Remember when prospects could only choose to do an in-person tour or look at gallery photos of a staged unit? The multifamily industry has evolved so much since then. From online applications to interactive floor plans, pre-recorded video tours to live video tours, the way prospects are shopping for their next home has also changed.
In-person activities with people outside of your circle are still not a viable option for 2021. A lot of prospects still want to see the unit in-person before deciding whether or not they are going to make the financial and emotional commitment to make your property home.
The idea of self-guided tours before last year spooked a lot of people. There are security concerns as well as the anxiety of not knowing what is going on and how to answer questions in real time during the tour.
Jamin Harkness, EVP at The Management Group (TMG), ran into this problem like many other multifamily professionals. Harkness has kept all his employees in remote work since March 2020 with only one or two people at most in the office for package handling. He didn’t want to risk the health of his employees and prospects with in-person tours but had to find a way to make self-guided tours work.
Not having a member of the leasing team during the tour can be stressful in terms of making sure the unit is not being vandalized in any way. Harkness recommended setting up a Ring camera so the onsite team can watch the prospects during the tour. He also had his team put up a visible sign letting prospects know that they are on camera and putting them in places where they can see.
The camera allows them to see what is going on and in case there is a security issue they can be more prepared to handle it.
Home Sweet Home
At TMG properties, Harkness came up with a unique way to make self-guided tours stand out to prospects by offering snacks. In the staged units where self-guided tours take place, he had the onsite teams stock up the fridge with cold drinks and the pantry with small bags of chips and other non-perishable snacks.
Using grocery delivery services helped his properties be able to do this while minimizing their exposure to people outside of their circle. There is signage letting prospects know they can open the fridge and grab a drink, have a snack, and relax.
“They go sit on my couch and have Cheetos and a Coke and they’re like ‘wow, I can see myself living here.’ It’s just like a scripted interaction I’ve always wanted,” Harkness explains. These prospects enjoyed being able to actually see what it would be like to sit down in this unit and eat. It made it easier for them to imagine living in this space and signing a lease.
Self-guided tours are a great way to make your property stand out to prospects and make it easier for them to see their life there. When in-person tours can come back, Harkness is still going to keep self-guided tours as an option because they’ve seen for themselves how successful it is with getting that lease signed.
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3 min read
It has been a year for everyone, including the multifamily industry. Properties and management companies had to shift in how they operate and communicate in order to meet health guidelines and ensure that they are working towards getting leases signed.
Jamin Harkness, EVP at The Management Group (TMG), sat down with our EVP of Marketing, Muhammad Yasin, to look back at 2020 and discuss how to keep moving forward. From diversity and company culture, updated pet and mental health policies, to resident retention, Jamin has a lot of insight on how to help multifamily companies and teams evolve with the times.
Self-Guided Tours Reimagined
Prospects typically want to see the floorplan in person before making a decision. Not everyone is comfortable with an in-person tour still, but a self-guided tour is a great compromise. Jamin has redefined what a self-guided tour can be.
By installing a Ring camera and stocking up the fridge of staged units with snacks, the onsite teams at TMG properties can keep an eye on what prospects are doing inside the unit and offer a more immersive experience.
Jamin explains, “they grab Cheetos and a Coke, take a seat on the couch, and really see themselves living there.” While staging a unit helps prospects picture in their head what it would be like to live in the unit, by offering snacks and the leisure to relax in the unit, Jamin has created an experience that is more impactful to the prospect.
Company Culture and CRM
Jamin and TMG came into this year knowing that diversity and equity within their company is an initiative that needs life past 2020. From shutting down the company early last February to allow everyone the time and space to learn about diverse topics and coming back to discuss them in a more casual setting as a team, these initiatives are great for creating a company culture where everyone feels heard and included. He also began sending employees fun company shirts, branded items, and other fun inexpensive fun gifts every month.
When it comes to the technical aspect, Jamin notes that working from home has really improved performance from the onsite teams. While they only have one, at most two, people in the office for package handling, Jamin expects to always have at least one person working from home when the world opens up again.
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“There’s less distractions and they can focus on the CRM,” he says. Jamin also started implementing multiple weekly meetings to get everyone from onsite teams to board members on the same page and to communicate openly and clearly. Along with work from home, Jamin highlighted many times how important maintenance has been during all of this. While there are more work orders because more people are at home, they are spending more time on preventative work as well to help keep their property up to date and working efficiently.
On top of maintenance work everyday, he makes sure they are provided with and are using personal protective equipment (PPE) and given a monthly bonus to show how much these workers are appreciated and valued by the properties.
Throughout the chat, Jamin provided many resources —from daily logs related to COVID symptoms to internal communication on health guidelines similar to OSHA except for multifamily companies. You can find all the resources that were shared below along with similar articles.
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One of the best things to come out of 2020 was having multiple tour scheduling options. From self-guided to virtual to pre-recorded videos, the ways prospects could tour a unit adapted to a less physical and socially distanced world.
With all of these options, in-person tours still rank as the most popular tour option according to PERQ data. How do we go back to in-person tours in a way that is healthy for both prospects and the leasing team? We’ve got 3 tips to help your leasing team meet prospects expectations with health guidelines and quality of the tour.
Know the Guidelines
It is so important to know what your state’s health guidelines are. While they typically aren’t more than 2 people who show up to tour an apartment, there are states that are hit much harder than others when it comes to COVID cases.
Be sure to stand the recommended 6 feet apart from prospects as they walk around the unit. For a smaller unit where this might not be possible, consider leaving the door open during the tour and standing near it.
Masks and Sanitizer
Requiring prospects to wear a mask during the entire time they are at your property and on the tour is a highly effective way of keeping the leasing agent and the prospects safe. Offer hand sanitizer to them when they first show up and offer it again when they leave.
Some prospects might forget to bring their masks with them. Having some disposable masks on hand to give them is a great way to show how your property is taking safety seriously and allows the prospect to still go on the tour and not have to reschedule.
Clean Common Surfaces
After each tour, be sure to clean the surfaces that prospects touched. Most common surfaces are door handles, cabinet knobs and pulls, and appliances. This seems like it can be a lot of extra work but it keeps the touring unit clean and reduces the chances of spread.
This will make it much safer on days where there are a lot of tours stacked up. Give yourself 10 – 15 minutes between tours to disinfect these common surfaces to ensure that everyone is safe. We have a whole list of resources for multifamily communities centered on COVID-19. You can check them out here.
Instagram is a powerful tool. We talk a lot about what’s in your tech stack and what tools can help you run your property more efficiently. But what tools can help you build your brand? When we think of Instagram, some of us might just think it’s a photo sharing app while others see it as a great tool to use for marketing and branding.
A lot of realtors use Instagram to promote themselves, the houses on the market, and the neighborhood in which they sell in. When you look at a lot of multifamily properties’ Instagram, it tends to be a little boring and not very interactive. Instagram is a visual platform which means your content needs to be visually appealing but also means it’s an easy way for multifamily properties to create and evolve their brand. Social media marketing for apartment complexes need to be consistent and engaging.
Keep a consistent posting schedule. Millennials and Gen Z renters have grown up using this platform and when they see a page that only has a handful of posts and hasn’t been updated in months, it’s a huge turn off. Posting once a week, whether it’s through the stories feature or as an actual post, will build up your feed and show your brand identity.
The aesthetic of your website is an easy place to start when thinking of what you want your multifamily property’s brand to look like. Keeping similar visual styles and color themes will make your property look more put together.
There are endless ideas of what kind of social media marketing content you can create for apartment complexes that are intriguing and interactive. We know of some already for resident retention such as posting a pet of the month or photos from a resident event. You can also post videos of interactive floorplans or tours of staged units.
Your content can also be centered around your property’s onsite team. You can do a story or a reel of what a typical day in the life of someone in the leasing office is like. You can post a behind the scenes of the onsite team putting together an event or putting up decorations for a holiday.
A third area your content can touch on is the neighborhood. This is one area that most multifamily properties’ instagrams lack. Highlight local business and post about events happening in the community.
Instagram is a great platform and a tool that you need to consider as a part of your tech stack. Keeping an updated page with interesting and relevant content will make you stand out amongst other properties in your area and is also a great way for out of state prospects to get a feel of your property and the surrounding community.
We spend a lot of time talking about what prospects want, both online and in-person. From different touring options and amenities, to the neighborhood, we even collect and analyze data from PERQ solutions to see what the trends are for renters.
But what about your current residents? After all, once their lease is coming to an end, they become prospects again. Usually, when we think of how to retain residents and make them feel at home in the community, we think of events or social activities that are in-person and hopefully with a large crowd.
Coming into 2021, it’s still not safe to have those sorts of activities. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to engage with your residents to make them feel at home in your property and get them to resign their lease.
Hosting a social hour every month for residents is a great way to keep the social activities alive. Some ideas for events that can happen virtually are:
Whether it’s bingo or trivia, one thing that we’ve seen at PERQ is how much people want to have social events right now even if it means doing them virtually. Hosting a virtual happy hour with a themed cocktail or even just a theme is a great way to have a more casual event safely.
Having a podcast or book club is something that a lot of communities don’t typically do but it’s something that a lot of people are into right now. Let residents know what podcast you all will be listening to and host a virtual discussion where everyone can talk about what they think.
Right now, people want to be social more than ever. After months of having to limit the number of people we can interact with, people haven’t had as many opportunities to meet new people and hang out socially in a large group. Engaging with your residents isn’t just important for resident retention but it’s important to make your residents and your leasing team feel a little bit of normalcy after an exhausting year.
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Budget season is coming to a close and we are still in the midst of a pandemic. In March, the world shut down and everything was at a stand still. Many communities had to act quickly in order to survive. This year has been full of surprises and challenges that old budgeting strategies don’t have room for. So what are some ways to budget during the unexpected?
1. Invest in what you need
Focus less on what you want and more on what you need. It’s time to invest in tools and products that help you reach your customers where they are – online. More prospects are opting for virtual tours and ways to schedule viewings from a safer distance. Towards the end of summer, as some properties began allowing for in person tours to happen again, we see that many prospects are still choosing to look virtually instead.
Collaborating across all departments is key to making sure your budget works for everyone. Pandemic or not, you will get the best ROI when every department is taken into consideration and is part of the strategizing.
3. Expanding Your View
Instead of looking at 2020’s budget up against 2019’s budget, Marcella Eppsteiner, VP of Marketing for Mission Rock Residential, says that it’s important to look at more years to better understand just how out of the norm 2020 is. By looking at a broader viewpoint, you can use the data to your advantage and see what needs to be prioritized and what can take a back seat.
This year has brought a lot of challenges but it has given us the opportunity to adapt and grow. The things we learn from this year will make us better equipped in the years to come.
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