As a sales consultant, market researcher and mystery shopper with nearly 30 years of experience within the senior living industry, I visit many senior living communities every year. In my experience, I’ve identified some simple, affordable things you can do to make your community more appealing to potential residents. Even if you can’t afford to make significant updates to your campus and residences, here are some small changes that can make a big difference in the impression you make on prospects.
- Keep a close eye on web inquiries. At a few communities, I filled out a website contact form and requested a tour at a specific time and day, but got no response to the request.
- Have a back-up team of individuals available to provide a tour whenever possible. After I received no response from one community and stopped by, no one was able to give me a tour and I was handed a brochure.
Enhance Curb Appeal
Just as in all real estate tours, you always want your property to wow the visitor at first sight. Some things to watch out for:
- Make sure the buildings are power-washed to fend off that dingy, old look.
- Keep your signage looking fresh — it should never be dirty, damaged, unreadable or have overgrown vegetation.
- Keep your landscaping well-groomed. Brown, patchy grass and scraggly bushes make a poor impression.
- It’s a nice touch to have a welcome sign at the main entrance for the visitor.
- Ensure light bulbs are not burned out or dead bugs visible in the light fixtures during the tour.
Start the Tour Off Strong
Take a look at your discovery room to make sure it’s warm and welcoming.
- Provide an area that’s conducive to intimate, private conversation.
- Keep the room clean, decluttered and neat.
- Offer your prospects a cold drink or a hot cup of coffee or tea.
- A large, mounted TV with a virtual sales platform sharing floor plans, amenities, site plan/campus can be a strong selling tool.
- Have documents such as floor plans, menus, fitness schedule, program/activity calendar, rate sheets readily available.
Make Affordable Upgrades to Residences
Even if you can’t afford to do a full-scale remodel on apartments or cottages/villas, there are cost-effective ways to show them to their best advantage.
- Ensure the front door to the residence is freshly painted and not damaged or scuffed. Place “Welcome Home” in the nameplate vs. nothing or the previous resident’s name.
- Declutter residences for a cleaner impression. Less is better.
- Remove all items left from prior residents.
- Ensure housekeeping cleans the residence prior to showing it. Ensure all available residences are cleaned on a regular basis.
- Stage your residences with new, modern furniture, rather than with furniture left by deceased residents.
- Remove or drywall over popcorn ceilings, which feel outdated.
- Update lighting. Large fluorescent lights in the kitchen feel institutional and not residential.
- Update everything at the same time for cost and time savings and a cohesive, modern look. For instance, in some bathrooms I toured, the lower-height oak cabinets were still in place; however, the kitchen cabinets were updated and modern.
Make It a Happy Ending
- At one community, tours ended in the performing arts center with an exit out the side door. I recommend ending the tour in the discovery center for a next-step discussion.
- Offer your prospects something to drink during the closing conversation.
- Consider leaving your visitor with a small gift — at one community I was offered eclairs branded with a ribbon printed with the community logo, and another offered me something from their cafe to take with me.
Follow Up Promptly
Make sure to follow up right away after the tour. I appreciated it when a sales director sent me an email the same day with videos of the apartments we toured, and also mailed a handwritten note a few days later.
Thank you for reading the insights I’ve gathered after mystery shopping many types of senior communities. If you have any questions about how to make your community more appealing during tours, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.