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Embrace the Chaos: Technology to Empower Virtual Tours

Embrace the Chaos: Technology to Empower Virtual Tours
You certainly don’t need me to tell you what an unprecedented moment in the history of the apartment industry we’re living through. And by the time you read this things will have likely changed several times again. On the leasing front, social-distancing practices and stay-at-home orders initially brought in-person prospect tours to a screeching halt. But leasing associates are adopting technology faster than ever, and being as resourceful as ever, to ensure they are still giving prospective residents a top-notch tour experience.  The technology they are using? Well, they are the same tools that so many Americans relied on to stay connected with co-workers, friends and family during the pandemic. Even as the world as we know it starts to reopen, with video chats and videos shot on their smartphones leasing associates are successfully giving prospects something very close to an in-person tour while helping them #StaySaferAtHome.  The Power of Video Chat Many of us have discovered the power of tools like Zoom and FaceTime to help us get our jobs done and to stay in touch with co-workers during stay-at-home orders. I can also highly recommend the mental-health benefits of using these technologies to conduct a “virtual happy hour” with distant and not-so-distant family and friends.  Video technology can also be an effective way for leasing associates to chat with prospects and find out what they’re looking for in their next apartment home.  So much of connecting a prospect to your community comes from the rapport that a leasing team builds wi......
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4 Tips for Staging Rentals: Small Changes Make a Big Difference

  While some might think that the added process of staging rentals is only important for selling homes or renting big complexes, large or small, a tenant’s first impression is something you can never get back. It’s hit or miss, and when you’re looking to have someone sign on the dotted line today, it’s important that you hit from the moment they walk in. According to celebrity stager Meredith Baer, staged homes sell 88% faster and usually collect 20% more on asking price. Apply that theory to your rental and you’ll be signed and off the market in no time. So, where do you get your professional hollywood stager? Spoiler alert: you don’t need one. According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2017 Profile of Home Staging, tenants are more focused on the tidiness and overall condition of the apartment, rather than any decorative additions. Simple things like cleaning and de-cluttering helped 77% of clients to more easily visualize the property as a future home. Read on to find out how you can make these small changes to deliver a big impact. De-Clutter: Out of Sight, Out of Mind Typically, tenants are required to take everything with them when they go; however, there is the occasional tabletop or wall-mounted storage that sneaks it’s way in. Be sure to clear everything from the apartment before staging rentals so that your future tenant can let his or her imagination run wild. If they’re going to make it their own, they’ll want to start with a blank canvas. And if you’re showing a pr......
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How a 3-Cent Drop In Rent Can Have a 'Serious' Effect on Apartment Leasing’s Busy Season

How a 3-Cent Drop In Rent Can Have a 'Serious' Effect on Apartment Leasing’s Busy Season
The ‘startling’ monthly decline in rents and social unrest could push 'busy season' to the fall. When you think about a 0.3 percent drop in anything it hardly seems like a big deal. It’s just 3 pennies on every 10 dollars. Or $3 on every $1,000. And if you are an apartment operator and that reflects the national average on rents for May compared to April, some would figure it’s something not too difficult to make up. But what if it isn’t? The three-tenths of a percent is the drop for one month, and 12x that comes to 3.6 percent annually. All of a sudden, that could be serious. During what would typically be the middle of prime leasing season, rents declined nationally by 0.3% on a month-over-month basis, reports Jeff Adler, Vice President of Yardi Matrix. He says that drop in rents is startling. “Is it a harbinger of things to come? A warning sign?” Adler says. “When rents being offered to new residents drop like that month-over-month, year-over-year you have to ask yourself.” Adler says current occupancy is mostly steady (a good thing). And there’s no deterioration in demand as measured by apartment search activity. (another good thing). “But this is peak leasing season,” he adds. “Falling like this would be at a rather significant clip. If we see it again next month, then demand will not have stabilized. And data show this is happening to high-end apartment communities.” A General 'Roll Down' in Rents The steepest declines in rents on a MoM basis were s......
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Are Your Self-Guided Tours Up to Par?

Are Your Self-Guided Tours Up to Par?
Consumers want options. The way we shop, do our research online and who we choose to do business with all comes down to each individual person. There’s no difference when it comes to touring your property. While the majority of prospects will start their research online, the next steps they take depends on their comfort level of interacting with your team during this pandemic and how soon they’re ready to rent. Giving consumers options online for how they can tour your property on their own terms is no different, whether that’s a video, virtual tour, self-guided tour or in-person tour.  During our recent webinar, we talked to Karen Gladney, co-founder of Power Pro Leasing, about touring options, while focusing more specifically on self-guided tours. She visited 100 properties in 100 days and says the results were alarming. “Forty-six precent of the time, I had to wait or was sent away. Just think if I had been offered a self-guided tour experience and how I could have been taken care of in that moment,” Gladney says.  When they started their “Tour Your Own Way” campaign eight months ago, Gladney says the studies were showing 95% consumers prefer to shop alone while going through a buying decision and 90% want to speak to a human being during that time. “How do you blend those?,” she asks. “You don’t operate in two different silos.”   Make Self-Guided Tour Improvements Self-guided tours aren’t new. Look at hotels, for example. We’re able to check in at a desk, grab the key card a......
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How to Improve Your Rental Website

As digital searches increase and consumers become decidedly more connected to the Internet, finding ways to improve your rental website is more important than ever. The Housing Search Begins Offline, but Quickly Moves Online “For Rent” yard signs and external marketing are still great ways to get your inventory noticed and your brand out there, but they don’t result in immediate calls anymore. Renters want to see pictures of the inside of your properties, details on the amenities, and to assess your quality as a landlord. The first thing they’re going to do after taking notice is jump on the Internet. You probably know this already: you don’t need a comprehensive, nationwide rental housing study to tell you that most tenants consider the Internet an extremely important part of the rental process (but here’s one anyway). You’ll rarely find a prospective tenant that hasn’t visited your website or found you on one of the many listing sites like Rent.com and Zillow, so finding ways to improve your rental website is extremely important. Reviews Matter 91% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews on Google or industry specific sites, particularly before making a purchase. 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Your renters will almost certainly see reviews of your business before they speak with you and it will likely make a major impact on their decision to rent or not. It’s important there are a number of positive reviews available. Of course, positive reviews all start with positive management, ......
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Virtual Tour Apartment Checklist - Before, During & After a Tour

Virtual Tour Apartment Checklist - Before, During & After a Tour
Live Video Tour Checklist Step 1: Visualize the Tour Path Do you want to start your live tour from the leasing office then proceed to show them the clubhouse, outdoor amenities, and then on to the unit(s)? Or do you want to start the live tour from the unit itself? These are key considerations to think through first to ensure a smooth, cohesive tour experience. Know how you plan to walk through the unit, what you will focus on and showcase, and how much time you’ll spend in each general area in order to keep the tour flowing. Be mindful of the time you scheduled for the tour. Run through your agenda for the tour so you aren’t rushing at the end. Step 2: Walk the Tour Path and Prep the Area Are the spaces clean (just as they would be for an in-person tour)? Are the lights on, toilet seats down, relevant doors open, and blinds adjusted? Pro Tip: Depending on the weather or the time of year, you might want to have blinds tilted up or down to manage light flare. Don’t close them all the way though as you want natural light coming in to best capture the space. Any relevant doors you want open, go ahead and open them prior to starting the tour and prop them open if they self-close so that you’re not struggling to hold the device and open the door at the same time. Step 3: Start the Tour Whether you want to or not,......
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Reopening Strategies for Apartments

Reopening Strategies for Apartments
Each apartment community has had its own set of unique challenges during the pandemic, but they’re relying on each other for advice when it comes to the next steps. Multifamily properties are creating phased reopening strategies; improving communication with their teams and residents, while making sure everyone stays safe; and deciding how they start to begin in-person apartment tours again.  As part of our recent virtual panel, Reopening for In-Person Tours, we talked to three experts from multifamily property groups — Jamin Harkness, EVP and Partner for The Management Group, LLC; Heidi Jehlicka, Senior VP of Marketing & Employee Development of Bainbridge Companies; and Steve Ostipow, Director of Marketing at Drucker + Falk, LLC — to share how they’re approaching life after lockdown.   Apartments Cautious about Reopening Fully During the discussion May 21, 40% of property representatives who took our webinar poll said they’re still not sure when they’d be reopening the leasing office to the public and residents, while 25% said they already had. Rounding out to 10% each: Within the next week, within two weeks, within the next month, and more than a month. Virtual, self-guided and video tours are still widely being used and will continue. Our panelists said many of their properties started out with cell phone video tours and used them on YouTube, on social media or their website to attract and engage prospects. Today, some are also using outside resources to shoot professional videos. While the process has been slow to get started, some properties ......
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How Technology Is Reshaping The Leasing Process

How Technology Is Reshaping The Leasing Process
Piece by piece, tech innovations have transformed the art of leasing. It has gone from a highly manual, labor-intensive process to a streamlined, efficient procedure with numerous forward-thinking ways to attract and convert apartment hunters.  Traditional leasing methods were already rapidly evolving prior to 2020, but times of change have accelerated the need for intuitive solutions. Renters have been steadily morphing toward an offsite approach in which they seek to gather as much information about an apartment community as they can before visiting in person. The social distancing measures brought on by the pandemic will persist in some form for the foreseeable future, which exacerbates that trend and underscores the need to effectively reach renters from afar. Developed effectively, tech-based leasing solutions should be mutually beneficial for prospects and the apartment operator. The prospect can gain quicker visibility into a property and have their questions answered more rapidly, while operators can expend less energy in reaching prospects and avoid tedious manual tracking and follow-up measures. Here are a few of the ways that leasing-centric tech tools such as interactive maps, data visualization, virtual tours, remote leasing, automation and integration can further impact the leasing process:  Augmented Service Levels Concepts such as self-guided touring, virtual tours and map visualization should not translate to a lack of customer service. These technologies exist to complement the traditional tour experience and make for an interactive leasing experience. Onsite teams should not utilize this type of tech to distance themselves from prospects, but as a way......
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Multifamily Tours Best Practices - Keeping Staff, Residents, and Prospects Safe

Touring is an essential part of the leasing process for every arena of real estate, but it’s especially vital for multifamily.    Since multifamily properties are a community of units and residents, the property’s ultimate success lies not in one lead-to-closing conversion, but in many conversions to keep vacancy low. Because of this, tours and property showings play an essential role in a healthy multifamily asset’s toolbox. When the tours stop, the sales funnel goes stagnant. Conducting tours is a requirement for filling vacancies and actualizing the asset’s full ROI potentials.    However, the current global climate is putting a halt on traditional touring protocols and forcing industry professionals to find new alternatives that better align with the times.    COVID-19, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders are sparking widespread concerns for the health and safety of the leasing staff, residents, and prospective residents. Needless to say, conducting tours is now a challenge… and one that needs to be conquered immediately if multifamily professionals want to keep up their momentum.  Overcoming the Obstacles Fortunately, it is possible for multifamily property managers to conduct tours safely while accommodating all of society’s ‘new normals’.  By combining cutting-edge technologies with strategic best-practices, you’ll be able to conduct tours with confidence and provide an extraordinary customer experience for prospective residents.  Explore Modern Touring Options Optimize your multifamily tour procedures according to the moment with these 4 creative ideas:    Pre-Made Video Tours Being exactly what the name suggests, this tour option allows multifamily managers to compile a ready-made vide......
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Normal is Not Gonna be so Normal… You Have Not Heard This Take Yet.

So while you are in the middle of this big global pandemic, what are you doing to get ready for the new normal?  The next normal will be different. Here are my predictions. ZOOM Meetings Will Continue…and They Will be Effective Most everyone is doing it…online meetings.  They are not virtual, they are real and they are more efficient and much cheaper than face to face.  Many of us have learned to make these sort of team gatherings work quite well and are becoming creative and bold in our prep and direction of the “ZOOM”.  Employees who cannot adapt to this sort of team meeting will be left behind.     Training Will Adapt to Online in New and Unique Ways The canned online training sites will get better, more impactful in creating positive change and growth in skillsets.  It will also get a lot cheaper.  Technology will make packaged leasing, customer service, and fair housing courses more interactive and enjoyable.  Employees will consider online training fun and look forward to these high-tech presentations taught by almost life-like avatars.   Again, it will be a lot cheaper.     Expert and guest speakers will still be popular but will present live, online, eventually as a life-size hologram .  Travel costs will be eliminated and their speaker fees will drop as they begin to compete with popular industry avatars.   On-site Leasing will continue to become More “self-service” and the real live leasing professionals will be as rare as gas station attendants.   The ......
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