Momentum for using a centralized leasing strategy continues in apartment management. But first, for many, it comes down to understanding the concept – something not all operators are grasping.
Centralized leasing is not moving all leasing to one centralized location, explained a panel on Wednesday during NAA’s Apartmentalize conference.
“It’s about using technology – such as artificial intelligence (AI)-programmed bots – to lift menial duties away from the leasing team such as providing pricing and availability information or scheduling tours and then centralizing all the other work needed to close the lease,” Stephanie Gonzalez, vice president, innovation, Venterra Realty, said.
Gonzalez joined Wendy Rae Walker, COO, TAM Residential; and moderator Brent Steiner, founder & CEO, Engrain, during the session “Build a Better Leasing Experience with Centralization and Technology” in San Diego.
“Consumer behavior is driving this because today everyone wants answers immediately,” Gonzalez said. “Consumers also want businesses to know everything about them before they connect with a real person and AI helps that to happen.”
Centralized leasing is perhaps most beneficial – driving more leases – for apartment operators with multiple communities in reasonably close proximity.
“Prospective residents don’t have to fill out three guest cards, or receive the same branded follow-up email from three different communities,” Gonzalez said. “Their data is captured by all three of the communities – a big time-saver.”
Steiner said that REITs and many major players are learning more and more “that AI moves the needle on performance; and they are talking about it on their earnings calls.”
Walker said she used data to prove AI’s worth to any skeptical owners.
“We’re having 94 percent of our incoming calls answered,” Walker said. “That’s huge. And it gives our onsite teams more time to spend with the residents – so they and the residents like that.”
AI-driven bots have cut two days off the time it takes prospective residents to choose to lease at Venterra Realty, which uses an AI- and machine-learning-driven virtual leasing assistant from LeaseHawk.
“It’s enabled us to close our offices on Sunday because our bots handle the traffic that would come during that time,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said that self-guided tours – another trending innovation in the apartment industry – is an “automatic” as part of a centralized leasing strategy.
“Using bots, we’re able to provide the right answers at the right time to prospective residents,” she said. “Then, we let our people handle any questions involving critical thought or empathy.”
Gonzalez said Venterra Realty’s closing rates for SGTs is 10 percent compared to 40 percent for guided tours, “but we make up for that with much greater volume of those taking SGTs.”
AI is also helping her communities’ email drip campaigns because it can deliver personalized responses with specific answers to each recipient.
The change-management challenges that come with implementing AI onsite are not at the executive level, Gonzalez said.
“They are more at the onsite level,” she said. “It takes time for them to come over to that way of thinking, but if you have conversations with them and explain it, it will go much easier.”
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