I sit at a coffee shop watching half a dozen people plugging away on their laptops, making phone calls and texting away. However, as lunch approaches, a wave of business people swarm the cafe looking for a quick bite. There are scores of them, frantically trying to get lunch and get back to their offices before their lunch break is over.
These days we love to talk about the "on demand" economy, but the data suggests that a significant percentage of the population still works a very standard 9-5pm schedule. However, those same "9-5" people still use Uber, Amazon, etc. and expect “on demand” service. That is why it is so perplexing that most multifamily communities have not changed their standard leasing hours in the past 30 or 40 years.
Most communities have a pretty standard schedule. Weekday's from 9-5 or 6, Saturdays for a couple of hours and some Sundays. However, the problem is, that more and more people want to view apartments and homes when it's convenient for them, not for the management company or leasing agent.
Let's say you have two buildings in the same neighborhood, with similar amenities and price points. One has "extended leasing hours, " and one does not. If It's going to be easier for a potential tenant to see the property with extended leasing hours, it's a safe bet to say that may play a role in the final decision of that renter.
I've seen this both professionally and personally. During my time running a large apartment brokerage in Philadelphia, I would see 100's of requests a month from individuals wanting to tour apartments "after hours." This number has increased tenfold since I started that company and seemed to grow each year. People would always be disappointed if a tour wasn't available after hours and I had a feeling, that this led to those same people leasing from a different community strictly out of convenience.
On a personal note, a good friend of mine was recently looking for an apartment. This individual is a busy professional that didn't have time to see apartments on a "standard" schedule. He called several communities who all told him he would have to come in between 9-5pm, except for one. That community toured my friend at 7 pm on a weeknight. Guess what community he rented from? While obviously, this was not the only reason he rented from that community, it did make a huge difference regarding his perception of how accommodating that community would be.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
What Hours to Extend? - One thing to consider is when you want to extend your hours. Obviously, a community leasing department cannot stay open 24 hours a day, so it's best to consider when you want to extend your hours. Some communities are opening early, opting to extend their hours in the early morning, while others have chosen to extend their evening hours. Surveying potential tenants that come to tour your building is a great way to gauge this.
Staff Scheduling - A Lot of firms I have spoken to about this, point to the challenge of scheduling expanded hours. However, it's clear most tours occur around lunch, with "dead spots" from 9am-10 and 2-4pm. With that in mind, try staggering your staff from 2 people on at the same time to maybe one in the morning and one in the evening. Incentify your Leasing Agents by offering a small bonus for any tours they might do outside or their "normal" schedule.
Marketing - Obviously having these extended hours is great. But without getting the word out, it's not much good. Think about doing a whole marketing campaign just dedicated to this new schedule. Include this on promotional material. Some have gone as far to use this opportunity to hold events during that time.
In conclusion, by extending the hours in which your property is available to be shown, you will have a better chance of leasing a unit then a building that does not. As the multifamily market in many areas becomes saturated, standing out from your competition is becoming more and more important. And this is an excellent way to stand out from your competition.
Author: Justin Cleary is an almost 20 year veteran of the Multifamily Industry. He has owned and operated several multifamily focused businesses and startups including The Philly Apartment Company, The DC Apartment Company, BlueSquare Real Estate & Property Management, LeaseUp and his latest venture, BreadBox Consulting (www.breadbox.consulting)