Property managers and apartment firms understand the necessity of pleasing prospective residents and developing a good reputation. To further this mission, most have learned to tailor their offerings to the needs of specific demographics, such as seniors, students, and Millennials, also known as Gen Yers.
When it comes to attracting renters, the Gen Y demographic—generally considered those born between 1978 and 1995—is an increasingly hot market. From college students seeking off-campus housing to young professionals unwilling (or unable) to commit to a permanent residence, the Gen Y crowd is an estimated 80 million strong. Recent reports also show that this group may be less interested in homeownership than its counterparts in other generations.
Now, many operators are turning their attention to Millennials’ unique needs and preferences—and learning to implement features that appeal to young adult renters. This means courting Gen Y residents with sustainable communities, technology-friendly features, and state-of-the-art amenities. It also means fixing or preventing the four mistakes below, lest your properties drive residents to more-accommodating communities elsewhere.
A Lacking or Unappealing Mobile Presence
More than any other demographic, Gen Y renters use their smart phones for research, including hunting for available rentals. Whereas an older renter might prepare a plan ahead of time for his house-hunting quest, a younger renter is likely to use her smart phone to find properties on the go. This means properties must have a mobile-optimized site that’s appealing and encompasses all the information a prospect needs—in a snap and at a glance. This extends to building a strong Web presence that includes review services like Yelp and social-location services like Foursquare. Failure to do so will cause your property to quickly become invisible and obsolete to the same renters you want to attract.
Old-School Communication Styles
It’s not just a cliché: One of the biggest generational differences between the Gen Y community and others is its preference for e-mail and text messaging over phone calls. Smart property managers will cater to this preference by making texting and e-mail options available for all communication needs. This includes basic rental-process steps, such as accepting scans or photographs of drivers’ licenses and Social Security cards rather than requiring applicants to deliver them to a leasing office.
No Online Payment Capabilities
Carrying a checkbook might still be the status quo for older generations, but Millennials have grown up in a world of digital transactions. Ask them to write checks, buy stamps, and mail payments, and you will almost certainly lose them as renters. Instead, meet them in their technology-saturated comfort zones. Offer the convenience and mobility of online and Web-based payment options, and accept credit card payments in your rental office by using Square for tablets, for example.
9-to-5 Hours Only
Ask Millennials to wait for office hours to place a phone call, and you’ll see a dramatic drop in communication. But if residents can place a request or make contact online, they’re more likely to interact with you, which may benefit your property in more ways than one. For example, consider a needed repair, such as a broken sprinkler in the front yard. Because your residents don’t pay for water, it’s hardly a priority to them. But if you make it convenient and easy to notify you online, you’re more likely to hear about the sprinkler before it becomes a costly nightmare.
Offering online communication modes also helps avoid negative posts on your Facebook wall or Web site, where prospective renters can see them.
Just as important as offering 24/7 communication options to Gen Yers, property managers must also provide convenient online capabilities to meet various renter needs, from searching properties to completing applications to paying rent. Any barriers Millennials encounter on their paths to becoming your renters can drive them to the next property management company. Keep in mind, too, that this age group is more inclined to blog or tweet about their experiences than other residents; offering digital-friendly processes will lead to more positive reviews, promoting and protecting your reputation as a provider of desirable communities.
While implementing some of these practices may force you to traverse unfamiliar territory at first, they’re all vital steps to building a prosperous future in the apartment industry. Given their overall disinterest in purchasing homes, Gen Y prospects may turn out to have more long-term potential as renters than previous generations. It’s also a safe bet that upcoming generations will expect the same digital conveniences—putting you a step ahead of the competition for years to come.