Over the past year, the path to leasing an apartment took a major detour. Most companies had their preferred virtual tools to help move the leasing process along, but the pandemic forced a complete and total shift in the landscape. Virtual leasing became the exclusive path, and many companies were scrambling to make up for any gaps in their virtual leasing strategy. Whether you’re looking to sharpen your virtual offerings, or add a new arsenal to your toolkit, this article will help you find the virtual leasing tools that are must-haves for converting leases at your apartment communities.
Top Ten Virtual Leasing Tools
1 USING THE RIGHT CRM – RENT DYNAMICS & RENT TANGO
A quality CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is one of the most critical virtual leasing tools you can have in marketing. This is where you house, manage and track all of your incoming leads. As leads flow in, your leasing team can view and respond to each viable prospect. The CRM tracks all of your lead management activities and allows for seamless follow up – calls, emails, texts are all performed through the platform. Advanced platforms will also score leads for you so you spend your time harvesting only the most viable prospects. As a marketing exec, the CRM is your most trusted ally in tracking marketing spend and ROI. The reporting shows which leads are converting and which ad sources gave you those critical leases.
Your property management system should offer CMS systems from basic to super savvy. Top players in the multifamily space include Entrata, ILM Lead Management through RealPage and RentCafe through Yardi. Rent Dynamics is a newer company in the space with a full suite of CRM products to match the industry vets and worth a try. Rent Tango offers the whole package plus some extras like listing syndication, for marketers, and broker access – a great solution if you’re looking for an all-in-one. Many of the best CRMs out there don’t stop at the prospect level. They’ll continue to help you manage communications well after the lease signing on the resident journey.
2 CHATBOTS AS YOUR VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS – KNOCK
Chatbots provide important answers to prospects’ most frequently asked questions. Website visitors ask questions and get immediate responses from the chatbot. According to Knock’s data, their chatbot answered 96% of prospects’ questions, without even having to bother your leasing staff. Chatbots also sync with your leasing calendar and allow prospects to schedule real (or virtual) leasing appointments. This real-time technology turns your website into a 24/7 operation that is able to accommodate prospects at any hour. Imagine coming into work with a calendar full of appointments and now you just have to convert on the tour. It’s ideal!
Knock is a strong contender to the chatbot game, and they are showing a lot of innovation in their product offerings. Anyone Home offers unique chatbot services that blend both automated and human interactions.
3 WEBSITE LEASING WIDGET – PERQ
Perq is a leasing widget placed on your existing property website to help drive conversions. It acts as a chatbot and supercharged guest card all in one. It asks prospective residents what is most important to them, stores that data and then allows you to email prospects by hitting on those top wish list items. Instead of prospects wandering through your website narrowing down the floor plans that fits them best, the Perq widget proactively matches them to their next apartment. Though Perq won’t be your first-touch advertising source, the Perq leasing widget pushes those leads through the funnel. In a case study that comprised a lease-up and a stabilized property in Tampa, the Perq widget assisted over 38% of leases.
4 RESIDENT REFERRAL TOOL – RENTGRATA
Rentgrata is a sleek resident referral tool that allows prospective residents to speak directly to current residents. Prospects are matched up on the website and have a chance to ask real questions about living in the community. Prospects get authentic feedback, which is the gold star when it comes to insider info! Residents are paid a referral fee if the prospect moves in and appreciate being in a VIP resident base that helps improve resident engagement. Rentgrata’s property management companies average a lead-to-lease conversion rate of over 40 percent
5 VIRTUAL TOUR VIDEOS – REALYNC
When leasing is virtual, video is key. Realync makes video creation easy, professional and trackable. Your leasing team is able to create virtual tours of apartments, in minutes, that they can email to prospects. Pair your personalized video with your property site map to paint the picture of exactly where the prospective resident will call home. All the videos are stored in the Realync app, and your marketing and leasing team will see which videos are converting and resonating with your audience. The best videos can be showcased on your website. Virtual tours, hard-hat tours, videos showing off the neighborhood vibe…all of these are simple to create. With 1 in 3 prospective residents now preferring virtual tours over in-person tours, you’ll want to seamlessly offer both.
6 SELF-GUIDED TOURS – TOUR24
The easiest way to practice social distancing? Let prospects take their own self-guided tour! Companies like Tour24 take the showing completely off your leasing consultant’s plate. You’ll create the tour path you want prospects to follow. The prospects are buzzed into the building when it’s time for their tour (with the proper ID of course). They’ll follow the tour path, and as they hit certain predetermined amenities or vacant / model apartments, they’ll hear, on their phone, your marketing description of each area.
The self-guided tours help in markets where people have trouble showing up in the traditional office hours…and according to Tour24’s platform of users, approximately 30% of tours happen after hours.
7 PHOTOGRAPHY, RENDERINGS AND VIRTUAL STAGING
Photography and renderings are able to take the place of a traditional showing. Pro-tip with photography, make sure you have both high-resolution photos for your marketing collateral and smaller web-resolution photo versions ready for easy emailing. If you’re new construction and won’t have photos ready yet, renderings are hyper-realistic and provide a picture-perfect representation of your property.
New construction, or even an older apartment that may not have the budget for a model, check out virtual staging. Companies will take the photography you have and add furniture. The furniture fills in the space to help prospects envision the apartment in a way that that prospects typically can’t with a vacant apartment. Prices start at $30 an image and give you even better content to feature on your website. BoxBrownie is a simple, all online, company where you just upload your photo, pick your furnishing style and go!
8 EMAIL MARKETING – HY.LY
Once you have all of these virtual tools in place, you’ll still need a way to proactively reach out to prospects. Email marketing campaigns are getting smarter by the day. If a prospect likes your ‘A3’ floor plan and wants to move in the next month, your email marketing can use those data points to accurately showcase the right apartment at the correct time. Email specialists, like Hy.Ly, use the data in your property management software to send email drip campaigns with personalized content to each prospect. If you’d rather manage all the emails in house, MailChimp and Constant Contact provide templated options and affordable package options.
9 WEBSITE DESIGN & SEO
Ahhh, the place where you house ALL of your digital assets. You can’t get anywhere without a great website to showcase it all. Stunning photography, 3D floor plans, SEO-rich copy and all the technology tools should be carefully integrated within your website in a way that represents your brand and directs prospects through the leasing journey. Website design is integral to both the branding and conversion. Teams like zipcode creative (custom design) and Results Repeat (the apartment SEO specialists) balance the brand and the functionality to give you a top-notch website that aids your leasing team with every step.
10 VIRTUAL LEASE SIGNING
Now that you’ve converted all of those leads to real life residents, it’s time to make it official. It’s a nice touch to go over the lease paperwork in person, but it’s not always feasible. Prospect preferences are changing, and, many times, the client will prefer to read and sign the paperwork on their own time. Property Management Software (PMS) systems give you the ability to generate the lease and forward to the prospect electronically. Each leaseholder can sign on their own schedule, and it makes the document management a breeze since it’s all done through your PMS. Yardi, Real Page and Entrata all have simple lease integration to keep it all paperless.
It’s been a year of adaptability, and marketers are up for the challenge. The bright side to all of this change, is that there is absolutely no shortage of virtual leasing options and companies to choose from. The product suite offerings are getting better by the day, and now your hardest job will be selecting the best partners to achieve your company’s goals.