I was recently asked how apartment prospects have changed over the years. I don’t know that there’s a quick and easy answer because modern apartment shoppers are so profoundly different from their predecessors.
To start with, by the time a prospect visits a community today, he or she is usually armed with a lot of information. ILSs and property websites allow prospects to learn nearly everything about pricing, floor plans and amenities.
So the prospective renter who arrives for a tour often is less interested in gathering basic information and more in experiencing the service and rapport a leasing team has to offer. More than ever, onsite associates have to be ready to provide a warm, engaging and comfortable site visit to prospects.
But that’s just one of several ways in which prospective renters have changed over the years. Here are some of the others:
Many of them want the option of self-guided tours. This is perhaps the ultimate customized tour experience.
So many of today’s prospective renters know exactly what their checklist for a tour is. They know exactly what they want to see, and they don’t want to talk with an associate while they’re seeing it. They want to get in, get out and be able to visit a property at a time that works best for them, not for an onsite associate. Self-guided tours are perfect for those laser-focused shoppers.
They also work for prospects who may not be hyper-focused but who simply prefer to experience a community without an associate hovering over them. Prospects sometimes just don’t feel comfortable reacting candidly to what they’re seeing on a tour when there’s a leasing associate with them.
They want a customized experience. Way back when, prospects put up with communities’ one-size-fits-all approach to site tours and lead follow-up. Not anymore. Today, they want to experience a community on their terms. Many of them are extremely busy and don’t want to spend more time visiting a property than they have to.
If they don’t have a dog and are not interested in getting one, they probably don’t want their tour to include the pet park. If they have no interest in a fitness center, they don’t want you to waste their time showing them where the yoga studio and the Peloton bikes are.
And they are likely to prefer having their initial conversation with an associate somewhere other than at the associate’s desk. A leasing team needs to be able to have an info-gathering and rapport-building conversation anywhere the prospect wants to have it.
Also, with all of the ways to communicate today, each prospect will have a specific channel through which they want to hear from associates. Some prefer text, some prefer email and some older ones – think empty-nest baby boomers – still like to talk over the phone. Disregarding these preferences is a surefire way to drive away a prospect.
They need instant gratification. It’s probably a result of living in the smartphone era, when the answers to seemingly all of our questions are never more than a few screen taps and swipes away. Whatever the cause, when prospects ask for information, they want an answer immediately – even when they’re on tour. It’s unacceptable for an associate to respond with “I don’t have the answer. I’ll find out when we get back to the leasing office.”
More than ever, onsite associates need to be extremely well-informed about their communities and have the technology at their fingertips to quickly answer a prospect’s questions.
In summary, the modern prospect is more sophisticated and particular than ever. And leasing teams have to be ready to rise to the challenge.