Despite the fact we are more than a decade into the new millennium, it feels as though the apartment industry is stuck in the 1950s. Property management, leasing and marketing generate loads of paper, and apartment managers are reaching out to buyers and prospective tenants through radio and television ads and other yesterday’s technology.
The reasons for this lag include our natural reluctance to embrace something that is unfamiliar to us, as well as the high cost of investing in new hardware, new software, and training to use both. The bad news is, renters and investors are increasingly using their smartphones and web browsers to access services online, so landlords cannot afford to stay off this bandwagon. The good news is, the cost of new technology is decreasing.
Make Your Marketing Literature Scan
Consider the Quick Response (QR) code. Similar to barcodes, this new technology allows a mobile phone’s camera to act like a barcode reader. A QR code placed on a piece of marketing will, once scanned, allow the mobile phone’s browser to jump to a particular website such as a building’s leasing centre, or some other web page designed to sell your property.
This assumes you have a website for visitors to go to. Buildings which invest in such a website, with a descriptive and easy-to-remember domain name, increasingly have an advantage in the marketplace over buildings that don’t. The most advance websites offer visitors a chance to book a visit, or check what apartments are available — things that one couldn’t do with a simple flyer. A website can use a smartphone’s GPS to give your visitors personalized directions on how to get to your property for a showing.
Knowing Your Marketing and Automating It
New technology can automate the task of lead tracking and generation. A marketing database is important, and it needs to log the contact information of everybody who contacts you. When you hear from a lead, always ask how they found out about your property, and note that down in the database.
Call tracking captures every caller’s phone number and, often, a name and address for follow-up. It identifies calling patterns, which can be used to address scheduling issues, and it can reveal the true cost and effectiveness of a company’s marketing strategy.
This can be a lot of data to sort through, but technology has an answer even for that. Dynamic number insertion software allows you to identify the source of each lead sent to your website in real time. Based on this, the telephone number normally displayed on your web page can be dynamically replaced with a different tracking number, to keep tabs on this lead as it possibly generates a sale.
Not only does this technology measure your marketing effectiveness, it provides you with the data you need to make informed decisions on where to focus your next marketing campaign to achieve the best results.
New Technology Brings in the Money
Technology can assist in all aspects of managing the multi-unit residential space. Revenue management software can analyze current market conditions and historic performance and help you set rental rates. It can recommend pricing for any move-in date, unit or lease term. By raising or lowering rents more precisely over the traditional methods of a property owner’s best guess, property owners can respond to and benefit from the conditions of the marketplace rather than react to them after the fact.
Although relatively new to the apartment industry, revenue management is already used by airlines and hotels. This technology allows owners to generate effective offers to favoured residents, encouraging them to renew their leases within a pre-determined window of time. It costs over $4,000 to turn over an apartment to a new tenant; by offering add-on amenities such as repainting or new appliances, management can reward the loyalty of his or her tenants, just as the airlines and hotels do for their best customers.
In terms of customer satisfaction, why not build a secure website that allows residents to pay rents online, or submit and track maintenance requests? Tenants will be happier without the chore of writing rent cheques, and they will feel that their concerns about the upkeep of the building are being taken seriously if they can see the progress of their complaints online. Text messages which tell tenants when a laundry load is finished or the mail has arrived would be a valued amenity in a technologically savvy building.
And all of this technology is becoming less expensive to building owners, as high-cost hardware solutions shift to scalable cloud-based services on the web. Residential properties today can now use services that were previously available only to large corporations. With computer software now processing paperwork and analyzing data at all points of the tenant rental cycle, this can generate a substantial decrease in costs and an increase in net operating income for property managers willing to take the leap.
It’s time for the apartment industry to embrace the future.
Derek Lobo is the founder and CEO of SVN Rock Advisors Inc., a real estate brokerage with over 30 years of experience in helping investors make the most out of buying, selling, and renovating purpose-built apartment buildings. Learn more about SVN Rock Advisors Inc., Brokerage on their website at www.SVNRock.ca.