Making a Rental Property a Home; A No-Cost Option to Securing Long-Term Tenants

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MACK Companies, one of the nation’s premier providers of single-family rental homes and rental property management, explains why flexibility with tenants may be a landlord’s best strategy.

Earlier this year, MACK Companies was featured in a Wall Street Journal article that discussed how investing in curb appeal can be beneficial for rental property management, and for attracting long term tenants (published August 13, 2013). Curb appeal can do wonders for bringing people into homes, but as most landlords know, the tricky part is figuring out how to retain good tenants for the long term. According to James McClelland, CEO and president of MACK Companies, one of the nation’s premier providers of single-family rental homes, the best way to achieve this is to let tenants treat the property more like home and not just a temporary residence.

“When our tenants walk through their doors for the first time, we want them to feel like they are walking into their new permanent home,” said McClelland. “If tenants don’t have a strong connection with their home, or they don’t feel like it is a place that they can treat as their own, they won’t be staying long.”

After 16 years of being an REO-to-rental specialist and growing his firm to be the largest single-family rental provider in the Chicago area, McClelland believes he has discovered the keys to keeping tenants long-term residents. The firm’s record speaks for itself as its average tenant stays in a MACK home for more than four years and the waiting list for a MACK rental is more than three months.

The secret, according to McClelland, is being more flexible with tenants’ personal preferences.

“It’s pretty simple – let people treat the property like home,” said McClelland.

Because many landlords are afraid of losing tenants on a frequent basis, they let this fear drive their relationship with their renter, noted McClelland. “Almost like a knee-jerk reaction, they put so many rules and restrictions on their tenants because they don’t want to have to deal with a decorated or modified home once the tenant leaves.”

However, as McClelland has discovered, the more personalization he allows a tenant to make, the better chance he has of them staying long term.

Exterior Tenant Enhancements

  •          Gardening: Encouraging tenants to make landscaping and gardening improvements not only makes them happier, but it also increases the curb appeal of the property. At MACK, tenants are allowed to indulge in their green thumbs and the neighbors are happy with the overall improved appearance for the neighborhood.
  •     Holiday Decorations: When the holidays come around and the Christmas lights come out, residents generally want to partake in the festivities. MACK always encourages tenants to show their holiday spirit by hanging lights or setting up lawn ornaments.

Interior Tenant Enhancements

  •     Painting: An easy way to let a tenant modify their interior space is to give them free reign on their color scheme. Many tenants want the ability to select their own wall colors and allowing them to do this can have long-term benefits for a landlord. Kids may want to splash their favorite colors on their bedroom walls and families may want to liven up the common space. MACK says let them. “A new interior paint job is fairly standard when tenants move out anyway,” said McClelland. “Restricting them from choosing their own colors while they are residents is counterproductive.”
  •     Curtains/drapery: Window treatments are another easy way to let tenants put a personal touch on their home. Letting a tenant select their own drapery and curtains allows them to further express themselves without making drastic changes to the home.

“The great thing about all of these examples is that they really require no work or investment from the owner or rental property management personnel,” said McClelland. “By simply allowing a tenant to make minor aesthetic changes, you are encouraging them to invest in their home and develop a personal connection with it.

“When it comes time to renew their lease, many MACK residents look around their home, see all of the work and personality that they have put into it and they really can’t imagine leaving,” said McClelland.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Julie Liedtke at (312) 267-4521 or jliedtke(at)taylorjohnson(dot)com.

About MACK Companies:
MACK Companies purchases, redevelops and leases a new home every three days. The firm currently owns and manages approximately 700 single-family rentals in the Chicago area.
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Mark Thomton