During On-Site CEO Jake Harrington’s presentation on the “Secrets of Online Leasing,” at this year’s User Retreat, attendees learned that online leasing, while becoming more and more popular amongst housing providers, still holds its fair share of secrets, both good and not so good.
“What often passes for online leasing today is anything but,” said Harrington.
From perplexing websites to slipshod applications, the online leasing marketplace is a minefield, full of oddly designed products that can end up costing housing providers an arm and a leg if they aren’t careful.
Over the course of his presentation, Harrington offered a matter-of-fact look at the state of the leasing software business and the secrets that many software providers don’t want you to know about. And for the purposes of this blog post, we’ve turned Harrington’s insights into a roadmap that housing providers can use to get the most out of their online leasing solutions.
Top tips to online leasing
A website that allows prospects to browse apartments online, but forces them to call-in to check availability on those apartments is hardly worthy of the term online leasing.
As Harrington pointed out “that’s just one of the bizarre ironies and design quirks that exist in many so-called ‘online leasing’ products on the market.”
So when you’re shopping for an online leasing platform use these three simple guidelines to get the most from your software:
Avoid going offline. As mentioned already, beware of website offerings that allow prospects to shop for apartments online, but don’t allow them to actually apply online. Specifically, your online application shouldn’t be a PDF that applicants have to print out. Similarly, if applicants want to check availability they should be able to do so online in real-time as opposed to contacting the leasing office. Failing to offer a truly online leasing process ultimately funnels more prospects toward phone and email contact channels, which means your already busy leasing staff spend more time answering the phone and responding to emails and less time doing more important tasks like showing apartments.
Avoid online lines. “Is that a line? Let’s go wait in it!” Not something you hear too often, unless you’re Apple and you’re releasing a new iPhone. The fact of the matter is that people do not want to wait in line to pay you. In a previous User Retreat Rewind story we highlighted Amazon’s 1-Click as a Web design feature that enhances the shopping experience by allowing Amazon shoppers to go from product to purchase with a single click of the mouse. By removing roadblocks from the checkout process, Amazon has dramatically increased their conversion rates. Increase your own conversion rates by following 1-Click’s lead and avoiding online applications that require applicants to create an account before they can apply to your community.
Avoid branding confusion. Once an applicant decides to apply to your community, what happens then? Are they redirected to a separate application window or an entirely different website? If you’ve built out an online leasing platform using an assemblage of products from different providers, it’s extremely important to keep your branding consistent from one step to the next. Jarring shifts in the look and feel of your website and application can lead applicants to think that your site is broken—or worse. Remember, you’re asking applicants for a lot of sensitive information as part of their application packages and if they don’t trust your website, they won’t apply. Moreover, this concept of branding goes beyond aesthetic concerns. Your typical applicant doesn’t know anything about “NAA,” “guest cards,” “units” and the like so save the jargon for the office and keep it off your website. Instead use common sense terms that everyone can understand.
By following these three guidelines you’ll be leasing online like a pro. Granted, adopting a new online leasing solution can be quite a challenge, but On-Site is here to help.
For more about On-Site’s 2014 User Retreat: