Matt Weirich is CEO and Co-founder of Realync, the leading video leasing and engagement platform for the entire resident lifecycle.
By now, you know the story all too well. 2020 brought many changes. Brick-and-mortar businesses around the world were forced to close their doors. Companies of all shapes and sizes were forced to embrace new ways of conducting business. Overnight, the world dramatically entered a new age.
Welcome To The Virtual World
Even prior to the pandemic, the world was going virtual. In a 2018 Pew Research Center study, 95% of teenagers used a smartphone and 97% actively engaged on at least one social media platform. Cisco’s 2019 Internet Report relayed that even prior to the added events of 2020, by 2022, the average individual in the U.S. would use 13.6 network devices.
But then, fast forward to spring of 2020.
Zoom meetings went from being an alternative to the most desired solution for tech companies and elementary schools alike. In three months, from December to March, daily Zoom users went from 10 million to 200 million. QR codes, once considered old school tech, even reemerged.
And for the real estate world? Leasing offices and in-person tours shut down. But residents still needed maintenance help, and people still needed homes and working utilities. Multifamily teams adapted. Virtual tours, which previously existed, exponentially increased. Work from home spaces became a priority and necessity. Maintenance teams adapted to provide virtual instruction to residents — and so much more.
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The Fatigue Is Real
With the onset of the world going virtual, screen time quite naturally went through the roof. With this rise, the race for digital ad space continued. After all, you’re supposed to meet your targets online, right?
With the increased screen time forced into literally every aspect of people’s lives, people started to grow weary. Tired of the never-ending Zoom calls and the same struggling attendees who cannot figure out their camera or mute button.
This technology fatigue, coupled with the innate desire for connection and personalization, leaves a noticeable hole for not only the everyday consumer but for current and future multifamily residents.
More than ever, people crave interaction with other humans. This is not a foreign concept but rather exasperated by the state of the world that we are in. The world has gone virtual, sales have gone virtual and in the multifamily industry, renting has gone virtual. But one thing still stays the same: Consumers want to buy from other people.
For housing seekers, human connection is even more important. This isn’t just another clothing brand or the latest dieting technique. You are selling a living situation, a community, a place to call home for the foreseeable future. With a high-risk transaction, such as agreeing to a lease or buying a house, relationship and connection is not a nice-to-have — it’s a necessity in order to resonate and instill trust in the process.
For multifamily leasing professionals, the human element is a top priority because consumers today need to trust that what they’re purchasing — or leasing — is portrayed in a real and authentic way. That trust is what has proven invaluable in this virtual leasing process.
Making It Real In Multifamily
Of 2,000 adults surveyed by content platform Stackla, 86% say that authenticity is important for them when deciding which brands they like as well as support. While pictures and 3D models are helpful in understanding more about the property, they leave out the real and personable factors, including authenticity.
Want to keep it real? Here are three key tips to ensure authenticity and personalization:
1. Enable direct human interaction — virtually. This may seem simple, but if you rely solely on pictures and digital content, you will miss out on building rapport with your prospect. By simply allowing your prospect to interact directly with your leasing agent face-to-face — even over a screen — you will help increase the authenticity of your community.
2. Show the good and the mundane. Don’t forget to show the necessities that may not be picture-worthy. Show your prospective resident the laundry facilities. Show the exterior, even if it needs another coat of paint. By being real and transparent, you will instill trust in the process.
3. Allow for questions and real-time feedback. Similar to the first tip, it is imperative that your virtual experience allows your prospects to ask questions in real-time. Give your prospects the chance to ask to see another portion of the property or to ask clarifying questions about amenities and the leasing process. Not only will this help expedite the overall process, but it will also continue to build rapport with the prospect.
Bottom line? Be strategic when it comes to your virtual leasing and sales solutions, but don’t cut out the person. In a virtual world, building an authentic relationship does not have to be, and should not be, eliminated.
The Best Of Both Worlds
In a virtual world, it’s easy to focus on quantity over quality. Results over relationships. But let’s never forget that relationships tie directly to results. Moving to a virtual world does not mean that personalization and connection have to be thrown to the wayside.
While the pandemic expedited the use of technology and video for multifamily sales and leasing, it also further revealed an innate craving for authentic human connection. Thankfully, even in a virtual world, building meaningful relationships is still possible through video.
It’s time for real estate and multifamily professionals to take the lead in showing how to build relationships while meeting prospects no matter where they are. The industry has been behind the technology trend for a while, and even after social distancing is — hopefully — no more, residents and prospects will still expect virtual leasing and touring options to be available. Communities that master the art of human connection — virtually — will thrive.