Posted in on November 26, 2019

Tips for Blue Sky Senior Living Depositor Retention

A few months ago, we shared with you 3 Tips for Blue Sky Senior Living Sales Success. In that post, we mentioned that, across many communities, we’ve seen anywhere from a 10% to 30% cancellation rate between initial deposit and move-in phases. In this post, I’ll share key insights for maximum depositor retention, as well as tactics we’ve seen yield the most success in helping our clients maintain their blue sky, pre-sales goals. So, open the door (and your mind) and come on in!

Build a Community to Improve Depositor Retention

One of the hardest things to build, particularly with a blue sky project, is a sense of community. This is because there isn’t a physical space yet or a place for your community’s future residents to connect with one another.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t create connections or a sense of community before the first shovel is placed in the ground. One of the ways you can do this is through depositor-only events. These events are exclusive to people who have made the first financial commitment to be part of your community and gives them various ways to meet and mingle with each other.North Hillil Direct Mail - Summit Club Invite 2014


Local establishments, such as restaurants, wineries, and art museums are often the first places we recommend to clients as they plan depositor events. Another option is having one of your depositors host a gathering at their home. This can be most welcoming because it simulates them opening their house to their future neighbors, much like they might do after moving into the community. It builds trust with your incoming residents and fosters the neighborhood feel that communities strive for.

Wherever you choose to host your depositor-only events, make sure you have them as often as possible. Particularly if your project has a timeline of 18 months or more, we recommend having events at least once per quarter to keep depositors engaged and part of the community. By doing this, you will inevitably reduce the cancellation rate of your depositors because they have been given the chance to form relationships with one another and feel more compelled to move in and not leave their new friends behind.

Encourage Depositors to Bring Friends

Speaking of friends, another way to reduce your cancellation rate is to develop and implement a referral program. Referral programs include incentives built into your budget and offered to depositors to encourage them to refer their friends to the community.

Why does this increase the depositor retention rate? Simple – many people moving into senior living communities choose to come because they know someone who’s already living there, thus adding a level of comfort and familiarity. So, by developing a referral program you are showing your depositors that you understand they want to be surrounded by their friends and are making an investment in them and the community.

A referral program can take many shapes, but the program’s incentives need to be enough to motivate your depositors to refer their friends. They should also be structured in a way that keeps them hooked. Especially in a blue sky project where the timeline is longer, if you’re only offering a move-in incentive, they may not get to enjoy that particular perk until two years after the original referral. The initial incentive doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it should be worthwhile. It also helps to offer an incentive they can continue to enjoy once they live in the community.

Make Your Future Residents Feel Like VIPs

Everyone wants to feel special right? Depositors of your future community are no different. So, besides depositor-only events and referral programs, what else can you offer for maximum depositor retention?

In most cases, many of your future residents will be coming from towns within a 15-20-mile radius of the future site. This means that they likely eat, shop and explore at many of the local establishments.

We recommend to our clients that they build a VIP list at the beginning of their pre-sales planning, which is then followed by building partnerships with local businesses and organizations that will offer depositors special perks – even before they move into the community. This can be in the form of discounts, memberships, savings and other offers that they can use once or multiple times while they are active depositors. Depositor Referral Program

The way that your depositors use the benefits is through either a card, keychain or other form of “payment” that you share with your partners when developing the program. That way, when they see the chosen depositor symbol, they know to apply the discount or whatever the agreed upon perk may be. Think of it as similar to when you use your grocery store key tag to apply all those coupons and discounts on your shopping list!

Again, the more you can offer your depositors the more likely they are to remain committed to your community and not cancel their deposit. This is key to maintaining a healthy depositor retention rate and getting you closer to your sales goals.

Make Sure All Hands Are on Deck

Keeping your depositor retention rate up for your blue sky community doesn’t have to involve just giving your depositors money. While it’s certainly helpful, another way to make them feel special and like they are VIPs is by including your leadership and making their presence known.

Many of the communities we work with host depositor events where the CEO, project team, architects and other leaders are involved and share the status of the community. This helps folks stay engaged, understand the process and keep them informed.

Kevin Burke speaking to residents and prospects at North Hill Open HouseMake Residents Dream About Life in the Community

Even without a building, apartments or a community center, you can build a neighborhood and retain your depositors by adding keys for these parts of the community to their keychains. Including all of these features and amenities in your blue sky project will certainly make for better results. But if that’s not in the cards, even having one or two will help keep your cancellation rate at or below the typical range.

What methods have you used to successfully retain your depositors? Share with us in the comments below!

Still looking for more info about the senior living blue sky sales process? Feel free to reach out to us! You can connect with me at!

CATEGORIES 60+, Boomers

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