- Deborah Hayes
Weathering COVID-19 for the Multifamily Rental Market
The current COVID-19 outbreak has sent many people to their couches to either work from home or wait out the crisis, which seems like a fitting place to start as I too am working from home. The economic fallout, which has yet to be fully determined, may cause changes to the multifamily rental market. During this time, the usually spring-time renters will most likely be hesitant to make a move, meaning your rental listings may be experiencing decreased activity. Likewise, current residents are most likely scared and stuck at home, leaving you open to increased strain on the building and discontent from renters who are struggling financially.
While all of these are real concerns, it is projected that this technical recession can be conquered for multifamily renters in a variety of ways. Compared to other segments of the real estate market, multifamily options show less risk of long-term fallout from the current crisis but are likely to see a shift in rental priorities for the next 3-6 months. With all this uncertainty, what can you do to help keep your brand alive and gracefully navigate the current COVID-19 outbreak?
Understand how COVID-19 is Changing the Rental Market With the terms “Quarantine” and “Social Distancing” becoming household staples, multifamily properties are going to be facing an entirely new environment when it comes to marketing. Renters are most concerned with security and are going to be searching for properties that are affordable, adaptable, and functional.
To market to future prospects, understand that the consumer need has dramatically shifted to focus on financial security, physical safety, and multi-functional spaces. While there is a 25% decrease in search traffic for internet listings, searches like “home office” are skyrocketing. People are more focused on functional living spaces than “open-floor plans”, so change your message to show how your space can house their current needs.
Additionally, switch to virtual leasing, including 3D tours, an active and updated website, and offer video chat options for leasing appointments. Potential clients will likely feel uneasy pulling the trigger without engaging visual content that allows them to truly picture themselves in your space. Including high-quality photographs, virtual tours, and personalized contact can help make the process smoother for everyone involved.
Play the Retention Game Since the acquisition of new tenants will likely be slow, focus on retaining your current tenants. One easy way to provide excellent customer support while maintaining public safety guidelines it to upgrade your property management functionalities to a virtual interface. All maintenance requests should be sent electronically before informing tenants that all requests are being processed with caution. Emergency requests can be handled immediately, but always call to find out if anyone at the residency is sick. All other requests can be scheduled for a future time depending on the immediacy of the issue. It may be helpful to also provide short videos to teach residence how to fix basic household issues.
Again, security is going to be a top concern for your tenants. Practice active communication to speak with your tenants about their concerns and find ways to adapt to the new economic environment. It is highly recommended to use compassion during the COVID-19 outbreak; your tenants are scared and stressed. Look for ways to be adaptive, such a setting up rent deferment or extensions for rental due dates. Your tenants will remember your empathy and it will reward you tenfold in the future.