Filling apartment vacancies has never been easier.
Don't believe us?
The U.S. rental population is expected to increase by 4 million people over the next 10 years; that's according
to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and Enterprise Community Partners, a real-estate research and investment organization.
Run a building in a happening area, and you may very well find yourself turning people away. Unfortunately, most property managers will still need to put in some effort to reduce vacancy rates.
Eliminating vacancies requires a two-tiered approach:
- Attracting new tenants to lease the empty units you currently have, and
- Running a great property that makes existing tenants want to re-lease.
While you may always need to engage in the former—people move all the time for a variety of reasons—keeping existing tenants happy will reduce your workload (and increase profits) in the long-run.
In this article, we'll approach the issue from both sides, revealing 10 tips you can implement for reducing vacancy rates in 2017. Let's get started:
10 Ways to Reduce Apartment Vacancy Rates in 2017
1. Manage Your Online Presence
Did you know online recommendations are now widely considered to be more important than traditional word-of-mouth? Individuals are increasingly turning to online review sites, for everything from where to eat on Friday night to where to book a massage on Saturday morning.
As a property manager, you MUST be on your A-game when it comes to managing your online presence. While you may not be able to control the conversation on review sites like Yelp, ApartmentRentals, and Google My Business, you can help steer it.
While monitoring review sites may feel like a chore, it can actually become your most effective advertising method. Consider how much you spend on traditional marketing channels—here your target market is seeking YOU out, and it doesn't cost a dime.
The biggest misconception? That you need a perfect review score. Prospective renters expect there to be some negative reviews; actually, having a few uncomplimentary ones adds an element of credibility.
Do Not Respond to Another Bad Apartment Review Until You Read This
2. Drive More Traffic to Listings
You can have the best listing in the world, but it won't matter if no one sees it. While paid advertising is a viable option, it isn't a long-term solution: Stop paying the money, and the traffic stops coming.
The key to creating sustainable, long-term traffic? Providing your audience with valuable content in the form of blog articles, videos, and interactive experiences. Put simply, consumers don't pay attention to conventional advertisements like they did in the past.
In today's world, the organizations that provide the most value (and have the best SEO) get the most traffic. Figure out what kind of information prospects are looking for, and how they prefer to be entertained, and begin publishing on a regular basis.
3. Take Better Photos
Are you getting the leads you want from Craigslist? If your listings aren't delivering, chances are you either have poor-quality photographs or none at all.
According to Naked Apartments, 70 percent of renters identified issues with photos as their main turn-off when sifting through apartment listings. If you've ever perused Craigslist for personal needs—automobiles, office furniture, job postings—you know just how challenging the sorting process can be.
The best way to stand out is to post the best photos you possibly can. The good news? You don't need to be a professional to take professional-quality photos. Adjusting light, shooting straight-on, staging the space, understanding apertures and editing enhancements are all skills that can be learned
4. Practice Online Marketing
Did you know online marketing is A LOT more than blogging? True online marketing takes prospects through a complete sequence of steps, ultimately leading to a pre-determined action.
If you are a property manager wanting to fill vacancies, the desired action will probably be the prospect scheduling a viewing. The reason online marketing works? It takes something very important, though often overlooked, into account: People rarely make a decision on the first contact.
Even if prospects ARE initially intrigued by your listing, they are likely bookmarking it to be reviewed later (along with several other listings). The key to overcoming this hurdle is collecting their contact information as soon as possible. There are several ways to go about doing this.
One of which is to create a "gated lead magnet," or a highly valuable resource that is given in exchange for a prospect's personal information (e.g. an email address). You could even link to your lead magnet landing page straight from Craigslist. For example: Click HERE to download "The 10 Questions Every Renter Should Ask Before Signing a Lease."
5. Become Pet-Friendly
If you don't allow pets on your property, we understand. Property damage, leftover yard excrement, and resident attacks are just a few of the potential hazards to be considered.
However, considering a whopping 72 percent of U.S. renters are pet owners, you may want to rethink your decision. Make a few small changes, market your property as pet-friendly and you'll probably have prospects lining up out the door.
Additionally consider that an estimated 8 million animals end up in shelters every year due to an inability to find pet-friendly housing, and this one is almost a no-brainer.
6. Enhance Maintenance Programs
Remember those review sites we discussed earlier? The most frequent complaint, BY FAR, is poor maintenance service quality.
According to Getting Inside the Head of the Online Renter, it's actually the most important factor in determining lease renewal. Knowing this information, one has to wonder: Why is maintenance something so many properties struggle with?
Ultimately, the reasons are varied; Difficulty in finding good help, disorganized ticketing systems and budgetary constraints all come into play. However, imagine—just for a moment—that you made it your mission to take care of ALL of those hurdles.
While your property may not be known for its lavish amenities or spa-like bathrooms, it would be known for something arguably better: Never having to worry about a thing! Remember, people generally don't like to move: Treat them well, and they will stay.
7. Partner With Community Organizations
Another simple way to fill vacancies?
Partner with your local community —this one is SO EASY that it's often overlooked. Companies of all types are always looking for ways to make themselves more attractive to potential candidates. One of the ways they can increase employee satisfaction is by providing resources and recommendations.
And guess what? YOU could be that recommendation. Beyond offering special rates for employees of partnering companies, consider hosting special events at the company offices. A single tailgate party for employees, for example, will ensure they remember you for a long time.
8. Increase Residential Referrals
Your easiest sales should come from referrals.
According to the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, 92 percent of people rely on the opinions of family, friends, and coworkers to make purchasing decisions. When a referral asks to tour your property, the interaction is automatically beginning on a positive note.
Unfortunately, when it comes to actually getting referrals, many properties fall short. While the process isn't rocket science, it does require a repeatable system (along with a commitment to excellence).
9. Improve Your Management Skills
Property managers wear many different hats: Marketing, administration, maintenance and so on. However, the best property managers excel at something extra: Relationship Building.
As a leader, you have a profound impact on your building's culture. Your interactions with employees, tenants, and vendors all have the potential to enhance or detract from it. The moment something goes wrong-- from billing to lease renewals to routine maintenance—your relationships will determine how well you weather the storm.
Building solid relationships begin with communicating when things are going right! Other traits of stellar property managers include investing wisely, building systems and regularly asking for feedback.
10. Invest In Features
They say home is where the heart is—but it’s actually wherever someone feels most comfortable.
As expected, different people have different requirements for what constitutes a comfortable living space. Nonetheless, there are some criteria most renters readily agree upon. It's important to remember that whenever a prospective renter is touring your building, they are silently "checking off boxes" in their minds.
What amenities are renters looking for these days? Check out this article:
Become The Place Everyone Wants to Live
As you can see, there are many ways to approach filling vacancies. And no ONE is better than the other.
We recommend starting with the TWO TIPS that seem the easiest to implement and revisiting the others at a later date. The key is to schedule the routine implementation of multiple strategies—that way, you will never be sitting on a vacancy for too long.