What is no-contact leasing?
Working in the multifamily industry, you're always on your toes. One minute, you're doing something this way; the next, you have to scrap everything and do it a new way.
The latest big multifamily trend changing the status quo is no-contact leasing, where prospective residents successfully lease an apartment without directly interacting with a community leasing staff member.
No-contact leasing emerged in the fallout of the COVID pandemic, where renters and on-site teams sought innovative alternatives to traditional leasing practices while following social distancing measures.
Since then, no-contact leasing has become popular as shopping behaviors change and prospective residents yearn for frictionless leasing experiences. Efficiency and time matter more than ever before. If a renter can effectively lease without the traditional rigamarole of calling, scheduling a tour, driving to the property, and potentially wasting their weekend before finally finding a suitable apartment, they will.
Why is it worth paying attention to the no-contact leasing trend?
- Prospective renters have more tools than ever to research apartment communities and apply for a lease.
- 1 in 4 renters leased an apartment in 2022 without taking an in-person tour, indicating that non-traditional strategies like no-contact or self-guided leasing are gaining in popularity.
- The next wave of renters is predominantly a demographic who is more accustomed to using technology and prefers using it to perform tasks, like choosing and leasing an apartment, by themselves.
- Multifamily operators are struggling to hire and retain on-site leasing personnel and opting for a centralized approach. No-contact leasing is becoming a tactic for some to tap into more resources.
Is no-contact leasing right for your apartment communities?
The key is determining if no-contact leasing benefits you and your renters before implementing it. No-contact leasing isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy; it is best as an additional leasing method to cater to a small but growing subset of your communities' prospective residents.
Start by looking at these three things to know if no-contact leasing is right for your apartment communities:
1) Your renter persona.
Your renter persona is a generalized representation of your customers that account for their demographics, goals, motivators, and challenges.
Say your renters skew younger. No-contact leasing could be viable for that audience because they're more used to (and usually prefer) online research, tours, interacting with chatbots, and applying independently. On the other hand, an older demographic may like in-person tours and working alongside a leasing agent in their apartment search. While this is only a generic example, the point is that you must acknowledge why no-contact leasing is, or is not, right for your actual renters.
Identifying your community's renter persona is the ideal first step and would be helpful as you determine if no-contact leasing is worth a try. Here's a step-by-step process to help you better understand who your renters are and the challenges they face.
2) Your property type.
Just as renters vary, so do properties. When determining if no-contact leasing is valuable, consider your property's class, unit count, average rent, average turnover, and more.
Renter-by-necessity type communities (B to C-class) could benefit from no-contact leasing, especially if they have higher unit counts. Consider it an alternative method to cater to prospective residents when your leasing bandwidth across properties to facilitate many in-person tours is limited.
Meanwhile, some luxury properties may benefit less from no-contact leasing because their renters typically take longer to consider and decide on a community. They'd rather have the 'white gloves treatment' and see taking in-person tours as an event more than just a necessity.
Again, no-contact leasing is not a one-size-fits-all methodology; there's a delicate balance in determining which renters and communities it benefits. One helpful step is letting numbers tell a story, which we'll dive into next.
3) Your leasing data.
Your leasing data paints a picture of who your renters are, where they're coming from, and, more specifically, their touring behavior. If most of your current renters took a tour before signing their leases, then you know that your audience typically prefers the standard leasing process. If you discover you have generated leads and leases without tours, then no-contact leasing is likely viable.
How would no-contact leasing impact my multifamily marketing strategy?
An unignorable truth: no-contact leasing is only effective if you have marketing infrastructure to support it.
Every individual's apartment search is unique, and, as you know, each renter has specific needs to address. The leasing journey from point A to point B is dynamic. For a no-contact leasing strategy to bear fruit for your communities, you need a corresponding marketing strategy that lets your renters complete their entire leasing journey without interacting with a team member.
For no-contact leasing to work, it would help if you had a digital marketing strategy for Google, Meta, and other platforms. It enables you to target your prospective audience while establishing premier online visibility, making it easy to find and access your community's website.
It will help if your apartment websites replicate the experience of in-person tours with essential features that let prospects see, learn, and take action independently, including:
- Walkthrough video tours. These satisfy a significant objective for prospective residents: letting them see the inside of your units and amenities anytime they want without driving to the property. Walkthrough video tours can turn your apartment websites into 24/7/365 leasing machines and supplement your leasing staff with better-qualified leads who are more likely to rent.
- Floorplan-specific pages (with visual content). A helpful method for addressing prospect needs is organizing your apartment websites to feature floorplan-specific pages with relevant visual content. Because every renter knows how many bedrooms/bathrooms they need before renting, letting them find the right floorplan and dedicating a page to it with walkthrough video tours, photo galleries, and plenty of specific information will boost no-contact leasing capability.
- Using calls-to-action that enable conversions. No-contact leasing requires online leasing capability, so your apartment websites must prompt users with calls to action to move forward in their leasing journey. Positioning an 'Apply Now' option in highly-prominent places throughout your website will be helpful. It's also vital to have integration with your property management software available.
- Up-to-date, transparent rent pricing and unit availability. Affordability and availability are fundamental questions for every prospective renter, and most apartment websites lack up-to-date or transparent pricing and availability. Usually, that information is only available when interacting with leasing agents. But that is counter to the method of no-contact leasing.
- Site maps. Integrating a site map, like those provided by Engrain, on your apartment websites will help prospects select a unit in a floorplan by its exact location in a community and cater to that self-guided leasing experience they desire.
No-contact leasing might be the next big thing in apartment marketing—more renters welcome experiences that put them in control of their leasing process.
The question is: Are you ready?
If no-contact leasing is right for your apartment communities, then take the first step by prioritizing your marketing approach and building a foundation that lets prospects successfully and confidently complete their leasing journey online.