We don’t share data as much as we should, or we’d like. I’m a data nerd. I love capturing data, looking at it, seeing trends, and trying to use that data to help the experience of not just our residents, but people looking to become residents. If I could roll around in data — ‘indecent proposal’ style — I would 🙂
I wanted to see how Coronavirus was impacting not just leasing, but the # of people reaching out to look for an apartment. I know that anecdotally we’ve seen no slow down in the # of calls coming in. Or leases being done. But what does the data say? Well, the # of emails that come to us via sites like apartments.com, har.com, hotpads, etc. have just about doubled some weeks vs. 2019
Below is an image from a CRM tool I use that captures all incoming emails from people who’ve reached out to us looking for an apartment. This isn’t call ins or walks ins. Or even people who manually email us. It’s just people that reach out via an apartment search site. Last week was a busy one — and DOUBLE that of the same week in 2019 (current year is dark purple, last year is light purple).
Last week we had 171 emails coming in. The same week in 2019 was 85.
What remains a bit of a mystery is the % of people who reach out to us asking about one of our apartments, who actually reply to our attempts to reach out and help. We know that leasing is a numbers game: You get x number of leads, of which a smaller % reply, an even small % setup a showing, a smaller % apply, and finally smaller % lease. All of those ‘drop offs’ are what we’d expect. Except the first one. The # of people that reply, is the strange one.
On reason that drop off is strange is we never (ever) cold call people who might be looking for an apartment. We don’t buy any lists of prospective people searching. We don’t collect emails from other methods and used that to build a list to email our list sings to. We get our online leads by simply posting our available apartments to the MLS (which syndicates out to other apartment search sites that have an agreement with our MLS). Or by marking them as available in our property management software, which then syndicates them out to a few partners.
Which means that 100% of the emails we’re sending out are in replies to inquires we have coming in from search sites where people saw our apartment, and sent us a note saying “Hey, this place looks like it might be a fit, send me info”.
This initial incoming request from someone searching for an apartment is where we start the balancing act of wanting to reply back to help, and follow up, but not follow up so much that we might be spamming. For the sake of being transparent in our process, how we reach out to those who inquire was detailed here.
The best theory I have is this: Our #1 lead source is a site that does apartment search differently. Rather than ask users to check some boxes about unit size, min/max price, and then show them on a map, this site has users answer a bunch of questions — survey style. Then presents them with options after. But whats happening is that site is sending emails to all the property owners like us, for any properties the site feels is a fit for that user, and saying: “Hey, this person wants to lease your property. Please contact them right away”. When the user really may have been just hanging out in their pajamas on the couch, browsing to see what’s out there, not really wanting to be contacted. While this site is at the top of our list from an incoming # of lead perspective, its at the bottom in terms of % of people that actually reply to our attempts to help.
When I remove this site from our statistics, then the % of people who reply to our attempts to help goes up quite a bit. But it’s still low. Maybe 1 in 10.
But at the end of the day, while it might be puzzling, it’s also okay. While we get more of those initial leads then our managers could effectively call and manage, that smaller % that actually replies back means there is a much more manageable number for our team to help and give direct attention and time to. Also, the # who end up replying is sufficient to meet our occupancy goals and have a property that supports itself and allows us to reinvest in the property and community.
If you’ve made it all the way to the end, congratulations (and you may be a data nerd). I hope this behind the scenes look at our incoming leads and process was enjoyable. Also, thanks for reading. Stay safe, best of luck in your search (if you’re looking) and have a wonderful day!