Terry Danner knows this leasing season is going to be a fight. But Danner, CEO of Riverstone Residential Group, is prepared to win.

Danner hopes his properties will stand out from the competition in this upcoming leasing season, and to help that effort, the company will be armed with some very recent data. Riverstone surveys many of its site-level employees to get their opinions on trends and challenges in the industry, which helps to shape the Dallas-based company's strategy.

One key finding: About 55 percent of the 569 site-level employees responding to the Riverstone survey say prospective renters are visiting between three and four properties before actually signing a lease.

“It’s become more of a dog-eat-dog world,” Danner says. “There are a lot more [companies] vying for that type of client, so you’re going to have to go above and beyond so that somebody says, ‘Wow.’ ”

Ken Veltri agrees and believes competition to attract and retain residents will be fierce this year. Veltri, Chicago-based AMLI Residential’s senior vice president of asset management, thinks the demand will be less intense than last year, but he’s cautiously optimistic.

“Just with the amount of supply coming on line, it’s going to be a fight for every resident,” he says. “And we want to make sure we put our best foot forward.”

Veltri is keeping an eye on how the Houston market, in particular, performs this leasing season.

“It’s been that kind of fantastic market for the last five years,” he says. “We think the job growth is there to kind of support it, but we’re interested to see if that’s going to hold true.”

Technical Edge
According to the Riverstone employee survey, 67.5 percent of the company’s on-site employees feel prospective renters prefer to communicate via e-mail during the leasing process.

The desire to communicate digitally is indicative of how big a role technology has taken in the lease-up process, Danner says.

“With online leasing, I can go online, I can pick an apartment, and I can see the view,” he says. “I can apply online and I can get approved online. I can execute with a digital signature and all I have to do is show up and show my driver’s license and sign the lease. I think that’s what everybody wants. We just want to know how to make that happen.”

Fine-tuning its digital leasing practices is something the team at AMLI is researching for the upcoming season, Veltri says. Expanding its relationship with a national Web-based property management software company is something AMLI is considering.

“For us, we’ve always done everything in-house,” he says. “[But now], we’re finding that some of the national players in the tech space, like RealPage, are able to devote more time and resources to the issues. We think their products have become on par [with the digital landscape nowadays] and will let us focus on our $2.2 billion development pipeline.”

Tom Manzo, president of the residential group at Los Angeles–based JRK Property Holdings, stresses the importance of having up-to-date websites for each property within a company’s portfolio. He believes information is power when it comes to attracting prospective tenants to a new community.

“[We need to] get professional renderings done and make sure we get those out so people can see what’s in store,” says Manzo.

Lindsay Machak is an Associate Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.