Pierre Calzadilla is the Sr. Manager at Trulia Rentals, and is an expert in the rental industry. Throughout Pierre’s 10+ years in the real estate industry, he has seen the market change tremendously—specifically in how renters search, what they want, and how they interact with property managers. In this interview Pierre explains today’s rental market and provides key insights into how property owners can prepare for the coming years.
Please tell us about Trulia Rentals and your role within the company.
Trulia launched in 2006, and now has more than 34.9 million users each month. In 2010 we launched Trulia Rentals in response to the consumer demand. I joined Trulia in 2007 and have tremendously enjoyed building and growing our broker and agent business.
My focus is to build relationships across the US, listen to our partners and help Trulia provide the best tools and customer experience to anyone who needs to fill their vacancies, or market properties and services online.
How have renters changed over the past 5 years?
Here are three ways renters have really changed over the past five years:
- Mobile. This has easily been the greatest change over the past five years. Trulia saw it early on, and we were the first to develop rental specific apps for Android and iOS to help today’s consumer have a seamless experience searching for their next place to live. With renters, especially, speed is crucial and our dedicated rental mobile apps allow consumers to quickly find a place, be alerted of new rental properties that come on the market and contact an agent to see a place in a matter of minutes.
- Economy. The economic and job situation has created a climate where people who want to buy simply can’t. This has driven many people into rental property across the US.
- Apartment Discovery. It used to be newspapers, then rental websites, or Craigslist. Now, you have major real estate destinations like Trulia that have massive consumer scale and resources available. We provide consumers context, rich local data and ways to access and make the data consumable by anyone. This has made the consumer more aware and informed, which is good for everyone.
What are your predictions for how renters will change over the next 5 years?
Ultimately, people will always need a place to live, regardless of the economic situation. So ensuring that we are able to provide economical housing in city centers will be key. Investors should consider other business models, such as vacation rentals, or furnished rentals for people on the move. Renters will eventually only search for a home via their mobile device and expect to complete their transaction, or at least application, right online, or on the spot in the apartment. Mobile tools for repairs, rent collection, etc. will be the standard way to do business.
How can property managers target today’s renter?
Meet them on their level. They are mobile, social and technologically inclined. However, the average consumer will still pick up the phone during a house hunt. In a recent survey we conducted with California prospective renters, we found that almost 2/3 of consumers prefer phone calls to emails. Yes, they will email you, but likely that “email” is coming from a phone, so a quick phone call back is very likely to yield success. If not, another professional or property manager may have gotten their attention with other property and they will become unresponsive. This leads to professionals thinking they are not interested, or are “bad” leads. If you respond faster to the leads, with good information, or even call them immediately you will likely see a better lead conversion.
If you are seeking to connect with owners, you should also consider how your business is seen if you are not on mobile devices, or if you don’t offer mobile tools. Even owners are expecting more transparency and seamless communication with their property managers.
What advice would you give to a new multi-family property manager?
As a new multi-family property manager, I would ensure that my property is included on sites that attract my target consumer. For example, 51% of Trulia users earn more than $75K a year and 89% of users are over 25 years old*.
If the properties you manage have less than 25 units, you should ensure you are on Trulia, and in turn automatically on our mobile apps. Consumers are increasingly shifting away from sites like Craigslist and moving onto Trulia. Very similar to how they migrated from print to Craigslist.
If you manage properties that have more than 25 units you should work with Apartment Guide. They are the exclusive on-ramp to Trulia and help ensure that you get the best features available.
Thanks so much for the time, we enjoy our relationship with Appfolio and our mutual customers.
Today’s rental market is vastly different than it was 10 years ago. With the rapid growth of technology the rental market will continue to change. To maintain and grow your property management business you MUST keep up. If not, you may be left with too many vacancies.
*according to comScore Feb 2013