The Renter's Journey
The renter’s journey has changed. The once simplistic affair of finding a home is no longer a linear process. From the point of needing a space to the point of signing a lease, there are now many stops for renters along the way. For management companies to make the best use of their budgets, they must understand how to evolve with the renter in the three stages of their journey.
The first stage of the renter’s journey is the “Awareness Stage”, where consumers become aware of inventory in the market. Prior to the days of the internet, those interested in renting an apartment would learn about available units in a hard copy of a listing publication like the Apartment Guide. Now, 87% of renters begin their quest for a home with a broad keyword search on Google (Ex. “two-bedroom apartments in Nashville”). Of course, not every listing that populates will meet the renter’s criteria. For this reason, the renter jumps around to various sites in order to develop a shortlist of communities to research further.
In addition to conducting Google searches, renters are spending an average of 147 minutes of passive time on social media platforms per day. Furthermore, research shows renters take up to three months to decide where to sign a lease. This means advertising on social media creates a huge opportunity for management companies to capture the attention of in-market renters in a place they spend spare time. When it comes to reaching renters in this initial stage, advertising should be diversified, spread out, and targeted to the specific, high-intent renter audience for a certain property. However, it is important to remember that not all solutions are created equal.
Once a property has made it to the renter’s shortlist, the community-specific research begins in the “Interest Stage”. With a narrowed-down list of properties, renters are now diving into Google reviews, property Facebook pages, Instagram, etc. in order to see if the community lifestyle matches what he or she desires in a home. 84% of consumers believe reviews older than three months are not relevant as renters want to see what life at the property is like today, not last year. Additionally, this is the renter’s first impression of a property’s customer service. It is important to note that 82% of renters will be put off by negative ratings and reviews. In fact, only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than four stars. For this reason, ratings and reviews can make or break an advertiser’s lead generation. A property may be spending thousands of dollars to be listed in all the right places yet throwing away 50% of their advertising spend and attributing a poor ROI to their efforts. When, in fact, a star rating below a four, inconsistent responses to reviews, and a lack of generating new reviews becomes the major impact to the property’s cost-per-lead and cost-per-lease.
However, if the renter likes what they see in the Interest Stage, he or she moves on to the third stage of the journey, the “Consideration Stage”. Renters are now ready to reach out directly to a community via the property’s website, phone, e-mail, text, and online chat, but only when it is convenient for them, not the property. 51% of customers want businesses to be available 24/7, which is one of the reasons 40% of calls go unanswered onsite. Since this is the stage where conversion happens, the biggest challenge becomes the cost to hire an additional leasing agent to answer calls and emails after hours, during holidays, or when the onsite team is busy.
Once contact with the onsite team is made, a tour conducted, and questions answered, the renter will have gathered enough information to make a leasing decision. It is important to remember, that decision was made after multiple touchpoints over many weeks because each step fits perfectly with the next. Management companies have more opportunities than ever before to take action and evolve with today’s renter along his or her journey.