Using Downtime to Hone Your Leasing Focus
Concentrate on the quality of your leases, not just leads, to gain a “leg-up” in the new year.
This article is contributed by Daniel Berlind, Chief Executive Officer, Snappt
The major holiday season is over, and here we are in the New Year. One thing that experienced multifamily professionals know well is there’s little even the best property managers can do to increase foot traffic and leasing velocity in late December and during the month of January. The simple truth is that most people prefer to spend this time of year with friends and family and avoid moving when it’s wet and cold outside if they can.
But that doesn’t mean you have to write off this time as a loss. It’s the perfect season for putting in just a few hours of strategic preparation, which will help sharpen your and your team’s focus and opportunity in the new year. Here are a few areas to concentrate on so you can get the most out of these slower days in the leasing office.
Look Past Budget Planning to Determine Where Your Leases Originated
By now, most property managers have already done the legwork to set their budgets for next year. Back in September, they started looking at last year’s budget projections and compared them to this year’s actual expenditures. While the last few weeks in December provide more insight into how the complete numbers will shake out for the whole year, if you did your homework earlier in the fall, those tweaks and fine-tuning will only impact the year’s final metrics around the edges.
A better place to focus, then, are the paths that led to those numbers in the first place. That means looking at the two areas that correlate to the before and after of your typical lease’s lifespan: marketing, or what brought it in the door; and outcome and retention, or whether the lease resulted in a renewal or a move.
Gauging Your Marketing Channels
This is a great time of year to look at where your best incoming traffic came from, so you can focus on those channels in the coming year. Here are some categories to break it down into.
- Social media: Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
- Print advertising in local circulars, free apartment guides, brochures
- Referrals from directories, craigslist, etc.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) such as keywords, meta descriptions, location-based searches
- Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing
Leverage your property management system’s lead referral tracking tools to drill down into each channel to figure out which ones resulted in the most leases and put a focus on those areas in the new year. Is TikTok the place to be? If so, what strategies work there? Is this the year to ditch the time, effort and money that goes into print advertising? Let the data be your guide.
Know Your Website
No matter what source your original leads came from, you’re likely funneling them to a single place: your own website. This is great news, because unlike social media and even paid ads, your website is the one place where you have the most opportunity to take action and have an impact on future outcomes. Take the time now to analyze how effective it has been in converting your incoming leads to leases.
Google Analytics is your friend here. Set up your own parameters and drill into them to track the incoming sources of visitors to your website. The Google Search Console can provide reports on traffic and the performance of your site in search results to highlight any areas that need improvement, such as indexing issues for new or updated content. Once you understand what’s driving people to your site and where it stands in search results, look at its performance when people arrive. This is where you can tune up what’s under your website’s hood to ensure you make the most out of the traffic that finds you.
You can test how your site does with free tools, including Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom Tools Test. For valuable insight that will show you where you measure up against your competitors in the rental universe, check out RentVision’s SiteScore.
Beyond Quantity, Look at the Quality of Your Leases
It’s one thing to know where your leases are coming from. It’s another to know how your best residents found you and conversely, how the ones you’d rather see move at the beginning of next month ended up on your doorstep. I’m talking here not about lead-to-lease conversion, though that’s an important metric to consider in your overall marketing efforts. Instead, I’d argue that managers should also look at lease quality to know the net result of their lead-generating efforts.
For example, what is your property’s on-time rent payment score? Where do those residents who always pay on time typically come from? Is there one source that stands out among others?
This is where plumbing your PMS, combined with your lead analysis, can give you real insight into the quality of residents that come from each of your marketing channels. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Fannie Mae recently highlighted the importance of on-time rent payments as a determinant of the best credit risks for mortgage lenders making first-time home buyer loans. On the rental side, that also speaks to the importance of tying your property team’s bonuses to a community’s overall on-time rent payment score. Doing so ensures that your team is bringing high quality leases in the door, instead of just focusing on net new lease numbers.
Analyzing the Sources of Bad Actors: Watch Out for Rental Fraud
Looking at the other end of the spectrum of your rent roll is also critical here. With the dramatic rise in rental application fraud during the pandemic, this is where analyzing your evictions and bad debt – and tying this metric to your overall marketing efforts – comes in. This may seem counterintuitive. Looking at evictions or people who are slow to pay – the kind of residents we don’t want – is usually far down the list of an apartment marketer’s priorities.
But in a recent survey of more than 230 institutional property managers nationally, the top challenge operators faced was tenants who pay rent late. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents said overdue payments were somewhat to extremely common. That’s why this is a metric marketers should put more focus on to make sure the leases they land at their buildings are as profitable as possible.
Accordingly, as you’re looking at where your best residents came from, consider the sources for the worst ones as well. Is there a pattern or trend there? Does Craigslist, Facebook or another source stand out? That might be an area to analyze to see if your marketing efforts are ultimately a good return on investment, not just in terms of overall leases, but in the quality of residents they generate.
The New Multifamily Metric: Lead-to-Lease Quality Conversion
Taking this lead-to-lease quality conversion into consideration will give property managers a leg up when it comes time to move a prospect into the next step of the leasing sales funnel – the leasing application process. Today, one in eight rental applications contain some form of leasing fraud. Most come in the form of altered bank statements and bogus pay stubs, documents that are easily obtained online today, but hard to spot with the naked eye.
Technology can combat this. Leasing application fraud prevention software analyzes the digital DNA of these documents to flag bad risks before they convert to leases. But looking at your marketing channels and ultimate lead sources through a fraud prevention lens up front can help to trim the number of bogus applications you get in the first place.
While there’s only a limited number of things you can do in terms of improving leasing traffic and momentum this time of year, you can take this time to prepare for the coming year to ensure you’re focused on your best marketing channels. That means not only those sources that produce your highest number of leases, but also the ones that result in your best residents, the ones you’ll happily rent to and renew with throughout the new year.
Snappt, a Los Angeles based real estate technology company, provides a quick and inexpensive data-driven fraud detection service that can accurately spot fraudulent documentation. Snappt is used by four of the top five property management firms in the U.S.