In today’s work-from-home, hybrid-or-remote-school-from-home, comfy-pant-friendly world renters expect frictionless, authentic experiences from your property. 

This isn’t just a “COVID thing,” it’s here to stay. The expectation of frictionless online shopping and researching experiences have been on the rise since Amazon started offering 1-click shopping cart checkout in 1999. From the first stay-at-home orders through everything that’s happened since, we’ve turned to buying or reserving curb-side pickup on anything from weekly groceries, to tacos from your favorite lunch spot, to jewelry designed by a local artist. While choosing an apartment home is a bigger decision than lunch or a new necklace, renters want this same ease they’ve grown accustomed to online. 

We likely knew this in pre-COVID days, but it’s become increasingly clear how much our quality of life, and basic happiness is influenced by where we live. Plus, it’s no secret, that in many parts of the United States we are home, and we’ve been home more than ever since March 2020. In an upside down world, researching renters want to feel connection with other people, and with places. They want to look at your website and think, “I want to live there, that’s home.” Does that sound like a tall order to fill? Let’s unpack and understand what all of these accelerated changes in consumer expectations mean for multifamily housing in 2021. 

The State of Multifamily Housing

COVID-19 changed our daily lives — and our world. There are a few ways this is playing out in the multifamily space. Some people are home more than they’ve ever been — and space is at a premium. Having a queen-size guest bed is a low priority when you’re still working from home and possibly hunched over the kitchen counter. A space to work from home, workout at home, play outside, or take classes from home are all high-priority needs these days. Some renters are moving into bigger spaces, or new properties, to accommodate their new needs. 

We alluded to this, but let’s name it, another big change for families and individuals: moving. In fact, according to My Move and USPS data, over 15.9 million people moved between February and July 2020. Moreover, according to Pew Research Center, 22% of Americans moved, or know someone who did in 2020. Some of these moves were “temporary” or maybe were considered temporary in March, but after nearly a year, they are unintentionally permanent. People moved for many reasons: more flexibility to work remotely, job loss, taking a new job, housing consolidation as people moved in with friends rather than live in studios alone, college students moving back with their families… and the list goes on. 

According to MyMove, some states and cities have more people moving there. Great. So, how can you apply this information to your property? If you have properties in states like Texas, Michigan, or North Carolina, make sure your digital advertising strategy has a national search approach to capture the attention of out-of-state movers. Additionally, consider shifting or increasing your marketing spend in these up-and-coming regions. 

Bring on Spring

Changes in shopping behavior with a preference for online, contactless experiences have radically changed the expectations we have as consumers. Multifamily isn’t immune. In addition to virtual tours, this can mean 24/7 customer service support via a chatbot, self guided tours, clearly communicating and adapting for local restrictions and regulations, and prioritizing access to outdoor spaces. 

Spring is right around the corner; hello daffodils! Some of your renters have been cooped up for the winter, and miss socializing outdoors with friends and family. How can your property prioritize making the most of shared outdoor spaces as we move toward spring and summer? Add a reservation system so that your renters can schedule time in popular outdoor spaces. Consider adding umbrellas or fire pits to provide extended access on both swelteringly hot days and continued cooler months. Take this time to prepare your property for spring and summer. Facilitate spaces that allow your renters to live their best lives — during arguably not the “best” of times. Then, communicate these changes clearly to researching renters via virtual tours or social media. Don’t stop there. Also communicate any upgrades with your current tenants to show the continued value of your property. The bottom line is, renters crave authentic, empathetic — human — experiences. They will be excited to move to your property (or stay at your property) when you show that you “get it” and you’re there to make their lives a little easier, and more fun.

Feels Like Home

We say it over and over again, the goal of your marketing is to have a researching renter think, “I want to live there.” And, for your current tenants to love and feel that your property is home. 

Unfortunately, when many prospective renters reach your property website after clicking on a digital advertisement or searching, “apartments near the Katy Trail in Dallas,” they’re often greeted with photos void of people. They scroll past a beautiful pool with no one swimming. They watch videos of empty spaces on virtual tours. While crisp clean photos that showcase different floor plans have their place, so does sharing the personality and culture of your property’s community. The last thing you want is a renter thinking, “That looks lonely.” And we know, after a year like 2020, feelings of isolation are on the forefront of many renters’ minds. All of this is to say, if your property feels warm and welcoming in-person, extend this warm embrace to online experiences. This could be done through video interviews with employees at your property, or making sure there is a human-touch to your photography. Just be sure whatever approach you choose feels authentic to your property. 

Bring It Home

Ready to take your multifamily marketing to the next level in 2021? We’ve got you covered. From now until June, as part of our G5 MarTech Series, we’ll be sharing reports, blogs, and webinars full of tips and tricks for the modern marketer. Download Part I: The Multifamily Online Experience to learn more about creating the effortless online experiences researching renters demand.