Mortgages & Creative Financing

“Mini-Model” Leasing Strategy will fill Vacancies Fast in Multi-Family Apartment Buildings for Under $200

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Commercial Real Estate
17 Articles Written
mini-model apartment staging

Most potential tenants make their decision to lease your property within the first 30 seconds of entering the apartment.  It is critical to capture their interest and make a great impression as soon as they enter your building.  You need an effective leasing strategy to help you do this.

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A “mini-model” apartment is one of the best leasing strategies you can use to capture your prospect’s attention and make a great first impression.  It will help you fill your rental property fast by increasing your closing percentages.  It is easy to move from apartment to apartment and will also save you money.

If you have never heard of the “mini-model” strategy before, you’re not alone.  Chances are, however, that you have heard of its parent, the model apartment.  In the model apartment, you “stage” the apartment as if someone is living there.  The model apartment shows the potential tenant what is possible with the space.  This allows the potential tenant to picture himself living there, as well.

Model apartments have been used for a long time to help lease apartments and are very effective.  They’re decorated with pictures, couches, and beds.   Every detail is covered down to place settings at the table and smell of the room.   However, they are cumbersome and expensive to set up.  They are also difficult to move from unit to unit.

The mini-model apartment is very similar to a model unit, but it has been strategically stripped down to the bare essentials.  It eliminates the bulk and expense while still delivering stellar results.  The mini-model includes just enough items to give potential tenants the same feeling as a full model apartment.

How the Mini-Model Apartment Works

The mini-model delivers 90% of the results of a model apartment at a fraction of the cost.  The apartment can be “staged” very easily for under $200 at any local shopping center.  It can also be used over and over again, saving you time and money.  The key is to focus on small items that will make a big impact.  Leave the big, expensive items behind.

In your mini-model unit, focus on small things that are appealing to your prospects’ senses: a welcome mat when they come to the door, small plants in easily-moved vases, hand towels, a cookbook, light music, a toothbrush holder, small side tables, or even the smell of bread or cookies baking in the oven.  All of these items can be purchased cheaply, moved easily, and will allow your prospect to feel at home.

You want to avoid expensive items.  You also want to avoid items that are hard to move or will have to be repaired when you change units.  For example, you do not need to have a bed set up in the bedroom.  Most prospects can still picture their bed in a bedroom if you place a small side-table beside the space where their bed would go.  For extra credit, you could even leave a pair of reading glasses on the side-table with an open book.  The key to setting up a successful mini-model is to give little hints, without trying to tell the entire story.

The mini-model is designed to be easily moved from unit to unit.   This is important because your prospect will want to lease the mini-model unit itself eight times out of ten.  By having items that are easy to move, it allows you to rent the prospect the mini-model.  This will make the prospect happy and will make you look like a leasing hero.  It also keeps your maintenance guys happy because they no longer have to move all of the furniture and pictures out of a full model apartment.

The mini-model unit can be one of the most effective leasing strategies you can use to fill your vacancies fast.  It is cheap to put together, can be moved easily, and will allow your prospects to picture themselves living there.  It is a leasing strategy you will want in your arsenal.

Photo: Austin Simple Staging

Spencer Cullor has spent the last 10 years as a real estate investor and currently owns single family, multifamily apartments, and commercial properties with his investment partners. Currently he is the Director of Acquisitions and Principal of ApartmentVestors, a multifamily real estate investment company.

    Candyce Blodgett
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    Use an inflatable queen-size mattress (two regulars or one double) and cover it with beautiful bedding. They look at the beautiful fabric (yes, the fabric, it makes no sense but it’s true) and decide that’s the spa-like retreat they’re looking for. It’s a wonderful staging prop, but don’t put some ugly/bold material and expect the same results. If it doesn’t make it look like a vacation room, just leave it out altogether.
    Spencer Cullor
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    Great idea.
    Susan Atwell
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    This is a very interesting concept. I can understand that it is easy to “stage” a bathroom or kitchen on a very small budget, and as the previous post states, air mattresses work well in bedrooms. Full stagings can be costly – in labor and rental furniture – and as a home stager I’m intrigued by this idea of a mini-model. I would be interested in seeing more examples. Do you have pictures of other rooms that were set up as mini-models? Additionally, do you have any stats for how much faster these units rented? Thanks.
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    Susan, I’m working on putting together some examples, pictures, checklist, etc. Please email me and I would be happy to send it to you when I’m finished. You can email me at [email protected] I can tell you from our experience, we increased our closing percentage at least 25% and most leased during the first visit. If they left the property without filling out an application, our closing percentage dropped to about 20%.
    Sharon Vornholt
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    Mini models are a great idea, and much more cost effective than full blown models. Most large complexes have models, but I can see this as being very useful for smaller to mid sized properties.
    Jeffrey Smith
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    At about $200 of reusable items, this strategy pays for itself very quickly. Every day that the unit is not rented is lost income. If you can reduce the vacancy time by just a few days for every vacant unit, this strategy will become your standard operating practice.
    Jason Homes
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    “Mini-Model” Leasing Strategy is part of staging your home to make it look more appealing to prospect tenant.
    Jason Homes
    Replied almost 8 years ago
    “Mini-Model” Leasing Strategy is part of staging your home to make it look more appealing to prospect tenant.
    Ariel Flint
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Mini-models are also much easier to change seasonally and with trendy colors or styles. Full-blown models can look dated awfully quickly. A few bucks at Ikea or Target every few months and your property is always looking fresh. Plus, if a prospect takes a liking to something, you can leave it for them as part of their move in gift.
    Replied about 5 years ago
    I like how your articles have great content and yet short and to the point—keep it up!