Leasing Magic

Best methods to boost occupancy.

Looking to fill some units at your apartment community? There are many ways to advertise vacancies, but what’s the best way to get prospective residents in the door?

These days, with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, a community greatly benefits from a strong online presence. And sites such as Craigslist are often the first—and last—places people look for open apartments.

“Online advertising and leasing is huge right now for our prospective renters,” says Rebecca Gober, community manager at The Mosaic, a Gables Residential property in Dallas. Gober is also the MHN 2013 Excellence Awards Gold winner in the Best Property Manager of the Year category.

“Our renters are the same people who use the Internet to research the reviews of that hot new electronic they are going to purchase or the menus of the restaurants they are planning on visiting,” adds Gober.

Particularly when targeting millennials, a strong Internet presence is key for boosting occupancy.

“I can tell you personally, being a millennial myself, that most of our generation does not want to make a phone call to get information,” Gober says. “When I am looking to invest in a product, I will look it up online and if I don’t find the information I desire quickly, I’ll move on to the next listing on the search engine results.”

Of course, a good community website with a lot of important property information goes a long way. Gober urges that property managers make sure the community website is up to date so that people can get information on the property quickly and easily. “I think our websites need to become more of a one-stop shop,” she says.

Social media can also play a large role when targeting renters.

“There is a lot of use of social media, both in attracting enthusiasm from the existing tenant base, but also attracting new tenants,” Michael Makinen, COO, Mall Properties Inc., says.

However, there are some precautions you should take when launching a new social media campaign. And a targeted campaign is critical for success.

“One of the challenges with social media is that it’s gotten as competitive as print marketing once upon a time was,” professional speaker and marketing consultant Anne Sadovsky says. “It’s really hard for our customers to determine where to look for an apartment or who to call or what websites to look at because they’re being inundated with marketing messages.”

Tried and true

Though online advertising and social media are important for a successful marketing plan when leasing up a community, don’t discount all of the older lease-up methods.

For example, Sadovsky still advocates gimmicks directly on the property, particularly if it is located in a highly trafficked area.

“[Putting up signs might seem like an old-fashioned method], but it still works like a charm!” Sadovsky insists.

Makinen also suggests marketing directly to brokers.

“Our most effective approach for driving occupancy levels is a traditional approach with broker blasts,” he says. “We definitely find that advertising to the brokers is helpful. They do play a role in driving a lot of traffic to the properties.”

And, of course, there is print advertising, though this method seems to be falling more and more out of favor among property managers.

“There are very few markets that [print advertising] is still effective in, and those markets tend to be the ones that have renters that don’t have easy access to the computer or Internet,” Gober says.

Sadovsky agrees.

“Since social media generally rules today, I don’t know what’s going to happen with print advertising,” she says. “People with a short deadline to move probably go straight to Google.”

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

Sometimes the most effective marketing methods for a unit don’t even require a marketing budget.

“We’re really touting [our renovation program] heavily in the promotion of our units to the general public. We’re finding it’s been tremendously valuable for us [in terms of] attracting quality tenants who are signing up for longer-term leases and also as a way to really change the overall quality perception of the building in total,” Makinen says. According to Makinen, kitchen and bathroom upgrades are two of the “most showable and impressive upgrades that you can make to a space.”

“[The renovations] add to curb appeal—you can see when you first walk in that this is nice, and this is going to be a high-quality place to live,” Makinen says.

And perhaps the most important leasing strategy is having an effective team in place. “Put the right people in place and know they know how to close the sale and get traffic through the door,” Sadovsky says. “Be fully staffed—especially on the weekend when a lot of people are looking for apartments.”

Gober agrees.

“One of the main things I focus on when going into a community that has occupancy challenges is the team,” she says. “Are the team members motivated, are they encouraged and excited about the product? I’ve found that once I’ve been able to get the team happy, the leasing always follows.”

To comment, e-mail Jessica Fiur at jfiur@multi-housingnews.com