Simple, Seamless Lease Application is a Critical Part of the User Experience


You’ve done all the right things to attract a good prospect. From your optimized website, to a virtual tour, to AI-based chat backed by capable agents ready to cement that decision to apply.

They’re ready to move ahead. But is your lease application process easy and seamless enough to ensure you don’t lose them somewhere along the way? The application itself is a critical part of the path from initial interest to a signed lease, and it’s an opportunity to either lose a prospect or – if you’re savvy – to begin a smooth relationship that will last all the way until they move out.

Two recent webcasts explored the road from initial interest to application. In this article based on the third webcast in the series, we’ll cover the application process and how to craft it into a positive part of the all-important “user experience” everyone’s talking about.

Front to back without a hitch

Early in the multifamily leasing webcast RealPage principal Jonathan Breakstone described what a seamless application process should look like.

“First, and I think it’s obvious by now, you have to enable the entire process to be completed online, 24/7, from front to back and without the necessity of a leasing agent’s help unless they feel they need it. The pandemic accelerated the already rapid transition to doing things online, and this change is going to stick.

“Secondly, you need to ensure that your applicant is not having to enter the same information twice,” he added. “The personal information, unit selection, pricing, move date, all those things you’ve captured earlier should populate the lease to eliminate redundant data entry and move them right along in the leasing process.”

Then, he added, the core parts of the application – identity verification, screening, deposits and insurance – must flow along as a smooth, seamless, simple process. He says there are two main reasons for this. One is that a process with holes that leave applicants hanging can actually cause them to abandon the effort; after all, they have other choices. Another factor is that your relationship with the soon-to-be resident has already begun, and creating a welcoming, comfortable user experience is key right from the start. You don’t want to move in a new resident who is already grumbling about their first experience with your property.

Renter identity verification: a bigger issue than ever

Webcast attendees put identity verification (IDV) at the top of the list of current concerns about the application process. That’s not surprising, since the pandemic has greatly increased the number of fraudsters (many of whom can’t legally be evicted yet) and problems in this area are expected to continue in the wake of COVID. We won’t be delving deeply into the mechanics of IDV until we cover the next and final webcast in this series, but what does matter here is that it provide protection from fraud without becoming a roadblock in our seamless progression to a signed lease. RealPage’s IDV, in fact, provides the highest level of fraud protection – at the point of tour, point of application and point of payment – without slowing down the progress toward that final signature.

Upfront costs and deposits – another potential pitfall

The webcast audience ranked upfront costs and deposits closely behind IDV and fraud as a potential hang-up in achieving a completed application.

RealPage’s David Polewchak chimed in to outline the problem. “The reality is that operators are faced with conditional approvals that typically force applicants to cough up a very large deposit on top of move-in and other fees, which can be a huge barrier in your leasing effort,” he said. “This is an area where a reduction in friction can drastically enable the leasing process to move more quickly and successfully to fruition. The solution comes in the form of apartment security deposit alternatives.

“Certainly, we’ve seen a shift from a legislative angle that has created the need for operators to allow alternatives to that traditional additional deposit. What we’re trying to do is break down the barriers around leasing and deposits, and a better way to deal with that four-figure check they’re asked to write.”

It’s even better when as part of the upfront transaction, you can generate incremental revenue and make things easier by integrating the payment for amenities, pet accommodations, upgrade packages and renter’s insurance smoothly into the application process, as RealPage does.

Secure tenant screening without the slowdowns

AI has come to screening in a big way, and it makes a big difference. Breakstone quoted an article in the Wall Street Journal as follows: “Rental screening using artificial intelligence is possible because of advances in machine learning, in which algorithms pass large troves of data, make decisions, then further refine the decisions. Companies that specialize in tenant screening have been big adopters of AI-driven tools.”

The importance of new screening technology in the context of our smooth, seamless process is that it delivers unprecedented accuracy and speed at the same time. No logjams to be found here.

David Polewchak commented: “It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that we were all waiting sometimes days for results on an application, just being able to verify who there were and screen them. That efficiency around IDV and screening has a large impact on the velocity of property leasing, and you’re not leaving units off-market that could potentially be filled by another applicant.”

In fact, RealPage’s screening tech taps into the largest database of renters in the U.S. to make a distinction that should be hugely important in your decision to rent. That’s the applicant’s history of paying their rent, regardless of credit rating and other criteria – also called “willingness to pay.” You don’t want to turn away someone who, while having a modest income, has demonstrated clearly that they have always prioritized and paid their rent – just as you don’t want a renter with a good income who nevertheless spends it all gambling online and seems often to come up short when the rent comes due.

“This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”

The line’s from “Casablanca,” but it certainly applies to the subject we’re treating here. The webcast moderators closed by linking the achievement of a well-designed path from lead to lease into the grand scheme of a peerless user experience that starts with learning about a property and ends with the resident posting great things about the property after moving on to a new home.

At RealPage, keys to this vision include the ActiveBuilding resident portal, enabling residents to take care of nearly any apartment-related functions themselves at their convenience, and Community Rewards, which rewards residents for behaviors that increase community engagement, boost reputation scores and build loyalty.

The final webcast in this series of four delves into risk mitigation, including a deeper dive into screening, resident insurance, and deposit alternatives, so check the blog for our report on this critical component of putting together an ideal process for both you and your applicants, from lead to lease.

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