Apartment communities are working toward creating more prospect-friendly websites.
Many of today’s online apartment shoppers like to do research for themselves. They often delay talking to leasing agents for as long as possible, preferring instead to research options on property management websites before narrowing their search. If a rental-housing website fails to engage online visitors or answer their questions, your company’s best asset may be missing out on potential leads.
After deciding to downsize to a seniors-only apartment, apartment resident Susan Miller of Carmel, Ind., tried to research property management websites to determine which would be a good fit, with a focus on neighborhood crime rates, convenience to shopping and proximity to work.
“Some websites are a breeze to navigate, while others are not all that user-friendly,” Miller says. “I found that most apartment communities have quite a bit of information online,” but she says many need improvements when it comes to clear pricing and community details.
“When I look for information about apartments online, I want to see floor plans with accurate measurements, the prices for each one clearly shown next to that floor plan and what the rent amount includes,” Miller says. “I want to see photographs of the apartment interiors so I can get a preliminary feel for the quality of the building materials, cabinets, appliances and flooring. It would help to have estimates for utility costs for each floor plan. This helps me to do preliminary evaluations and eliminate choices that won’t work for me.”
Deciding where to rent a home can be a complicated process that requires shoppers to research the community, apartment layout, cost for rent, utilities, parking, Internet and cell phone accessibility, pet-friendly environments and other factors.
Apartment communities can opt to give their prospective residents reason to stay on the site longer by answering their questions with interactive online tools.
Patty Crawford, Vice President, PERQ, says the decision-making process when apartment shopping is shifting.
“People aren’t driving to places when looking to rent,” Crawford says. “We have taught them how to do everything online, and because we’ve done that in all of the other areas, they’re expecting the same thing from rental housing operators and our industry hasn’t quite gotten there yet,” she says.
Interactive tools such as floor plan assessments, monthly budget calculators, tour schedulers and quizzes can help leasing specialists determine activities of interest, and consumers can do as much research and shopping on the website as possible without waiting for a leasing agent to call them back.
Sandy Carmin, Director of Property Management for Englert Management Corporation, with communities in Indiana and Illinois, agrees. Since implementing interactive software, she says Englert experienced an up-tick in clients scheduling tours. As a prospective resident engages with the interactive experiences and learns more about the property, the software remembers their information so they don’t have to re-enter it. It serves up the next best steps and prompts them to schedule a tour, helping to move them one step closer to talking with a leasing specialist.
Properties with interactive software can average up to a 6 percent conversion of lead traffic because of the increased website visitor engagement.
Potential renters list rent price, location and community environment as the top three criteria they use to evaluate a property, according to a recent survey by apartment management firm Village Green. By providing interactive quizzes or assessments on a rental-housing website, all three can be addressed with information that can better help them choose a place to live.
Sample Interactive Questions:
- What activities do you enjoy most?
- Caring for my pets
- Doing things with my kids
- Hanging out with friends
- Attending sporting events
- Name three places that need to be near your apartment:
- Places of Worship
- *How many adults 18 years or older will live in the apartment?
- *Have you declared bankruptcy in past seven years?
- *Have you ever been evicted?
If a prospect answers yes to any of the *pre-qualify assessment questions, the result says: A leasing agent is reviewing your status and will be reaching out soon, rather than a result of “you pre-qualify.
By taking website visitors on a guided online apartment shopping journey, community websites can help educate consumers on making buying decisions. The longer they stay on the site, the more they learn about themselves, the community and what a company’s brand has to offer.