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.
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 and next rental lease agreement. 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.
COVID-19 has ushered in a more remote world where work and learning can be done from the comfort of your couch. Rental activity has increased in response to this and while COVID-19 is here for the time being, the push to remote lifestyles is here to stay. Digital lease practices are more important to incorporate in your leasing process more than ever. Don’t get left behind, 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 PMCs have an established process for how they handle their leads. Just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way today. The pandemic changed a lot for consumers. The need for isolation meant more needed to happen online, and consumers became more digital; embracing technology in new ways to research and purchase everything from groceries to cars. With so many people spending more time at home, a great many of them decided to relocate to a more suitable home, leading to a surge in leasing activity unlike anything we’ve seen before. With more young renters and those that are new digital buyers all looking for apartments at the same time, leasing activity began to shift to be more online.
As the volume of renters in the market rose, supply and demand changes forced those renters to begin exploring their options earlier. In fact, a recent PERQ study indicated nearly half of renters begin looking online 3 or more months in advance, a change over prior years’ result.
To compete today, you need to be very good at generating leads digitally and very good at nurturing those leads the way today’s modern renters wish to be engaged.
In our experience, it’s best to approach apartment rental lead generation and nurturing through experimentation and observation. But know that not every customer will react the same to the same marketing touch. Lead follow-up and conversions depend on where the customer is at in their buying journey and their personal communication preferences (more on that later.)
It’s time to remove the guesswork and apply these 20 creative techniques for rental leads.
1. TREAT YOUR WEBSITE LIKE YOUR TOP MARKETING CHANNEL
Recognize that your website is your greatest asset. When a website converts leads to leases, you get new lease revenue at a low cost, so having this perform well for you is paramount.
To get the most out of your website, you need to be able to engage in the ways that consumers now expect. Since today’s apartment shopper is looking months in advance and doing considerable research on their own before they are ready to tour, we need to be able to engage with them the way they want. They want to explore multiple properties, understand neighborhoods, compare floor plans and rental rates to develop a short list. And they want to do it 24/7/365. But multifamily teams are not equipped with the staff to engage with these shoppers in this way. It’s simply more than lean teams can handle.
Platforms like PERQ are designed to engage today’s digital renters. It’s natural language chatbot gathers info from the prospect and uses it to personalize the automated nurture messaging. PERQ can help guide the prospect in their shopping journey by showing them floor plans in their budget, units with amenities they are looking for, and answering their questions 24/7.
2. CREATE COMPELLING NEXT STEPS FOR THE PROSPECT
With AI technology, you’re able to create personalized interactions for the prospect based on their online behavior. Do they respond better to touches in SMS vs. email? AI software can proactively determine the next best touch.
By making the consumer journey more personalized and easier to follow for the prospect, they will become endeared to your brand.
3. INTERACTIVE TOOLS THAT INFORM
Signing a lease is a big financial and emotional commitment. Committing to paying a fixed rate every month and moving to a new location makes the decision to sign a lease with a property one that takes a lot of thought. Multifamily properties can help prospects in their decision-making process by having interactive 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.
These sorts of interactive tools also help weed out low-intent leads from those that are serious and qualified to apply.
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 community to a tour of the specific floor plans they were looking at, 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 to embed tour videos on our AI-powered website platform on multifamily property websites. Weirich goes more into the importance of video below:
5. SPECIAL PROMOTIONS
Build in special offers on your company’s website or in follow-up emails, but be sure those promotions are geared towards the floor plans and specific amenities the person is looking for in their next lease.
The goal is to entice a prospect and make them walk through your doors and say, ‘Hey, I have this offer I received on your website.”
6. AI CHATBOTS
Chatbots have become popular in the multifamily industry these past few years. Not only does an AI chatbot make your website more interactive, it can offer support and answer questions 24/7. Prospects don’t need to wait for the leasing office to open and can get what they are looking for much faster. The conversations a prospect has with the chatbot are also typically available in their guest card in the CRM, so leasing teams know what not to ask and can enter the initial conversation more prepared. With so many chatbots geared towards multifamily websites to choose from, knowing the main differences in how they “chat” is important.
There’s natural language chatbots and rule-based chatbots. Natural language chatbots are also called AI chatbots and they talk to prospects in a more natural way. For the prospect, they are having a real conversation, similar to that with a human, and can get their questions answered faster. With rules-based chatbots, prospects go through prompts that are set as “rules” and may or may not get their initial questions answered. Have you ever called customer service and got a robot menu telling you to “Press 1 for x, press 2 for…”? That’s the same logic as a rule-based chatbot except instead of a phone, the prospect is typing the answers on your website. This can be more frustrating. When looking between the two, a natural language chatbot gives a better user experience and therefore better customer service.
7. QUALIFIED LEADS ONLY
Not all people who visit your property website are ready to tour or even sign a lease. How they interact with your website provides insight into where they are in the leasing journey. Your messages to them need to appropriately match where they are in the leasing process.
PERQ’s lead generation and nurture platform uses AI technology to automate the management of your leads. It understands where a prospect is in the funnel and handles all the follow up, until your leads are ready to speak to a member of the team. Using this kind of technology helps to save time for your team. No more sifting through leads and hoping that the ones you’ve picked are serious and qualified to rent.
8. INTERACTIVE FLOOR PLANS
Prospects love a 3D interactive floor plan. It allows for them to fully picture the unit without having to visit in person. Whether it’s health or being located out of state, there are lots of reasons a serious prospect might not be able to come in and tour in person.
Above, we mentioned engaging through video in follow-up. The interactive floor plan models take this a step further to keep them engaged on your property website longer.
Prospects look at multiple property websites before deciding which ones to continue to engage with. The longer a prospect is on your website, the more data you can collect on them, and the more memorable your property will be. Having 3D floor plan models will help you stand out in a crowded market.
9. QUICK RESPONSE TIMES
Respond quickly to renter leads who are in the market 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 PERQ platform. It keeps apartment rental leads engaged and answers their questions 24/7, so they don’t have to wait for business hours.
10. RESIDENT TESTIMONIALS & BLOGS
Having a blog for any kind of business is a good move. Sending outbound communications with resident testimonials and/or links to your blog posts about what it’s like to live in your community is a great way to personalize your outreach and give it a more human touch. While consumers expect automation now, it’s important to remember that there is an emotional aspect to renting.
These blogs and testimonials don’t need to be sent out with every touch; they can be added in when the prospect is closer to talking to a leasing specialist to help solidify their decision.
11. CONVENIENT SCHEDULING
Include scheduling tools on your website so serious prospects can easily arrange a tour of your apartment community.
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. A CLEAN CRM
A crowded and cluttered CRM is bad for any business. In multifamily, it leads to leads being lost or overlooked. A messy CRM takes up a lot of the leasing team’s time and gives them more work than they need. Having lead generation and nurture tools allows for only the high-intent apartment rental leads to be stored in your CRM.
A less crowded CRM that only has good leads in it means that leasing teams can do their jobs more efficiently and properly.
13. EMAIL, TEXT, OR PHONE?
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 of contact.
With the preferred method also comes a preferred time of day. Contacting serious leads during a time they have stated they are most likely to respond is equally important. According to PERQ data, nationally, renters prefer email follow-up in the morning.
14. AUTOMATE LEAD FOLLOW-UP CAMPAIGNS
Use automated nurture campaigns tailored to the various stages of the leasing journey, so your team can dedicate their time where it counts – in person relationship building.
The best nurture approaches use more than one channel, like SMS and text and adjust the scheduled emails or text messages to automatically arrive at a cadence appropriate for each prospect.
15. INSIGHTFUL DATA TO BACK FOLLOW-UP
When the team is crafting a unique email to a prospect, be sure to include some personalized customer information. Leveraging in-depth customer data garnered from your website platform or CRM creates an instant connection with prospects and helps your salespeople start the conversation from a position of insight.
16. PAY ATTENTION TO 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 sharing valuable content that highlights the latest trends in your industry or helpful advice can reignite their interest in your property 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. 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 engagement efforts to help you make decisions on site improvements and rental rates and use these to attract higher quality website visitors and 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 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.”
PERQ integrates with your existing website and lead sources to engage, nurture and convert every lead, improving the multifamily leasing journey for everyone. Learn how it works or request a demo.
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.