More new apartment homes will be delivered in 2022 than any year in at least the past 40 years. This wave will increase competition from coast to coast.
This is welcomed news to renters looking for new homes and for apartment communities as demand remains at historically high levels.
Apartments.com hosted a webinar—“How to Turn Renter Insights into Faster-Converting Leads”—to help operators capitalize on these supply increases, as well as renter behaviors and needs. This webinar was a pre-conference session as part of the Apartment Innovation and Marketing Conference, set for April 24-27 in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“All of these renter and construction trends are hitting at a time when the economy is making renting more appealing to millions of Americans,” said panelist Jordan Silton, senior director of Product, SEO for Apartments.com.
Silton was joined by Elise Rudy, senior director of Marketing for Kettler; Lindsay Duffy, director of Marketing and Training for Western Wealth Communities; and moderator Marcia Bollinger, senior vice president, Multifamily for Apartments.com.
“We’ve all seen the headlines about inflation and rising home prices. It’s amazing how quickly home prices rose last year, making homes less affordable for many,” Silton said.
“What this means for the apartment industry is that even though we saw significant rate increases last year, rising home prices and interest rates will make home buying less appealing—and renting more appealing—to many, particularly as apartment supply increases this year.”
Pent-Up Apartment Demand Being Unleashed
Apartments.com just wrapped up a third renter survey, gaining input from 30,000 renters.
Results from the recent survey show the pent-up demand for apartments that was talked about for so long during the pandemic has become real demand.
“Half of renters want to move before the summer, and half of renters who wanted to move since the pandemic began couldn’t do it,” Silton said. “Another 25 percent of renters told us they did move in the last six months, so there are now more renters who have recently moved or soon plan to move than at any point since the pandemic began.”
“Many communities report being fully leased right now, and many believe that trend will continue,” Silton said.
“But only one quarter of the renters who responded to our survey told us they plan to stay in their current community when their lease expires,” he added. “That’s only half as many as planned to stay in their community before COVID hit; and six in 10 renters say that whenever their lease expires, they plan to rent somewhere else.”
Silton said he’s also seeing a lot of interest from renters looking for apartments in other markets. Four of 10 Apartments.com searches in Q4 were for apartments outside the market where that renter was searching from—that’s nearly 50 million searches, and a higher percentage than in Q3 of 2021.
“Renters are doing their research and are making decisions faster than ever,” he said.
According to the survey, the majority expect to spend less than two months researching to find their new apartment, signing the lease and moving in.
Best Practices for Heightened Online Search
“They’re doing more research online, they expect communities to ‘wow’ them quickly and they know they don’t have long to respond when they see a vacancy that interests them,” Silton said.
Apartment communities are finding success when they go beyond just community-level information and provide as much unit-level detail as possible, Silton said. He cited that nine in 10 renters said they want unit-level information to help make their leasing decision.
Additionally, most renters are looking for multiple ways to tour a community—in person, remotely and with or without an agent.
The biggest shift in this space, not really a surprise given how much the world has changed in the past two years, is that this year’s NMHC/Grace Hill renter preferences report saw a 63 percent increase in renters who want self-guided tours vs. the 2020 report.
Savvy Operators Succeeding With New Strategies
Operators are adjusting with the times in terms of resident engagement, mobile technology, marketing messaging and onsite team efficiency, among other things.
Rudy said the biggest change in Kettler’s approach to resident engagement is that it no longer focuses on customer service—instead it’s customer experience. “Our job is to properly take care of residents before any problems arise,” she said.
Duffy said she’s seeing changes in resident expectations that they want all the information about an apartment home right then and there.
“So many spent so much time in their apartments during the pandemic, they looked around and asked, ‘Do I really like living here?’ and then started to shop for somewhere else to live,” she said.
Rudy and Duffy have found bots to be a great solution to creating more efficiency in operations.
Rudy said, “We’re busy and we don’t want to sacrifice our teams’ response times to prospects and bots can help a lot with that.”
“We’re working with lean teams right now,” Duffy said. “We don’t want our staff to be so stressed out. Greater efficiency helps.”
Combining Web, Social and ILSs
Both said they are moving to an omni-channel approach to engage with prospects. They use websites, ILSs and social media, but need to be able to connect all three in their efforts. The key, they said, is to be there for the prospects in the way they prefer to be reached—whatever that happens to be.
Rudy said it’s crucial to craft marketing messages to fit the renter demographic and geographic area and not to rely on one message for all.
In her effort to make her properties stand out, Duffy said she’s emphasizing the “sense of community” about what it’s like to live there, relying on transparent messaging from actual residents, touting their apartment life.
Rudy said Kettler is highlighting its communities’ features based on personas of those who could be interested from a given market.
Out With the Old, In With the New
Bollinger presented the trends that are moving from old to new, citing that 70 percent of Apartments.com searchers are doing so via mobile devices.
“The level of detail that we’re providing is so much greater than years ago,” Bollinger said. “It’s not so much to say there is parking or that you’re pet-friendly, for example. Today, communities are sharing images about their lots and are providing their pet policies in detail.”
Media has received an upgrade, as well. Images are clear, crisp and show the apartment in its greatest light. Video tours are more realistic and inviting. Individual unit floor plans are not only 2-D, but often shown in 3-D to give renters a better idea of what it would be like to live there.
Listings cater more to the self-service that prospects desire. They can schedule their tours via the listing and don’t have to bother with personally reaching someone on site to set appointments.
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