Mobile technology is becoming more in demand in multifamily housing, according to some of the latest survey data. And websites need to get right to the point or prospective renters will move on to the next community.
Lia Nicole Smith, Vice President of Education and Performance for SatisFacts and ApartmentRatings, said all indications are that renters continue to embrace technology. Property managers should pay attention when creating their apartment marketing strategy, or they’ll miss the boat when it comes to attracting and retaining renters.
At Houston’s Texas Apartment Association conference in April, she gave a sneak preview of the SatisFacts 2019 Online Renter Study, which noted that customer preferences regarding technology hadn’t changed much from two years ago but that mobile devices are far more important. Smartphone use among apartment residents jumped more than 15 percent since 2017. In 2011, when SatisFacts rolled out its first survey, smartphone usage was 26.3 percent.
“This is one that blew me away when I saw the results,” Smith said.
Finding apartments online continues to grow
Also, more prospects are searching online to find apartments instead of driving by, and online leasing and renewals are gaining in popularity. Renters are expecting to leverage online community portals, too.
The number of apartment hunters who visit a community website before scheduling an appointment is up to 85 percent, 4 percent higher than last year. Renting online and renewals each earned higher rankings than in 2017, based on SatisFacts’ rating system, but remain moderately important.
Smith believes that rising gasoline prices are driving prospects to websites rather than to communities. According to research, prospects don’t have time for marketing lingo, which means property managers need to make the most of their online presence.
“They need direct navigation,” Smith said. “If they want fluff, they will tour and contact you. If you try to sell them up front with a flowery picture you want to paint, you’re going to lose their interest. Websites are the least trusted source. They trust your social media more.”
The survey revealed that rent specials are extremely important for apartment listings, followed by floor plans, availability and photos.
Engaging apartment website content is a differentiator
Lively, engaging and immersive website content sets apartment companies in competitive markets, according to RealPage, Inc. When prospects visit an apartment website, they want to experience and capture the feel of the community inside and out before deciding on a visit.
Sheena Pabari, Vice President of Content Services at RealPage, Inc., says that a personalized approach to websites drives lead conversions. Apartment marketing is most successful when it tells a story through photos, video content, 3D imagery and storybooks.
“Property management companies need to think about the lifestyle they want to sell,” she said. “It’s thinking about how to ensure you have good visuals of what the day-to-day life in that community would look like. In addition to that, it’s using the content you create to be able to really drive lead conversions.”
Consider that lifestyle when creating your marketing strategy. Is the community pet-friendly? What amenities are available? Use these areas and more to develop your content.
Web presence is likely leading to more renting without visiting
Effective websites are likely a reason why renting without visiting in person is more common. Eight years ago, only 4 percent of respondents said they signed a lease sight unseen. Today, that’s up to 14.4 percent.
Smith advised that properties that want to generate more sight-unseen leasing should provide as much information as possible on the website.
“It has to have everything they want to know,” she said. “If you can make it a one-stop shop, you’re going to get people excited about renting.”
But don’t overdo it. Online renters want a quick, simple experience. “If prospects have to jump through too many hoops, if there are too many steps, screen after screen, they are going to click out. Think about how your websites are laid out. Simple and quick.”
Smith said a big driver of website engagement is through call-outs when apartments are limited in number. Noting a floor plan is in limited supply is a winning strategy.
“That is a huge trigger for people mostly because they are starting to see it more and more in other aspects of purchasing,” she said. But she warned be aware of fair housing laws when advertising limited availability.
Apartment leasing software can transform the leasing experience for your staff and prospects. Property management companies can take prospects from search to eSignature with RealPage Online Leasing, which streamlines and simplifies the experience of leasing apartments, saves your staff time processing paperwork, and frees up more time for customer service.
Community portals ‘extremely important’ for attracting and retaining renters
Also, residents rated portals as extremely important, a higher ranking than four years ago when they were only considered important. This can be a major attraction for renters, as ninety-eight percent said they would use a portal if it were offered by the community. It’s also a powerful way to engage renters, increasing their likelihood of staying in your properties.
“It is extremely important for a community to have a portal,” said Smith. “If anyone is thinking about it, you should spend the money. It’s about education and engagement, showing them how easy it is to set up an account, how easy it is to pay rent online.”
The ActiveBuilding Resident Portal is a best-of-breed messaging hub, social community, and payments platform. Residents can connect, make online payments, get notifications, submit work orders for maintenance issues, and much more. It also makes it easy for property managers to automate communications, maximize retention and optimize operations.
As you develop your apartment marketing plan, it’s important to embrace the right technology. Learn how RealPage Apartment Marketing Software can help!