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My sister is a leasing consultant for a gorgeous apartment and townhome center in Charleston, South Carolina. I've always been a bit jealous, because I feel as though she works in paradise. It seems every time I visit her at work, the sun is shining brighter than ever. The complex has beautiful landscaping, floral arrangements and palm trees to boot. There are two swimming pools - one being an innovative salt water pool - and a state of the arts private gym. And not to mention the first class staff she works with...they're friendly and helpful as can be!

If I were looking to rent, I'd rent there in a heartbeat. I would feel like I was on vacation every day!

But contrary to my assumptions, my sister and her staff were struggling to keep the complex even half full. And they simply couldn't figure out why! They were running daily commercials on the radio, were listed on all the rental websites, and posted to Craigslist daily.

Plus, it seemed like everyone who actually scheduled a tour of the facilities signed a lease, so the problem wasn't in the complex itself. It was simply a matter of spreading the word and bringing more people on premise. So my sister and I sat down one night to devise a plan.

Though the apartment complex is located in a very popular and convenient part of town, it's not terribly visible from the street. In fact, that is part of the appeal, as all the trees that surround the facility silence outside noise and keep things nice and quiet. But these trees also hide this gem from the public eye.

Our new plan for spreading the word was to purchase a custom sign and put it out along the main road that you turn off of to enter the complex. The custom sign design was quite simple, featuring the complex name and a gorgeous photo of the paradise-like apartment village.

And to her delight, before she could count to 3, the phones were ringing off the hook, and people were signing leases like crazy! Why did a custom sign work better than radio ads and internet listings?

With custom signs, your potential tenants are right outside your door! We later discovered that with radio ads, even people who were moving in the near future were tuning out real estate advertisements if they weren't interested in living in that particular neighborhood. That is wasted advertising coverage!

And while rental websites and Craigslist allow you to specify your neighborhood of choice, pictures and descriptive summaries can't sell the way seeing the place in person can. Plus, nothing is more convenient than stopping by for a facility when you're already just outside the door.

And here's what surprised us the most: While people searching on rental websites typically are searching because they have an immediate rental need, my sister suddenly had a brand new market of people touring her facility. This market was made up of people who weren't actively searching for a new place to live yet, but since they knew their current lease was running out in several months, and they knew they wanted to remain in that same neighborhood, they were motivated to check the apartments out as they were passing by the custom signage on their way out to run errands, go to work, grab a quick dinner etc.!

Now people were actually requesting rental reservations even 5 months in advance!

So now my sisters is not only is my sister lucky enough to have a work environment comparable to paradise, she's also lucky to have a job where a custom sign can do all of the work!

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