Despite changing lease-up patterns and plummeting rent rates in primary markets, occupancy in the affordable sector has remained consistently high since the onset of the health crisis.
“The demand for affordable housing is not at the whim of the larger economic market—if anything, it has increased during this time of economic uncertainty,” Susan Camerata, CFO at Wavecrest Management, told Multi-Housing News.
And now that the vaccine rollout is well underway, a more relaxed future doesn’t seem that distant, prompting multifamily players to look for ways to maximize their operations in a post-pandemic world.
With the rental season in full swing, how should apartment marketers adjust their strategies?
Nearly all aspects of multifamily marketing—from the use of social media and video tours to chatbots—were powered by technology pre-COVID-19, and the pandemic has only accelerated these trends. To keep up with the changing environment, most property operators have embraced the multi-channel approach to maintain resident satisfaction and reach out to prospects.
Digital marketing is progressively gaining ground as the consumer expects a complete digital experience. Social media, email campaigns, paid search, all proved to be valuable tools in a socially distanced world that was forced to rely heavily on online experiences.
Besides serving as a valuable tool for marketing apartment units, social media was used to showcase how well companies responded to the crisis by following best practices from the CDC and NMHC. Additionally, property management companies started tapping several uncharted areas—such as engaging with micro-influencers—to expand their reach to younger generations of renters.
These days, prospects looking for apartments will likely enter a leasing office only if they need to be there. As a result, property managers should invest in significant improvements in their websites and in the way the listings are crafted. Virtual tours are proving highly effective in showing apartment offerings to prospective residents, as are digital marketing campaigns for each listing.
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Print is not dead
Properties catering to lower-income renters will need to take a different approach. Due to limited supply, waiting lists for affordable units are extensive, and new rent-ups come with more firm marketing rules enforced by HPD to ensure printed information about affordable housing options is seen by those most in need, Camerata told MHN.
“A lot of businesses were able to easily adapt by going virtual or digital, but with deeply affordable housing and senior housing, we could not rely on consistent or sophisticated use of technology to disseminate information,” she explained. “To communicate with our residents, we frequently shared flyers and information on the eviction moratorium and the rent relief extension program.”
Another reason why Wavecrest doesn’t heavily use social media is related to the privacy of their residents. But email newsletters go out to current residents to relay information and make them aware of available services, such as vaccines available on-site, food and personal protective equipment distribution events, in addition to offering assistance with the census.
Printed information and signage have always been critical to Wavecrest’s operations, Camerata pointed out. “Because technology is not as ubiquitously used by seniors and low-income individuals, we need to make sure every resident has all the available information,” she said. “During the peak of the pandemic, we were putting information in monthly rent bills, to ensure everyone saw it, or in individual hallways.”