to say that of all the actors in the real estate game - the poor residential tenant suffers the most: vendors and buyers are loved, landlords are coveted, and tenants? At best ignored; more commonly vilified.Why bother being nice to your residential tenants?

Reason # 1: Today's tenants are tomorrows buyers and sellers

Rex is currently expanding and needed more office space. In Brisbane's current commercial real estate market, tenants are scarce and vacancy rates are high. Our agent looked after us carefully, negotiated fairly and paid us all the attention we needed. What's more - once the deal was complete he put us on an email list to receive updates when new commercial properties came up for sale that matched our needs.Small action - but spread over the hundreds of potential and actual tenants he deals with each year, I imagine this agent gets a lot of repeat business and sales leads from tenants like me.It's important to be nice to tenants: twenty to thirty-somethings are buying later and later in life - although they have solid earning and buying capacity. Its likely they'll buy eventually - especially if encouraged to do so. Do you want them to come to you?Tenants are the most engaged and captive members of your market. Why not send them the occasional update like you do your past sellers and purchasers?

Reason # 2: Tenants have friends

Referrals are by far the best kind of business to get. Tenants are people too - they have friends and colleagues who own property that you could be selling or managing for them. The key to getting a referral? - great service is a good start.People appreciate when someone is helpful. If tenants appreciate you, they'll remember you and want to return the favour. What about a hint about local cafes or restaurants for a tenant that's new to the area?

Reason # 3: Tenants can negatively affect your brand

Tenants are the most likely out of any of your clients to take a difficult experience and lay the blame at your front door. A trend of negative incidents and general chatter in your catchment areas can lead to a tarnished reputation among landlords and sellers, as well as your existing tenants.According to research by US customer experience firm TARP:

  • A typical unhappy customer tells 10 people about his problem.
  • One in five really unhappy customers tells 20 people about his/her problem.
  • A satisfied complainer will tell five people how excellent your service is if you solve the problem in their favor on the spot.

Think about the effect of those numbers on your agency's reputation.Obviously we're not advocating forgiving tenants their many sins - doing that would be a breach of obligations to the landlord. However, adding some positivity to the interaction (a packet of Tim Tams for tenants on the day they move in?) would go a long way to creating a positive impression for very little cost.

Reason # 4: Happy tenants are less trouble

This one is a little more pedestrian - happy customers make for less trouble and they actually cost you less to service. Studies have shown that satisfied customers tend to have less complaints and service requirements; they also pay their bills on time..

Concrete Steps

Being nice to your tenants doesn't have to take a lot of work - here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Add your tenants to your monthly newsletter - they'll probably appreciate seeing what's available on the market as much as your potential sellers.
  • Put together some suburb guides for new tenants - list some local businesses you'd recommend - leave it at the house along with a packet of biscuits

Where possible, maybe add an element of friendliness to the interactions you have with your tenants?To add some friendliness to the end of this post - here are some lighthearted tenant requests allegedly collected by staff at London's Islington Council Housing Department at at the turn of the century.Pithy words from some London Islington Council Tenants"I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.""I wish to complain that my father hurt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.""Their 18 year old son is continuously banging his balls against my fence.""I wish to report that tiles are missing from the roof of the outside toilet and I think it was bad wind the other night that blew them off.""The lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?""I am writing on behalf of my sink which is coming away from the wall.""Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.""I request your permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.""Can you please tell me when the repairs will be done as my wife is about to become an expectant mother.""I am still having trouble with smoke in my built in drawers.""The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.""Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.""Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now it is in three pieces.""Would you please send a man to repair my sprout. I am an old age pensioner and need it straight away.""I want to complain about the farmer across the road; every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's getting too much.""The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.""Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third so will you please send someone around to do something about it.""I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would be pleased if you could do something about the noise made by the man I have on top of me every night.""Please send a man with clean tools to finish the job and satisfy the wife.""I have had the Clerk of the Works down on the floor six times, but still have no satisfaction.""We are getting married in September and would like it in the garden before we move into the house.""This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broken and we can't get BBC2."

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