Forget about gimmicks; let's stick with tried and true. There is a certain course of action that allows for continuity in customer contact on property and a high rate of lease renewals.
For starters, if there is a leasing office on site, having posted hours is a small thing that brings big results because your residents (customers) know when the "store" is open. Does your asset have trained staff responding professionally? Is customer service at the forefront of company policy with an eye towards quality customer service? These are operational must-haves for increasing renewal rates.
Following are five "touch points" that professional property management companies deploy to implement consistent customer contact and assist in making renewals part of ongoing operations.
1. From Day One. The most sophisticated property management companies are in continuous renewal mode. They begin the discussion about lease renewal in the welcome packet- basically, from day one of the initial lease.
2. A Call to Action. Every public event on property has a renewal component, from pool parties to BBQs to renewal "bonus" offers at the leasing office door and by the coffee pot each morning.
3. Email (marketing) lives! Every property that can should have its own customized newsletter. The newsletter, delivered via email, is a consistent method to inform and notify about all things on property that residents need to know...including renewal specials and offers.
4. Reaching out by phone. The closer the lease end date the more reason to sound the bell of urgency, particularly in hot markets where rents are rising and you have a waiting list.
5. Electronic signatures. Some PM companies have verbiage in the originating lease that allows a resident to "electronically" sign a lease renewal that makes it a binding document.
While electronic signatures for renewal might work well, (check with counsel before implementing), my preference is to have a renewal signing in the apartment home and use the event, per the terms of the lease, as an announced interior inspection. Better, of course, is having the inspection weeks prior to renewal to 1) prepare for turnover work if there is a move out and 2) allow the resident to address any issues that would place the renewal on hold.
The inspection may give you cause to pause on the renewal for reasons from too many persons in residence (people living there but not on the lease), to all the other issues that denote lease violations that require a remedy prior to the renewal being signed.
6. Gifts and concessions. For a starter list on concession ideas read 21 Low Cost Renewal Concessions.
7. Things not to do. Also, read the article Five Resident Loyalty Shredders for another perspective on renewals.