The Virtual Leasing Office Is Here to Stay – And It’s Just Getting Started

A personable, attentive and knowledgeable leasing professional will be a key component of any apartment community’s team during the second half of the year and most of the country steps away from pandemic restrictions and has the confidence to visit your property to get a first-hand look at your community’s lifestyle. 

But with the return to more normal daily life – including working away from home – to stay competitive, apartment communities must be equipped and capable of appealing to those prospective residents who wish to apartment shop virtually on their own time. 

And when you consider that so many people are eager to move for personal and job-related reasons, many will be relocating well outside their current municipality. 

So, while the lockdown virtual touring that came so into vogue during much of 2020 might seem passe now, it really has just gotten started. Forward-thinking owners and managers are taking the technology and communication lessons they learned from the pandemic building onto them this year and beyond. 

Making Sure They Find You 

Taking all of that into consideration, imagery and information rise to the top int terms of importance – and that means your website must be optimized to draw prospects and keep them online with you. 

For your website to show up in someone’s search results, your site will have to be optimized with the keyword terms people are using in their searches. There are many tools that can help you discover the best ones for your property, but it can be complicated.  

The competition for keyword ranking is fierce because 93 percent of searchers only look at the first page results. That’s why most organizations today hire a marketer with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experience or contract with an agency to manage this for them…it’s that important. 

Do you know the impression your website is leaving with prospects? Even if it’s beautiful, it can still be structured poorly. Visitors should be able to locate at a glance the specific information they’re seeking, even if they’re browsing on their phone. Make sure that your apartment website is mobile responsive.  

This is important because 70 percent of web traffic comes from a mobile device and 57 percent of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website. And your site is unlikely to show up in top Google ratings if it isn’t mobile-friendly. 

All the Information at Their Fingertips 

Your website must be accommodating, and ‘round-the-clock it must be able to offer answers to the most common questions such as price and availability – not to mention office hours and the application process. 

It must provide high-quality video tours of a variety of your floorplans and units. It must allow for self-guided tour scheduling – or to make an appointment to come visit you. 

Websites should include interactive building and floor selectors, which lead your website visitors through a virtual-floor selection experience to view availability and navigate multiple buildings and floor levels. 

Property sitemaps are beneficial, too, because they allow you to showcase unit availability and display visual details about a unit’s location, floor amenities, balcony views, and more on an interactive map. This recent ebook highlights the property management website features that are most important. 

Scheduling Tours Here and Now

Once the prospect has a better sense of where they want to live in your community, you need to be able to over virtual tours. This option is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity if you want to stay competitive. If prospects have to wait until tomorrow or the weekend to view your properties, but they can explore another property via a 3D virtual tour while they watch TV at the end of the day, your competitor has the jump on you.  

The community website must provide the option to schedule tours or appointments. People are that busy and want nothing but that measure of instant gratification. 

And aside from the great convenience that perpetual access gives them, people just prefer video to still photos. Data shows that apartment listings with virtual tours receive 87 percent more views than those without virtual tours. 

Allowing prospects to get a better idea about whether a space is right for them before you show it means that more serious candidates will be who you schedule for walk-throughs. Research shows that 75 percent of renters prefer interactive virtual tours over ordinary photographs and that these tours influenced their purchase decision. 

This Audience 

Virtual tours may be a deciding factor for certain groups of people, including: 

**Out of town prospects who can’t schedule a walk through but who need to move in quickly; and 

**Individuals with disabilities and/or restricted mobility who want to reduce the number of properties they visit in person. 

**Those who are simply too busy or who prefer to shop online for almost everything – including apartments. 

Virtual tours and video integration that let you create a visually stunning digital experience with any 2D or 3D floor plan through Matterport, Razz and other top platforms. 

Virtual tours send a message of convenience to your prospects that can improve lease rates. Research from Nielsen states that “in today’s hyperconnected world, convenience is the ultimate currency.” Modern technology and convenient online tools that create a smooth leasing process send a positive message about life after the signing the lease. They reflect well on your brand. 

Texting is the Way to Go 

Flexible communication tools are a vital ingredient of a virtual leasing office. There was a time when email was king of property management communication tools. It’s still important and a key component of flexible communication. However, even before COVID, this trend had shifted.  

People no longer want to interact via voice communication to conduct their business, and fewer people are responding to email. Consumers want to do as much as possible on their phones through text messages and chat apps: 58 percent of consumers have tried to reply with a text message after missing a call from a business. And consumers are 4 times more likely to respond to a text message than call back to a voicemail. 

Meeting the prospective resident on their terms and through their preferred technology and communication method will create a powerful first impression – something that is so critical during these competitive apartment shopping times. 

Applications and Leases – The Last Virtual Mile  

For a leasing experience to be truly virtual – the application process, payment of application fees and security deposits and signed lease – must be virtual and as seamless and as efficient as the information gathering and decision phases of the prospect’s journey.  

The best way to ensure a seamless experience is for the application, leasing and payment steps to take place completely online – so no printing, scanning or emailing – and within one straightforward and frictionless user experience.  

To learn more about the must-haves in virtual leasing, download the 5 Must-Haves in a Virtual Leasing Solution ebook. To learn more about ResMan’s single platform lead-to-lease solution visit ResMan Marketing & Leasing.