Eliza Solender: Talking Trash, and the Importance of First Impressions

Eliza Solender
Eliza Solender

Let’s talk trash. I mean real trash! I have been doing a lot of thinking about trash and the message it sends about a property because of a recent experience. I drove up to an office building with a client to look at available space, and there was a lot of trash in the parking lot and in the shrubbery. The client refused to tour the building saying the trash communicated that the building was not well managed and, therefore, he would not want to have an office there.

I really can’t disagree with that logic. We all know the importance of first impressions. How a property manages trash seems to be an excellent indicator of what a potential tenant can anticipate will be their experience with the building.

Here are some instances where trash and how it is handled can send a positive or negative message. Unfortunately, there are more negatives than positives.

• Positive: A prospective tenant observes the property manager picking up a stray piece of paper in a hallway or while walking around the outside of the property. This simple act communicates much about the maintenance of the property and the attitude of the property manager.

• Negative: Trash overflowing outside receptacles, in the restrooms and in any lobby areas. Failure to attend to the trash receptacles communicates many negative messages. I realize restrooms can be challenging. However, my clients always check out the restrooms before making a final decision about a building. A restroom that looks dirty with an overflowing receptacle is a “deal killer.”

• Positive: A prospective tenant observes the leasing agent for the property picking up a piece of trash or, if there is some unusual maintenance issue, the leasing agent is on the phone immediately with property management. I had this incident happen last month, and the property manager arrived before the tour was finished. My client was impressed and wants to lease space in the building. This communicates that the leasing agent and property manager both take pride in the property and work together as a team.

• Negative: The construction crew doing the tenant improvements leaves trash in the space—including discarded food and food/drink containers. This attitude is very concerning and communicates a lot of negative things about the quality of the people supervising the construction work and the property manager’s failure to monitor the work.

• Negative: When a space has been vacant for a long time, particularly in class “B” properties, it is not unusual to see dead cockroaches and debris in the spaces. Again, this situation doesn’t signal a property manager or owner who cares about maintenance.

• Negative: There are spaces where there are many items being stored by either existing tenants or the building management. I understand the accommodation made for tenants and the need for storage for the building, particularly extra doors and equipment. But, if it is all haphazardly arranged with plenty of broken items, trash and covered with dust, no amount of apologizing for the appearance by the leasing agent will help.

• Big Positive: A clean property usually means there is good communication between property management and the tenants. Tenants feel confident that when they notify property management about an issue, it will be quickly resolved. I have had clients ask current tenants about the quality of property management in a building and have found this questioning can be a critical deciding factor regarding whether or not to pursue a lease.

My clients aren’t high-maintenance people who have unreasonable expectations for properties. They understand the difference between Class A properties and older, less expensive properties. However, pride of ownership and professionalism should not be limited to Class A properties. How trash is managed goes a long way to reassure a prospective tenant that this property is where they want to locate their company or organization.

Eliza Solender is president of Solender/Hall Inc., a commercial real estate and consulting firm. Contact her at [email protected]

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