The number is remarkable: Today more than 80% of the U.S. population shops online, or about 263 million Americans.

It’s a number very few multifamily owners and operators will dispute, especially when 63% of renters say a virtual walkthrough is all that’s needed for a rental decision. An in-person visit? Who has time for that?

How you position and market your properties on the mobile, tablet, and laptop have never been more important. Renters expect a one-stop, mobile-friendly online experience. It’s up to your website to deliver the goods with as little friction as possible.

Joe Settimi has some ideas along those lines.

The senior vice president of renters solutions at Assurant, a Fortune 500 company, knows what works at lease sign-up time. Take two early decisions lease-minded consumers face—renters insurance and the security deposit.

Seamless Insurance

“Consumers expect a seamless experience from move-in to move-out. It can’t involve signing and dropping off physical copies – or even emails with attachments going back and forth for that matter,” explains the multifamily industry professional. “Frankly, property management companies don’t have time for that, either.”

To illustrate, Settimi cites renters insurance. “The majority of our clients now require residents have a policy,” he says. Even if it isn’t required, many third-party experts urge renters to protect themselves with one.

The smart play is to bundle low-cost personal property and liability coverage with the lease. Renters appreciate the easy convenience, demonstrated by the fact nearly 3 out of 4 renters are more likely to purchase a policy that ties it all together.

“Think about game players, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs,” Settimi asks. “Many renters have a big investment to protect.” Bundling the insurance also represents advantages for the property manager, which may include tracking resident compliance and ancillary income. “Our Cover360 insurance solution has really taken off in the last couple of years. It checks all boxes for the renter as well as the leasing team.”

Security Deposit Alternatives

Perhaps the biggest gateway to a frictionless move-in experience is the security deposit. Lowering the cost of move-in is obviously in a renter’s self-interest. Multiplying the number of leasing prospects doesn’t hurt the owner/operator, either. That one-two benefit helps explain the popularity of deposit alternatives, like:

  • Reduced deposit requirements
  • Security deposit insurance
  • Installment plans
  • Damage or lease insurance
  • Surety bonds
  • Pay per damage

Interestingly, the surety bond—a way to safeguard the landlord’s financial risk with fewer out-of-pocket renter dollars—earns a big thumbs-up (71%) in a nationwide poll of renters. Assurant’s FlexDeposit is an example of that security deposit alternative.

Settimi says the pace of online innovation will continue to reshape the industry. Already on its way: 24/7 resident tech support as a powerful new leasing amenity. “It’s called Personal TechPro and it leverages our long history in protecting connected devices. It’s another way for property management companies to differentiate themselves with a white-glove service offered exclusively to community residents.”

As you weigh resident onboarding options, Settimi advises owner/operators to keep in mind the long track record of your technology partner. “Ask yourself, ‘Who is going to be around five years from now?’”

Learn more about better ways to attract and retain connected renters.