Last modified on November 18th, 2020
By Brittany Benz
The pandemic has had a big impact on renters’ attitudes when it comes to what they expect from leasing and property management teams during their housing search. It has also rapidly sped up the property management industry’s shift towards digital technology.
We surveyed 1,000 adult renters across the U.S. to get a pulse on their expectations and experiences during the pandemic and beyond. Read on to discover the key research findings and how you can streamline your leasing experience to attract more renters to your properties, even in a competitive market.
The Pandemic Has Influenced Renters’ Living Preferences
Many have had to unexpectedly shift to remote work and learning environments in 2020. As the situation has become prolonged and renters have spent more time in their homes, their living preferences have been influenced. Overall, 60% of renters surveyed agreed that the pandemic has changed their preferences on where to live. Out of that group, their top reasons for moving or wanting to move included the following*:
- Desire a less populated location/region (44%)
- Change of scenery (41%)
- To be closer to family (25%)
- To continue working remotely and no longer need to commute (21%)
*Renters were asked to select all responses that apply
This data indicates that renters are relocating, and secondary markets are likely to benefit in the future. Property managers can capitalize on the demand that’s out there and expand their reach by utilizing technologies like virtual showings that give renters who are moving from other states and regions the ability to view units and submit applications from afar.
Property Managers Who Embrace Tech Will Have a Competitive Advantage
Today, a greater percentage of the leasing journey is taking place online beyond just the housing initial search — which means that renters rely on these virtual tools. They help them make decisions faster, apply for their home with ease, and save time. Options like virtual showings are not only more convenient for both prospects and leasing teams, according to previous AppFolio data, they’re also 2.4 times more likely to be completed than in-person showings. By embracing technology, you can streamline the leasing process for renters, and offer more flexibility and better service — all of which can give you a competitive advantage.
Based on the survey, 56% of renters who signed a new lease during the pandemic viewed the unit either virtually or both virtually and in-person, and almost 80% of those renters said the virtual option was high-quality and they were satisfied with it.
Meanwhile, over a third of people who plan to sign a lease during the pandemic say they will choose to view units both virtually and in-person (while 22% of renters said they would only view virtually).
Going forward now that renters are accustomed to using virtual technology, it’s likely they will continue to expect to have a blend of both virtual and in-person leasing options. According to the survey, 40% of renters said they wanted to have the option to view units virtually and in-person post-pandemic, and 13% said they prefer to view units virtually.
Being able to complete the showing process online isn’t the only task renters want to carry out virtually. In fact, when asked which tasks renters felt were important for them to be able to complete with a mobile device or online, renters said applying for a rental (46%) and signing or renewing a lease (48%) are top priorities. Only 47% of renters viewed the rental application process as easy – that indicates there is room for improvement of that experience. Property managers who make a conscious effort to enhance the leasing and renting experience with these kinds of modern, mobile offerings will be able to stand out from the competition.
Over half (54% of renters) also say that when determining whether or not to renew a lease, the level of customer service provided by their current property management company is a key deciding factor in their agreement to renew.
Tips for Streamlining Your Leasing Experience
Follow these tips to attract more renters, make the most of demand, and deliver the mobile experiences your renters expect.
1.) Put Artificial Intelligence to Work
If you’re struggling to keep up with inquiries and schedule showings, artificial intelligence can help. For instance, AppFolio’s AI Leasing Assistant, Lisa automatically schedules showings, collects guest cards, responds to inquiries, and pre-qualified renters — working 24/7 to ensure none of your leads go unanswered.
2.) Allow Renters to Self-Serve
Give prospects the option to carry out tasks themselves, such as scheduling their own virtual or in-person tour from a vacancy listed on your website.
3.) Leverage the Latest Virtual Tools
It’s clear from the survey data that renters prefer virtual leasing options. Be sure you’re meeting their needs with the latest technologies, such as virtual showings, 3D tours, and interactive site maps — all available within AppFolio Property Manager. The more cutting-edge services you provide, the more satisfied your prospects will be.
4.) Move Your Entire Process Online
When renters can complete all leasing tasks online, it not only boosts customer satisfaction, but saves your team time in the long run. Think about moving other aspects of your leasing flow online, such as rental applications and lease signings. With a modern system like AppFolio, renters can apply for a rental, pay their application fee, and e-sign their lease in just a few clicks.
5.) Implement the Right Software
If you don’t already have a technology system in place that allows you to offer an end-to-end virtual leasing experience, implement a powerful cloud-based software, like AppFolio Property Manager.
Change has been a central theme of 2020, especially when it comes to renters’ attitudes and expectations during their housing search. By leveraging the data, insights, and strategies shared above, you can adapt faster, better meet your renters’ needs, and fill vacancies faster now and into the future.
*Survey Methodology: AppFolio commissioned Pollfish to conduct a survey of US renters who were living in rentals managed by property management teams. Only renters who live in the U.S. completed the survey, for a total of 1,000 respondents. The survey was completed in October 2020.