If you aren’t using the Internet to market your rental property and communicate with your tenants, you’re probably missing out. A new survey confirms what most of us already knew: people are relying more and more on the Internet to find rental homes and apartments; they’re using online review sites to make decisions; and you could improve tenant retention by using social media sites to inform your tenants about the great things happening in your neighborhood.
Researchers at J Turner Research recently surveyed 41,303 apartment home residents about how they use technology to find apartments and communicate with property managers, as well as how they use social media and online review and ratings websites. While this survey focused on residents in larger apartment communities, much of the information is applicable to smaller multi-unit rental properties and even single family homes that are either self-managed by landlords or being managed by property management companies.
The survey found:
- 64% of apartment residents used a rental listing site on the Internet to find their apartment. Craigslist was particularly popular.
TIP: use Craigslist or another rental listing site to advertise your available rentals. Because potential renters are becoming more and more nervous about rental scams, make sure you include a link to your business website. Most scammers don’t have the time to create a professional looking, functional website.
- An overwhelming majority of people didn’t use Facebook or Twitter to find their apartment.
TIP: Don’t advertise your rentals on Facebook or Twitter, especially if you have several available that could clog up your follower’s feeds. Instead, reserve those social media accounts for more friendly, useful posts, such as community events, or interesting photos.
- Prospects rely heavily on apartment community websites when researching apartments. They especially like to see information on pricing, amenities, floor plans, and unit availability.
TIP: If you have a website for your rentals, include a list of available units, with pricing, a page for amenities (including laundry, parking, wi-fi, etc.), and a page for available floor plans. Property management companies should consider listing available rentals on their websites, and should include detailed information for each one.
- Most apartment research is done on personal laptops, not mobile phones.
TIP: Make sure your full website is running well and providing the information renters want before you focus on a mobile site.
- Residents are more likely to use their smartphones to pay rent than to mail in a check by 3:1.
TIP: If you don’t use one already, it really is time to consider using an online rental payment service. Not only do these services make it easier for your renters to pay you, they make it easier for you to track rent payments, and you don’t have to worry about lost checks, or drop boxes getting broken into.
- 1/3 of respondents prefer not to receive texts at all; 62% want to limit them to emergency announcements.
TIP: When new tenants move in and fill out their contact information forms, include a question asking them if you can text emergency information to them, or let them know in your “house rules” that in some emergency situations, you may text them.
- 74% of respondents used online ratings and review sites when they were doing their apartment hunting.
TIP: Whether you’re a property management company for smaller properties or large apartment communities, stay on top of your online reputation by checking review sites and responding in a timely manner to negative comments with positive remarks. Set up a “google alert” with your company or apartment community name so you can track what people are saying about you. And respond to the nice stuff too!
- Respondents visit their Facebook pages 1-3 times a day, and they’re interested in neighborhood information such as restaurants, theater information, and community events.
TIP: Use your Facebook account to let renters in your local area or apartment community know about upcoming events, store openings, and special local deals. Knowing about these events helps your tenants realize they live in a great community. If you prefer to use Twitter, check out this list of Fifty Twitter Ideas for Property Managers and Landlords.
Does any of the information from the survey surprise you? Do you have any tips on how to respond to negative online reviews, or how to use Twitter and Facebook in your business?