Pangea Properties Flexes Its Muscle

Tips and insights from the award-winning apartment owner and manager.

Like most apartment owners and managers, Pangea Properties has a varied marketing strategy that combines digital marketing, such as pay-per-click, search engine optimization and social media, with internet listing services and traditional marketing techniques.

“We’re evenly split in terms of dollars spent for ILS versus digital marketing,” said Arun Das, head of marketing and technology at Chicago-based Pangea, a REIT whose portfolio consists of over 13,000 apartments and townhouses in Chicago, Indianapolis and Baltimore. “But our bread and butter is SEO on the digital marketing side. We excel at using our technologically advanced approach in data analysis to create our own digital marketing strategy in-house, which yields way more leases at a fraction of the cost of ILS.”

Pangea recently won the Best Marketing Strategy Gold Award, Best Social Media Strategy Gold Award and Best Website Bronze Award at the 16th annual Multi-Housing News Excellence Awards. Here’s what you can learn from the award-winning apartment owner and manager.


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Adapt to the Demographic and the Portfolio

Pangea’s apartments are in low- and middle-income neighborhoods, and its core residents are African Americans with incomes of $40,000 or less. Rather than describing the company’s communities as workforce housing, Das prefers to refer to it as “naturally occurring affordable housing.” Although the company charges market rents for its properties, they command lower rents due to their location and product type. Pangea’s portfolio is mostly scattered-site, and its average unit count per building is 20 units. The company often owns multiple buildings in a neighborhood.

“We’re not coming in, investing millions of dollars into a building and then pricing out the residents that live there and call that neighborhood home,” Das said. “We try to elevate the quality of the buildings we’re purchasing and revitalize that already proud neighborhood.”

But budgets are not unlimited, so the company has become highly efficient, using a centralized marketing strategy and leasing process, with a call center that handles all incoming leads. That allows Pangea to capture prospects who otherwise might have been lost if the type of unit it sought wasn’t available at one community. Instead, the call center cross-markets other buildings in the area to prospects, avoiding lost opportunities.

Pangea was able to drive traffic to its 36-unit Garwyn Oaks community in Baltimore.

Pangea was able to drive traffic to its 36-unit Garwyn Oaks community in Baltimore, and increase leads and conversions, by refreshing the content on the community’s website, improving SEO and ORM and using paid and organic social media posts. Image courtesy of Pangea Properties

SEO Shines

When Das joined Pangea 11 years ago, there was no SEO program in place. So, he built it from the ground up, creating website content that was applicable to the searches he thought prospects would utilize to find homes in the neighborhoods in which the company owns and operates properties. As a result, there are hundreds of content pages awaiting any prospect who types “apartments $1,000 or less near me” into a search engine, Das said.

“We’ve seen a really positive boost from our SEO program,” he said. “We started from nothing, but now we’re driving more than half our leases from our digital program, and 90 percent of it is from SEO—at a fraction of the cost. Our cost for leads is in the dollars, versus the thousands of dollars ILS packages can rack up.”

According to company data, the conversion rate from lead to lease for SEO is 300 percent higher than for ILS. In 2021, SEO and PPC sources accounted for only a quarter of leads, but nearly half of all signed leases.

The company also utilizes its blog for SEO purposes, featuring industry-related topics geared toward its target renter: moving tips, how much to allocate for utilities, how to select the right furniture, etc.

“Content is king with SEO and always has been,” Das said. “The days of keyword stuffing and writing ‘real estate’ and ‘apartment’ in all of our content are over. Now we tailor our content toward the neighborhoods we own and operate in and relevant user searches.”

PPC for Quick Results

While SEO is highly successful for Pangea, Das admits that effective SEO is “a marathon and not a race.” He said that he’s currently making SEO changes that will impact the company’s website traffic in six to eight months.

For immediate results, however, he turns to PPC, or Google Ads, which is quick and highly targeted. If the company is running a promotion or wants to increase traffic to a particular building or cluster of buildings, PPC allows it to do so. “If we need a blast of traffic, that’s an immediate turnaround,” he said.

Social Media

Pangea uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for both organic and paid social media. The company posts organic content to the platforms at least once a day and also runs paid ads on all three. It also cross-promotes its weekly blog on all three sites.

Rather than having individual Facebook pages for each community—since many are small, with just a few units—Pangea has a centralized page that has nearly 30,000 followers. The company uses that page for two-way communication with both residents and prospects, often promoting local businesses and discounts to residents via the company’s Pangea Perks program. Residents can also communicate with management if they need a work order or have questions, while the company provides notices of events to renters via social media. “It’s not just a user acquisition tool for us,” Das said. “Social media is heavily focused on retention as well.”

A Multitude of Marketing Strategies

 Sometimes, it’s helpful to use a hybrid approach, combining several marketing strategies in order to drive more traffic to a particular property. Pangea Garwyn Oaks is a 36-unit apartment community in the Garwyn Oaks neighborhood of Baltimore with one- and two-bedroom units. To increase traffic and leads for the property, which doesn’t have the benefits of on-site management, Pangea refreshed the content on the community’s landing page, added more backlinks to improve SEO, improved online reputation management and used paid and organic social media posts to promote the property. The result was an 11 percent increase in prospects and a 36 percent increase in conversions. Visits to the community website increased tenfold.

Yet, while Das emphasizes that SEO outperforms other marketing techniques, he said the company still relies on ILS, using both subscription-based models such as Apartments.com and pay-per-lead sites such as ApartmentList and Zillow.

“These work really well for us because they are lead aggregators, so we collect the leads and funnel them through our centralized marketing process,” he said. “We have so many units that I need ILS as well as digital.”

The company also taps CraigsList ads on occasion. “If we need extra help—more than we get with SEO or ILS—that’s where CraigsList will come in, and we usually get the traffic we need to close a deal. It gives us value when we have a stale unit, a high-priority unit or a unit that needs to be filled for financing requirements.”

Email marketing is effective, as well, to help nudge a prospective renter along after they’ve expressed interest, by reaching out at key touch points during the apartment-search process.

Pangea’s goal is to just to market apartments but to have a positive impact on the communities it serves. Pangea Cares, the company’s nonprofit arm, has beautified neighborhoods by creating community gardens, donated toys and other gifts for the holidays, given away turkeys for Thanksgiving and delivered COVID-19 care packages.

“We don’t want to be looked at as a property management company that’s from the outside,” Das said. “We want to be a part of the neighborhood. For us it’s important to have a positive impact.”

That’s good for business, as well.

Read the April 2023 issue of MHN.

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