Though every apartment community experiences its own unique seasonality, there are two points of the year that signal changes in leasing activity. There's the slow season, which usually begins in the fall when the school year starts and the weather turns cold. Then there's the busy season that begins when school's out and the weather is nice.
We're now only a few weeks away from when most communities will begin experiencing their busiest stretch of the year. They'll have their highest demand—renters want to make their moves when it's warmer—and their greatest turnover. It really is a make-or-break time for many properties because if they can't generate enough leases to account for the number of residents moving out now, the task will become much harder when leasing activity slows.
To help, here are our recommendations to prepare your community for success over the next couple of months:
1. Check Your Lease Expirations
Reviewing your lease expirations is your first line of defense when trying to make your busy season more manageable. Why? If you know in advance that there will be a certain week or month ahead when a high concentration of leases will be expiring, you won't be bombarded by suddenly having multiple units turnover at once. You can get ahead of it.
Plus, taking this step now gives you the opportunity to start thinking through your renewal strategy. Check out our blog post '4 Ways to Improve Your Apartment Community's Retention Rate'—it has great ideas you could apply here to help you keep more leases.
2. Set Your Staffing
Take a look at your work schedule for the upcoming weeks. Will your best manager, or leasing agent, be going on a vacation or be away from the office? If so, get on that now. Being understaffed may affect your closing rates because your team's ability to conduct in-person tours will be limited. Evaluate whether or not there’s an opportunity or need to add to your staff.
Don't forget your maintenance team. You need to make sure they're properly staffed and equipped to be able to handle their increased workload, too. When it's your busy leasing season, your entire team needs to be hitting on all cylinders.
3. Make Changes to Your Digital Advertising Budget
The purpose of your digital ads is to drive more qualified traffic to your website, which begins the process of converting leads to leases. Think of using them in the same way as you'd use a water faucet. When you need traffic the most, just turn the faucet on.
We talk all the time about dynamic apartment marketing, and a lot of it is tied into how you utilize your digital ads. We believe that pairing a high budget, for times like the busy season when you'll have more turnover, with a low budget, for when your occupancy is strong, is the best way to maximize your marketing dollars.
So, be ready to turn the faucet on and spend more on your digital ads for the next couple of months compared to other times of year. You will need to have enough ad dollars budgeted to run Defensive ads that defend your community's identity, Remarketing campaigns on both Google and Facebook that keep your apartments top of mind, and perhaps some Offensive campaigns that allow you to compete against similar properties.
4. Review Your Rental Rates
An odd trend we see is some communities raising their rental rates on January 1st. Right now, at the onset of your busy leasing season, is actually the best time to be taking this measure.
You know you're going to have more potential residents looking at you over the next few months compared to any other time throughout the year, because whenever you're experiencing more turnover you're also going to have more demand. It would make sense to raise your rates at a time when pricing isn't weighed as much as availability.
We recommend lowering your rental rates about a month or so before the busy period ends. That way you have a better chance of filling up any units remaining in the final few weeks leading up to your slow leasing season, when it will become much harder to do so.
5. Prioritize Your Time
When you're in the midst of your busy leasing season, you won't have much time to focus on many parts of your job. For example, why would you be trying to do things like make design decisions when all you're going to be concerned with in that moment is retaining current residents and attracting new ones?
If you have any pressing managerial decisions, like standard updates, try and complete those now. The goal here is to make sure you're prioritizing all of your focus and energy for the busy leasing season, when time will be your most important asset.