If you have been in the industry long enough, you’ve likely experienced what we’re about to describe: Vacancy rates at your community spiking. As a result, everyone at your community—and maybe at the corporate office too—is panicked, frustrated, confused, or perhaps a bit of all three.
No one is happy and everyone thinks they know who is responsible (and it isn’t their team). Morale amongst the team goes down, work is stressful, and all the while the community is losing money. It all starts to feel like a fire drill gone horribly wrong—everyone is moving in a million different directions, no one is quite sure where they’re expected to be, and there’s a vague fear over what will happen if you don’t figure this out.
Here’s the question: What would your job be like if you could anticipate upcoming vacancy and control your demand?
What You Already Know About Vacancy
At first, you might think that anticipating problems in this way would require sophisticated technical tools. Of course, good technology can help us do this better, but there are ways of doing this manually as well, which can at least move you closer to predicting and controlling vacancy. How can you do that? Let’s begin by thinking about what parts of apartment management are generally predictable.
Here’s a list:
Many communities tend to have fairly seasonal leasing patterns that you can anticipate.
You are aware of when leases expire.
You know 30 or 60 days in advance when a particular unit is going to be vacated.
So, it turns out you have a general idea of your community’s vacancy patterns. You also know exactly when each unit’s lease expires. And you’ll know with some advanced notice if an expiring lease will be renewed or be terminated.
None of this requires any kind of technical tools at all. A spreadsheet with lease expiration dates for each unit would be helpful, of course, but you could do all of this with a filing cabinet and printed out leases if you wanted to. What’s important, is that you should use the data already available to you in order to plan ahead and anticipate potential problems.
What You Can Do to Proactively Address Vacancy
You probably already have data to show how many leads you typically get in a normal month. This means you can compare the expected leads you generate in a single month to whatever your expected vacancy is set to be, based on the data we described above.
So, before you do anything else you need to see if you are actually going to have a vacancy problem. It is possible that the vacancy numbers you have coming up are actually not as bad as you think, and normal traffic to your community should provide enough leads and leases to offset the losses.
But what do you do if you aren’t going to have enough leads and leases to offset those vacancies?
This is where digital marketing can be a powerful tool for your community. Thanks to Google Ads and Facebook, you can set up ads to run for a very limited time that should increase traffic to your website and generate more leads and leases, until the vacancy problem is resolved.
What is great about both Google Ads and Facebook is that you really are buying ads rather than a listing. When you buy from an ILS, you’re simply buying a place in a directory. You’re probably also getting locked into a long-term contract, such that you find yourself paying for marketing even when things are going well or, perhaps, not paying enough for marketing when they are not going well.
In contrast, Facebook and Google Ads are no-contract, pay-as-you-go digital advertising strategies. When you need a boost in traffic, you can spend extra on these platforms and generate more traffic. And when things are going well, you can drop your advertising spend and save money.
Predictive Management Plus Dynamic Marketing
There are two problems behind the fire drill scenario described at the beginning of this post. The first issue is what we already mentioned: No one saw the crisis coming and now everyone is scrambling to both fix the problem and absolve themselves of all responsibility.
But, there is a second issue as well, which we’ve indirectly mentioned above already: Many multifamily marketing solutions are not dynamic. They are relatively static marketing methods that are not responsive to the unique challenges apartment communities face at any given time. They also aren’t responsive when communities are thriving, which means you could be sitting in your occupancy sweet spot and still be spending big dollars on marketing every month.
You can avoid the vacancy crisis fire drill by simply using the data you already have on hand to predict when vacancy is likely to spike, and then using advertising methods already available to you to drive increased demand when supply is also high. By simply making these two changes you can transform your communities and set them on a path toward stability, which is good news for your owners and your leasing team.