When the Construction Stops, the Consternation Begins

How online leasing technology can alleviate your anxiety about lease-ups

You’ve just completed construction on a stunning new building—congratulations. Unfortunately the excitement of your grand opening turns to dread at the thought of leasing up those hundreds of vacant units as quickly as possible. However technological advancement has made lease-up anxiety a thing of the past.

Apartment All-stars representative and lease-up specialist Kate Good speaking at the 2012 Apartment Internet Marketing (AIM) Conference suggested that the task of leasing-up is one made easier through “technological empowerment at the site level.” And nothing is more technologically empowering to a leasing operation than the smart phone.

The shifting consumer paradigm

Wired magazine technology reporter and former Macworld associate editor Brian X. Chen writes in his 2011 book Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future—and Locked Us In that the iPhone, and arguably smart phones in general, have “changed our standards for what we expect from technology, and as a result, businesses are being forced to give us more for our money.”

Consumers “don’t want seven pieces of hardware to perform seven different tasks,” they expect “a single gadget capable of doing anything-anytime-anywhere.” Chen posits “if we have accessible data everywhere, then the way we learn in classrooms, treat medicine, fight crime, report the news,” and most significantly, “do business are all going to have to transform.”

Meeting consumer demand

Consider that renters are consumers of rental real estate. The key to leasing success, especially lease-up success, then is to meet consumer demand and deliver a leasing experience that falls into this new paradigm. This means providing a 100% online solution, available 24/7 that allows renters to go from listing to lease in one seamless process.

For example, some mobile applications provide leasing solutions that allow renters to pull out their smart phone and use it to: visit your community website, submit a guest card form, submit an online application, qualify instantly with screening on-demand and submit a holding deposit on their new apartment. Throughout this whole sequence data is shared seamlessly from one process to the next, which saves renters and leasing staff from having to re-key the same data into disparate systems over and over again.

When it comes time to sign the lease, the process can be completed through e-signature technology. Co-applicants and guarantors that might not be on the same schedule, or in the same time zone for that matter, can be brought together through an online signing ceremony that each signer completes at his or her convenience—again, using a smart phone. Without this level of automation, staff may spend all their time doing nothing but pushing paper and scheduling lease signings—and time is a precious commodity when racing to stabilize a new community.

Integrations

All this talk about a uniform leasing solution may lead you to believe that sourcing products all from one vendor is the only option; however, this isn’t necessarily the case. As we all know, it’s quite common in our industry to source individual products from the best of breed in each category—websites, resident screening, lease documents, etc. Building a system of integrated products from assorted vendors can be quite successful; however, if you choose to go this route it’s important that the vendors you choose are willing to play nice with each other.

Too often, the task of creating a uniform leasing solution is hampered by a series of poorly integrated products, all working independently of each other with little actual sharing of data between products. The clumsiness of an integration might not be an issue during normal business operations but the volume of deals done during a lease-up can be anywhere from 3 – 5 times those at a stabilized property. This number can be even greater for high profile projects in areas where vacancy levels tend to stay low, such as New York City. This kind of increased usage can expose flaws in slipshod integrations. Look for a company that partners with different apartment industry vendors, and is able to build reliable integrations.

Recent tech innovations have caused renters to grow accustomed to the mobility and convenience afforded to them by their smart phones. Engadget.com reports that the rate of users accessing the Internet from a mobile device doubles every year and there are no signs of slowing down.

Achieving lease-up success requires asset managers to implement a leasing solution that capitalizes on the popularity of smart phones in the hands of online, on the go renters. These renters should be able to search, apply, qualify and sign for a new apartment online, 24/7 all from their mobile devices. By melding leasing automation with online accessibility lease-ups practically fill themselves with qualified new renters. Which means that as long as you have the right technology in place, renters will beat a path to your virtual doorstep.