Property managers have found themselves at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, where care for their residents, employees and properties are paramount. Though acquiring new tenants isn’t the central focus for most of the multifamily industry at present, there’s an opportunity for your marketing and outreach efforts to come out stronger on the other side.
Weekly online traffic to property managers’ rental listings was down 15% in late March, according to RealPage. That number is expected to continue dropping, even as historical rental demand peaks between April and June.
What remains is the responsibility of property management companies to serve renters who still need to move during this unpredictable leasing season. With fewer searchers and more competition for clicks, optimizing your online listings can build the trust of hesitant consumers and differentiate your properties from the rest.
Anticipate COVID-19 Questions on Listings
The most common coronavirus-related communications will concern prevention practices, changes in office hours and policies, and virtual tour availability.
On search engine listings, social media profiles, rental directories and their own webpages, property managers need to anticipate and respond to frequent questions on a global and local level. They also should publicly communicate what precautions are being taken and reminding staff of best practices.
Here are some questions to answer on public listings:
- Is the leasing office still open, and how do I get in touch?
- Have your policies on rent freezes and rent raises changed?
- Do your properties allow movers on site?
- Can I still move in to an apartment?
- Where can I find images of buildings and rental units?
This information, along with other relevant contact information, should be clear on all platforms that tenants usually browse while searching for your properties. Preventative measures – even seemingly obvious ones – should also populate your website, listings and social feeds. This signals to prospective residents how seriously you take the situation and what you’re doing to protect tenants.
Your listings management strategy should also anticipate questions in the event that COVID-19 affects your properties, for example, if a community outbreak forces you to temporarily stop accepting applications.
Update Search Results for Potential Residents
The leasing process has been tremendously impacted by COVID-19. Three-quarters of property managers are changing the way they handle showings, 13% have halted them altogether, and 27% have moved to only virtual or self-showings, according to a recent AppFolio survey.
If you are still looking for tenants, it should be apparent on each property’s listings. To display that information for search, review guidance from Google My Business on how to change your business hours, indicate temporary closures or create COVID-19 posts.
Make it clear to prospects if tours are available by appointment only, and strongly consider using digital tools to hold virtual appointments or tours. If you don’t usually promote virtual tours as heavily, now is the time to highlight that service. Here are some services that you should consider listing on all third-party directories:
- Video tours or self-service tours
- Remote showings
- Photo galleries
- Online applications
- Online payments
- Screening tools
Be sure to stay up to date on changes in relevant directories, like Google My Business, Zillow and Facebook. You can add a link to the “Appointments” attribute on GMB to guide searchers toward scheduling virtual appointments, if they are available.
You can also now add coronavirus-related special announcements to rich results on Google Search. This article explains how to submit and display those announcements. New questions and answers on Google Q&A have been suspended, but new Google reviews and review responses are being published.
Communicate with Current Tenants
Your online services are a keystone of keeping up with tenant communications and rent payments as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
When possible, drive residents to web-based services, apps and portals by promoting their availability on your website and in social media content. Avoid handling checks by encouraging electronic payments – and make account setup instructions widely available.
Here are some resident questions that you should answer across your online listings:
- Is my building following social distancing guidelines and other prevention methods?
- If I am suddenly unable to pay my rent, what can I do?
- Are virtual services available, such as maintenance requests and rent payment?
- Are there adjustments to resident policies or amenity availability?
- Can I still move out? Are movers allowed on the property?
If you have the bandwidth as a marketer or communications specialist, you can also consider publishing COVID-19-related tenant communications for those looking for homeschooling, food options or rent assistance. When appropriate, list these offerings where prospective residents can see them, as they search for a trustworthy, community-oriented property manager.
For more on reputation management during the coronavirus health crisis, you can visit our COVID-19 Resources Page and browse these articles:
- Covid-19 Communications: How Property Managers Can Connect with Tenants
- Review Responses Have Returned to Google My Business
- How to Add COVID-19 Announcements to Google Search
- Infographic: The Online Conversation Around COVID-19
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist