I recently shopped a class B property in Atlanta that was attempting to increase occupancy prior to disposition.  I had spoken to the owner and I knew that they wanted to hit 93% by the end of April, but their operational budget was tight.  So I poked my head in the leasing office to inquire about an apartment and see how the property was attempting the lease-up.  What I saw was very disheartening.  The property had slashed rents by nearly 10% AND was giving away a month free if anyone moved-in by April 30th.  While I imagine this strategy will ultimately succeed in securing the leases needed, I was amazed that the owners had chosen to slash the rents prior to putting into place some basic leasing logistics.  With vacancy rates dropping and rents rising, here are a few easy steps every owner should take prior to lowering their rents.

1.  Make sure the property has a web presence.  Today’s renter does not drive by and call the number on your NOW LEASING banner.  Rather, they are going to type the property name into Google and hit enter.  Based on what they find, they will decide to call the office and schedule an appointment.   To just rely on an ILS like rent.com in lieu of a website is extremely expensive.  Here are a few tips on creating a quick property specific web presence.

  • Utilize the free website templates from Vaultware.com and create a property website.  This will only take you a few hours and it will only cost about $12 for a domain name. 
  • Make sure your property has a Google Place Page and that it includes pictures, a link to the website and accurate information.  www.google.com/places
  • Create a property Facebook page and update it daily with local news, polls and pictures.

2.  Monitor your properties online reputation.  Get some $5 Starbucks gift cards and offer them to residents who post a review on Apartmentratings.com, Google, or Facebook about the property.  Make sure you stress that any review will suffice; it does have to be a good review.  If the review is negative, then respond politely and publically on the review site.

3.  Review the tour route and select show units.  There should be a show unit for each available unit type.  You can use a model, mini model or vacant rent ready apartment.  The show unit should be chosen based on the appeal of the tour route and it should be the last unit of that type to be leased.  Prospects should ONLY BE SHOWN a show unit.  This will make it easier to maintain the tour route and show units.  The whole property does not have to be pristine, but the office, tour route and show units must be perfect. 

4.  Follow up.  One direct result of the internet is the enhanced search time we are seeing from prospective renters.  Your leasing team needs to have a diligent follow up plan in place in the event that  a purchasing decision is not made the first time a prospect views the property.   Here are some good follow up ideas for your leasing team.

  • Phone calls.  Make sure that every prospect is called within 24 hours of the tour.  The Leasing Specialists should attempt to be personal and conversational on the phone.  Do not call the prospect and directly ask them if they have found an apartment.  They know why you are calling, and if they are ready to come back and lease they will tell you.  Rather, try conversing with them on a topic that you feel will be interesting to the prospect.  If your follow-up call turns into a 3 minute chat, then you have established rapport and you will get an honest update from them on their apartment search.
  • Emails.  They should be personal and by including video, you can greatly increase the click through rate.  Make sure to add every prospect to an email list and set up bi-monthly e-blasts for additional follow-up.
  • Thank you notes.  Today, a hand written thank you note shows the prospect that the management cares about the residents.  For properties in that “B” asset class, management and maintenance are the biggest reasons that people look for a new apartment.   A hand written note speaks volumes!
  • Visit them at work.  If you have teamed up with a local pizza place, try brining them a pizza to their office.  They will be very grateful and their co-workers will certainly take notice.

-Danny Soule