With some observers predicting an improving vacancy environment this spring, it is a good time for onsite teams to think about how they’re using technology and old-fashioned grassroots marketing.
Days are getting longer… and as temperatures climb from less than zero to well above freezing. Springtime is only a month or so away.
At apartment communities, managers are preparing for the annual Spring Rush—a big increase in the number of visits to their apartment communities that comes when the temperatures warm up. This spring, the demand from potential residents should be a lot stronger than it was last year.
“Leasing traffic begins to double starting in spring through summer,” says Michele Butler, Regional Vice President for Pinnacle. “It is super important to have the appropriate number of staff members onsite during this high-volume season so all opportunities to close the deal are captured.”
Property managers are making sure their properties are ready for heavier traffic—especially in parts of the United States where winter weather is harsh enough to cause apartment shoppers to wait for springtime before making a visit. New technology helps managers to keep leasing apartments -- even in on the coldest days -- but springtime still makes a big difference.
This year, stronger demand for apartments should make the spring leasing season stronger than last.
“Because of improving vacancies in apartments, especially at the top of the market, lease-up of new buildings should see some improvement,” says Andrew Rybczynski, Senior Consultant for CoStar Portfolio Strategy, referring to his forecast for the first quarter of 2019.
Classic property management ideas still work
Property managers are planning to use a mix of classic techniques and newer technologies to capture the anticipated extra leasing business.
“The ‘Spring Rush’ will remain important,” says Jackie Rhone, Executive Director of Real Estate for Greystar.
Simply holding standard events can help draw people to an apartment community.
“The good ol’ fashion onsite Open House event might be a classic tactic, but it still proves fruitful,” says Tina West, Chief Operating Officer of Capstone Management. “Hosting this type of event brings customers and local community business owners into your community.”
These events can also help build relationships with existing residents.
“Nothing is better than a get-together of people when it comes to building a sense of community,” Rhone says. “Hosting and partnering with local businesses to provide goods and services to our residents at a resident event is a great way to 'keep it local.”
This year, the usual springtime relief from cold weather comes as managers also have had little relief from competition from new apartments opening.
“With vacancies rates improved compared to this time last year, concessions have actually come in [been reduced] some for select parts of the market,” says CoStar’s Rybczynski.
Revenue management software systems are helping property managers set their rents more effectively in changing apartment markets.
“Revenue management is key during this period to utilize data to capture peak leasing days and capture max revenue growth,” says Butler.
Technology helps managers find residents in winter
When the weather is cold, technology is also helping property managers attract potential residents.
“With advances in technology, the cold weather months are much less of a factor than they were,” says John Sebree, Director of Marcus & Millichap's National Multi Housing Group.
“Our online traffic and leasing numbers have drastically increased during the past several years as the technology supporting our industry has advanced,” says Rhone.
These customers are able to view floorplans, compare current lease rates and go on “virtual tours” that allow them to explore an apartment community. Potential residents can also complete much of the process of applying for an apartment and signing a lease online.
“The ability to conduct virtual tours on our communities is an important part of our online leasing and customer interaction process and gives our customers the capability to find a home without leaving their sofa,” Rhone says.
These features are a huge benefit in parts of the country where snow, ice or freezing rain makes driving to visit an apartment community much less attractive. The temperature doesn’t have drop to 30 below zero—as it did in many states in January 2019. Normal winter weather is enough to keep customers away.
While managers wait for the cold weather to end, and plan their springtime landscaping, they also take care that the online identity of their communities is pristine. That means double-checking the website and responding quickly to online reviews.
“Online reviews are becoming more and more important every day,” Rhone says. “We call it our online ‘curb appeal…’ Our company goes to great measures to seek feedback from our customers and to use that feedback to make improvements that benefit our current and future customers.