COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines have shifted the multifamily industry across the country forcing leaders to have to completely rethink how they conduct business in order to stay afloat and meet their prospects and resident’s needs. Owners and management companies have had to drastically shift their focus on offerings that most thought they had a few years to implement. Multifamily leaders have had to adjust and rethink strategies and best practices to continue to maintain and exceed the expectations of prospects, residents, owners and stakeholders. As the industry continues to adapt to these turbulent times, there are a number of aspects of the trade that multifamily leaders need to address and get under control in order to continue to thrive, including introducing virtual apartment tours, self-guided tours and creating quality community websites across their portfolio.
With the current climate, the industry leaders that come out on top are the ones who have been able to act fast, make quick and good decisions and take chances — all while maintaining the highest level of customer service.
Virtual and self-guided apartment tours have quickly expanded throughout the Phoenix market and many other MSA’s across the country since COVID-19 hit earlier this year. We’ve heard about virtual and self-guided tours for years, but renters had yet to create the expectation for this type of service, until now. These different tour options allow prospective residents to tour a community efficiently and safely while abiding by social distancing standards on their time and at their own pace. Apartment communities are no longer ahead of the game by offering multiple tour options. It’s now expected by many renters and it is going to be necessary to simply continue to be a player in the rental market.
For virtual apartment tours, multifamily communities can utilize tools such as 3D Matterport tours. These immersive experiences make individuals feel as though they are walking through the space in-person and go beyond the typical 360 tours. Other options for virtual apartment tours include pre-recording tours on YouTube or on a tool such as Realync. On top of this, property management teams can also conduct virtual apartment tours in real-time via FaceTime, Skype and more.
Another social distancing tour that is gaining popularity in the market includes self-guided tours. These tours allow for little to no contact between prospective residents and the onsite property management team while still allowing them to see the space for themselves. This can be done by having prospects visit the office to pick up a key, along with a map of the community guiding them to the model or vacant units, or you could include a key in a lockbox and include the code and property map in an email or text for the prospect to view during their tour. In order to be successful with these types of tours, it’s important that a clear and manageable process is defined for both the onsite team and the prospect. It’s possible to do this internally, or there are companies like Anyone Home or Yardi bringing products to market to enhance the self-guided tour experience as well.
Social distancing has further highlighted the need for unified, quality websites for each community across a multifamily firm’s portfolio. As more aspects of leasing apartments are done virtually, rental communities need to have informative, organized websites with quality photos and descriptions so prospective residents can get a good idea of what the community is like without having to step foot on the property. Make sure that there are multiple ways for people to get in touch with a community; whether it be via phone, email or text. Every renter is different and being able to communicate with them in whichever way they’re most comfortable is a must.
On top of this, it’s crucial that community websites have strong SEO to bring in more users, fast-loading webpages, engaging and clear copy, and the ability to view pricing and availability in real-time. Another valuable asset for community websites is to utilize chat bots. This effective tech enables prospective residents to have all of their questions answered quickly and efficiently. It also can save a ton of time for onsite staff so they have the time to focus on other priorities.
With more people renting from their couch than ever before, it’s also imperative to maintain a high review score and gain positive reviews from websites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Because many people won’t have the chance to get the full picture of a community prior to their move in day, they rely heavily on reviews from other people who have shared their own experiences. For this reason, onsite employees must continue to provide top notch customer service and also be willing to ask for reviews. Most people only think to give a review for a bad experience, but there are plenty more good experiences and it’s okay to ask for people to share their honest opinion of your community based on their personal experience.
Social distancing has boosted the popularity of all things virtual; this includes providing opportunities for individuals to go through the entire leasing process, from beginning to end, online. These virtual leasing systems provide added convenience for prospective residents and also help onsite team members to work more efficiently. With a virtual leasing system integrated into your community’s website, individuals can work through the application and leasing process on their own time from anywhere. Once they become a resident, they will also be able to stay connected with the community online where they will be able to submit maintenance requests, pay rent, and more.
As social distancing and COVID-19 continues to redefine our norms, many aspects of the multifamily realm continue to shift toward virtual. Virtual leasing will continue to grow in popularity and will eventually be required for multifamily properties to succeed. In order to bring in more prospective residents, retain residents and stay ahead of the competition, multifamily communities will have to quickly adapt to this new normal in the industry.
Are you looking to hire an experienced and professional property management team to manage your community? Be sure to look at our services and give us a call at (480) 951-2222.