Last modified on June 6th, 2019
By Megan Eales Monroe
Today, anyone can stream a TV show on-demand, click a computer mouse to order a week’s worth of groceries, or open an app on their smartphone to catch up instantly on local and world news. Yes, we live in an on-demand economy, where consumers expect reliable, instantaneous information.
You already know that it pays — literally — to have all of your properties leased out to renters. But, have you considered how this on-demand economy will revolutionize the real estate industry as well, especially residential leasing?
Would-be residents want information and responses to property listings the same way they want everything else in their lives — fast. From fast replies to following up with interested prospects, here’s a look at five ways you can use AI to improve your lead-to-lease conversion process, filling vacancies fast and bringing your operations into the on-demand economy:
1. Respond to Inquiries as Fast as Possible
The faster you’re able to respond to an inquiry, the less likely it is that you’ll lose out on a qualified renter to the property down the street. And we’re not just talking about within a few hours, we’re talking about within minutes. In fact, research suggests that landlords who respond to inquiries within one or two minutes are up to 40 percent more likely to directly engage with a prospective renter. And while you may not think that waiting even 10 minutes to respond to an inquiry is a big deal, research shows that as many as 20 percent of prospective renters will have already moved on to a new property by that time.
Although a fast response time makes a big difference to your lead conversion rate, it’s not always easy for leasing staff to stay on top of a high volume of inquiries. With leads flowing in from your website and third-party listing sites 24/7, including weekends and holidays, an instant reply to every prospective renter isn’t always humanly possible — though it is possible when teams can collaborate with Artificial Intelligence.
By leveraging recent advancements in AI technology, you can actually reply instantly to each inquiry around the clock, and not just with a stale canned reply or one-dimensional chatbot. New innovations have made it possible for Conversational AI to actually respond intelligently to a variety of questions about open listings and help leads actually schedule showings, creating a personalized, on-demand experience for prospective renters.
2. Qualify Leads Efficiently
Once you have an interested renter, you need to determine whether or not the property is the right fit for them. You don’t want to find out that they’re planning to move in with their dog after showing them a unit that isn’t pet-friendly.
To avoid spending valuable time and resources on a lead who isn’t the right fit, you need a system in place to pre-qualify them before investing any further time in them
Set consistent criteria for prospective renters, and make sure you communicate this information with them upon first contact. You should also include as much information in the listing as possible so they have accurate expectations before they reach out.
However, as every leasing agent knows, prospective residents don’t always read the listing thoroughly before they call or email. Conversational AI can also alleviate this challenge, by asking important qualification questions and answering other questions to help potential residents determine if the unit is the right fit.
If all checks out for both parties, then you can proceed to the showing. Otherwise, you can save time and go your separate ways, or — see if they are a good fit for a different unit.
3. Remember to Cross-Sell
Don’t write off a potential renter if they aren’t a good fit for the property they initially inquired about. Instead, see if they might be a good fit for another property that you own or manage. By cross-selling, you can turn more leads into leases by offering other options.
This is another opportunity to leverage Conversational AI by automatically cross-selling other vacant units that are available. AI can remember the resident’s answers to questions and recommend another unit or property that would better meet their needs, then answer questions and schedule a showing there instead.
4. Follow Up
Following up is an important part of trying to fill vacancies, but research shows that many property managers aren’t doing enough of it. According to Zillow, about 30 percent of property managers follow up with would-be residents just once after the initial point of contact. However, their research indicated that the most effective way to convert leads to leases is to follow up five times within four days of initial contact.
If you follow up only once, consider adding additional touchpoints to keep leads engaged beyond the initial interaction. This doesn’t all have to be done over the phone, either. You can send follow-up e-mails, text messages (if given permission) or even by mail.
Following up with would-be renters is another way AI can pay big dividends. Conversational AI can automatically follow up with leads on a set schedule, using the communication channel they most prefer.
5. Bring Leasing Online
Still relying on printers, scanners, and fax machines for would-be renters to go through screening, submit applications, and sign leases?
It’s time to catch up to modern times. If you don’t yet have an online leasing platform that makes it possible for renters to submit an application, consent for screening, pay application fees, and even sign their lease online — then it’s time to invest in digital leasing.
By letting renters progress through each step of the leasing journey when and where they please, you’ll be sure to wind up with more signed leases, and decrease the amount of time your units sit vacant.
When your leasing flow is digital rather than offline, Conversational AI can even keep residents moving through these steps after the showing is booked — allowing your team to focus on the big-picture rather than managing each step of the leasing flow manually.
Make the most of these five strategies, and stop letting your properties sit vacant because of inefficient follow-up and repetitive manual processes. Do it right, and it can even save time for your team and increase your cash flow.