For a long time, the multifamily industry had a reputation for being reluctant to embrace innovation and change.
But that reputation has started to fade in recent years, in part because of the way apartment communities turned on a dime to implement technologies like self-guided and virtual tours during the pandemic. In addition, increasingly sophisticated software is permitting operators to manage leads and set pricing more efficiently than ever, while solutions like chatbots and other types of AI are allowing prospects to interact with communities 24/7.
Centralized leasing represents another emerging area of innovation for multifamily companies. Instead of using traditional onsite leasing teams, many operators are placing leasing associate teams in central offices, or allowing them to work remotely. In these frameworks, they’re responsible for multiple properties, which maximizes efficiencies, ensures a consistent experience for prospective renters and allows associates to focus on leasing apartments.
The Making the Switch to Centralized Leasing session at the 2022 Entrata Summit examined approaches to centralized leasing and explored the benefits to operators of such arrangements.
Kimberly Nicholson, Senior Director of Property Systems at Greystar, explained that her company has moved to a model in which leasing teams are based in centralized offices and are responsible for leasing four to five communities.
Suzanne Hopson, President of Operations at Tricap, said the company has implemented a structure in which leasing associates work remotely. Tricap has approximately one sales associate for every 500 units.
According to Nicholson, the switch to a centralized leasing model did cause some uncertainty in the organization, particularly among onsite teams. But those feelings have faded as the benefits have become apparent, she added.
For starters, “people onsite are resident-focused,” Nicholson said. “They’re not burdened with leasing. And residents don’t have to go in and wait behind two or three people waiting for leasing information.”
Along the same lines, according to Hopson, Tricap was able to smooth the transition in part by emphasizing to leasing associates that today’s prospects typically don’t want in-person interaction during the apartment shopping process. “We showed them the data that says prospects really don’t want to spend time with you,” she said.
Sales associates also were excited by the opportunity to focus on leasing, Hopson noted. “People are happier when they’re able to do what they’re good at,” she said.
Another benefit of centralized leasing is that sales associates who oversee multiple communities can present prospects with options. “If one community doesn’t work for a prospect, the leasing agent can say, ‘I have another community that works,’” Nicholson said.
Both panelists urged operators to strongly consider some form of centralized leasing.
“Just do it,” Hopson said. “Do it in a small test group, do the homework, take the risk. You don’t want to be left behind.”
Nicholson echoed similar sentiments.
“Set your fears aside, let innovation be the driver not fear” she said. “Don’t be afraid to change your processes.”