What Every Property Manager Needs to Know About the On-Demand Economy

Last Updated: August 1, 2019By

By Megan Eales Monroe

We live in an age where nearly everything is available on-demand.

Uber and Lyft are gradually replacing traditional taxi services. AirBnb has taken a chunk of the hotel industry’s revenue. Amazon is investing heavily in infrastructure to support one-day shipping. Babysitters, dog walkers, virtual assistants, and even doctors are now available to many consumers with the tap of a button, thanks to the prevalence of mobile technology and artificial intelligence.

This new reality is known as the ‘On-Demand Economy,” and no industry is immune to the disruption it will cause — including real estate. As a property manager, “business as usual” will no longer meet the high expectations of today’s renters. According to Microsoft’s’ 2018 State of Global Customer Service report, 56% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now than they had only one year prior.

In the on-demand economy, renters are looking for personalization, convenience, and speed during their search for housing. In short, they expect a great experience. This creates an exciting opportunity for service-focused property managers to thrive.

Providing a great experience is what will set your business apart in the on-demand economy. Here are five concrete strategies for improving the resident experience from beginning to end.

Automate Your Vacancy Postings

Renters today, especially millennials, prefer to find information about rental units on their own time, rather than making a call during business hours just to find out what’s available. Listing sites such as Zillow, HotPads, Rentler, Zumper, RentLingo, and many more are where renters often begin their search for housing. Your company’s website also plays a large role. Without accurate, up-to-date information available on a professional website, as well as the most popular third-party rental listing sites, you will struggle to fill units quickly.

But manually posting rental vacancy information to a property management website plus third-party listing sites can be time-consuming for your staff, and it can also lead to poor experiences for potential residents if leasing staff fails to remove occupied units or posts incorrect information.

The best solution, which ensures consistent posting to all third-party listing sites and your website while saving hours of time for staff, is one-click vacancy posting. You can easily manage vacancies and create better experiences for prospective residents, right from the very first time they engage with your brand.

Make Info and Showings Available On-Demand

A Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends found that 71% of renters said they expect a response to their initial rental inquiry in 24 hours. 31% said they expect a response within just a few hours. This is a high bar for leasing staff to meet, and even the most skilled leasing agents may struggle to respond to all inquiries on such a tight timeframe.

To solve this problem, make the most of new innovations in AI technology to improve your lead-to-lease conversion process by automatically engaging each lead, answering their questions with conversational AI, and allowing qualified leads to book showings at their own convenience.

You can even allow tenants to book a self-guided showing by using lockbox technology. Leads can receive a unique code to gain access to the unit shortly before their showing. With on-demand showings, you can impress prospective residents by catering to their preferences, delivering instant service, and gathering qualified applicants more quickly and efficiently.

Bring Applications and Screening Online

Create a better experience for new residents by bringing all application, screening, and leasing steps online. Mobile technology can empower your team to obtain a signed lease faster, even during the renter’s first visit to the property.

Online applications mean that a renter may apply and pay the application before they arrive for their showing, or even during the showing itself. With instant tenant screening that provides credit, eviction, and criminal reports, prospective renters who meet the screening criteria can be given an “approved” rental decision on-the-spot.

This will make it possible for your property to win more new residents, since prospects will be less likely to apply at similar properties while they wait for a decision. Instead, an approved applicant can sign the lease right away. Or, if they need time to decide, they may submit a signed lease later on from anywhere, without the inconvenience of scanning, faxing, or returning a signed paper lease.

Let Residents Pay Their Way

Today’s renters expect to be able to do everything online, and that includes paying rent. By allowing your renters to pay online, you’ll save them a trip to the drop box, front office, or even the post office. They’ll appreciate the convenience of being able to pay from anywhere using their computer or a smartphone,

Online rent payments also save time and costs associated with paper checks, money orders, or even cash payments — many companies have been able to cut the time spent on rent week activities in half, since online payments drastically simplify reconciliation and reporting. And finally, online payment options reduce the instance of human error in data entry, ensuring 100% accuracy.

Collect Maintenance Requests Online

Yet another experience that can be improved for your residents (and staff) is maintenance requests.

According to research by Microsoft, 70% of consumers globally have a more favorable view of brands that keep in contact with proactive customer service notifications, and 52% of consumers in the U.S. have a more favorable view of brands that offer a mobile-responsive customer service support portal.  

This strategy can easily be applied to maintenance for rental properties. Instead of having to call to report or follow up on a maintenance issue, let your residents submit requests via an online portal using their computer or a smartphone. Then, they’ll receive regular updates on the status of their request via their preferred communication method, whether SMS or email. This vastly improves the experience for residents when something goes amiss.

Few things matter to your residents today more than experience. With so many options available at their fingertips, the experience that you provide can differentiate your company from the rest — so focus on making it a good one with these five strategies.

AppFolio, Inc. develops Property Management Software that helps businesses improve their workflow so they save time and make more money.  Appfolio submits articles & blogs including topics of Resident Retention, Improved Owner Communication, Time Management, and more.


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