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It’s Coming: Preparing for the Rent Plateau or Decline

It’s Coming: Preparing for the Rent Plateau or Decline

Inevitably, the sizzling apartment market occupancy rate had to cool off at some point. That time might be just around the corner.

According to a recent report by the National Multifamily Housing Council, rent softening is already underway in a number of markets. Market conditions in all four indexes in the NMHC’s October survey, including market tightness, sales volume, equity financing and debt financing showed weaker numbers than the previous quarter. The findings indicate that the growing supply of new apartments has finally begun to catch up with demand.

Panic isn’t going to help, but ramping up your marketing efforts will.

We’ve always recommended that you continue marketing through the slow season to maintain consistent exposure, even when the market is trending upward. But whether you kept marketing or dialed it back a bit, now would be a good time to reinvigorate your marketing campaigns. If you don’t take action now, come leasing season, you might be in more of a fight than usual for leases.

Here are a few ways to make sure you get a head start on your comps. When spring arrives and your comps are desperately trying to regain exposure and traffic, you’ll already be ahead of the game.

First, start with some housekeeping items:

  • Follow the market trends. Analyzing market trends in rent, occupancy and more at the unit level on a regular basis is vital to your ability to effectively price apartment homes. Make sure you’re receiving market trend reports from your marketing partner so you can stay ahead of the market curve and adjust rents and tactics before the competition.
  • Update the copy on your community websites and listings. Keeping fresh content on community websites demonstrates that you’re active and improves your SEO placement.
  • Update your photography. Fresh and current photos provide a more modern look and demonstrate that you’re not taking the winter off. A recent RentPath study, The Renter’s Rollercoaster Ride, found that 81 percent of recent renters say they want to see high quality photos online when searching for an apartment.
  • Get your online reviews in order. Reputation management is becoming increasingly important in the leasing world. According to a recent RentPath Study, nearly 70 percent of prospective renters said they research community ratings and reviews before leasing an apartment. Make sure you are responding to reviews, because the decisions of many prospects can be swayed by them. All communities have negative reviews, and prospective renters want to see that you are responding to renter's concerns, and in a diplomatic way.
  • Update your listings. This is often what apartment searchers see first. When they Google “LA Apartments,” listing services are always on the front page because of their vast inventory.
  • Update your SEO for your community websites. While you won’t overthrow the listing services at the top of page one, well-done SEO efforts can land your community websites higher on the search results page.

After refreshing your content, photos and listings, it’s time to take the next step — develop seasonal marketing campaigns to launch when your traffic, leads and leases need a boost. You want these ready to go so you don’t have to put them together at the last minute. This can include: 

  • Seasonal contests for residents. Music fests, photography contests, video contests, art contests, you name it. Determine the lifestyles, niches and general interests of your residents and build social media contests around them. By requiring residents and prospective renters to earn likes or shares on social media sites to win valuable prizes, you can leverage them as your marketers.
  • Promotional offers. Now might be a good time to unveil that referral bonus special, offer 4K televisions with new leases or even giveaway iPad Pros for renewals. These types of giveaways can be more impactful and offer a better representation of your brand than concessions.
  • Consider expanding your reach with new distribution tools. When leasing gets tough, sometimes you can garner more quality leads by proactively seeking prospective renters in new places. LeadMail, for instance, provides the resources for greater audience reach in a target area.
  • Concessions. This is more of a last-resort because it can have the unwanted impact of diluting the value of your brand. But if exposure is high and you’re sensing a significant drop in occupancy, some meaningful concessions can stop the bleeding.

The risks of being underprepared or stopping advertising are many when the market begins to cool. Lost time is one of those risks. Advertising can’t be turned on and off like a light switch, because it takes time to generate awareness and the messages need even more time to sink in with your target market. Restarting your marketing while your comps are already humming along puts you well behind them. You will lose leases.

When you get too far behind your comps, your only option to gain ground fast is through concessions. That means reduced revenue and obtaining prospective renters looking for a bargain, which results in unhappy residents upon renewal because you remove the concessions. If you had kept advertising, you’d already have leads interested in the original pricing. Rather than easing into the downturn, you’ll have to dive into it with large concessions and deep discounts. 

Keeping your marketing momentum up is an important part of winning the rental game. By ensuring your web presence is up-to-date and engaging with your residents and prospective renters, you’ll be ahead regardless of market conditions.

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