The last two years for multifamily have been historical and incredible, to say the least. 2021 & 2022 brought with them a myriad of firsts for multifamily including record rent growth and record high retention rates. Along with that, we’ve also seen the industry adopt self-serving leasing tools more than ever along with an increasing number of properties embracing a centralized leasing model for the very first time.
The leasing environment over the last two years most certainly favored owners, investors and property management companies, however, it’s important you don’t get too comfortable. As we head into the spring and summer leasing cycle, properties will find themselves in a much more competitive landscape. There will be little room for complacency in 2023 and in order to maximize NOI, you’ll need to focus on leading your regional market, even in a downturn.
Here’s how you can better prepare for the competition ahead in 2023:
Inspect what you expect
Conduct a detailed walk of the asset. Inspect all common areas, including trash bins, models, and vacant units. It might sound like a no-brainer, yet many properties still struggle to do this on a consistent basis. The reality is that quality matters. When you are responsible for someone’s home, the little things go a long way. Even something as little as a trash smell coming down the hall of your units could be chipping away at your rent growth potential.
Walk in the shoes of your residents and prospects. The experience for them matters. When you walk properties or units with the mindset of checking off a task list instead of walking to see through the renter’s eyes, you will miss important details.
Fine-tune your team
Your team has not had to “sell” the last two leasing seasons like they will this year. Gone are the days when only a handful of units would be available. It’ll be critical to work with individual team members to help improve their skills and knowledge. Consider role-playing with your team members to help them navigate pushback from prospects or articulate what’s great and unique about your property. Show them how to validate rent prices for new and renewing leases.
Ask your team how many touchpoints they’ve had with the leases that are ending. What was the quality of those interactions? Even if your team has fallen into bad habits and hasn’t been engaging with residents much, it’s never too late for them to help renters make the most of the community. Consider offering things like a proactive maintenance appointment. Have an office and maintenance team member do an occupied walk-through to address any unreported or overlooked issues.
Pull up the list of past prospects who did not lease in the past two years. If you really want to get out in front of increased vacancies, build a pipeline of potential renters from people who have already expressed interest in your community. This is often a very underutilized, yet effective strategy for multifamily.
Consider celebrating and sharing effective follow-ups used by individual team members with the rest of the team. As it is with most things, if you ask your frontline team, they often know what works and what does not.
Retaining as much of the rent growth gained over the previous two years should be top of mind. Invest in your team so they understand the impact this has on the property budget and help them understand the importance of holding the line on this year’s renewal offers. Show them how follow-through and follow-up are just as essential to renewals as they are net new leases. Renewals start with the move-in.
Improve Your Lead-to-Lease Processes
Just as you need to understand the physical experience for your residents, you also need to understand the virtual experience for your prospects. At this point, most properties are utilizing technology for some aspect of their leasing process. Many jumped on the tech train out of necessity at the start of the pandemic, but now, they may be overdue for a reevaluation of how and what tech they are using.
Try navigating the process like a prospective renter:
- Start with the search. How easily are you finding the asset? What is the experience when going from the ILS to your website?
- Visit your own website (and your neighboring properties’ websites, too). How does your site stand out from the others? Does your website capture your unique value proposition? How easy is it for a renter get to information they need?
- Check out the mobile experience of your website. Most people are using their cell phones for any kind of initial research. If your website is formatted for desktop-only, you’re creating immediate friction with prospective renters who visit from their phone.
- Check out the floorplans. How is the experience when selecting a unit on the web and mobile? If the images or floorplan interaction are an afterthought, you are possibly losing your prospects to someone who is doing it better.
- Try out the application process. A surprising number of prospects abandon the application process when it becomes complicated, hard-to-use, or is jumping in and out of desperate workflows. Be on the lookout for those points of friction.
- Pay attention to what happens next. What is the post-application experience like? Is your team following up and following through? If they are, how quickly and effectively are they communicating?
Walking through the leasing process yourself will help you notice the cracks and holes that need to be filled. For example, you might notice your team is struggling to get to every call. This is where you can delegate a call center to help make sure you engage every caller. And it’s important to be choosey. Some call centers only take a message on behalf of your team. While this is a step up from reaching the voicemail and missing the call altogether, there are call centers out there that operate as extensions of your leasing team and can effectively move callers to the next step in the leasing process. This will be crucial in the upcoming months as a missed call can mean money left on the table.
You might also consider adding a Chatbot to your site to answer common questions and give information to prospective residents. Even better, some chatbots let website visitors connect with live agents so they can get their detailed or nuanced questions answered without having to call your property. This helps reduce the overall call volume for your team and will also help funnel in ready-to-tour renters.
If you are considering or evaluating Chatbots or call centers, you must understand the ultimate goal for each. These tools are not going to convert leads for you directly. They will, however, help your team make sure no lead is missed.
Compare performance between assets in your portfolio
Most property management software can generate lead conversion reports. Try taking things a step further. Build a schedule where you bring team members from different properties together to review their KPI reports and share more specific details to determine why some things are working better for some. Again, you’d be surprised to find out from your on-site staff how even the slightest adjustment in strategy or tactics can make a noticeable difference in conversion rates.
Remember, 2023 will not look like the last two years. Prepare your teams for the extra effort they’ll need to put in as leasing season arrives and do your due diligence in setting up your properties and staff for success. We’re rooting for you!
Are you looking for extra tools to maximize your NOI in 2023? We’ve got a few we think could help. Book some time with us here.