I'm sure that there are worse things that can happen on a property. Fire. Flood. Occupancy rating of 55%. No doubt. These are probably way more scary than having to close your pool in the summer. But personally, I'd say it ranks right up there with the stress toll it takes on your staff and the obliteration of your renewal numbers.
In the summer, your leasing staff is hopefully completely slammed with new tours and potential residents. They can deal with the current resident issues as they come in, but usually the main focus for these folks is on new leasing. A busy, excited pool filled with happy residents is one of their most powerful sales aides on a hot day, but if you're like a lot of communities in Washington state right now, you might have just a pretty pool sitting behind your cabana, devoid of people and the appearance of community. Instead, we have many leasing consultants who are taking more calls and walk in complaints each day than they normally would in a two week span.
"When is the pool going to open?"
"How come you guys never get the pool opened on time?"
"Do you know how HOT it is out there?"
And for the less confrontational, there's always ApartmentRatings.com. And we take the Word of Mouth bullet right in the shoulder for something that we have little to no control over.
People are having trouble getting their pools up to the new codes set forth by the Brady Law. The blame for this situation lies in several areas, some with the management companies who didn't act on the information very quickly, some with the law makers who choose a stupid time of year to make the new law active, and a lot with the state of Washington, who, it has been told to me by SEVERAL of my clients, is taking its sweet time getting out there to evaluate the pools just to tell you what you have to do to get the pool open. Then they have to come back out and say, okay, you can open. And all of this costs you anywhere from 2-5 Thousand dollars, not counting the cost to repair the pool. The state also did not bother to release the new bill guidelines anywhere that they would be in public view, thus forcing two visits to your property (each visit is its own billing). "Downward economy, lets stick it to the ... well anyone we can stick it to," seems like the prevailing opinion on the subject by our state.
And stick it to the apartment communities, they have. Now, management companies are left with large bills that they probably didn't have in their budgets, and they are also left with ticked off residents. Residents, 40% of whom probably have leases coming up for renewal, are none too happy when the pool is closed and the only thing the staff can tell them is that they're, "Workin' on it." It doesn't matter if the place down the street has their pool closed either, because on a day where the heat climbs, people don't see that. People only see what's in front of them. Your pool. Closed. Again.
Again? Yes, Again. See, maybe it was 3 years ago, and you only had to close it for a single day to aqua shock the water, but in your resident's mind, it was last year and you had that pool closed the WHOLE SUMMER. Heat and frustration do great things to our sense of memory and perception.
So what do we do? If we can't get our pools open, then we need to think of some way to recapture what we're losing in resident retention. Here are some great suggestions that I've seen from my clients and a few that I've come up with myself:
- Buy water guns- A LOT of water guns. Different shapes and sizes. You'll be surprised, because it's not just the kids who will check them out. Truth be told, most guys under the age of 35 don't usually pass up the chance to have a real life game of counterstrike with their buddies. Keep two five gallon buckets of water by your playing field or what ever the space you want kids to play in, so that they can refill. This takes minimal effort on your part to maintain. Just checking the squirters in and out and having your porter refill the buckets with a hose every few hours.
- Buy Lawn games- Things like lawn darts (the safe kind please... don't encourage people to throw javelins at each other's feet. I never understood that design!), badminton sets, a volleyball net, or even putting in a small putt putt golf space can be great distractions on a hot day and still keep the activity level in your community high
- Movie Matinée - Is your cabana air conditioned? Then you've got the perfect draw for a midday matinée! If you don't have a theater room, setting up with an LCD projector (now more affordable than ever before!) and sheet in your clubhouse leaves lots of room for stretching out on the floor and relaxing. And with the cost of going to the movies these days, it's very appealing to the financially conscious part of every one.
- Food! - Keeping your freezer stocked with treats can diffuse a run in with a "hot" resident right off the bat. As suggested in an earlier post, Otter pops are a good bet since they're cheap AND yummy, but if you have the budget, small ice cream treats are always much appreciated, too!
- Work with the Weather- Hold an evening garden party for your residents instead of an afternoon pool party. If you're in a less urban area, organize a sky watch party by renting telescopes or inviting residents to bring their own and gathering outside for the meteor showers in late July! Look to Mother Nature for a great show!
These are just a few ways that you can try to fight the "CLOSED FOR REPAIRS" sign in front of your pool. Do you have others that you have used at your property? I'd love to hear them!