In times of uncertainty, the long-term lease has created stability for PMs, investors, and residents. That’s a Triple Win.
The concept of a long-term lease may spark some preconceived notions among professional property managers. Locking a resident into their rental for two-plus years seems like something of a gamble where you bet on the quality of the resident and the value of the lease remaining high. While it’s true that the long-term lease comes with some tradeoffs, many PMs don’t see the positives, which have begun to outweigh the risks in an evolving market.
The long-term lease creates a win for investors
Gregg Cohen of PWB Properties is one of the property managers leading the charge on the long-term lease. PWB has positioned itself as a different kind of property management company, one that's focused on helping investors achieve their highest possible return on investment.
"As with most things in life, if goals aren’t aligned, one party typically loses. In “normal” property management, this is an unfortunate truth as well. It’s a shame that so many potential investors who see the incredible opportunities for earning above-average risk-adjusted returns on investment passively in rental property investing are so fearful of a poor property manager and resident relationship that they give up on their investing journey before they even start. At JWB, we are not trying to be “better” at property management. We are DIFFERENT."
JWB is successful because they have perfectly understood how to create a Triple Win in an environment that is increasingly demanding of a relationship-focused property management strategy. As a property management company that offers far more than just plain old management of properties, they've built a business model that is extremely attractive to investors, part of which includes the long-term lease. Note their 5-year case study below on the financial results for the investor of signing residents to long-term leases.
The key takeaway is the dramatic decrease in fees paid by the investor. These numbers may scare you at first. JWB is willingly forfeiting profit from tenant placement fees, and quite a bit of it. Understanding the context of this decision is critical though, lest you end up playing catch-up with the rest of the industry over the next decade. JWB's commitment to their investors creates so much value that the growth of their business and retention of clients offsets the short-term profit decreases from this strategy. Property management strategies and business models built around short-term profit from things such as tenant placement fees will lose whatever staying power they're clinging to over the upcoming market cycle. Those types of companies will struggle to attract clients and many will eventually go out of business. JWB has proactively avoided being swallowed by the commoditization of the industry by offering something more personalized, relationship-driven, and value-creating.
As mentioned, JWB is focused on long-term investors that intend on growing their portfolios, holding properties for at least a full real estate market cycle, which is typically 10 to 20 years, and are intending to create income via real estate investment over a long period of time. The returns for these investors are diminished by property vacancies, so note the vacancy percentage decrease with JWB's long-term model versus the high-turnover model.
All of these benefits come together to provide clients with long-term, goal-focused property management instead of short-term profit-focused property management, which is differentiating JWB right around the time that property management is becoming commoditized. It creates an enormous amount of opportunity to sign a large number of long-term clients by providing something that isn't otherwise available, creating a sustainable business model ready for consistent growth and prepared to sustain threats such as commoditization and do-it-yourself property management technology.
The long-term lease is just one element of this triple win, but it's a significant one. As the case study notes, the dramatic decrease in costs is very attractive to investors. However, the long-term lease only works if the residents are willing to sign such a lease. So let's make this double win into a Triple Win.
The resident side of the Triple Win
Uncertainty has been a big theme over the last two years, mostly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic throwing the SFR space into quite a predicament. PMs have certainly taken some hits as a result with eviction moratoriums, residents being furloughed, and other challenges. But residents are experiencing significant challenges of their own as a result of the uncertainty they’ve experienced within their jobs, their ability to pay rent, and the potential of changing rent.
These are problems, but problems demand problem-solvers, and problem-solvers create solutions that end up differentiating their business. The long-term lease is proving to be that solution for many PM companies. The stability that it provides is proving to be a welcome sight for residents. Knowing where they will be in three years and exactly what their rent will be is valuable to residents who are fearful of a changing market, and the percentage of residents who see that value is continuing to increase. The result is one of the best resident retention tools out there.
For the PM, this doesn’t mean that rent is stuck. Rent adjustments are still possible, but they’re baked into the lease from the start. This allows the PM to plan for a changing market while giving the resident notice of pending changes prior to them signing the lease. Residents are much less likely to react negatively to rent increases if they signed off on them before ever moving in.
“Stability starts with helping them understand what their financial responsibilities are going to be years in advance. That’s where it starts and that’s a big reason why residents do like long-term leases.”
People find value in knowing where they will be in 3 years. A long-term lease is a commitment for a resident, but it's one that JWB has found that many are willing to make. Implementing a long-term lease program isn’t for everyone, but it’s proving an effective method for creating a Triple Win by creating stability, something everyone is after in these uncertain timesTM.