As we settle into 2022, multifamily owners and operators need to be prepared for an influx in renter turnover. What matters now, more than ever, is that properties tell their story in a way that guides prospective renters to make informed decisions about their next home.
Renters of multifamily units (defined as 25 or more) are the most mobile segment of renters. For a segment that is already highly mobile, more flexible working policies give them greater freedom to make a move. When you layer on the fact that rent increases have been at all-time highs, current apartment dwellers may be priced out of where they live and forced to move.
Renters also have more options than ever, and competition for rental properties is fierce. With new apartment construction booming, there are far more options to rent single-family homes and condos. After a wave of move-outs, a property can quickly find itself in the “red zone” of occupancy in just a few short months. So while there is temptation to not market and save money today, the impact of unoccupied units (even for just a few days) can eat up the perceived savings instantly.
Apartment communities will need strong digital curb appeal to attract new tenants. This means building an online reputation that is consistent, succinct and shines across digital touchpoints from ratings to search marketing and social media. Here are four research-backed ways that multifamily communities can tune up key channels that renters engage with.
1. Renters look for recency and responsiveness on apartment review sites
Effective reputation management establishes trust with prospective renters early on in their search. Reading online reviews is second nature for consumers and renters alike. Before signing a lease, renters want to hear from current residents.
Prospective renters look at the number of reviews and recency of those reviews. BrightLocal found that 86 percent of consumers only pay attention to reviews up to three months old, and most customers read 10 reviews before trusting a business.
People value both positive and negative reviews. In fact, Google says, “Reviews are useful when they are honest and objective. Customers find a mix of positive and negative reviews more trustworthy.”
That said, bad ratings and reviews can lead renters to eliminate multifamily communities from their shortlist entirely. In a 2020 NMHC/Kingsley renter preferences study, 79 percent of renters said that they did not visit a community due to negative online reviews. To mitigate this, leasing teams should continuously monitor their ratings and reviews while actively, and professionally addressing feedback.
The greatest opportunity businesses have in reputation management is in how they handle feedback whether positive, negative, or neutral. To minimize stress on already busy leasing teams, communities often use third-party reputation management tools that easily aggregate reviews and ratings and even provide personalized responses to each review.
Properties can replenish the number of recent reviews on their sites by requesting reviews and ratings from residents. Leasing teams can easily request feedback and lead residents to online review sites via email, text, printed cards or scannable QR codes. Opportune times to request reviews are after maintenance requests and resident inquiries are completed, as well as after move-ins. New residents are a prime resource for feedback because they have a fresh perspective on the search process and how the community outperformed competitors.
2. Completed Google Business Profiles catalyze renter engagement
Findings from a Rent. pilot program launched in October 2021 revealed that completed Google Business Profiles (GBP) drove 67 percent more impressions and 112 percent more actions on the listing when compared to communities that did not complete their listing information. Similarly, GBP listings with images delivered 84 percent more interactions compared to those that lacked visual content.
A well-executed GBP adds real estate to a community’s online presence and boosts SEO to help properties outshine competitors during the apartment search. The more real estate your property takes up on the page, the more familiar prospective renters will be with your property.
Unfortunately, the use of GBPs is not yet widely adopted. In fact, 96 percent of the properties in the Rent. control group failed to have complete GBPs.
3. Activate renter interest with updated social media channels
With increased social media usage since the start of the pandemic, a well-rounded social strategy will help apartment communities stay relevant with renters into next year. For the 2020 Apartment Resident Preference Report, the NMHC and Kingsley found that 45 percent of renters will visit a property’s social media accounts while they are looking for an apartment.
Communities must actively nurture their social media following. Leasing teams can do this by maintaining community pages on relevant social channels, posting engaging content that encourages community discussion, and providing critical updates.
4. Consistency across all digital touchpoints improves SEO and establishes authority
Eighty percent of customers lose trust in businesses that post conflicting or inaccurate business names and contact information online. Plus, it also directly impacts SEO. By checking the accuracy of contact information across all listings, communities can rebuild their reputation as a trusted authority with search engines and prospects alike.
With a holistic approach, it is possible to meet the evolving technology standards that renters have come to expect.
Prioritize digital curb appeal in 2022
Renters are savvy and investigate a property’s digital footprint before deciding to sign a lease. And despite high occupancy rates, there will still be high turnover in units as renters move to new neighborhoods, or as people are priced out of the housing market in 2022. So as multifamily owners and operators solidify their priorities for next year, maintaining strong digital curb appeal needs to be addressed.