Renters Craving Safety, Flexibility and Confidence that Come with Apartment Living

by LCP360, on Nov 11, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Cleanliness, work-from-home -- and now even learn-from-home -- are rising to the top of curiosities among prospective residents looking to move into an apartment home – some, doing so for the first time as the face the day-to-day challenges created by COVID-19.

Price, and even more so location, maintain their usual levels of importance when making the big decision. And using technology -- offering expanded options for touring -- is becoming a must-do for any community’s overall efforts.

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Given recent estimates that social distancing will continue to be a big part of everyone’s lives well into next year, these new ways of delivering an ideal apartment living experience are here to stay. Apartment marketers are turning even more to imagery and video to provide optimal virtual touring experiences.

We talked to three leading apartment brands about how they are handling 2020’s challenges.

Images and video have never been more important for apartment marketers’ outreach to prospective residents, Justin Godwin, Director, Northeast Regional Marketing, Pinnacle, says.

“The images you share create a first impression for the renter not only about the look of the apartment, but the lifestyle they can expect,” he says.

“If you are only using static photos, you have to work even harder to establish a better ‘experience’ with your images and videos to convey your brand message. During this pandemic, and when marketing in highly transient markets such as New York and Washington, D.C., where renters aren’t always able to visit a property in-person, this is magnified by 1000 times.”

Godwin says his portfolio entered the pandemic on strong ground with regard to photography and tour video.

“We’re also using virtual staging with our imagery – and honestly, most people who see it, can’t tell the difference,” he says.

Man Living Alone Virtual StagingVirtual staging from LCP360

But it makes a difference “because you don’t want to share photos of an empty room. Adding furniture, wall art and plants make it easier to interpret the size of the space,” he says. “For properties under construction, we’ve been able to craft fully-rendered imagery and tours based on schematics and blueprints.”

Godwin says it’s also beneficial to be able to host virtual walkthroughs where the resident can connect online with the leasing professional, who can then “hold the hand” of the prospect virtually as they guide them along the tour.

“For us, the quality for our tours is so much better than FaceTime or Facebook Messenger calls,” he says.

Also for Pinnacle, resident perks and excellent customer service are just a few of the reasons why renters remain loyal to our brand, Michele Butler, Senior Vice President, Pinnacle, says.

“From the moment a prospect selects one of our properties, they have access to digital service tools aimed at maximizing their satisfaction,” she says.

To start, Pinnacle offers the kind of assistance most people crave to handle the tedious move-in process, she says.

“Once they are settled in their apartments, our residents have access to virtual concierge services and can get assistance with deliveries, cleaning, living smarter, increasing credit scores, printing, and so much more,” Butler says. “All of this helps set Pinnacle apart from our competition.”

Pinnacle also provides extensive training and marketing to onsite teams to ensure that we are meeting every renter’s desires and expectations.

Pinnacle has had a strong digital presence for many years, Butler says, “so our teams were well-equipped from the onset of the pandemic to provide prospects with online leasing options. Our properties have been able to offer virtual tours, self-guided tours and contact-free services for prospects who elected to meet in person.”

Pinnacle’s team members at each of its properties have also received ongoing training on health and safety protocols related to the pandemic, enabling them to implement and speak to Pinnacle’s adherence of guidelines issued by local, state and federal agencies.

“We also are paying even more attention to cleanliness by offering a ‘Clean Promise’ that includes our staff taking extra precautions and limiting the number of people who enter the unit once it’s been fully turned over from the prior resident.”

Kettler’s priority has always been to create memorable experiences and provide exceptional customer service, Amy Lee, Regional Marketing Manager, Kettler, says.

“In the new age of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Kettler has tirelessly maintained operations to better serve our customers,” Lee says. “When looking back over the past several months, we can clearly remember moments where we were in full execution mode to evaluate changes that we had to make in order to continue to serve residents without disruption.

“Pivoting our marketing strategy is something that singularly helped us to do this successfully. For months leading up to the pandemic, we were vetting and onboarding virtual and digital tools, not even knowing that our operations would have to shift so rapidly. That said, we felt like we had a head start with implementation and were able to move our leasing model to become entirely online.”

Kettler recently launched “Your Tour, Your Choice,” a campaign focused on providing prospective renters tour options such as in-person tours, virtual tours and self-guided. The process can be conducted online, with Kettler’s bots and through its app. For those not as technically inclined, it provides a personalized packet of information about how to participate in the touring process.

“Now that we are seeing that not everyone prefers to live downtown, or near a Metro train, because they are working from home, and can pretty much work anywhere, we are promoting some of our suburban markets,” Lee says.

“There, they can get more space for the same price. In these locations, our tours highlight work-from-home or learn-from home spaces, since so many adults and families are living that lifestyle right now. We want to make these spaces as comfortable as we can. People are spending more time in their homes.”

For Bozzuto Management Company’s JoLynn Scotch, Managing Director of Operations; and Nancy J. Goldsmith, Managing Director of Operations; spend every day striving to create sanctuary for their residents.

“When you walk into a Bozzuto community, you immediately can feel the difference immediately,” they say. “We have continued to foster an environment of trust by implementing higher standards of cleanliness, understanding new resident expectations, using the latest technology, employing data to drive customer-related decisions and frequent, transparent communication with employees, residents, partners and clients.”

Its Welcome Home Commitment has been an important differentiator.

“Knowing that their apartment home will be thoroughly cleaned and detailed provides our residents tremendous peace-of-mind,” they say.

This commitment comprises three elements—Home Detail, a meticulous detailing process guided by a checklist of more than 70 items; the Sanctuary Seal, which provides assurance that the apartment has been cleaned and inspected; and the 30-Day Guarantee, which allows residents to move out within 30 days penalty-free if they aren’t 100 percent satisfied.

“We are committed to taking care of our residents like family,” the company says.

Furthermore, Bozzuto realizes it must constantly evolve in this new world to find ways in which it can achieve sanctuary virtually during their tours.

“Our teams personalize the experience as much as possible,” they say. “We try to help the prospects envision living in our communities. We have found that inviting prospects to our virtual resident events is a fantastic way to offer a glimpse into what life could be like in our communities. Bozzuto at Home has been a successful series of virtual resident events – mixology classes, yoga sessions and cooking lessons with professional chefs are just a few events we’ve hosted virtually.”

Residents want a balanced approach when it comes to supporting their work-life needs, according to Bozzuto. In a recent survey of Bozzuto Resident Advisory Panel (BRAP), 60 percent of respondents said that they prefer that Bozzuto focuses on both in-apartment and community solutions to meet their home and work needs during COVID-19.

“Many residents want to know how they can configure a work-from-home setup that works easily for them,” Scotch and Goldsmith say. “We also know that prospects are seeking apartment homes in close proximity to their workplaces (for those who cannot work remotely).

“We’re seeing that, for some residents now, lease renewal is a chance to ‘move up’ to either a bigger apartment with more space for co-working from home or a more desirable location within their community rather than choosing to move elsewhere.”

Bozzuto’s advisory panel says that green space and outdoor common areas are at the top of residents’ list of must-haves. “Residents feel great knowing that they don’t have to be confined to their apartment homes, that they have options to change their scenery in a safe manner,” they say.

While we have opened back up and resumed in-person touring, we have found that people really like virtual and self-guided tours. We believe that these are here to stay.