Rebranding Your Property for Success

Out with the old, in with the rebrand. Changing the name, appearance and atmosphere of a community is a strategy that demands renewed attention at a time when both new development and renovation are ratcheting up competition. Whether it follows on the heels of an acquisition or results from a need to shake up an on-site management team, rebranding can dramatically revitalize a community…

When deciding how much to invest in rebranding, owners should look at the types of features residents expect to find in comparable local properties. Amenities such as pools, pet parks, fitness centers and Wi-Fi are always popular with current and potential residents. On the inside, the community should offer curb appeal, updated appliances and fixtures, and a bright, clean appearance. “You can’t rename a property without doing anything else,” Miller said. “It has to be done in conjunction with adding new features, upgrading and making the community different from what it was.

Resident feedback was central to the rebranding of Coronado Bay Club in San Diego, acquired by Alliance Residential Co. in late 2013 for $160 million. As part of the process, Alliance’s Kristina Brown hosted brainstorming sessions and workshops to allow residents to share their thoughts on the community’s needs. She then incorporated their feedback into the redesign of the property.

That resident input contributed to the strategy for Coronado Bay Club, which was reintroduced in January 2015 as Coronado on the Bay. Highlights included an 18,000-square-foot clubhouse, which offers billiards tables and games, a kitchen for entertaining and a screening room with a high-definition projection screen and tiered lounge seating. New outdoor amenities include poolside cabanas with flat-screen TVs and heaters, an open-air cinema with professional-quality speakers, landscaped alcoves and barbecue grills.

We believe that the sessions truly provided insight as to what renters really wanted and allowed us to tailor our vision of what the property could be with what our residents would find the most value in,” said Brown, who is now business manager for Broadstone Cavora, an Alliance property in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Outdoor Cinema

Even while undergoing a rebranding, a community should continue to recruit new residents and market the upgrades in progress. Miller suggests renovating the exterior first, because it is the first element to catch the eye of a prospective resident. Signage with messages touting the changes, such as “Coming Soon” or “79 Days and Counting,” help drum up interest from passersby, prospects and current residents.

After a rebranding is launched, the community’s management team plays a crucial role in its success. “To truly make a community different than it once was requires a shift not only in the product but also the service,” said Gasteiger. “It requires creating and executing on exceptional customer service and providing the tools and resources apartment renters and shoppers demand in today’s connected world.

Cooperation between management and residents is vital if rebranding is to meet its potential. If  a community doesn’t already have rules restricting residents from hanging items on balconies, for instance, management should consider establishing them. Attention to such small details makes a big difference in maintaining the property’s newly refreshed appearance. As with most other best practices, communication and teamwork enhance the quality of the resident experience, and ultimately, the value of the asset.

Last but by no means least in the rebranding process is the selection of the new name, which signals the community’s new identity to the market. If renaming the community is desirable, the new choice should be memorable, relevant to the neighborhood, and distinct from the names of nearby communities. Another priority: providing SEO value so the property shows up higher in searches.

ROSS Management weighed all those considerations in rebranding a 1,065-unit community in Annandale, Va. The property shared a name, the Avant, with three other nearby properties, thereby disrupting SEO and raising the chances that prospective residents would go to the wrong location. Moreover, the community has a large Hispanic contingent, and ROSS sought a name that would embrace its residents’ culture. Seeking to also appeal to a diverse pool of potential residents, ROSS rebranded the property Vistas at Annandale.

You’ll find more on this topic in the April 2018 issue of MHN.

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