If you were running a restaurant and had a top local critic coming in to review you that evening, would you have the bus boy prepare his meal? I hope you wouldn't.
Why not? Because the bus boy doesn’t know what he’s doing.
You could have great ingredients used in highly-innovative, exciting ways, but if you can’t put that together and give it to the critic, it doesn’t do you any good. He’ll savage you in his review and it’s all downhill from there.
Here's the funny and kinda horrible thing: Apartment companies do the equivalent to this every time they have their leasing agents take the photo or video of their apartment community for their website.
The visual content on your website is a big deal.
Your visual content is your calling card for potential residents. It’s how you show them what sort of place they’d be moving into if they rented with your community. It is the primary thing that is going to make or break their decision about you before they ever so much as call you to ask questions or schedule an in-person tour.
So let’s say you’ve spent a lot of money remodeling your units and they look spectacular. You’ve also done some other work around the community to make it that much better--maybe you’ve added washer/dryer combos to each unit or spruced up the outside a bit. You’ve put a lot of money into this community, but you’re really excited about it and expect it to pay off in a big way.
And then you tell your leasing agent or property manager to grab a camera and go shoot some photos and videos to stick on the website. You’ve just given the busboy the keys to the kitchen:
The photos are probably going to be a little blurry. The lighting won’t be great. The composition of the image will make the apartment look smaller than it is. The video will almost certainly be shaky, will have abrupt or rough transitions, and may or may not walk a potential resident through their specific apartment.
High-quality visual content can be a significant competitive advantage.
The good news, if you can call it that, is that this is what most of your competitors are doing, so it’s not like you’re serving mac and cheese while everyone else is offering filet mignon.
The bad news is that the actual online presence, which is what most potential renters will see, doesn’t look nearly as nice as the real thing. And 90% of apartment searches now begin online. So most of your potential renters are going to get online, see your mediocre visual content and feel very meh about your apartment community.
But what if you started over? You’ve still got the gorgeous remodeled units, redone exterior and new amenities. But instead of handing a cheap camera off to the leasing agent, you decide to have professionals create your online visual content. You have a professional photographer with top-of-the-line equipment come in and shoot your unit. Suddenly the lighting is great, everything in the apartment is sharp and in focus, and the unit looks like something out of a magazine.
And when you watch the video... you don’t even realize the unit is one of yours, it’s so nice. The camera work is smooth, the lighting is exactly what it needs to be, and the video actually walks the potential resident through the entire apartment.
You’ve always had the other strengths--you’ve got a good staff, nice apartments, and reasonable rates. Now you’ve got the right visual content to show those units at their best and to generate leads from all those online apartment shoppers.
Why don't more communities use professional videographers and photographers to shoot their units?
Well, there's a cost here. You need to pay the photographer or videographer. You need to put in the work online to make sure your website can display photos effectively and in sufficiently high quality. Simply put, it's a lot of work.
That being said, doing good work is difficult—that's why most people don't do it. But most people also don't hit the same levels of success that communities that take the time to do the job right will reach. So the work becomes a means of generating better leads, making your leasing team more efficient, charging higher rent rates, increasing revenue, and so on. Simply put, good things follow when you take the time to do the job right.