As many existing senior living properties age relative to newer counterparts, operators are realizing there’s more to attracting new residents than maintaining the status quo.
Many are turning to repositioning, reprioritizing and introducing new amenities to replace the old, tried and true, say several repositioning experts with the LCS family of companies during a webinar Tuesday.
“The days of ‘if you build it, they will come,’ are long gone,” said Michael Eaton, Life Care Services Regional Sales and Marketing Director during the LCS-Senior Housing News webinar. “You have to have a strategic plan in place.”
The success of repositioning a senior living community depends on a number of factors, but the biggest driver when looking to boost occupancy at the revamped property hinges largely upon a strategic marketing plan with communication as a paramount concern, LCS says.
A detailed marketing plan that takes into account a community’s history, culture and offerings has led to a tremendous success story for one LCS client, a senior living provider that saw occupancy gain 10% following the repositioning of its campus.
That provider was Life Care Services, which increased occupancy, boosted closings and generated thousands more leads at a continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) it repositioned in 2007.
The CCRC, which LCS has since renamed as WhiteStone, is located in Greensboro, North Carolina and consists of 167 independent living, 12 assisted living and 88 skilled nursing units.
Formerly operated by a freemasonry-related fraternal organization called The Order of the Eastern Star, the CCRC had been suffering from a declining census, falling resident satisfaction and low occupancy.
Since 2007, LCS has been able to increase occupancy for WhiteStone from 85% to 93% in 2013. During that time, leads also increased from zero in 2007 to 2,335 in 2013, while closing ratio jumped from 0.8% to 3.5%. Resident satisfaction also improved considerably from 67% to 89%.
Today, the community stands at 95% occupied and is currently 99% sold.
Part of the repositioning strategy involved conducted in-depth market research to understand the competitive environment and strategic pricing in the local market, as well as conducting several focus groups to gauge the expectations of current and prospective residents in the area and incorporating the requests and views of current residents.
“You can’t communicate it enough,” said Bruce Cannon, vice president and director of business development for LCS. “The team, stakeholders, but the residents too. They all want to be a part of the process.”
While a solid marketing campaign can also drastically improve the occupancy at a repositioned community, it was only one leg of the stool for success for LCS.
Any successful repositioning project begins with a strategic plan in place, knowing things like what the market needs, how much you are willing to spend and what is trying to be accomplished through the development, Cannon said, vice president and director of business development for LCS.
“Strategic planning is a disciplined evaluation,” Cannon said. “It’s looking at everything strategically that you want to be doing. If you’re not doing strategic planning on a regular basis, you’re losing out, because your competition is and is trying to take advantage.”
Investing in new trends within the industry, such as technology, dining venues and wellness amenities can give providers a competitive edge, especially those that invest anywhere from $5 million to $10 million annually every 5 to 7 years, said Ted MacBeth, director of project development at LCS.
“If you do spend the appropriate amount of money and invest in the community along the way, you can evolve and incorporate new trends as they come along and don’t need to do a major overhaul to the community,” he said. “Don’t save amenities for a rainy day.”
Investing in amenities can also help providers leverage existing residents’ acceptance to rent increases that result from the repositioning.
“Current residents have a fear that prices are going to go up,” MacBeth said. “If you can demonstrate that the entrance fees you’re charging on new units are going to provide coverage of construction costs, it’s going to go a long way.”
Written by Jason Oliva