The process of searching for and finding an apartment to rent has changed dramatically in recent years as real estate technology has evolved. It’s not just innovations in online listings services—popular ILS sites have certainly grown rapidly over the past decade but, new technology is fundamentally changing the entire renter’s journey, arming future residents with a wealth of data and information at every step of the way.
While industry technology has advanced at a breakneck pace, the main concerns and priorities for prospective renters have stayed the same over time. But, what was once a time-consuming, tedious and at times physically demanding undertaking has now been dramatically streamlined, if not eliminated altogether. Modern search engines, internet listing services and interactive mapping software have made searching for and leasing a new apartment a seamless experience that can be done entirely online.
Consider these critical priorities for renters; location, availability, price and unit location.
Undeniably the most important element of a renter’s search for a new home is finding the right neighborhood, commonly dictated by personal responsibilities like work, family, friends and their desired lifestyle. Renters have a defined target area identified and whatever their reason may be, location is almost always the reason that they identified a property in the first place.
In almost all cases, the process begins with a search on Google. The renter will use Google to refine and geographically narrow search results to find apartment buildings or communities that meet their location needs—a task that once required painstaking research, local knowledge or a physical tour of a neighborhood.
Availability & Price
A renter’s move is often the result of a major life change: the end of a current lease, the sale of a home, a professional relocation or another life event with a fixed timeline. Once a general location has been determined, the next step is searching for apartment communities with availability during their move-in window. A renter’s move-in date might sometimes be flexible, but in most cases, they have a short time frame to make their move; a renter may fall in love with a property, but if no units are available for their required dates or if availability is unknown, they will move on.
Just as crucial as location, a renter will likely only evaluate properties that are within a specific budget range. While research suggests that many renters often stretch above what they perceive to be affordable, price is an obvious key factor in a renter’s decision-making process.
Internet listing services like Apartments.com, Zillow and Rent.com have successfully optimized their network of websites so that they are the top results in almost all apartment related searches. When the renter’s Google search leads them to an ILS website, they can then begin to refine their location search to specific building or communities. The ILS’s have developed complex APIs or data feeds to show the prospective renter apartment availability and price in real-time, moving them further through the renter’s journey towards a lease decision.
In the big picture, unit location may seem relatively trivial to property managers or RPM’s, but in reality, unit location holds the final key to the modern renter’s journey. Renter’s want to know where, specifically, within the property they will be renting. Avoiding the time and hassle of traveling to and touring a community, prospective renters can now virtually tour a building and visualize nearly every corner of it. Advanced real estate technologies, like Engrain’s SightMap, gives renters the ability to see the exact location of available apartments, common areas and amenities within a building or community.
While these key factors of a renter’s journey to signing a lease have remained the same over time, new interactive software and visual technologies in residential real estate are streamlining the process and changing the way renters find, evaluate and ultimately lease their new home.
Aaron Batte is an entrepreneur, technologist and futurist as well as a sales and marketing thought leader with more than 20 years of experience. He is currently the President of UnitMap at Engrain—the industry leader in next-generation interactive technology, mapping and data visualization software solutions for the multifamily, commercial, residential, storage, and retail real estate industries—where he leads strategy, market development and partnerships.