Leasing is an important part of property management as it helps multifamily owner-operators fill tenant vacancies at their properties and ensure the company maintains its occupancy rate goals. Apartment leasing agents ensure property owners and property management companies have a steady stream of potential renters ready to move into their rental units at all times. But, what are the specific roles that leasing agents play in the multifamily rental business? How do they help multifamily operators achieve their goals?
In my recent conversation with David Chesnosky, a top leasing specialist based out of San Francisco, CA, we discussed this topic of leasing and why it is vital to have a leasing expert in a property management team. In this blog, you will discover more about what a leasing agent does and what skills they have that can help tenants and property owners navigate the process of renting a property. The full podcast is available here if you want to listen.
How Leasing Agents Help Multifamily Property Owners
Leasing agents can help owner-operators in the following ways:
#1 Assistance in adding value to units or properties
“We give advice to owners such as what changes to make to a unit, what features to add, what types of remodeling, what color of paint, stuff like that. I’ll give them advice based on what renters want and what they’re looking for,” says David.
In addition to offering first-hand knowledge about actual rental properties that are currently on the market, leasing agents from the local area are in the know as far as the demographics of tenants in their area. Constant engagement with tenants gives leasing agents primary information of their clients’ age bracket, family status, education level, income, and occupation including their particular wants and needs on housing.
“A leasing specialist understands the market well enough that he can say – This is what a lot of other units look like, and this is what we should have in this unit to get the most rent or this is what people are looking for,” adds David, stressing the value that a leasing expert adds on a property management or leasing company.
#2 Finding tenants by marketing the units
It is the leasing agent’s central duty to find tenants for the owner-operator’s property. Through marketing and advertising, they must constantly entice prospective tenants to rent from property owners. Not only do leasing agents sell the unit but they also have to promote the building, community, and surrounding neighborhood gems including parks, restaurants, theaters, art galleries, nightspots, cafes, sports and leisure facilities, as well as transportation access.
David offers the following tips for marketing apartment units:
- Get professional photos and videos of the apartment units
- Write a good description of the apartment unit. Use bullet points to describe the unit, the building, and the neighborhood. Add your contact details.
Aim for dynamic content that goes beyond lists. Add videos, social media integration, 3D walk-thrus, real-time mapping, and interactive media.
- Find reputable rental listing websites online and create your ad post. Use an ad syndication site that distributes ad listings on a variety of websites without you posting on each site individually.
- Aim for positive rental reviews to build a positive online reputation.
The pandemic has magnified the way we use creative digital marketing strategies in all aspects of real estate operations, including leasing. Hence using attractive, high-quality images and videos in online listings, offering virtual tours of properties, and providing easy digital leasing applications will give you an edge and catch the interest of potential tenants. And remember, demographics and trends are always shifting so it pays to stay ahead of the curve and be up to speed with the latest developments.
#3 Setting rent price for the units
How much rent should you charge to competitively attract tenants but still allow you to pay bills, mortgage, insurance, repairs, and maintenance, and generate income? Leasing agents can help owner-operators set rental prices which, as David reveals, are highly dependent on how desirable a unit is.
The desirability factors include:
Location: Proximity to commercial and retail establishments (restaurants, cafes, shopping), parks and leisure facilities, work opportunities, and transportation access makes a unit desirable for most tenants.
Square Footage: A larger unit is more desirable and will fetch a higher price than a smaller one.
Amenities: A unit with modern appliances (stove, refrigerator, laundry unit), and other conveniences will be more desirable.
View: A unit with a more pleasant view (garden, park, ocean, lake, mountain view) is more desirable than those with a view of the parking lot or the back of a neighboring building.
Floor Level: Units on higher floors are more desirable except for a walk-up building where upper units are avoided because people will not want to walk up and down the stairs.
Layout: Open floor plans, open layouts, open kitchens, light or neutral colors, and hardwood floors are generally desirable.
Age of the Apartment Building: Units in newer, modern buildings will be more desirable than older ones.
Extra features: A balcony, a window or an extra closet make a unit more desirable.
Pet-Friendly Apartments: In these times when pet ownership has surged in popularity, allowing pets to live in your apartment units or having pet-centric amenities can make a property desirable. Property owners may impose a policy on limiting the number or types of pets that are welcome, require higher deposits, or add monthly fees for pet owners. David recommends pet-screening interviews for pet owners prior to their acceptance and lease-signing.
Pricing is also determined by the season. David cites that in San Francisco, the busier season of leasing is March or April all the way to mid-October, and becomes slower in the winter months. So, local leasing agents may help determine the on and off-season in your property’s area.
Finally, David recommends looking at the competition – specifically at rentals that are as similar to yours as possible. Check the rates of similar units in the neighborhood or in the same section of town as yours. This can be done by comparing with online ads, visiting units in person, or asking for a realtor’s opinion.
#4 Handle leasing transactions
In addition to helping in rental price setting, a leasing agent can help set lease terms, prepare and process lease documents using property standards and regulations, run background and credit checks to ensure the prospective tenants are eligible to rent, and collect rent payments, security deposits and application fees.
Local leasing agents more familiar with local housing laws and rent regulations will be able to support the property owner in transactions with government agencies, handling the legal side of leasing and ensuring legal protection to parties involved in the transaction.
“We handle running the applications. We send out the lease using the San Francisco Apartment Association lease. Then we even help with a key exchange move-in handoff to the owner or the property manager,” says David, emphasizing that the leasing agent should be able to authentically connect with potential clients and help assuage any concerns of both the owner and the tenants.
What Makes An Excellent Leasing Agent?
There are basic skills that every leasing agent should possess, such as being able to communicate and interact well on an interpersonal level with the clients and having at least a basic understanding of the real estate rental industry or related areas. There are also additional skills that can help them excel in their role. What would make a leasing agent stand out from the others? Here are some tips offered by David.
- Be Proactive
“What I’ve taught my leasing agents is that leads are extremely valuable. So, you should never fail to answer the phone right away. Answer your email right away. You want to schedule that appointment as soon as possible because someone is out looking to rent something,” advises David, adding that a leasing agent who makes a courtesy call to clients to check how things are going, rather than one who waits for a problem to arise is always appreciated by clients.
“People will email me or call me and then when I meet them and I show them a place, they’d say, “I called four different places, and you’re the only one that answered the phone. You’re the only one that got back to me”, relates David, emphasizing how easy it is to please people and build client relationships if we are only willing to actively communicate and connect.
- Be Service-Oriented
“The thing that I always remind my agents and that I always remember myself is that leasing is a service business. It’s not a sales business. It’s a service business so you and I are here to serve,” emphasizes David.
Moving and trying to find a new place to live is a stressful undertaking. So, David advises that leasing agents should be there to help with genuine empathy and concern. Keeping that service mindset helps leasing agents to care for their clients, the owners, the tenants, and potential renters and to ensure that they’re happy.
- Be Honest and Upfront
“I always try to be as upfront as possible with people. Upfront about the unit, the area, upfront about the building. I don’t like somebody to get to a point where they move in and then with a look of surprise on their faces, say, You didn’t tell me about this. I didn’t know about this,” cautions David.
There’s always truth to the adage, “Honesty is the best policy.” Leasing agents must strive to always be upfront about everything from the very start. This will save time and cost of dealing with complaints and problems down the road. Besides, as David says, “You would not want to put a person in a place where he’s not happy. He’ll always find faults and issues to complain about.” So, aim for customer satisfaction all the time.
- Value Customers
“Ours is a service-based business and not an ‘If I rent this, I’m going to make a commission on it’ dealing,” stressed David.
Anyone engaged in any business in any industry knows that customers need to be valued. Plus, any good business person would acknowledge that he is in business not only for personal gain but also to make his customers happy and satisfied with his product and his service. In the leasing business, agents know that one of the best ways to succeed is to build relationships not only with the people that they work with but also with the community and to be able to respond to their needs.
“Return people’s calls. Return their texts. Even if it’s bad news that tells you that you didn’t get the deal or the lease because they went to somebody else. Be gracious even in setbacks. Show care and concern for clients, and give advice. Show your love and commitment for your work and your city,” ends David.
As players in the business of helping people find or upkeep their homes, we, owner-operators should always have the best interests of our clients at heart. Providing consistent, excellent service makes our tenants consistently satisfied and ensures our occupancy rates remain stable and our business goals achievable.
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