20 Off-Season Leasing Tips to Prepare for Winter
by McKenna Hogan, on Sep 27, 2019 9:00:00 AM
Well, it’s finally here. The dreaded off-season for apartment renting. And finding new ways to market apartments during this time can be tricky.Statistically speaking, demand for apartments actually decreases by about half during the winter months - and since we unfortunately can’t determine all lease expiration dates, most of us will just have to learn how to adapt.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be viewed as a period of slow business and frantically trying to fill vacancies - there are preemptive measures to take before the cold hits so no one is left hanging on by a thread.
Below we’ll discuss off-season leasing tips that will help occupy time, and units.
For starters, who are winter renters?
Whether by circumstance or mere choice, some individuals move during the winter months. The unlucky ones that don’t have a choice, however, are largely of a younger generation.
We know this because:
- Millennials make up the largest group of apartment renters in the US.
- Their inexperience in apartment searching doesn’t always accommodate for ideal move-in time.
- Outlying circumstances like school schedules and not having a stable career yet may be factors.
The individuals that voluntarily move during the months of October-December are most likely trying to catch a deal, which are often on the rise during this period. For lower income groups - or people that just like to save money - it’s actually pretty beneficial to move at this time.
Either way, it’s important to identify this select group of people to effectively target renters, so here are some off-season leasing tips to guide you through these harsh winter months.
20 areas to focus on during off-season
1. Show off your community everywhere
If there was ever a time that water pressure was the most important asset to a unit, those days are long gone.
As of 2018, the most popular search terms among renters included “furnished,” and general inquiries about amenities. Although not as easy to quickly furnish model units or vacancies, documenting the extra stuff your community offers will definitely stand out during an apartment search.
In addition, showing off up-to-date photography, 3D renderings, virtual tours, etc. on all platforms can speed up the sales cycle by eliminating the need for in-person tours.
2. Upgrade vacant units
When evaluating your community, make sure you ask yourself - are these units vacant for a reason?
Although not always the case, it’s a good idea to ensure all units reflect the price you’re asking for them. After all, there’s more than enough time to fix up those iffy vacancies for prime renting season.
In addition, updated features in a vacant unit work as an excellent marketing tool. We’ll discuss a few tips on how to spruce things up a little later in this article.
3. Get customer service heavy
It’s hard to put into words just how essential good customer service is. Something about a home emergency can seem like an existential crisis, and although sometimes a tedious request, property management that remains on top of concerns can make a world of a difference.
In fact, Reputation.com released a property management reputation report back in 2018 highlighting just how important customer service is to renters. The report actually states that good reviews outnumbered bad reviews 2:1 for the year. But this only makes bad customer service easier to identify.
Needless to mention, the last time you’ll want to slack on complaints is holiday season. This time of year is stressful enough, no one wants the issue they’ve been complaining about for the past month still present on Thanksgiving Day.
Overall, customer service has the ability to make or break an inquiring lead and maintain tenants, so ensure all complaints are tended to.
4. Update your website
Updating a company website is like doing laundry - if it’s not done regularly, people start to notice.
Your website is the face of your community, so if pages aren’t loading properly or your photography is from 2009, you’re probably due for an audit.
Between functionality and updated content, it’s always good to ensure you’re remaining on-trend with modern marketing strategies. This could include becoming mobile friendly, writing more blog posts, upping internal links, optimizing CTAs, and much more.
If you have the time to perfect it, why not?
5. Inquire about that digital content you’ve been meaning to research
During prime renting season, it’s not always feasible to incorporate a sales tool like digital content into your marketing strategy. Which is why now is an excellent time to start looking into your options.
According to Blue Corona, the modern-day marketing funnel includes new phases of the online buyer’s journey. Instead of linearly going from awareness, interest, desire, action, it now incorporates awareness, consideration and research, purchase, and the post-purchase loyalty loop.
Because of this new cycle of buying, marketers must strategize around when they believe a possible lead will be in the consideration and research phase to ensure that any digital content is available by that time.
And since we now know the research process often takes place during December through January, if you’re planning on leveraging any digital content, the time to start your search should be now.
According to Landlordology, there are four factors that all renters consider before signing or renewing a lease: location, price, condition, and the landlord.
With location not being changeable, real estate businesses must learn to work with the other three factors. Luckily, the minute price starts going down, so does the need to exceed in everything else.
The same goes for off season renting. Of course the main incentive for signing a lease is a decrease in rent, but there are other smaller ways to appeal to potential prospects that’ll seem just as enticing.
For starters, try offering flexible lease terms. This could make breaking a lease any time after a certain month a possibility, and renters may gravitate towards the fact that they have the option to break the chain of winter renting.
In addition, incentives like property upgrades, fixed security deposits, or even personalized requests -within reason- have been known to spark interest during harsh times, according to Landlordology.
7. Seek out those individuals that will be looking during this time
Looking at you, millennials! Whether they’re college students or young adults, your marketing strategy should cater to the wants and needs of this younger generation.
This can include staying active on social media platforms, promoting unique events around your community, advertising on popular websites, or incorporating interest-led chat bots to your domain.
Essentially, get heavily acquainted with digital marketing tools that’ll help interest and engage technology-savvy millennials.
8. Invest in some new hardware
Assuming that there is a universal hatred of flaky and out-of-date hardware, nothing sounds quite as appealing to renters as new and improved utilities.
We realize this can often be a pricey task, but it’s important to remember that it will pay off. Not only can rusty washers and dryers force people to end a lease prematurely, it’ll also ensure no new tenants come your way.
I mean, some people even base decisions on the quality or existence of certain amenities.
So if buying brand new refrigerators for every unit isn’t exactly in your budget, then tend to all the fixable issues and buy new ones only when they’re absolutely needed. Trust us, your current and future tenants will thank you.
9. Suck it up and ask for referrals
It may seem a little desperate - but guess what? A verbal referral from a friend or acquaintance has a huge impact on your multifamily marketing efforts.
When any type of renter is debating between two possible communities, you bet they’ll go with the one they know is at the very least satisfactory. In fact, there are studies about this current “referral generation” that we’ll cover later on.
A good way to ask for a referral is by incorporating it into your email signature, says Forbes. Although simply asking for one is okay too, some individuals may see it as too forward. Either way, networking with clients -especially when it comes to slow season- will ensure better odds for maximum occupancy.
10. Create a lead generation tool
According to Forbes, an excellent marketing tool to have is called a “squeeze page.”
These are essentially tools used solely to get emails out of people who may initially not be inclined.
The end game is to reach individuals through email campaigns, which are great ways to target and convert possible leads. Although similar to landing pages, these pretty much consist of offers or videos that directly ask for an email. These are just a quick easy way to gather the most information possible.
To learn more about the difference, click here.
11. Upgrade your Google Business Listing
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Regularly updating your Google My Business listing is detrimental to driving online traffic.
SEO trends are constantly changing, so now is the perfect time to put in some research and change up the content and functionality on your GMB listing. That is, if you want to stand a competitive chance in Google search result’s rankings.
Just like with regular website updates, there are certain tactics one can use to make easy, yet efficient upgrades. Click here to download your free GMB audit checklist.
12. Host events
Alright, hear us out. Yes, it’s difficult to get people out to an event in the middle of winter. But hey, incentives work here too.
The importance of hosting an event is to connect with potential renters and form a relationship, which has proven to convert more leads. In addition, this so called “referral generation” mentioned above are extremely likely to refer friends, and in this case acquaintances, or give a good review when it’s warranted.
But first we have to get them there.
Millennials often draw the short straw in the game of renting season, so consider this when brainstorming effective incentives.
This could be anything from an open house to a holiday party, but if you want to get them in, you gotta give the people what they want. Unique activities, free food/drinks, or some sort of price incentive for attending could get leads through the door and provide a chance to form a valuable connection with the community.
13. Boost your content/online presence
Although not much research has been conducted on seasonality of social media, it has been identified that more people are posting during summer months, whereas winter months consist more so of scrolling through feed.
Essentially, this is a good time for communities to post their content and have it be seen.
Besides the fact that a modernized online presence is necessary to remain relevant, social media is such a good way to form new leads. And according to that marketing funnel we talked about previously, it all starts with awareness. So putting your content out their consistently will likely increase your ranking on Google search results - one of Google’s top 200 ranking factors - and then subsequently aid in reaching more leads.
It also helps having targeted keywords and direct links to gauge what people are interested in and to drive more traffic.
14. Research what your competitors are up to
One of the easiest ways to learn how to be better in your field is to see what’s happening around you. That doesn’t mean copy your competition, it just means see what’s working for them and analyze how you can benefit from it.
Winter is a good time to do this because you’ll have time to strategize for the seasons to come. Things to look out for include online presence, digital content, special offers, and amount of vacancies.
This can honestly be as simple as following them on social media.
But like we said, take this information to learn how to do better. Google knows valuable content when they see it, and if your stuff looks like the stuff from the community down the street, it’ll have the opposite effect.
15. Incorporate multiple modes of communication to your online presence
Possibly the most important off-season leasing tip, maintaining communication.
Now, more ways to communicate won’t always mean more communication, but it does improve the chance for maximum visibility.
For instance, 79% of real estate agents use Facebook to update listings. This is a smart tactic considering almost 80% of adults aged 18-49 are Facebook users, while about 75% of that group claims to use the platform daily, according to Pew Research. Those are pretty good odds for reaching your target audience.
Additionally, Instagram and Pinterest are on the rise for most popular platforms among millennials, so it won’t hurt to get on those as well.
More importantly, though, every real estate business in 2019 should have a chat bot on their domain. Conversion Logix states that chat bots have actually converted over 80% of their multifamily prospects into leads due to the insinuation that it’s there to help, not sell. And during a time where leasing agents are obviously desperate, that belief could be essential to converting leads.
16. Work around prospects' schedules
Rolling it back to incentives, opening up your schedule to work around previous and future tenant’s obligations will be a good habit to pick up during the winter.
The fact that weather conditions do whatever they want regardless of your apartment tour or move in date can make it difficult -and stressful- for everyone involved, so do yourself a favor and lower expectations for punctuality.
It’s best practice to make sure you put in the effort to accommodate for people reaching out by allowing them to determine timing. Basically what we’re saying is beggars can’t be choosers, so treat interested parties properly and they’ll hopefully show their appreciation.
17. Play with price
There is absolutely no shortage of online forums preaching about how everyone should rent during winter because communities “have the best prices,” and to be honest, they wouldn’t be wrong.
We all know revenue plays a large part in determining price, so when more vacancies start popping up, it’s probably time to consider down-charging.
There are so many things to remember when tinkering with price, but the most important thing is to look out for those individuals playing the negotiation game. Although not always a bad thing, some renters will try to demand too much.
Just keep in mind that your competition is probably making their own deals, but stooping to the lowest price to win over renters will only backfire in the long run.
18. Advertise accommodations you’ll offer for moving in harsh conditions
Residing in the Chicagoland area, there’s nothing we know better than just how harsh winters can be.
Unruly weather conditions can make it nearly impossible to move into a new community, and needless to say, it’s horribly unpleasant. By offering accommodations such as flexible hours, referrals for moving companies, or some sort of provided transportation can really make a good impression on possible leads.
Management that extend themselves in that way make an impression and stand out among competition.
19. Spruce up the look and personality of your community
We’re not talking about the entire community, but updating areas like the entrance, amenities, the interior, and vacant units can be refreshing - and is quite literally part of the job. This may include repainting, adding new decor, updating utilities, and of course, upgrading flooring.
You know how moving around furniture in a room can make it feel like a completely different home? Well the same applies to apartments - even just putting in new curtains can transform a property.
Basically, there’s no need to go above and beyond as long as you are strategic. Here’s a list of budget friendly updates designed to keep renters happy.
20. And lastly, start strategizing for busy season
According to Apartment List, Inc. apartment searches pick up from December to January and increase steadily until their peak in July.
This time frame tied together with upkeep of past and present data analysis can help anticipate future outcomes for your community. So if you haven’t already, download Google Analytics for concise data on what features of your site are working.