Market Upsides

By on Jul 13, 2020 in Marketing, News

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, multifamily market experts were talking about preparing for big economic changes. Now that rising unemployment rates, benefit delays and social distancing have created new challenges for real estate managers and renters alike, it’s time to re-think every aspect of your operations. Here’s some good news: there are real upsides to the downturn, including opportunities to move business online and improve communication to form stronger relationships with your customers. Read on for five key takeaways from Yardi’s operational strategies webinar that can help you right now and into the future.

1) Maximize marketing websites

Apartment searches are on the rise and units are being rented sight unseen — and it’s all happening online. How can you keep up? Provide a virtual marketing and leasing experience from start to finish. Make sure your websites provide plenty of curb appeal for your listings, and include optimized photos, videos and 3-D floor plans along with virtual meeting and tour options. Offer live chat to answer questions from prospects and consider a chatbot when your agents are unavailable — a “contact us” email address or web form isn’t enough anymore. Use nudge marketing campaigns and page narratives to help prospects make timely rental decisions. And this is critical: bring your entire leasing process online from application to self-screening to lease execution with an electronic signature.

Are you providing unit touring options? If you’re not offering self-guided tours yet, in this new world of contactless marketing it’s a great way to sign more leases. Even before the pandemic, self-guided tours were growing in popularity, and now they are a must to ensure social distancing and a contactless experience for your staff and customers. It’s important to plan for self-guided tours at the site level including the ability to verify prospect identities remotely before allowing access to your units. With COVID-19 concerns, you’ll also need a strategy for cleaning and sanitizing units after every visit. Once you figure it out, you’re likely to reap the benefits of agentless tours.

2) Consider strategy changes

Take a good look at your marketing spend and identify which channels have provided you with long-term contracts and where your new opportunities are coming from. With a growing number of prospects willing to rent a unit sight unseen you need to take advantage of contactless opportunities. Ramp up your targeted marketing to those socially distant customers with a clear message about your easy online leasing process. Once you drive that motivated traffic to your website, those prospective renters can enjoy all the good stuff covered above including around-the-clock applications and leasing.

3) Send the right message

Now is a great time to build stronger relationships with your residents. More than ever, communication with customers and within companies is critical. Be sure that your content, messaging and tone are not only aligned with your brand and our current reality but also resonate with what people really care about. We all need to feel safe and supported, and multifamily managers are in a unique position to create an inclusive and positive community for staff and residents. You can offer residents who are struggling financially payment plans and deferral options. If you haven’t accepted credit card payments for rent in the past, maybe now is the time to allow it to help keep your payment percentages high. There are also the day-to-day messages you need to push out to make sure your social distancing policies are followed when common areas and amenities are used. You will most likely see a big difference when it comes to renewing leases and keeping quality residents for the long term.

4) Reduce leasing risk

With high unemployment and apartment fraud on the rise, you need to be sure you know exactly who you’re renting to. That doesn’t mean that prospects who are short on cash won’t be quality residents, so you’ll want to screen carefully. You can still make data-driven decisions by verifying income and employment, but you might wish to dial back on some leasing requirements like deposit amounts and security deposit alternatives. No matter what you decide about your business rules for screening criteria, it’s a great idea to implement an ID verification solution as part of your leasing workflow. When an applicant’s ID document photo is matched with a selfie in real time, you know they are who they say they are — and you can move forward in your approval process.

5) Use your (big) data

Are you taking advantage of big data yet? Simply put, big data delivers analytics that help companies drive performance. For example, prescriptive analytics can show how much to spend on marketing to generate the traffic you need to cover upcoming vacancies or exposure. Instead of reducing prices, it might make more sense to adjust your marketing spend. Big data will guide you to make the right decisions.

Benchmarking is another valuable tool powered by big data. By combining actual leasing, financial and operational data to a defined peer set, you can be more proactive and identify opportunities to reduce costs. Using a software engine driven by big data also enables optimal forecasting. Financial teams can calculate budgets using a property’s actual data along with any applied assumptions such as occupancy rate, renewal rate and rent increases. When you base financial projections on the real portfolio data housed in your property management system, you get a much clearer picture of future revenue performance.

Want to learn more? If you missed the discussion of Yardi’s “Operational Strategies for Business Continuity & Recovery,” you can watch the webinar now.