Last modified on August 10th, 2023
By Marc Frenkiel
Marketing and leasing may very well be the lifeblood of property management. After all, effective marketing is what brings prospective renters to a showing, and signed leases are what pay the bills. Throughout that journey, from a renter’s first inquiry to their move-in day, there are opportunities for incorporating digital technologies like AI and automation to create a great experience and save time for your marketing and leasing teams. Discover the benefits of a truly digital marketing and leasing workflow on a full lead-to-lease journey.
As soon as you receive a notice of non-renewal, you should start the process of generating demand for the vacant unit through a variety of channels. Two of the most common ways to market vacancies are through Internet Listing Services and your company’s website. The leading property management software solutions provide users with fully integrated access to these channels for a truly seamless marketing experience.
Vacancy Posting is a time-saving AppFolio tool that allows you to create polished listings directly in AppFolio and post them to your property management company’s website, along with dozens of integrated internet listing sites like Zillow, Zumper, and Apartments.com (just to name a few) — all with a single click.
Here’s how Engrain, one of our integration partners available to AppFolio users through AppFolio Stack™, elevates vacancy listings. Instead of offering a unit floor plan with no context, Engrain provides viewers with significantly more content, such as details about the unit’s finishes and light exposure, and context, like the location of the apartment in relation to amenities, green spaces, and highways.
The natural next step for a prospective renter after seeing a listing on a third-party site is to check out the property management company’s website. It’s vital to leave a stellar first impression, and in 2022, you can do this with a standout website.
AppFolio Sites is just that — a value-added service in which a team of in-house AppFolio website developers incorporate the latest marketing innovations to build a modern, visually appealing, user-friendly website for your business. As Cora Langel-Person of Centana Property Management (500+ units) describes:
“AppFolio helps us make a great first impression so that we have time to focus more on personalized marketing. And the fact that we can instantly post and update our vacancies there and on third-party sites is game-changing.”
If the marketing team does its job well, all that interest should result in inquiries from prospective residents. At this point in the workflow, the baton is passed to the leasing team.
Leasing is a highly service-oriented aspect of property management. Prospective residents will decide whether a unit meets their needs and if they are going to submit an application. But before doing so, they’ll pepper leasing agents with questions that they expect to be answered instantly — difficult at the best of times, but almost impossible during the busy season. There is a powerful tool, however, that can help leasing agents prioritize their time so they can dedicate their efforts toward the most qualified and serious prospects:
AI Leasing Assistant, Lisa
More than a chatbot, Lisa is an artificial intelligence service that uses natural language processing technology to provide thoughtful, personable responses to prospective renters. This is especially important for handling common initial questions about pet policies or unit showings, which can be time-consuming and disruptive. But unlike your human leasing agents, Lisa does not need rest or time off, working 24/7 as part of your leasing team. By using a tool like Lisa, leasing teams spend less time on distracting busywork and have more space to focus on moving in new residents.
Guest cards and customer relationship management (CRM)
Every inquiry is a lead. But manually entering thousands of leads into your property management platform is unrealistic. This is where guest cards come into play. While automatically responding to inquiries, Lisa collects pertinent identifying information and automatically creates a guest card for the prospect. Jordan Friendman, Co-Founder and President of Hela Management (800+ units) describes the utility of automated guest cards:
“We could not imagine running our company without Lisa. In the last year alone, Lisa’s entered over 24,000 guest cards, sent over 118,000 messages to prospects, and booked over 2,500 showings. She prequalifies leads and even cross-sells properties for us. Not only are we more effective at capturing and responding to prospects, but we are also leasing units faster. We have seen a 12% boost in occupancy in the last year and have more insights on our business, with perfectly accurate data. Lisa provides visibility we never had before.”
To provide AppFolio customers with even more data and visibility, we partnered with Knock® for a tailor-made performance and CRM solution available as an AppFolio Stack integration. Knock’s Co-Founder and CEO, Demetri Themelis, explained the value proposition in a recent episode of The Top Floor:
“How much do multifamily operators trust their attribution data? How much do they really believe that they know where their leads are coming from? Our customers don’t have that problem. They can answer that question very confidently. They know exactly where their leads are coming from — they can see very clearly the cost per lead, cost per tour, and cost per lease — and that helps our customers drive and maximize their marketing budgets to be as efficient as possible.”
Self-guided tours have become much more common in recent years. In instances where the prospective renter opts for a self-guided tour, reliable access control is key — no pun intended — because brass keys can sometimes fail to serve their purpose. This is where remote, digital access control comes into play.
AppFolio Stack integrations like ButterflyMX and CodeBox can help leasing teams provide renters with a seamless prospecting experience. When entry is seamless and cloud-based, prospects can begin to imagine the time-saving, stress-reducing possibilities, increasing the likelihood of submitting a rental application, which brings us to:
Receiving and approving applications
Digital tools help leasing teams move qualified applicants through the process as quickly as possible. Unlike paper applications that are inefficient for your team and introduce more friction into the process renters (who may opt not to complete them), AppFolio Online Rental Applications allows leasing agents to simply send prospects a link to an online rental application. The applicant provides their information, which the leasing agent or back office then uses to screen them — also done digitally and with more veracity.
With application fraud on the rise, accurate, reliable screening is more important than ever. Otherwise, property managers may find themselves in a situation where their only recourse is to evict the resident — something everyone wants to avoid. Because screening is highly regulated to avoid discrimination, it’s vital your team stays compliant with fair housing laws to be protected from litigation. Screening is also an area where you want to deliver high quality customer service by providing quick and clear decisions to applicants and not keep them waiting. A fully integrated screening service saves a lot of time and stress with features like:
- Income verification that automatically checks bank records to ensure applicants can afford their monthly rent
- Rental history verification that automates time-consuming reference checks
- Credit checks
- Payment history
- Eviction checks
- Criminal background checks
The end result is a more efficient, higher quality screening process that enables your team to make consistent, informed, and unbiased decisions about your applicants.
Moving in residents
Once an applicant has been approved, it’s time to move them in. While becoming a resident can be a manual, paper-filled process, the right property management technology solution digitizes and streamlines everything for a seamless experience.
Online Lease Agreements
The property manager gets the ball rolling by sending the online lease agreement to the approved applicant. AppFolio has a purpose-built integration partnership with Blue Moon, the leading provider of industry standard lease forms. This partnership allows property management teams to create customized, branded leases pre-populated with the applicant’s information so that they can quickly and easily e-sign from any device, mobile or otherwise.
Once the lease is signed, residents can begin setting up their resident portal. Think of this as your residents’ command center. It’s an online hub where they can adopt digital workflows like online rent payments.
In addition to paying rent, residents can control smart home appliances like locks, thermostats, and lighting controls through the SmartRent integration accessible within their resident portal. They can also submit maintenance requests and communicate with property managers rather than having to call, text, or email them outside of the platform. By consolidating all communications into a digital hub, your entire communication history is centralized into a single source of truth for greater accountability and consistency.
And finally, because everything we’ve just discussed happens within AppFolio, reporting tools like the leasing metrics dashboard enable property management teams to generate actionable insights that help them improve the performance of their entire portfolio.
So there it is, a truly digital, seamless marketing and leasing process from A to Z. But while reading about it is one thing, seeing it in action is another. To learn more about optimizing your leasing operations, download this free guide.