Finding and maintaining the perfect balance of occupancy and pricing is crucial for multifamily communities to achieve revenue success. In Multifamily Real Estate (MFRE,) it is considered a best practice to train employees to understand that the value of an asset comes in the form of it being a healthy, stabilized asset. That, by definition, is an asset that has not just achieved high occupancy, but that has achieved a balance of maximizing rent growth while maintaining/achieving stabilized occupancy.
Anyone can achieve “high occupancy.” In fact, it would be really easy to get to 100% occupancy if a property simply dropped rents 20% below market rate. That, of course, would not achieve the true goal of a property, which is rental revenue. In order to have a truly performing real estate asset, you must push an asset’s rent growth while also increasing occupancy. It’s a balancing act.
This balancing, today, is hard. Pricing algorithms in revenue management systems will suggest how much a property can push on renewal rents and new rents. But, really, it is the job of a property manager — and all those that support that role — to understand what the market can truly handle in new rent. And this can only come from knowing the market.
THE BIG RUB
When a property is high occupancy, there is sudden tension between work needing to be done to manage residents and their needs, versus all the other things that get done out of the leasing office. It’s difficult to know what leasing will look like in the next quarter and availability will remain unknown until you are sending out renewal offers. This difficulty leads to unawareness of what units will be open and how they should be priced. When occupancy isn’t at risk, multifamily teams often end up not realizing how much they are shifting their attention away from maintaining this balance in the future.
The logic behind the decision seems sound, but this is a big mistake that puts both the occupancy and the pricing elements at risk. The loss in visibility of the market economics affects a property manager’s ability to properly price units. And, being out of market for new renters can make it nearly impossible when you need them.
SMARTER PRICING BASED OFF DEMAND
Engaging with the market during those high occupancy times helps your team better understand market trends. When you keep your leasing activity alive, you gain visibility into:
Future demand for specific floor plans
Volume of active future leasing activity
Budgets of active future leasing prospects
This kind of actionable data empowers you to make smarter decisions on rent growth and price your units based on demand and what renters are willing to pay for specific units. Not only will you know if your units are underpriced, you will also understand if they may be overpriced. As a result, you will better understand your prospective renters’ budgets months before they make the move.
But how do you get this visibility if you’re not actively marketing and looking for renters?
FUTURE LEADS ARE LOOKING NOW
We all know the pandemic had a considerable impact on the MFRE industry. But it also had an impact on renters. To find the property they seek to call their home, they need to begin looking earlier. Data collected by PERQ shows that over 22% of rental prospects are looking to move 6 months out from when they begin searching. So, while your property may be high occupancy, the leads that are coming in during these high occupancy months are still serious about renting at your property, but they aren’t ready to move for months.
It is becoming a best practice for PMC’s to continue with their marketing and leasing activity during these high occupancy months. Therefore, if the current resident in an apartment chooses not to renew, you already have a list of qualified leads who are ready to move in. This leads to quicker turnover of vacant units as well as the added benefit of pricing your units based on demand.
Without a technology like PERQ to pick up the work, these important leads are at risk of falling through the cracks. And, knowing how many leads are in your pipeline lets you more precisely budget marketing spend during your busiest leasing months.
High occupancy now doesn’t guarantee high occupancy in the future. Just because you’ve found a good balance now doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do to maintain that balance.
Lead nurture tools can help fill the talent gap, giving your prospective renters a consistent, engaging experience without the need for a leasing team member. And, it can help you understand the balance between occupancy and pricing by giving you more insight into demand, renter budgets, and improve your operational efficiency year round.
This has been a transformative year for multifamily properties and renters. More of the leasing process is becoming automated and the way people tour continues to evolve. This year, what renters use their apartments for has changed a lot. A 1-bedroom apartment is no longer just where a renter sleeps and relaxes after work. It’s their home, classroom, office, gym, vacation destination, and a place to do hobbies or crafts.
Listening to your renter’s individual preferences and tailoring the leasing journey to meet their expectations will help you stand out from your competition. But how do you find out what renters really want?
This year, PERQ’s Multifamily software collected over 6 million consumer responses from renters across the country. Get your copy of our latest Field Guide for over 100 pages of national and regional trends we saw including the most popular alternative tour types, floor plans, top desired features, and more.
Here’s a sneak peak of what the national data shows us.
When asked how to describe their ideal apartment, nearly half of renters wanted something that is comfortable yet economical with simple and budget friendly coming in at second place. Renters typically are not looking for apartments that are high end and luxurious. This doesn’t mean that renters aren’t also looking for modern appliances, in fact modern appliances are one of the top three most important features that renters are looking for.
In addition to how renters described their ideal apartment, we asked if budget or square footage was more important and how many bedrooms they wanted. 72% of renters chose budget and 45% chose 1-bedroom. When building or renovating a property, it’s important to keep in mind that renters want something affordable and don’t necessarily prioritize needing a whole lot of space.
The neighborhood a property is located in also plays a role in a renter’s decision. Social activities, shopping, and outdoor activities rank as the top three activities renters enjoy the most. These can all be incorporated in resident events. Partnering up with local businesses is also a great way to promote the neighborhood and create unique events that a resident could only experience in your community.
Food and Fitness
When it comes to businesses residents want close by, grocery, dining and fitness all come out on top. Prospects want to be able to imagine what life at your property will be like. Mentioning the businesses that are close by on tours or your website is a great way to help create that image for them especially if they are touring virtually or will be signing a lease without visiting the property in person.
Get Access to the Full Guide
PERQ’s latest edition of the Multifamily Field Guide goes into more detail about what residents want when it comes to amenities, specific appliances, pets, and more. The Field Guide breaks it down nationally and regionally so multifamily properties can have the insight on what renters want in their specific area. Along with data about what renters look for there is also data about the state of touring in the multifamily world.
To get access to over a hundred pages of renter data and insights, click on the robot icon on the right corner of the page.
Your doors to your leasing office may be closed for the public, but that doesn’t mean prospective renters aren’t looking for their new home. Connect with your renters digitally and empower your team with the best digital leasing practices and tips during COVID-19 by using our Digital Leasing Guide
Use our Digital Leasing Guide to learn how to effectively generate opportunities online while there are little to no in-person visits. The guide outlines how to leverage your website to generate and manage quality leads, tips on how to budget your marketing spend, and the best ways to stay connected to rental prospects during COVID-19.
Just because your showrooms are temporarily closed to the public, doesn’t mean fewer consumers are shopping online. Even if these shoppers can’t make purchases now, your brand can make an impact for future sales. Lean into digital sales and help empower your sales team during COVID-19 by utilizing our Digital Sales Guide.
The new Digital Sales Guide is a resource for your retail teams on how to generate sales opportunities during times of lower store traffic. The guide outlines how to leverage your website to obtain and manage quality leads, along with tips and tricks on how to utilize video consultations, text messaging, email nurture and automation to communicate with shoppers.
Our Digital Sales Guide offers immediate guidance, right away, at no cost. Check it out to learn how to increase your sales during COVID-19, by visiting this link.
Most businesses adhere to an established process for how they handle leads. Just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. You can get creative with lead follow-up ideas to convert more lease leads.
In our experience, it’s best to approach apartment rental lead generation and follow-up through experimentation and observation. Not every customer will react the same to a single effort or follow-up approach. Lead follow-up and conversions depend on where the customer is at in their buying journey and their personal communication preferences.
It’s time to remove the guesswork and apply these 20 creative techniques for rental leads for real estate agents and leasing agents.
1. Turn Your Company’s Website into Your Top Marketing Channel
To increase the number of online rental leads you turn into leases, your business must first gain trust. Welcome visitors to your site in a new way by letting them know you want to personalize their shopping experience. Let them know that by providing their name and email, they can also enter to win a giveaway. Once they give you their information, your website can remember that visitor and guide them in their shopping journey, asking them what they want to shop for or look at next, while directing them to the exact website page they need to go.
“With the right technology, we capture information that the client may not be as comfortable walking in our store and giving,” says Jon Greenbaum, Advertising Manager at Greenbaum Home Furnishings. “[We] learn about the customer without the process feeling intimidating or like an interrogation.”
2. Continue to Create Compelling Next Steps for the Prospect
With AI software, you’re able to create custom and personalized interactions for the prospect based on their online behavior. Is your prospect looking at a wide variety of options? AI technology can offer an assessment or interactive quiz to help them narrow down choices. If the same consumer returns multiple times to view the same information, provide a way for them to schedule an appointment while they’re still online or offer them the ability to pre-qualify or fill out an application.
3. Offer Auxiliary Tools for Added Value
Purchasing a high-ticket item usually involves more than just finding the right product for the right price. Other factors impact that decision, so add value wherever possible. If you’re a home furnishings retailer, offer an online style assessment or a free consultation with a designer. Multifamily properties can provide online tools such as a rent calculator to give them an idea of total costs, including utilities, and a community-fit assessment so they can see upfront if the area has what they’re looking for without having to visit.
4. Engage Leads with Video
Draw the customer in with a customized video on your website or in follow-up emails. From a tour of the furniture showroom floor or the latest floor plan in multifamily, video increases traffic and interest.
“Prospective residents or shoppers can gather information online, engage with a video tour, and, for a growing number of consumers, that’s enough to make them convert or sign a lease. Video is the way to do that,” says Matt Weirich, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Realync, a video-leasing platform company that partners with PERQ so customized tour videos can be embedded on the AI-powered website platform on multifamily property websites.
5. Offer Promotions Specific to the Prospect
Build in special offers on your company’s website or in follow-up emails, but be sure those promotions are geared toward products the person is looking to buy.
“Being able to provide personalized promotions is really valuable,” says Doug Stump, Vice President of Sales at PERQ. “When people are doing research online, they naturally look at the local market and try to decide which store will offer the most value for me, versus driving somewhere farther away or paying for shipping.”
The ultimate goal is to entice a visitor and make her walk through your doors and say, ‘Hey, I have this offer I received on your website.”
6. Live Chat or Other Two-Way Communication Options
Set up website tools that allow a consumer to enter a two-way conversation online, such as a live chat tool that allows for immediate follow-up from your staff. Utilizing a chat-to-text feature, whether powered by AI technology or a salesperson, provides consumers with an opportunity to ask specific questions or request more information in real-time. Be aware, any direct communication tool only performs as great as the salesperson behind it. This is always where an AI chatbot comes in handy.
7. Approach Consumers Based on When They’re Ready to Buy or Sign a Contract
Not all people who visit your business website are ready to buy or sign a contract. How they interact with your website provides insight into where they are in the shopping journey. Follow up appropriately to match the type of information they are seeking, wherever they are in the buying process.
“Customers who are higher up in the funnel — or in the awareness stage — are more responsive to selection, while customers who have sought out specific products respond best to messages about fulfillment, delivery and product guarantees,” says Justin Bowen, Web Content Manager at The Great American Home Store.
8. Provide Product Previews and Personalize the Shopping Experience
Use all of the data your website collects about your potential customers to match new products to their preferences. Add a personal touch by offering customized sneak previews to loyal customers, and offer up similar products or other items they may like based on past shopping behavior.
9. Respond Quickly While Prospect is Still Engaged
Respond quickly to renter leads who are in the market to buy or rent now to increase your chances of catching the consumer while they’re still engaged. Immediately connecting with a qualified customer who is already on your site and engaged, decreases the chances they’ll go to a competitor’s website. One way to do this is with an AI chatbot, like the one in the AI Leasing Assistant. It keeps apartment rental leads engaged and answers their questions 24/7 so they don’t have to wait for business hours.
10. Create a VIP Experience for Consumers
Allow customers to schedule a VIP appointment via your website from preselected times. Strategically schedule those appointment openings during your sales team’s downtime or the least-busy hours to maximize productivity. Even if the customer doesn’t schedule a consultation while online, you still have a meaningful opportunity to reach out to that consumer and offer a VIP appointment to entice them to re-engage.
11. Offer Easy Ways to Schedule Services
Include scheduling tools on your website so potential customers can easily sign up for a free design consultation, schedule a test drive, or arrange a tour of your apartment community. The less time they spend talking to a salesperson, the more likely consumers are to schedule a service.
Getting them to visit in person is more than half the battle to convert online leads. Let them make the first move, and conveniently do so on their own time. Talk about instant gratification.
12. Build a Customer Database for More Efficient Lead Follow-Up
Keep a database of all potential customers and track where they’re at in the sales funnel. Even better, utilize a database that helps you score and prioritize leads based on their level of interest. Forward highly qualified “hot leads” to your salespeople to keep the volume manageable, and lean on less-urgent leads when the business goes through slow periods.
For leads high up in the sales funnel, set up your customer management database to engage those consumers and keep your brand top of mind through an email drip or text nurturing program. Set up pre-determined schedules and messaging that’s based on when the shopper indicates they’ll likely be ready to purchase, and then automatically personalize the content and incentives based on the lead data stored in your CRM.
13. Follow Up With Leads Using Their Preferred Method
Gone are the days of getting information only at the point of purchase. Technology allows companies to gather information 24/7 from virtually anywhere. Each customer prefers a specific way to communicate — phone, email, text, chat or in-person. To build trust, follow up with your customers via their preferred method.
“Finding the most convenient way to get quick answers to simple questions and to adapt to however customers wish to communicate is our responsibility as retailers,” says David Weiss, Marketing Manager at Sherman’s. “The choice is either to engage in different methods or make peace with the fact you’ll lose that customer to a competitor who is willing to invest in it.”
14. Create Automated Lead Follow-Up Campaigns for Each Customer Type
Use automated email templates or phone call templates tailored to the various stages of the buying journey, so your team can strike the appropriate tone for consumers in each phase of the sales funnel. Schedule follow-up emails or text messages to automatically arrive during optimal times for the customer. As an added bonus, templates eliminate some common mistakes like typos or grammatical errors.
“Scheduling is huge, because I can send out an email at seven o’clock at night when volume is not high,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management with Barratt Asset Management. “It allows the email to show up at a time that is best for the prospect.”
15. Customize Each Lead Follow-Up Using Insightful Data
Whether using templates or crafting a unique email, be sure to include some personalized customer information when following up with a lead. Leveraging in-depth customer data garnered from your website platform creates an instant connection with prospects and helps your salespeople start the conversation from a position of insight.
“We don’t want to lose the personalization aspect, which is what works well on our website,” says Joey Gunn, Vice President of Knight Furniture and Mattress. “We encourage our sales team to follow that customer journey.”
16. Follow Up By Sharing Industry Trends
Smart website technology gives your company valuable consumer behavior insights. By regularly analyzing that data, you can spot trends and anticipate the evolving wants and needs in your market. Proactively reach out to consumers who engaged with you in the past by sharing valuable content that highlights the latest trends in your industry or helpful advice. Reignite their interest in your brand by giving them a reason to think about you and helping them with research. Content such as “5 tips for hiring a moving company” or “What you should ask on a property tour” are great examples.
17. Make Lead Follow-Up Easier, More Organized with the Right CRM
The right CRM is of utmost importance when trying to collect, track and analyze large sets of consumer lead data. A lot happens in the digital space and it continues to evolve. Look for a data management system that provides valuable information you can sort and prioritize, and works as an extension of your team.
“We utilize our CRM to leverage our data as best we can,” says Marcella Eppsteiner, Vice President of Marketing at Mission Rock Residential. “We overlay our website insights in terms of prospect engagement with a series of other data points, from our property management software and Google Analytics, just to better understand the activity of the consumer.”
18. Leverage Data to Increase Higher Quality Leads to your Website
As we discussed, you can capture a lot of data about a consumer, when they’re in the market to rent, for example; what amenities they want the most in an apartment; what they want in the community; and the activities they enjoy most. Leverage the most common answers in your digital advertising efforts to help you attract higher quality website visitors or retarget leads who already visited your site.
19. Improve the Conversation
Your sales teams can learn a lot about leads on your website. Have them leverage the data in the CRM so they are more likely to close the sale, either by phone, chat, text or email. Again, if a visitor told you they prefer a text, don’t make your first outreach a call. A text might start: “I saw you were looking at FILL IN THE BLANK (the hybrid mattresses or the two-bedroom floor plan with two-baths) on our site, (Insert first name). Did you have any questions I can help you with? Being personable and helpful can go a long way.
20. Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
In these times of advanced technology and digital messaging, people still appreciate when a company takes the time to send a handwritten thank-you note or follow up with a phone call after an initial in-person interaction. Connecting on a personal level is the touchstone of any creative lead follow-up strategy.
“Use emotional intelligence to handle interpersonal relationships with knowledge and care, while factoring in and understanding different circumstances impact lead follow-up,” says Catherine Azar, Director of Property Management for Barratt Asset Management. “Good salespeople are really important.”
There was a time when multifamily communities could still rely on a simple “Contact Us” website lead form, or force prospects to pick up the phone or send an email if they’re interested in touring the property. That approach often results in a lot of back-and-forth communication on what kind of floor plan the renter wants, any special needs or amenity requirements, and available dates and times that work for both the prospect and leasing specialist.
More than 80% of prospects start their apartment search online by typing something similar to apartments for lease near me into Google, according to data analyzed for PERQ’s new Multifamily Field Guide. They’ll go to apartments.com or zillow before the property website. They spend up to three months narrowing down what one or two properties they will visit in person before signing a lease.
Capitalize on that vast amount of time prospects spend researching communities online, and make it simple for those prospects to take the next step in the leasing process. Follow these five tips to collect higher quality leads and book more property tours:
1. Turn Your Website Into a Leasing Consultant
Meet apartment rental leads where they’re shopping and serve them the information they seek in one convenient place, such as how much money they should budget for utilities and rent and the quality of restaurants in the neighborhood.
In return, your property gathers quality personal data on each lead that can make converting them into a lease much easier when it comes time for a tour. You’ll already know what they’re looking for, and they’ll already have a good idea of what they want. It’s much more detailed lead information than the name, phone number and email address properties receive from standard static forms or internet listings.
“I consider our website a leasing consultant,” says Mary Herrold, Senior Director of Marketing at Redwood Residential, which uses PERQ on all of its multifamily community websites to collect, analyze and convert online leads. “Just like a live human leasing consultant, it needs to do its job. It needs to convert.”
PERQ’s AI Leasing Assistant delivers prospects with interactive online experiences to help them narrow down the perfect apartment to call home, offers 24/7 support with an AI chatbot, and an online scheduling tool for booking tours.
Herrold says she uses PERQ to train new apartment rental agent or when onboarding a new property, telling them to pay attention to the questions the AI software asks and in what order, then mimic that lead nurturing process when talking to a prospect on the phone or in person.
2. Bridge the Gap Between Renter Leads and Tours
“Since the beginning of time in the multifamily industry, there’s been a gap between lead and tour,” Herrold says. “The lead-to-tour cavern has always presented a challenge.”
Herrold credits the online scheduler tool with building a bridge to successfully traverse that costly cavern. “PERQ increases the momentum,” she says. “The commitments that are made along the experiences, they’re small commitments, but they lead up to an ultimate commitment. So, little yeses mean a big yes, and that’s the main goal.”
She says before the online option, even if a lead to agreed to an appointment, prospects often didn’t take the next step to actually schedule the tour or failed to keep their scheduled appointment with a leasing specialist.
When prospects engage with the AI-driven interactive experiences on a property website, they invest their valuable time and personal data. According to PERQ data, that makes them statistically more likely to pick that community as the one or two apartments they’ll visit in person.
Because they’ve already dedicated so much of their focus to the brand, made the no-pressure appointment on their own, and volunteered their name and information, they’re also more likely to honor an appointment they make to tour the property.
3. Prompt More Prospects to Book Tours
If a prospective renter searches for their new apartment home at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night, you want to give them the option to schedule a tour without picking up the phone or waiting for an email response the next day. By adding an interactive calendar tool on the website that allows consumers to schedule a tour at their convenience, a community can compel more prospects to book an appointment at the property.
For PERQ multifamily clients, 15% of online leads captured by our Web Conversion Technology schedule a tour on the property website after engaging with the interactive experiences to learn more about the community.
It’s the convenience and instant gratification of booking right then that drives prospects to take the next step in the leasing process, whenever they’re ready to move forward and tour the community in person.
4. Focus on Quality Leads for Best Lead Nurture
In our experience working with PERQ clients and studying industry data, high-quality traffic gives properties a higher probability of conversion. Collecting more detailed and robust lead information increases the likelihood those online leads will convert into signed leases.
From an efficiency standpoint, leasing agents should spend their time engaging and following up with quality leads that can convert, as opposed to chasing unqualified leads that take up more time.
Properties can use a CRM to sort and prioritize leads based on when they say they’re ready to buy.
5. Measure Online Traffic & Lead Conversions
A multifamily community can increase the quality of their online traffic by measuring the sources they utilize to drive traffic. Google Analytics is a helpful tool for analyzing your traffic to see which channels drive the most online leads and the most conversions.
When paired with PERQ’s own tracking software, anonymous leads in Google Analytics transform into identifiable leads who can be followed across devices, multiple viewing sessions and different touchpoints on their leasing journey.
It’s important when tracking online traffic to set benchmarks and goals at the beginning, and regularly check the data to ensure things are headed in the right direction. Be prepared to tweak your online approach as you review the results, compare them to the conversion goals you set and measure which traffic source is performing the best.
By investing in AI-driven technology, properties can collect higher quality leads, entice more online prospects to book tours, and convert more leads.