So I am in Washington, D.C. this week touring communities and on my way back to the hotel this evening I drove past the baseball park and decided I would go to the game tonight. So I get back to my hotel, quickly change and catch the train from Bethesda, MD to Nationals Park. The Royals were in town for an inter-league game. I have no clue what way to go from the transfer so I asked a couple which way to go. They asked me if I had a ticket and I said I was going to get one at the game. They told me that they just were talking to some young girls that had a free ticket and pointed them out to me. I got on the train and told them I heard they had an extra ticket. They didn’t even hesitate and gave it to me. Score!
So I started to talk to them and as it turns out they all just graduated from college and they happen to spend the entire day apartment hunting. Score! I had just been talking about conducting a focus group earlier today and guess what I did on the train and at the game? I conducted a focus group with them and the information I got from them was tremendous. They talked about how important first impressions were and that the leasing agent was part of the first impression. They described the leasing agent they dealt with at one community and how her bra strap was falling off her shoulder and how sloppy she looked and that was a major turn off. “Unprofessional” was used at some point. They said that the exterior condition of the building was much less important than the condition of their actual apartment. The cleanliness was very important and they didn’t want to be reminded that someone else had lived there before. Bathroom and kitchen were evaluated most for cleanliness. They talked about how important the smell of the apartment was and that bad smells were a turn off. The smell of new carpet was a plus and the smell of cleaner was good too. They believed it meant the apartment was definitely sanitary.
I asked about how important a model was to look at and they felt models were “cheesy” and didn’t represent their taste. They wanted to see a “blank canvas” to picture their own furniture and decor and that the models were too perfect and they felt like a model was deceptive. They would prefer to see pictures of a model and tour a vacant apartment, specifically the apartment they were going to be renting.
I also found out how they made their decision and how they searched for their apartments and what their process of elimination was after they had toured. That info I’ll keep under my hat.
It was a great conversation. The most interesting thing I noticed was that one of the young ladies used the word complex several times during the conversation. I told her I just wrote a blog about how we have tried to eliminate that word from our vocabulary. She said she felt like a “complex” was safer than a stand alone apartment building or a “Mom n Pop”. In her mind a complex was a safer community. Interesting. Much of what they said was interesting and has reinforced my desire to conduct focus groups. We think we know more than we really do. Trust me.
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