An Owners Blog post by Cody
I’ve been meaning to make a post like this a while as I think it’ll be helpful to many people who are looking for apartments — regardless of if they rent one of ours. Given the number of inquires I see, I have a unique perspective on where I feel renters and property owners go wrong.
If you don’t want to read the whole thing (I can’t blame you), and want to skip to the ‘too long didn’t read’ version, click here.
We get, on average, about 30 inquires a day for apartments. Which doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s about 1,000 a month. Which for a company our size, is a lot. That 1,000/month figure is JUST the inquires that get imported into our lead management tool though sources such as the MLS, apartments.com, hotpads, etc (these are called “Apartment Listing Services” or “ALS”, which is the term I’ll use from here on out).
This doesn’t count the number of people who call us up from banners on our properties, walk into our offices, call (vs. email) after seeing a listing. Add those inquiries and, conservatively, we get about 2,000 leads a month (I wish we tracked leads that called or walked in better, using the same tool, but I assume that’s every business owners complaint with CRM tool usage).
So, what’s the point of this post? Simple: HELP US HELP YOU. You’re emailing (or otherwise contacting) us because you want an apartment. And we have an apartment we’d like to rent to you. So it should be a pretty quick and easy process. Let’s talk about how we can make that happen.
| 1st, here’s what happens when you send in an inquiry from an ALS:
Most inquires sent to us from an ALS go to a single email address, managed by our marketing manager. The email is automatically imported into our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool. This is a fancy name for a tool that organizes all of our inquires so we can do a proper job of making sure everyone is contacted and track follow ups. It also gives us some tools for automation, allows for better viability into where leads are coming from, to quicken our response times, and other neat stuff that operations can use to do a better job.
Inquires imported to our CRM are assigned by default to our marketing manager, who will see what property is being asked about, and and assign the inquiry to the applicable property manager. Before sending the inquiry along to the property manager, the leasing manager (or sometimes myself) will send an email to the prospect thanking them for their inquiry, letting them know someone will reach out to them soon, and — mostly importantly — offer to be contacted directly in the event no one reaches out to them or they otherwise fail to be helped. This second part was an important step to implement as I didn’t want prospects simply being assigned to managers without having been given a ‘higher up’ to contact in the event the ball was dropped (even if that is a rare occurrence).
| 2nd, our property manager will reach out to the prospect:
This is done via a mix of automated and manual replies. There is a fine balance we strive to achieve between making sure we’re doing our best to reach out to someone, but not reaching out so much that we’re bothering them. We’ll normally ask our property manager to make an initial call or text (typically it’s a text). Or, if there is no phone number, it’ll be an initial email. Then (assuming they haven’t heard back), they’ll try to send another few emails a few days apart. So basically there is normally a call attempt, a text or two, and 3 emails. If still no reply (buy this time it’s been about a week), they’ll assume the prospect is not interested and we’ll mark them as such.
| 3rd, we’ll (typically) not hear back:
Amazingly, about 80% of the people that inquire about an apartment never reply back after multiple attempts by our managers to reach them (a combo of calls, emails, and text) and an initial email from our marketing manager or myself. I say “Amazingly” becuase these are not people we’re trying to cold call from a list. Rather, these are people that sent us emails saying “I’m interested in your apartment, please contact me”.
In fact, due to an error when setting up our CRM, we received about 100 inquires from people via various ALS sources. Our marketing manager or myself replied to every one of them letting them know that a leasing manager would reach out to them before the end of the next day, and to let us know if they were not contacted or had any issues. It wasn’t until about a week later that we realized that these 100 people were never assigned to a property manager. Which means that they didn’t receive any reply from a property manager (but did get the initial reply from the marketing manager offering to help if they didn’t hear back).
When I found out there were 100 people we dropped the ball on, I was upset. I felt bad that people had reached out to us and we failed to contact them. Though I was curious how it could have gone on for a week since these 100 people all receive an email letting them know they could contact our sr staff directly if they were not reached (as well as given a direct line/email). But none of them did.
I went from feeling bad for the 100 people that my leasing team didn’t reply to, to being confused why 100 people wouldn’t reply to our marketing person (or myself) to let them know they were not contacted as he or I told them they would be.
| Finally, I’ll call as many prospects as I can:
I normally dedicate about an hour a day to calling as many of our prospects as I can personally. It’s a way for me to make sure people are being taken care of, and get first hand feedback on what concerns people have as prospective renters. Due to the fact 80% of the people never contact us after we reply to their inquires, most of the people I get on the phone have not yet talked to someone on our team. When I ask them if they’re still interested, or how I can help, they’ll normally ask me the typical questions most prospects have such as ‘when can I view’, ‘what’s the deposit’, ‘what are your qualifications’ (see rental FAQ below for answers to all these). I do my best to answer their questions then kindly suggest they reply back to the property manager that’s been reaching out to them to setup a tour and to take next steps.
So that’s a ‘behind the scenes’ version of what happens when you send a lead in via one of those forms on an ALS. At least that’s how it works with us. Before we had proper tools in place what would happen is a lead would come in, we’d send them an email with our direct contact information and ask how we could help, and that was about it. And the response rate was typically even less. Maybe 5%
| To Long, Didn’t Read version: How can you help us help you?
What happens when you inquire (summary of all the stuff above): When your inquiry comes in, a manager is tasked with reaching out to you a few times (normally a first text, then a few emails each a few days apart, then maybe a final text). Additionally, I try to follow up with as many as I can each day just to make sure people are being taken care of.
If you’re sending out dozens of inquiries to sites listed on ALS, we understand. You search for an area and price, see several options, and blast out the default “I’m interested, tell me more” note to everyone. We’ll often get inquiries from the same person for multiple properties of ours, in drastically different ares, and drastically different unit types. So I know many are ‘casting a wide net’. Normally when I call someone, the first thing they ask is “What property is this?”
| So here is how you can help us help you get an apartment…
Reply to your email (or text, or voicemail): The #1 advice I can give, if you’re truly looking for an apartment, is to simply reply back to those communities who reached out to you. I’m told by prospects I talk to that they may send out several inquires and not hear back from most. I feel their pain as we send out several replies to these inquires and don’t hear back from most. So if you do get a reply back, asking how they can help, contact them back and ask you questions. Especially those communities, like ours, that don’t just send some auto reply and call it a day, but rather try to reach out several times and several ways.
If you don’t like the apartment you asked us about, let us know: This is a big one. Many people inquire about a property that, on further inspection, isn’t a fit. Maybe it’s in an area they don’t like (and they didn’t know that when they first asked) or maybe they viewed it in person and it was too small, or 2nd floor and they wanted 1st floor, or whatever. When I call someone to ask how things are going, they might say “I didn’t like that property”. I explain to them that we own and manage about 1000 units, almost all inside the loop (which means normally there are several others near the one inquired about). They seem surprised. And often times another property works for them. The reason we talk to a prospect about a particular property is that’s the one they asked us about. So there is an assumption on our part that it’s one they’d be interested in. We don’t know to suggest another property unless we know the property inquired about isn’t a fit. So if we know it’s not a fit, and what the issues are, we can suggest a property that’s more in line with a prospects needs.
If you have questions, just ask: I’ll also call people that never replied back to our managers and they’ll ask about our pet fee, or deposit amount, etc. I’m happy to answer. But the manager who’s been trying to reach out to them would also have been happy to answer.
If you’ve found something else, let us know: Often times I’ll reach out to someone where I’ve seen our property manager has sent a few emails and texts. I’ll talk to them on the phone and they’ll state they’ve found something. Selfishly I think it would be nice if they’d have replied back to let us know since our managers wouldn’t spend their time continuing to reach out. But it’s a benefit to the tenant to let us know they’ve found something as we’ll update their inquiry as such and they won’t get any more follow ups from us (and who likes extra texts and emails?). Plus, if you ever are looking again, your more likely to get help if you’re someone that replied to our previous attempts to reach out to you (even if it’s letting us know you found something) than if all attempts were ignored.
I hope this article was helpful. And if you’re ready to rent, just let us know. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure your inquiry is directed to the right property manager. Just promise me that if you email us about an apartment, you’ll reply back when we reach out to you 😉
FAQ Regarding our apartments for lease
Here are some of the most common questions I get asked, and their answers
Q: Is the unit still available?
A: Yes. We spend a great deal of time making sure our units available on ALS are kept up to date in real time. We’re much more likely to have apartments available that are NOT seen online than we are to have apartments seen online that are not available.
Q: What are the qualifications?
A: Our detailed rental qualifications are on our application page but unlike most ‘corporate’ management companies, we can offer ‘second chance’ programs if someone doesn’t have perfect credit or rental history.
Q: What’s the deposit?
A: The deposit, for 80+% of people, is one months rent. It’s refundable. It’s your money not ours. We just hold it during the lease. So think of it as a savings account. In fact, we’re thrilled to give a deposit back at the end of a lease as it means someone honored their lease commitment. So what about the other 20% of people? Well, if you have recent evictions or other factors that might have you denied at another property, we can do our best to work with those issues by charging a higher deposit. So while we’re happy to do our best to qualifiy people, if you have issues that would cuase you to be denied at other properties, and are looking for a $100 type deposit, that’s not something we’ll be able to help with.
Q: When can I view?
A: Our office is open Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm. Saturday from 10am-2pm. We can show almost any time during those hours. Note that most properties do not have a leasing office onsite so if you want to view, contact the applicable property manager and setup a time.
Our ‘contact us‘ page lists which properties have offices (for walk-ins). Most of our midtown/montrose properties are managed from our Montrose HQ so all showings will be arranged from there. Other large properties have leasing offices onsite. Those leasing offices might serve as the headquarters for showings to nearby properties (i.e., we don’t have a leasing office at 6215 Tierwester, but we do at 7812 Tierwster. So if you wanted to view 6215, the manager who works at 7812 would drive down to meet you).
Q: Do you accept pets?
A: In most cases, yes. The rental criteria on our application page goes into details. note that a pet fee and rent may apply. Note that your dog is still considered a ‘dangerous breed’ even if he’s super nice. The rental criteria gives examples of such breeds.
Have more questions? Just email us: email@example.com