Property Management Tips for Attracting and Retaining Single-Family Rental Owners

Last modified on March 5th, 2024

If you are a property manager, it’s no secret that single-family rental (SFR) owners are varied. Your potential single-family rental customers may range from incredibly seasoned owners with a growing portfolio to first-timers with a single SFR property. 

Regardless of ownership and rental experience, building strong relationships is essential when it comes to adding SFR owner customers to your property management business.

To accomplish this, we must evaluate every step of the SFR owner customer journey and how efforts connect along the way. To build trust and successful relationships requires efforts beyond the traditional marketing funnel — we need to understand not only quantitative end results, but also the qualitative interactions that affect those results.

Property Management Tips for Building Successful SFR Owner Customer Relationships 

Below are four key steps that can help your business with SFR owner relations along the entire customer journey. From acquisition to building trust to — ultimately — retaining single-family rental owners, keep these property management tips top of mind to remain both competitive and effective.  

Step 1: Attracting SFR Owner Customers 

The initial leg of the SFR customer journey, of course, is attracting new single-family rental owners to your property management business. Building awareness and identifying and attracting SFR owner prospects is key to growing your client roster. 

Make a great first impression on prospective SFR owners 

The majority of owners will first look online when they’re searching for a property management company. This means your website is the very first interaction they will have with your company. If your site is outdated, hard to navigate, or is lacking in any area, then it could be deterring potential owners. Take time to invest in building a website that’s professional, modern, and polished. 

Shea McGrath of Carefree Property Management says having a modern website has been a huge differentiator for their business and enabled them to sign on more owners.

“When I’m talking to potential clients, I’ll ask them to look at our website. They are more inclined to go with us because we don’t have an older website that looks outdated. The new look has even attracted a lot of owners.”— Shea McGrath, Carefree Property Management

In addition, make sure your business has a strong social presence on LinkedIn and Facebook — the more platforms your SFR owners can engage with your business, the better. 

Along with a top-notch website and social presence, you should also promote marketing campaigns in the form of ads, with messaging tailored to owners.  

Know Your Ideal SFR Customer Profile 

To gain more SFR customers, you need to have a clear picture of exactly who you are trying to attract. No two SFR owners are the same and not every owner will be your ideal customer, either.

To better define criteria for your desired prospects, Matthew Kaddatz, Sr. Director of Product at AppFolio, recommends creating an ideal customer profile (ICP). An ICP is a short overview that articulates the specific type of customer you want to add to your roster. 

By answering a few insightful questions, you can create your ICP and better understand how to reach and communicate with potential new clients:

  • Who is your ideal target customer?
  • What qualities or criteria make this customer your ideal one?
  • Why are you the right choice for them?
  • What are their major business pain points?
  • From your ICP’s perspective, what differentiates you from competitors?
  • How can you best communicate those differentiators to your ideal SFR customer?

During the “attract” phase, marketing plays a big part in the customer journey by generating audience awareness. Although your actual marketing plan should be shaped by previous performance analysis, a completed ICP can help inform how to more accurately apply your budget toward a mix of marketing efforts. 

Examples of the most popular and widely used marketing efforts to reach audiences include:

  • A professional, usable, and mobile-friendly website
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  • Direct mail
  • Email drip campaigns
  • Phone campaigns
  • Targeted digital marketing ads
  • Asking customers to leave reviews on review sites
  • Responding to both positive and negative reviews
  • Social media, such as LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Community events
  • Participating in local community councils

Review both your ICP and marketing mix regularly to ensure they’re actively helping you attract more ideal SFR owners, and adjust efforts as needed.

Highlight Your Property Management Business’s Strengths and Competitive Advantages 

What does your property management company do well? Have you recently won any awards? Does your team have unique certifications? Be your own advocate by displaying any certifications, memberships, or awards directly on your website and social media accounts. This will not only impress your current owners, but also help you stand out from the crowd in the digital space. 

To further build the relationships with your prospective (and current) owners and to demonstrate your expertise, you can showcase any property updates, accolades, company news, or market trends in a monthly owner newsletter via email or high-impact mailer. 

Additionally, if your company is involved in a local charity, highlight your corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts and invite owners to get involved. Giving back is something everyone can participate in and will instantly show owners your business cares about the community.  CSR isn’t only beneficial for others; it is especially — and increasingly — important to younger generations when working to attract new SFR owner customers. 

Step 2: Acquiring Single-Family Rental Owner Clients

Once you have a prospect’s attention, you need to move quickly and respond to inbound inquiries as soon as possible. Otherwise, they may lose interest or jump to a competitor if you take too long to reply.

Respond Promptly to SFR Requests for Information 

In addition to showing a SFR prospective customer that you care about their business and their time, responding promptly also helps you initiate better, more meaningful conversations. During your initial response, be sure to:

  • Ask open-ended questions and practice active listening, so you can tailor your recommendations to their needs
  • Learn what their goals and pain points are
  • Explain how you can help them achieve their specific goals and solve their unique pain points

If it feels like a prospect isn’t the right fit for your property management business, it’s okay to respectfully say so. Furthermore, it’s also okay to negotiate customer expectations if they seem unrealistic. 

The more honest and upfront you are during the acquisition stage, the healthier your relationship with your SFR owners will be in the long run. 

Manage Consistent Follow-ups on SFR Leads 

Even if a prospect doesn’t sign up right away to work with you, continue to follow up periodically in meaningful, relevant, and personalized ways. Some ideas include sending a monthly newsletter, forwarding resources or articles that are relevant to their business, or staying connected on LinkedIn. 

After all, you never know when a lapsed SFR lead may require future assistance, so it’s always good to maintain consistent, professional relationships (without overdoing it.) 

Leverage Happy SFR Customer Testimonials That Advocate for You 

Have an SFR prospect that has been a lead for a while? Or maybe you are aware they are on the fence in deciding between you and a competitor? 

Today, almost everyone looks to online reviews to help make a decision. By sourcing and publishing client testimonials and reviews on your website and social platforms, you can instantly build credibility. 

The more reviews from current customers you feature, the more likely prospective SFR owners will see you as a trusted and well-managed company, so be sure to ask your existing owners to leave online reviews of their experience with your team. 

If you ever receive a negative review, respond courteously and promptly and offer your phone number or email address to take the conversation offline. Once you’ve had a chance to resolve the issue, return to the original review to leave an update, so others can see the matter was handled professionally.

Step 3: Successfully Onboarding New SFR Clients

Now comes the fun part: Your SFR owner is fully invested and ready to hand over the keys to their property. Congratulations! To get them fully ready as a customer, set them up for success with a thorough and customized onboarding process.

How to Build Trust Through the Onboarding Process 

  • Extend a warm welcome: Send a personalized appreciation gift, along with an owner packet with key details and resources they will need as a new customer.
  • Reinforce your role: Establish yourself as the expert, reassure them you care about their property, and confirm that they’re in great hands.
  • Introduce the tech: Take time to walk through any technology they may need to use as a customer and provide access to your software and communication channels on day one. If you have an online owner portal, show new owners how to access reports, ask questions, and review financials.

Remember What Single-Family Rental Owners Want Most as You Begin Your Relationship  

To improve the owner/property manager relationship you first need to fully understand owners’ needs and to see the world from their perspective. Below are just a few of the things owners want from their new property management company:

  • Peace of mind that their properties are being managed professionally
  • Access to data and information about performance
  • Personalized customer service and attention to detail
  • Resources to make better-informed decisions that drive revenue
  • The opportunity to grow their portfolio

Debbie Willis of P.B. Bell says when it comes to owners, they usually fall into two categories. If you can effectively appeal to both kinds of owners, that’s how you’ll win.

“Some property owners are very hands-on and want to be a part of creating the strategy, while others would rather their management company take the lead. It’s the ability to adapt to the wants and needs of both types of owners in which you’ll find success.” — Debbie Willis, P.B. Bell

There is a fine line between an owner being involved and an owner micromanaging. Establishing your credibility early in your owner relationship will set the tone and assure the owner that you’re the expert and there’s no reason to hover over you. 

Step 4: Nurture, Grow, and Retain Your SFR Client Relationships  

The best property management businesses actively work on strengthening and growing relationships with their customers on a consistent basis by following these SFR best practices for long-term success. 

Establish a Standard Set of Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures help ensure you’re providing great service to owners and are managing your customers the same way. Standardization often also helps you to identify — and avoid — hidden business inefficiencies and wasted resources. 

Create Automated Nurture Workflows

With property management technology, some relationship-building processes may be automated with nurture-specific workflows that can elevate the entire customer experience. Automation also relieves your team of manual work and minimizes the risk of follow-ups falling through the cracks.

Schedule In-Person Face Time

You can further strengthen SFR owner relationships and show your appreciation by hosting in-person events such as owner BBQs and regular happy hours. Meeting face-to-face encourages both work and personal interactions that keep the human element in a successful partnership.

Streamline Communication

You can decrease owner pain points, optimize communications, and increase your response time by utilizing modern tools, such as an online owner portal with built-in texting and email. 

The convenience of online access allows your owners to reach you without having to call the office or leave a message, which not only increases their satisfaction, but frees up your team.

Foster Trust and Transparency

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship especially in property management. Show your current owners and prospective clients you are reliable and trustworthy by sharing professional, customizable reports that they can view from anywhere at any time through an online portal. 

Along with sharing reports, you should also hold regular check-ins to go over key details and to provide owners with any significant updates about their property: This way, they can truly see the value your business is bringing to the table. 

When SFR owners have questions, be sure to follow up in a timely manner to reassure them you’re putting their needs first and doing all you can to maintain transparency.

Stay Neutral

Mitigating disputes is an inevitable part of property management, and between residents, owners, and your team, it’s not always easy to make everyone happy. However, when a conflict does arise, it’s best to stay neutral and hear all parties involved. 

For instance, if a resident complains about a maintenance issue, handle the matter professionally and calmly, and be sure to listen to both the resident’s and the owner’s experiences to develop a fair resolution. 

The best way to avoid conflict is to be proactive. Try to defuse potential SFR issues well before they escalate by regularly communicating and being attentive. 

Provide Growth Opportunities to Your SFR Clients

As a property manager, you’re in a unique position to help your owners find opportunities they may otherwise be unaware of. You can uncover these opportunities by leveraging software with built-in analytics to show owners how their properties are performing, so they can make better-informed decisions and grow their portfolio. 

When SFR owners see you are prioritizing bigger-picture initiatives and looking for ways to help them increase profitability, they will be excited about your partnership and want to stay with your company. 

A system like AppFolio Property Manager can provide you with the data you need to show owners exactly how their properties are performing and how your business is helping them succeed. Derek Shanks of Northwoods Property Management says the analytics features within AppFolio have ultimately enabled his team to bring more value to owners: “We can statistically prove to our owners that we occupy units faster.” 

Consistently Show Your Appreciation

A little appreciation goes a long way. Something as small as a handwritten thank-you note or personalized gift can mean a lot to your SFR owners and set you apart from the competition. As mentioned earlier, you could also consider hosting owner appreciation events to allow all of your owners to meet and spend time getting to know your team. 

When you take a moment to see the world from your owners’ eyes, it’s easier to understand their wants, needs, and pain points. By investing in your owner relationships and providing modern, mobile tools like those available in AppFolio, you can gain their trust and build credibility for your business. When owners see the value your property management company brings and are satisfied, they will be more likely to refer you to others, which attracts more owners, and ultimately drives profitability and growth for your business.  

Ongoing reputation- and relationship-building with both prospective and current SFR customers is especially key during the nurture and growth stage since referrals can be one of the strongest — and most effective — marketing tools. 

Consider reaching out to current satisfied customers and asking them to leave reviews and refer your business to others. Work to keep your organization top-of-mind and learn from others in the industry by attending investor clubs and real estate conferences.

Summing up Our Property Management Tips for Positive Single-Family Rental Owner Relationships 

In the end, acquiring new single-family rental owners as property management customers takes time. But when done correctly, your efforts can lead to satisfied, lifelong customers as well as the sustained growth of your property management business

Want more SFR strategies and actionable insights? Download our guide below.

Single-family rental growth strategies playbook


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