The apartment market has performed quite strongly despite the challenges of the pandemic. This year’s absorption is on track to be among the strongest since 2008, according to Yardi Matrix data. That has driven resoundingly high rent growth, with asking rents up 6.3 percent in June, reflecting increases not only in secondary and tertiary markets but even in the gateways as renters start to return.
This is all great news, but competition for residents is still strong. How do you stay ahead? The pandemic has produced a number of capabilities that will continue to achieve results in the long term. I’ve boiled these down to a few key words:
Creativity: I bring this one up a lot, but that’s because it’s so critical to driving evolution and developing new ideas. And it really helped in both engaging residents and attracting prospects during the pandemic, from finding new uses for existing technologies to developing stand-out marketing solutions to introducing fun virtual events. One case in point: Self-guided tours allowed prospects to visit on their own schedule and reduced demand on staff.
Communication: Were you talking regularly with your residents before the pandemic? Did they know what your community had to offer? Where to find critical information? How to reach you in an emergency? How much did you know about them, and how comfortable were they reaching out to you about employment and other problems that interfered with their ability to pay rent? As became so apparent during recent months, communication is important, both broadly and individually, and will continue to help you retain residents, predict renewals and departures, and address problems while they can still be resolved.
Flexibility: The pandemic forced this on a lot of us, most notably as we learned to adapt to working from home. But experimenting with new approaches and being willing to adapt are always beneficial. That extends to how residents can reach you and pay their rent: Contact preferences among demographic groups vary from phone to email, text to social media. Some even want to talk in person! And the rising penchant for electronic (ACH), credit card and debit card payments should be balanced against some continued desire for good old-fashioned checks.
Connectedness: Speaking of demographic groups, continually evaluating who your renters are and what they’re interested in ensures your community remains appealing—from paint colors to community amenities to the size of the kitchen (or lack thereof). Some preferences may be surprising. For instance, did you know Gen Z highly values not only a fast internet connection but a guaranteed parking spot?
Differentiation: In such a competitive market, everyone wants to stand out. Be very critical as you evaluate your selling points. Are they really as unique as you think they are?
Of course, there’s a lot more to consider. Our Midyear Guide, our annual summer reference guide, addresses a variety of emerging and evolving trends, a roundup of Yardi Matrix reports on key markets, plus our popular ranking of Top Property Management Companies. Let me know what you think!