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Lynn Spruill: Turnover time


Lynn Spruill



A large number of the Starkville property owners are girding their loins for battle. It is the collective gearing up for the turnover of college kids for our landlord population. Interestingly enough there are a good number of larger landlords in town, but there are also quite a few smaller landlords who have rented out their former houses or who own just a few units that they rent for extra funds maybe for that vacation or to supplement their social security. In other words it is a phenomenon that hits many Starkville residents beginning this time of year and extending through until the middle or so of August.  


Turnover time sounds like it ought to be the title to a country song, but it is the common reference to the chaos that comes to Starkville or any college dominated town when the students start looking for new apartments and then move out all at once and want to move in, also all at once.  


Those of us who have lots of rental property have already begun to see the steady influx of apartment seekers. The interested parties tend to vary all the way from the first time renter to the seasoned professional. For people who are "people" people, it is a study unto itself. There all types of fascinating individuals who make their way into the rental office. At one time or another most of us have rented an apartment.  


It is human nature to form immediate impressions based on lots of factors. For those of us who want to make sure that our future tenants can and will pay the rent, the quality of transportation is the earliest indicator. It isn't so much the value of the ride, it is the condition. If your car or truck looks like it just got unhooked from the wrecker or it hasn't seen the car wash since your high school prom, it doesn't inspire confidence that you will show respect and care for what doesn't actually belong to you.  


It then becomes an issue of personal care and communication. For example, if you don't exhibit any pride in your appearance, then it questions whether you will take care of the apartment. If your demeanor appears to be intractable or difficult, then we wonder if you will be a good neighbor. While you are evaluating us, we are also checking you out. If I don't think that you would value my property why would I invite you to be a long term guest?  


Apartment hunters first want to see the apartment. You certainly can't blame them for that. But do you really want to show them the exact apartment? It is an interesting proposition to expose a prospective tenant to their potential future home. You can quickly scare them off because the current tenant barely has an open path from the front door to the kitchen. Or perhaps the bathroom looks like a science experiment gone wrong.  


A real estate agent will talk about first impressions and curb appeal. The same is true for renters. Those who first see an apartment that is not in condition to show will quickly move on. Aside from losing a tenant, they will talk about it and you unmercifully and you can never underestimate the power of word of mouth.  


It is fascinating to see what people think is important in where they live. Some care about colors, some care about parking, some care about the number of bathrooms and others want brand new appliances. With the exception of the Cotton District, it is a buyer's market. Like any business model, the rest of us work hard to distinguish ourselves in the competitive environment of supply and demand.  


Turnover is an unqualified logistical challenge worthy of a military college credit. To show apartments and get applications; assign apartments and then get 50 or so units cleaned and ready for the next tenant in a five to ten day period is a large undertaking. It takes masterful coordination of painters, repair personnel, carpet installers and cleaners, cleaning services and administration personnel during each phase of the process.  


I am very fortunate to have a seasoned team helping me. This will be my first "rodeo" as they say. Up until now I have dodged the hour by hour and day to day activities but now I am up in the thick of it and it is another true learning experience. I have great respect for those smaller landlords who opt to do it all themselves.  


Along about August 15th most everyone should be settled into their new homes. Turnover is done and we can relax for a bit or at least until the phone rings and the toilet needs to be unstopped.



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