How the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the multifamily leasing industry and the means by which apartments are marketed and leased.
By Karen Dwyer
Apartment searching as we know it has changed dramatically.
As the manager of a Mark-Taylor apartment community located in North Scottsdale, Az., I have witnessed the current pandemic significantly shift the means in which apartments are being marketed and leased.
While many in the multifamily industry resisted change, the pandemic prompted a much-needed advancement in how we work with potential renters wherein advanced technology is matched with well-trained leasing professionals. Skilled professionals capable of securing high closing ratios while leasing in this diverse “virtual” environment are paramount.
Prior to the pandemic, far fewer apartments were leased sight unseen. Previously, sight-unseen customers were often those relocating hurriedly, who were not available to tour in person. Due to the popularity of mobile searches, we consistently provided virtual tours through our expansive website with 2-D floorplans with relative success.
When the pandemic mandated social distancing restrictions, Mark-Taylor Residential knew we had to act fast. With our previous online experience, coupled with the vision to create hundreds of prerecorded videos of all aspects of our apartment communities, we were well-equipped for virtual leasing. We trained our team on how to communicate effectively, provide links for videos, and other means to create a vision for someone selecting their home virtually.
Multifamily leasing industry changes
Self-guided touring had just begun picking up momentum prior to the pandemic.
This is a tour that allows a prospect to gain access to a property and tour without a leasing professional present. While this is a new take on self-guided touring with the use of Smart Rent technology, it has become quite popular within our industry, and we expect the majority of tours to occur this way in the future.
The vast majority of our leases during the past six months were secured through virtual and self-guided SmartRent tours. Activity from self-guided tours has been highly successful within our communities. We anticipate approximately 70 percent of new touring prospects to choose self-guided as their preferred option. Many potential tenants are using virtual tours to help narrow down their options and then following up with a self-guided, or in-person, showing for their top choices. I expect this trend will continue, especially for relocating renters who can be even more efficient in their research when moving to a new city. Self-guided and virtual leasing creates significant efficiency in apartment leasing.
SmartRent enables communities to offer self-guided tours and more easily reach the large number (approximately 60 percent) of renters who are searching for their next home solely on their mobile device. This allows for viewing a property online, filling out a prequalifying form and receiving a text with access code info for their self- guided tour, all within the same experience. SmartRent has made this possible and many prospective residents are embracing this approach. Prospective renters are appreciative of the social distancing this offers as well as the time to view the homes at their leisure without the pressure of a restrictive timeline.
The main reason most renters enjoy a self-guided tour is to view apartments at their own pace. Today’s apartment seekers value the opportunity to enjoy a space without a leasing consultant present, all while envisioning themselves living there. This has been a big change in the multifamily leasing industry.
Since implementing the SmartRent access, the community I manage, San Portales in Scottsdale, has experienced a substantial gain in leasing activity, a subsequent rise in physical occupancy, and the team is far more productive based on the assistance of this technology. Significant numbers of our touring prospects make their own determination during the self-tour as to whether or not the community is a fit for them, and they return and rent on their own accord after viewing the model homes.
In addition to the ease in which the system operates, it also keeps building entries and gates secure while granting access to prospects. It allows for showing off community model homes while maintaining security for staff and residents with access controls through temporary credentials.
Meeting customers where they feel most comfortable
As we enter the next phase of the new normal, meeting customers where they feel most comfortable will be essential in providing the highest level of service. Apartment-leasing innovation was brought on by the pandemic, but these modern variations are here to stay.
Properties have the ability to configure and fully customize their self-guided tour experience, giving prospects detailed information regarding the community’s amenity offerings such as a 24-hour pool, clubhouse and fitness center. As a result, the prospect gets the full tour experience and doesn’t miss out on any important property features.
The majority of prospective residents use online resources to assist in their search before they even reach out to schedule a tour. And for the most part, they have already formulated a determination based on online reviews, amenities offered, photos of the community or word of mouth.
The last step is physically visiting the property before deciding to sign a lease. Offering self-guided tours is an efficient way to keep prospective renters engaged and turn a lead into a lease.
About the author:
Karen Dwyer is Manager of Community Operations, Mark-Taylor’s San Portales Luxury Apartments, Scottsdale, Ariz. Established in 1985, Mark-Taylor Companies is a privately held, Arizona based developer, owner and investment manager of multifamily communities. The company ranks as the largest apartment developer in Arizona’s history, the second largest owner of rental communities in the state and is the investment manager to more than $3 billion in multifamily real estate on behalf of numerous third-party owners. For more information, visit www.mark-taylor.com.