Rudri Bhatt Patel
March 23, 2022
3 minute read
Apartment rentals saw an unprecedented increase in occupancy late last year. In November 2021, apartment occupancy rates hit a high of almost 98% despite rental demand traditionally decreasing in winter.
With record-high occupancy, should property management companies (PMCs) neglect their marketing? Absolutely not. Renters always need information and choices. And recent data shows that renters are on the move in 2022.
With that in mind, property teams should consider the following factors when reviewing marketing strategies this year.
According to a November 2021 RentPath survey, renters are on the move—60% of residents plan on finding a different apartment or home within six months. Contrast that with 46.8% of renter turnover in 2018.
What’s causing this heightened renter migration? First, many are moving because they favor small and midsize communities instead of big cities. The pandemic has pushed people to consider what works best for their evolving lifestyle requirements, which may include close-knit neighborhoods, less traffic, and easy access to daily needs like groceries, schools, and entertainment. Second, many are redefining the meaning of home, whether it means having more outdoor space or living in a location where renters feel safe in their political and religious views. Third, budgeting is always on renters’ minds. People move to save money, and this has been increasingly possible as many jobs have turned remote during the pandemic.
So while occupancy rates are currently high, renter turnover is inevitable. When renters are deciding where to call home, you have to ensure that your property stands out online.
In today’s digital-first world, finding the right apartment is a few clicks away. People are surfing social networks, Google-searching communities, researching review sites, and swiping through apartment photographs online.
To capture migrating renters in our progressively competitive landscape, PMCs should not have any gaps in their online presence. That includes a user-friendly website, virtual touring options, an ability for renters to access an online chat for answers 24 hours a day, and monitoring reviews on social media channels. An impression about an apartment can be made in minutes all from the convenience of home—often without the apartment team even knowing a renter was in the market and interested.
Renters are no longer driving around the neighborhood visiting various leasing offices. Instead, prospective renters are talking to friends and conducting research digitally. Renters are making decisions based on what they find online, making it crucial for PMCs to invest in a robust, multichannel digital presence.
So how can property teams make sure that their community stands out from other nearby competitors? First, PMCs must raise awareness for their properties. One way to do this is through search ads. Our research shows a whopping 87% of renters start their apartment hunt on search engines¹, making this prime real estate to catch them early in their journey.
Another way PMCs can create buzz for their properties is to utilize geofencing—a search advertising tool that targets renters based on the location they’ve visited or are currently visiting. Geofencing is a great brand awareness tool that leverages location to attract renters that may love to shop, work, or spend time nearby.
Layering social ads into your strategy can also help to elevate your marketing to the next level. With social ads that remarket to in-market renters, PMCs can prioritize lead generation. These ads are served up on a prospective renter’s social feed and can feature the latest listing, pictures, pricing, and availability. This approach is prime for catching renters who were possibly on the fence before, but needed an extra push to consider the community.
Once awareness is established with renters it’s critical for a PMC build preference for their community. When renters are considering a new apartment home, they want to make an informed decision to ensure the chosen community will be a good fit for them. This means asking friends, talking to residents and reading reviews online. Online reviews carry weight—they are treated like a recommendation from family or friends. For successful property teams, responding to reviews is crucial, and a great opportunity to demonstrate that management truly cares about its residents. Prospective renters respond to reviews that are not stale—the more current the review, the more likely a rental prospect will trust it to make their decision. Checking all online channels that regularly post reviews is an effective and free way for properties to elevate their brand in the eyes of renters.
Lastly, property teams need to meet the digital demands of consumers. This means PMCs must provide as much of the rental experience online as possible. Offer virtual tours, online tour scheduling, rental applications, and answers to questions across websites, marketplace listings, review sites, social channels and more to empower prospective renters with the information they seek up front. Doing so can improve lead quality and reduce onsite teams’ efforts in touring and answering questions for renters that may not have been a good fit to begin with.
While occupancy rates are high, it doesn’t mean marketing activity should be paused or stopped. PMCs must keep marketing on their radar to capture those renters who are continually moving from one locale to another. Having a strong digital presence can be the deciding factor that makes a renter say yes to their next home with you.
Our data-driven solutions will help your property withstand market challenges and drive performance on social media, search, email, ILS and more.
Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former attorney turned writer and editor. Prior to attending law school, she graduated with an MA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is the co-founder and co-editor of the literary journal, The Sunlight Press, and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Business Insider, Legal Zoom, Civil Eats, Eater, Saveur, Dame Magazine, Taste, ESPN, Phoenix New Times, and elsewhere.
¹ RentPath Renter Survey 2021.