How to create a 5-Star Resident Move-In Experience

Flamingo Move-In Experience that residents love

Elite property managers view their resident move-in experience as the single most important part of the resident experience.  

Imagine if all your resident move-ins ended with a 5 star review on Google, Facebook or Apartments.Com? What difference would that make to your online reputation, renewal rate, and overall resident satisfaction?

Unfortunately, most property managers treat resident move-in as a checklist or an afterthought. Top property managers, however, view it as an opportunity to create a memorable resident experience.

So why is resident move-in so important? Let me illustrate with a story about my freshmen orientation.


How my college’s move-in and freshmen orientation convinced me not to transfer to a different college

In high school, I got into my two top college choices, Johns Hopkins University and Dartmouth College. Johns Hopkins was my first choice because of its pre-med program. But I turned them down (at least at first) because Hopkins was 5 minutes from my high school and 15 minutes from my house in Baltimore. I felt it was too close to home. 

A few months later, I had a major change of heart and immediately called the Johns Hopkins admissions office to say I WANT TO GO THERE. But nope, they said it was too late. The freshman class and financial aid grants are already set. If I want to attend Hopkins, I’d have to transfer the next year as a sophomore. Cue the tears. 

I was disappointed and angry at myself for not choosing Hopkins. A few weeks later, my sister and I made the 8 hour drive from Baltimore to Dartmouth, with the intention that I was going to be there for only a year and would transfer to Hopkins my sophomore year. 

As soon as I got to campus, everything changed. 

Welcome to campus. Your resident move-in experience should be just as exciting.

Freshman orientation at Dartmouth is something special – known as First Year Trips, it is “an entirely student-run, pre-orientation program that offers a five-day outdoor experience accessible to all skill levels and backgrounds with the goal of providing first-year students a support system from the moment they arrive in Hanover.” Freshman can choose between hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, white water water kayaking and many other activities. 

And it starts the moment you arrive on campus where you are welcomed by upperclassmen trip leaders who are easily recognizable because they have all dyed their hair and are wearing funky outfits.

Trips forces freshmen to get out of their comfort zone, get oriented to the New Hampshire wilderness and immediately make lifelong friends with both freshmen and upperclassmen. In other words, after orientation, I knew I was home. I had zero desire to transfer to Hopkins the next year. 

That’s me with the umbrella….

What about Dartmouth’s freshmen orientation made fall in love with Dartmouth so quickly?

– It was an experience

– It made making friends easy

– It showed me the highlights

– It made me feel special

Simply put: your move-in process can make or break how a new resident feels about your community

Each year, thousands of residents move into apartment communities. 

But most communities still manage the resident move-in experience like it’s the 90s with…

…..printed or PDF resident guides no one reads, manual processes that overwhelm site teams and residents, uninspiring welcome letters or move-in gifts.

The move-in process is the SINGLE most important part of your community’s resident experience. It sets the stage for EVERYTHING ELSE…

…will this resident attend events? Will they make friends or keep to themselves? Will they follow your community on social media? Will they download your resident app? Will they interrupt your leasing office constantly with questions they should know? Will they pay rent on time? Will they renew? Will they give notice early or last minute? And ultimately, will they be a problem or model neighbor? 

The 5 biggest mistakes property managers make in their resident move-in experience

1. Viewing it as an afterthought or checklist

On move-in day, a new resident is given a copy of their signed lease, keys, a printed copy of the resident guide, and a form to complete the move-in inspection. And that is it. 

2. Using paper instead of going digital

Printing out hundreds of pages and copies of your resident guide each year is not only bad for the environment, but it means very few residents actually read it. Most residents prefer to receive information when they need it and in a way that is easy to find. Residents want to be able to access the information easily and no resident is going to carry around a printed resident guide. A digital resident guide means residents can access it from their phone at any time and easily search for exactly what they need. 

3.  It’s not consistent

With about 50% turnover each year, residents are always moving in and out. For a building with 400 units, this means 100s of move-ins each year. This creates a lot of room for mistakes. One leasing agent mentions all rules and regulations but another leasing agent forgets to mention a few key things and you end up with a resident that knows very little about your community’s rules. An automated resident move-in system ensures a consistent resident move-in process. 

4.  It’s not a memorable experience

Creating a memorable experience means a better resident experience right from the beginning and you stand out from your comps. Make it memorable enough and residents are going to share it on social media. Read on to see how top communities do this. 

5.  It doesn’t lead to 5-star reviews

It’s simple – create a memorable enough experience and ask the resident to leave a review. If the experience was truly great, more than 50% of residents are going to leave a review less than a month after moving in. Think about what this would mean for your online reputation… 

What is the cost of not having a great resident move-in experience?

You might be thinking – “What’s the big deal? We have 93%+ occupancy and none of our residents complained about the move-in process.” 

The big deal is that this decade is all about the resident experience. A move-in process that doesn’t integrate residents into your community means low renewal rates, few online reviews, and wasted time by the onsite management team responding to resident questions via phone, email, or in person. 

A great resident move-in experience sets the stage for everything else. Without this, the answers to the questions below is most likely no.

Will this resident attend events?

A great move-in experience means residents immediately feel like part of your community. If they feel like part of the community, it means they are more likely to attend your resident events, which means your community has higher resident engagement. Why spend thousands of dollars per year on resident events if you don’t ensure that new residents are made aware of upcoming events as part of your move-in experience?

Will they make friends or keep to themselves?

One of the things that made my freshmen orientation so special was that I made friends immediately. Your resident move-in experience should make it really easy for residents to make friends with their neighbors. Research has shown that the more friends a resident has, the more likely they are to renew their lease. 

Will they follow your community on social media?

This one is simple –  if residents enjoy the move-in experience, they immediately become super fans. This means that they are more likely to follow your community on social media whether prompted or unprompted.  

Will they download your resident app?

Most communities have a resident portal, app or other systems that residents need to use. A great move-in experience ensures that downloading these apps or creating accounts for these systems is part of the move-in process.  

Will they interrupt your leasing office constantly with questions they should know?

Ever wonder why so many residents ask the same questions over and over again? Questions that they should know the answers to? If this happens a lot and your team wastes time responding to these questions repeatedly, then it’s because your resident move-in process needs to be improved so that residents receive the right information at the right time. Or at the very least, know how to find this information themselves. 

Will they pay rent on time?

It might seem obvious to you and your team that of course rent is due on the 1st of each month. But you’d be surprised just how many residents don’t know this fact – and it’s not just first time renters. Again, a great resident move-in process ensures there is absolutely no doubt in a residents’ mind when rent is due and what your late fees are. 

Will they give notice early or last minute?

If you’re frustrated when residents give you notice at the very last minute, you can prevent much of this with an informative move-in process where information is presented at just the right time. 

Will they leave an online review?

There is no better time to ask for a review than right after a resident moves in. This is only possible if you create an amazing move-in experience. 

Will they be a problem or model neighbor?

Integrating residents into your community helps them make friends and feel connected to the building and their neighbors. This creates a sense of ownership that makes each resident more responsible. This means everything from less noise complaints to residents being more likely to clean up after themselves, whether it’s putting back fitness center equipment or picking up after their pets. 

And ultimately, will they renew?

A great move-in experience starts your community’s relationship with each resident on the right foot and is the first part of working towards renewal. Imagine the financial results of improving your renewal rate by just 10%.

How can you create a memorable move-in experience that residents love, results in 5 star reviews, and is all COMPLETELY automated?

1. Learn from app developers and create a ‘wow’ moment

If there is one industry that understands the importance of having a great new user experience, it’s app developers. 

Just see the shocking graph below from Appcues. It shows how within one week of downloading most apps, 75% of users never open those apps EVER again. 

To combat this drop-off, app developers have had to get really great at user onboarding. 

One of the most effective things app developers do is what is called a “wow moment”, “aha moment”, “magic moment” or “value moment” etc. 

Per Appcues, “[The wow or aha moment is the point] where your buyer suddenly sees the benefit they get from using your product, and says to themselves ‘Wow! This is great!’”

How can you create an “aha moment” or “wow moment” as part of your resident move-in experience? 

It could be as simple as getting the new resident to attend their first resident event, getting them to use one of your amazing amenities for the first time, or making their first friend in the building. 

Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Attending just one resident event turns into attending two, three, four etc. 

2. Make move-in a memorable experience

One wow moment isn’t enough. To truly stand out, shock residents by how well thought out your community’s resident move-in experience is. 

The goal is to create something truly memorable that helps each resident immediately feel a part of your community. Some ways of doing this include:

Monthly new resident dinner or resident event: have a monthly dinner or resident event where you invite only the new residents that moved in within the last 30 days. This doesn’t have to be fancy – it could just be a pizza dinner. If you’re really low on budget, you can make it a potluck and ask each resident to bring something to share with the rest of the group. 

Gamify resident move-in with scavenger hunts: make resident move-in fun by creating a scavenger hunt for new residents. A quick example is creating a clue sheet that has fun clues that lead residents to different parts of the building or neighborhood. They can win points or rewards by solving the clue and taking a picture in front of the location and posting on social media and tagging the building. E.g. one clue could take a resident to the fitness center. This not only gets residents to check out your amenities, it also gets you some fun social media tags. 

Create community integration challenges: Why not offer gift cards that residents can use if they go to coffee with another resident? This gets them to make friends right away and builds a strong sense of community. 

Move-in gifts: seriously, who doesn’t love gifts? Move-in gifts are an easy way to enhance the resident move-in experience. See some ideas below. 

Just in time communication: don’t overwhelm residents with too much information all at once. Send them the right information at the right time. 

3. Offer Resident Move-In Gifts or Goodie Bags

Offer move-in gifts that make the transition into your community even easier. If you are tight on budget, ask your vendors to donate move-in gifts. Many of them will be more than happy to help out, especially if it means residents get exposed to their services right away.

Some move-in gift examples are:

The essentials – toilet paper, plunger, soap, snacks. 

Brand swag – yoga mats, t-shirts, water bottles. 

Service Amenities – offering service amenities such as house cleaning, massage, TV Mounting, or moving services are all great ways to welcome residents to the building. 

Gift Cards to neighborhood hot spots –  this ensures residents get out of their apartment and explore their new neighborhood. 

Top things to do in the building: ask current residents to provide tips and tricks and/or their favorite things in the building. Make this list part of your move-in gifts. You’ll be surprised by some of th cool things your building has that you as a staff member don’t know about but other residents have discovered. Maybe the sunrise is especially beautiful on the east side of the rooftop on summer mornings. 

4. Don’t overwhelm new residents with too much information

One of the cardinal sins many property managers make is overwhelm new residents by providing them with too much information at the same time. 

Imagine if on your first day of work, you were presented with EVERYTHING at the same time – company culture book, technology systems, department and team mate names etc. This is what many property managers do when they give residents a printed resident guide. It’s just too much information. 

For a better resident move-in experience, send residents information right at the moment that they need that information. This helps residents retain more information and means you and your team receive less questions. 

One way of doing this is by creating a series of emails that residents receive at different times. Here are some ways to break the information into more digestible chunks and to send them at the right time:

14 days before move-in:  Move-in checklist Email

10 days before move-in: Email with a link to download your resident app or create an account in your resident portal

7 days before move-in: Renter’s Insurance Reminder

The day of move-in: Welcome email or video from your whole team. 

2 days after move-in: Move-in Survey Email

7 days after move-in: Amenity Highlights Email

14 days after move-in: Neighborhood Highlight Email

21 days after move-in: Follow Us on Social Media Email

90 days after move-in: Referral Request Email 

90 days after move-out: Renewal Intent Email

You can set this up using gmail or a CRM like Hubspot or Salesforce and your team can trigger the emails each time a new resident signs a lease. You can also automate this process with Flamingo’s Automated Resident Onboarding feature that sends automated emails, push notifications, challenges, and surveys to residents automatically as part of their move-in process. 

5. Encourage social sharing and ask for reviews right away

You and your teams have worked your butts off to create an amazing resident move-in experience. So it’s time to earn your reward. 

Encourage residents to share their move in experience on the social media channels they are most active on. This doesn’t necessarily mean leaving reviews. 

If they did a scavenger hunt as part of your resident move-in experience, encourage them to post about it. If the experience is fun enough, most residents will do this without any prompting. Or better yet, make posting on social media part of the scavenger hunt. 

Great experiences lead to natural sharing. Casper Mattress won the crowded online direct to consumer mattress industry because its customers created “unboxing” videos and shared them on social media. These videos showed the magical moment of opening a tiny box and the mattress unfolding to full size. This got Casper millions of views and thousands in free publicity. 

Finally, don’t forget to proactively ask for reviews. Send residents an email or include a postcard in your move-in goodie bag that explicitly asks them to leave a review of their move-in experience. With the amazing experience your team has created, many of your residents will happily leave raving reviews. 

Creating such a stand out resident move-in experience takes work and time. But the rewards are tremendous – increased renewals, more 5-star reviews, happier and more engaged residents. We know this takes time and effort. To save time, try Flamingo’s Automated Resident Onboarding feature.  

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About Flamingo

Flamingo is an all-in-one platform that makes it easy for property managers to deliver the best resident experience. With Flamingo, you’ll be able to:

  • Organize events in less than 5 minutes.
  • Generate and manage positive reviews on your preferred sites.
  • Build community and engagement through your own branded resident app.
  • Bring all your operations under one fully integrated platform.

If you liked our blog post, you’ll love our platform. Schedule a demo today.



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