In theory, the multifamily industry has a pretty straightforward business model: Own apartment communities. Lease apartments. Profit. The end.
This is not hard. We offer a product that people can understand easily. We don't need to sell people on why they need our product either; we're selling a home, not a laundry-folding robot (which really does exist and can be yours for only $16,000).
So why is it that we often find ourselves wandering in complex labyrinths of inter-connected problems, all of which culminate in less money for your community, unhappy owners, and frustrated leasing teams?
This is why: The process a person goes through when looking for an apartment today has changed but many communities are still using the same tools they were 20 years ago. As of 2016, 79% of Americans shop online. You wouldn’t try to build a steel and concrete skyscraper with nothing but a hammer and yet that is often what many communities do these days. The sales process has become more complicated and calls for more sophisticated tools—and we’re still using the same antiquated techniques of the past.
One of the most powerful tools that is ideally suited to today’s apartment shopper is the walkthrough video tour. A good apartment video tour allows prospects to tour a unit online from their home or office and also allows them to come back to that unit multiple times both before and after an in-person tour. It’s the kind of device you absolutely have to have in your toolbox. There are many reasons why, of course, but we’re going to limit ourselves to the top five today.
Apartments that have a video tour lease faster.
One of the biggest costs that a typical community will deal with is the cost of turning a unit once the resident has given notice. The estimates on the cost are pretty broad, but all the numbers we’ve seen are easily four-figures: A Greystar director put the cost at anywhere from $1500 to $5000 per month. NAA has quoted a similar amount.
If you have a number of units come vacant simultaneously and then most of them take awhile to lease… those costs can add up quickly. Pretty soon you’re looking at five figure losses because one tenant trashed their unit before vacating and making it rent ready has taken longer and two other units are just not leasing for reasons you cannot even figure out.
The problem here is relatively straightforward: In conventional marketing, the only way you can give a tour of an apartment unit is, well, to give an in-person tour of that actual unit. If the unit is trashed, then you lose a ton of time when you could be showing it while you wait for carpet cleaners, painters, and whoever else you need to come and work on the unit. Another problem with conventional marketing is that there isn’t really a good way to push more people toward a specific floorplan.
So if you have a floorplan that isn’t performing well… you just have to keep trying the same things and maybe spending more money to get into more advertising sources. And if that doesn’t work, you’re still losing money due to vacancy and you just threw more money at the problem via advertising to no discernible effect.
Video tours can help solve both of these problems. First, if you have a video tour of a floorplan, then you can be giving tours of that unit even before the current resident has moved out. Once you receive notice, start pushing the video out through Craigslist, AdWords, and any other channels you can. You can potentially give a number of tours of the unit before it has even vacated. Second, if you have floorplan video tours you can also take steps to feature those more prominently on your website or you can set up AdWords campaigns to drive people to one particular floorplan. So if there is a floorplan that isn’t leasing for some reason, you can easily drive more traffic to it and at far less cost than in older styles of marketing.
Does what we have said above sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t: In one case a client company told us that they expect to turn a unit in 10 days or fewer.
One of the best ways to make more money as a business is to simply reduce your expenses. In our industry, reducing vacancy time and turning costs is one of the best ways to reduce overall expense. And if you want to do that, then you want to be using walkthrough video tours.
Your leasing staff will work more efficiently because they will have fewer bad leads.
In conventional marketing, no one sees a particular unit until they show up at your community for a tour. This, of course, leads to a lot of bad tours that will not end in a lease but still consume much of your team’s time.
With walkthrough video tours, those bad leads can tour the unit online. In many cases, they’ll see it for themselves and recognize that even if a couple parts of it seem like a good fit for them, there are other things that are deal breakers. They’ll cross the unit off their list and move on. And that’s a great thing for you because it means your leasing staff isn’t wasting time on a lead that was never going to sign a lease anyway. By disqualifying these bad leads on your website, you are protecting your leasing staff’s time.
Of course, some teams will object to this and say that they can sell even bad leads if given the chance. We’re not persuaded by this line for a variety of reasons. But rather than getting into that in this post, we’ll just refer you to a separate article we have published that is all about this particular objection.
The leads that do call you will be higher quality.
These days everyone is talking about generating better leads. It’s not hard to see why: Better leads mean higher conversion rates, faster turn times, stronger demand, and higher revenue.
That said, it’s one thing to say that you deliver better quality leads. It’s another to actually be able to explain how you deliver better quality leads. If all you do is provide a website and some vague “SEO services” and assistance with doing marketing on social media, it’s hard to see how the leads you provide will be any more qualified than the next guy’s leads.
But walkthrough video tours actually provide a mechanism that explain how we can promise RentVision clients that we generate more qualified leads.
Here’s how it works: Just as the bad leads will disqualify themselves when they see the video tour on your website, so too will the good leads further qualify themselves. After they see the tour they’re even more excited: They already knew that the cost and number of bedrooms was a good fit. Now they know that they actually like the way the apartment looks. They can picture themselves living in a place like that. And they want to take the next step to getting there. That is a more qualified lead. That is a lead ready to sign a lease. And that is the kind of lead you want to be calling your leasing office.
So when you hear people talk about how this product or that vendor generates “more qualified” leads don’t just take their word for it. Try to figure out how their solution actually does that. If prospects can tour a unit virtually without having to talk to your leasing team, they can either disqualify themselves or further qualify themselves. And that means better leads for your team. But don’t just take someone’s word for it when they promise “better leads.” Understand their method.
Video tours make it easier to reengage prospective residents.
There are all kinds of reasons that a person might start the buying process with a company and then fail to complete it.
“Cart abandonment” is something that happens in e-commerce where someone puts an item in their “cart” in order to purchase it and then ends up leaving the site before completing the purchase. If you look over the stats on this site, you’ll see that most studies find cart abandonment rates between 60 and 75%.
Let’s face it: When forced to choose between acting and not acting, people tend toward the latter. It’s simple inertia. So there needs to be something powerful that drives them to act. In multifamily’s case, of course, the need to have a place to live is a powerful influence. But that simply drives people to lease some apartment somewhere. You want to get them to lease an apartment in your community. So one thing you need to do is figure out how to stay near the front of their mind. You don’t want prospects simply thinking in general about needing an apartment. You want them thinking specifically about leasing your apartment.
There are a couple things video tours allow you to do. First, you can set up remarketing ads in Google so that people who visit a certain page on your website are advertised to across the web. This way you’re staying in front of the prospect even after they have left your site. The second thing you can do is encourage leasing staff to send an email to every prospect they give an in-person showing to which includes a link to the floorplan page (and video tour) of the unit they toured.
By doing these things, you are staying in front of the prospect, reminding them that they really do need to figure out their housing situation and, by the way, your community would love to be the solution to their problem.
Video tours help provide peace of mind to other interested parties that are not able to attend an in-person tour.
Sometimes a group of roommates are looking for an apartment, but only one of them is able to come to the in-person showing. Other times a student is looking for an apartment while they’re in school and their parents, who live several hours away, want to know what the place is like, especially if they’re going to be helping with the cost.
Apartment video tours are a way to provide peace of mind for those other interested parties who care about the apartment but are not able to be there to see it in-person for one reason or another.
The video allows them to see the unit for themselves, to determine if they like it or not (in the case of roommates) and if it’s something they’d like their loved one living in (if it’s a parent or other benefactor).
This point also relates to the one immediately above: In order to get a person to sign a lease, there are a number of challenges you have to overcome. One of the big ones can be getting buy-in from roommates or a family member that is helping with the cost. A video tour can help you get that buy-in by establishing trust with the people unable to tour the unit in-person.
We believe that marketing should be simple. In today’s multifamily industry, simplicity is refreshing. There are complications everywhere and nothing is simple. But the right tools can make your marketing work more effectively and won’t require the same sort of constant vigilance you might associate with most multifamily marketing vendors. Good marketing should help you stay on top of things, and free you from worry. If you want that kind of marketing experience, you need walkthrough video tours.