What are the indications your company may need leasing centralization especially if you have limited staffing and reduced resident service levels.
By Katie Nelson
Seldom part of the apartment sector’s vernacular prior to 2020, the term centralization has been a prominent component of many industry conversations the past few years. So much so, in fact, that many organizations actively wonder whether they are missing out if they are not deploying it to some degree.
Like many new-school concepts in multifamily, leasing centralization had been on the industry’s “next wave” radar and became more prominent because of the pandemic. Operators learned about its potential efficiencies in 2020 and 2021, and it has since become a staple of the modern-day operations of many organizations.
Forbes defines centralization in multifamily as “any effort to move away from individual property-based leasing and operational teams and centralize them in one or multiple regional locations to improve efficiencies and cut down costs.”
That’s a broad description, and many potential organizational efforts can fall under its umbrella. That’s why the question “is centralization the right fit for an organization?” is something of a challenging question. While some traditional concepts such as call centers technically qualify as centralization, most modern-day efforts focus upon efficiencies spurred by the shutdown, such as the need to provide virtual leasing during a contactless environment.
Signs operators might need it
So, what are the indicators that your organization might need centralization? If your company is experiencing pain points within existing operating procedures—often in the form of limited staffing—it might be time to shift toward it. Limited staffing, of course, creates the double-whammy of reduced resident service levels and potential burnout of onsite teams due to the overload of responsibilities.
Operators experiencing these challenges can consider centralizing certain services—and this is where one organization might vary from the next. In an effort to bolster service levels and create a balanced working environment, operators have centralized the roles of assistant property manager, accounting personnel, maintenance supervisor and several additional positions that are typically onsite.
Leasing centralization often serves as a prominent option for operators with several communities within a certain locale. For instance, operators with five communities within a 30-mile radius can centralize service-centric roles that still require some onsite presence. That said, proximity doesn’t matter for leasing- or accounting-focused roles that are mostly handled digitally and remotely.
Centralized leasing can reduce pain points
While centralization can equate to different things to different operators, the form that most directly impacts everyday onsite operations is centralized leasing. Offsite associates can assist teams by answering calls, setting tour appointments, conducting follow-ups and marketing the community. This can result in a richer customer experience with greater service levels and more information for prospects, which subsequently can increase lead-to-lease closing ratios.
With a large portion of prospect calls taken care of by the centralized leasing team, onsite associates can devote more focus to resident needs and the community at large. It can create a more efficient work environment and leave associates less overburdened.
Centralizing certain leasing services also can help solve hiring challenges. While it’s not only difficult to find high-performing onsite team members in the current industry landscape, offering a competitive salary also can put a strain on the community budget. Centralized leasing programs can reduce these costs without sacrificing service levels.
Challenges to consider
Operators considering a centralized platform should first define their specific needs and challenges—then create the platform. They should take inventory of the immediate changes it will present for current associates and write a business plan for the new platform. Learning from the experiences of other operators is key, as well, and operators should consider reaching out to other organizations that have successfully implemented centralization concepts.
Additionally, it is crucial to hire the right associates in the transition to centralization. The skills possessed by an onsite leasing associate might differ from what’s needed in a centralized leasing employee. Implementing the proper technology is also paramount, as teams should allow time to vet solutions, implement them and learn their various nuances before launching any type of centralization.
Lastly—and perhaps most importantly—when considering a potential move to centralization, think about the prospect’s experience. While newfound efficiencies can be welcoming for an onsite team, the industry’s primary mission is to provide an amazing customer journey. That should be enhanced rather than disrupted with any move to centralization.
About the author:
Katie Nelson is the Vice President of Marketing for CAPREIT.