Apartment Leasing Lesson: Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’


Let’s cut to the chase. Every apartment community has one – the ‘loser’ apartment. It could be the location, features, or something else, but for whatever reason we can’t seem to get it leased. With every potential renter, our internal sales/marketing voice demands: “I think I can… find the beauty. I think I can… turn the negative into a positive,” but deep down we just know this particular unit is ‘the little apartment that can’t’.

Well, let me tell you a story. There was an apartment community located in Coral Springs, Florida. It wasn’t just any community; it was the one where I learned two of my most valuable apartment leasing lessons:

1.       It’s Not for Me—It’s for Them

2.       Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Yes, lurking beneath the beauty of the palm trees that populated the community was that apartment. It had its own story – the victim of an eviction, left in shambles, with peach carpet that had been dyed too many times, the stench of dog urine, and the perfect location facing the nearby landfill. Sound frightfully familiar?

The owner had chosen not to replace the carpet due to all of the lost revenue. Needless to say, when I entered the picture it had been vacant over 90 days. This apartment had become the joke of the office. To me – bright, shiny, new leasing professional on the grounds – it was a welcome challenge at first. My personal opportunity to shine!

I jumped in the golf cart with my “sparkle bucket” and headed to the apartment with great anticipation. Then something hit me—was it reality or maybe just the aroma?  But I was not giving up!  The stakes were high, and by stakes I mean the leasing bonus. While most were $25 (in 1991), this one was $150! That was a lot of money for a 20 year old back then. Care to guess where I took every customer who was interested in leasing a one bedroom apartment? You got that right!

Every morning I would walk the apartment – open the windows (if the winds from the landfill were low enough) and hit it with every weapon in my sparkle bucket. Sadly, it only took me a week to become as defeated as the rest of the onsite leasing team. I began to ignore the apartment. I pretended it did not even exist on the availability report, and soon it moved from 90 to 120 days vacant.

Then one day it happened — he walked in the door, and ‘the little apartment that can’t’ became ‘the little apartment that could’. That day I learned two of my most valuable apartment leasing lessons.


While my sales mind was cheering, “This is the greatest apartment in the world”, my heart was weeping, “I would never live in that apartment.” I was very passionate about leasing. I walked every vacant apartment multiple times, conducting feature hunts and jotting down at least one benefit for each feature. I knew my product like the back of my hand. I even had unintentionally created a favorites list in my mind. The loser apartment did not make my list for obvious reasons, so in turn I imagine I was not as enthusiastic in my leasing presentation. Was this obvious to my customers?

Successful leasing consultants are motivated by what they’re selling, and they transfer their enthusiasm and value to the customer. When faced with selling something that is personally unpleasant or negative, we must make a conscious effort to focus on the positive elements instead of getting discouraged by what we perceive as downsides.  After all, the apartment is not for us – it’s for them. Apartment leasing lesson number one – the only person whose perception really matters is the customer.

“We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin’ thinkin’ which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes.”  – Zig Ziglar


After qualifying my customer, it was evident he thought he and the loser apartment would be a perfect fit — go figure! I knew right then I had to stop the stinkin’ thinkin’ about this apartment. We jumped into the golf cart and headed straight to the apartment. When we walked inside, I immediately took him to the kitchen because that was most important to him and was in fact its best feature. I was secretly hoping it would take some of the focus off of the twice-dyed peach carpet we had to walk across.

We moved from room to room discussing the benefits of the features that he said were most important to him. I could see his eyes light up from time to time and a smile growing on his face. I began to wonder if he possibly had no sense of smell. When we completed the apartment tour, we headed back to the leasing office. Like the flawless leasing professional I was, I asked, “Would you like to lease the apartment today?” His reply? “Yes!”

I tried very hard to hide the look of shock on my face!

He needed to move in very quickly, so I rushed his application and he showed up two days later with his moving van. After he signed all of his paperwork, I took a deep breath and handed him the infamous move-in checklist. I asked him to return it within 72 hours, hoping he would just shove it through the drop slot after I was gone for the day. No such luck. He handed it to me the next morning and to my surprise it was blank – not a single issue listed. He thanked me for all of my help and proceeded to tell me how much nicer this apartment was than the apartment he had just left in NYC. He said appreciated the peace and quiet and the fact that he actually had his own parking space close to his apartment.

Leasing lesson number two – stop the stinkin’ thinkin’. Too often leasing consultants – all of us, really – are bound by their own imagined barriers. We project our opinions (good or bad) on our customers. This experience was truly a valuable apartment leasing lesson. By putting our energy into selling the pros (and even loser apartments have some!) and letting the customer draw their own conclusions, we can break through those internal barriers that limit our effectiveness and realize our full potential.  Oh—and you just might lease that loser apartment.

Do you have a story to share? I would love to hear your thoughts.