How to Quickly Fill Apartment Vacancies During COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive changes throughout a variety of industries. If you own residential property, you’ll already know that widespread job loss has significantly impacted renters all across the nation. And while there were over 139 million housing units in the U.S. during 2019, many property owners have done everything possible to ensure their current tenants can stay put. Others have had no choice but to evict their tenants in order to have a chance of recouping their losses. And with some tenants having to move out of larger cities to save money and find gainful employment, certain vacancies are simply unavoidable.

Whatever the reason, you may be faced with some empty units right now. If you’re worried about finding new tenants during the pandemic, you certainly aren’t alone. However, around 85% of people cited in a recent study said they’re actively searching for a rental — even with whatever health risks might be involved with moving. That said, you may need to make some changes to how you market your vacancies and how you interact with prospective tenants to ensure these units are rented in a timely fashion. Here are just a few tips that will help you fill those apartment vacancies quickly — even in the midst of a pandemic.

Go Virtual When Possible

Around 28% of homeowners get the urge to move every five years, with many renters moving even more frequently. However, that doesn’t mean that potential tenants are always willing to take a risk when viewing an apartment. Pre-COVID, taking several tours of possible units was par for the course. But now, many renters want the opportunity to get the feel for whether a unit will work for them before they put on a mask and venture inside.

The recent study cited above found that one-third of renters actively looking for apartments are seeking virtual tours. Having video listings, offering live virtual property tours, and communicating with tenants through virtual means (teleconferencing, email, or text) can keep everyone safe while still allowing you to increase interest in available units. If you can have everyone sign the lease virtually and make deposits or rent payments online, as well, you’ll make the process that much easier for tech-savvy tenants while minimizing health risks.

Consider What the Market Will Bear

Since March, unemployment rates spiked from 3.5% to 11.1%, with a real rate of 18%. Although some people haven’t suffered too greatly as a result of the pandemic-related economic downturn, the majority of prospective tenants you’ll talk to will probably be on a stricter budget. Even if they haven’t lost their jobs, they may be actively trying to increase their savings in case of a second wave. Affordable properties are definitely easier to rent in our current economy. The aforementioned survey found that 35% of those involved lost their jobs or experienced a pay cut during the pandemic.

While that doesn’t mean you can afford to lose a lot on an apartment, keep in mind that you’ll end up losing considerably more if a unit stays vacant for months on end. If you can stand to lower the rental price a bit, this could be of great benefit to you. In Manhattan, which is one of the most expensive places to rent nationwide, landlords have been slashing rental prices and offering other incentives as a way to fill vacancies. Some have even offered free rent for the first month or so. Although that may not be possible (or even necessary) in your situation, think about how you can make an apartment even more attractive (and financially feasible) to the average tenant. If the current rental price isn’t something the market in your area will bear, you may need to compromise in order to access a steady income stream.

Show Your Commitment to Health and Safety

Prospective tenants may feel more comfortable renting from you if you show how much you care about the health of those who occupy your units. You can accomplish this in a number of ways. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing during any face-to-face interactions can help, while taking care of basic maintenance and upgrades before showing the apartment can minimize the interactions that your staff will need to have once tenants move in. Highlighting your commitment to cleaning — from sanitizing common surfaces to cleaning HVAC units — can also go a long way.

If a potential tenant has indicated they’ll be working from home, you can provide them with the resources they need to set up their internet connection or make an effort to soundproof the unit so they can easily conduct business. Even small gestures, like letting them know they can come to you if they lose their job or if they need help securing essential supplies, can help tenants feel more secure about renting a vacant apartment. Let them know that you take their safety seriously and that you’ll make every effort to protect their health while they live on your property. Showing this sense of compassion and care can serve as a real incentive to rent from you.

Finding tenants for available units won’t always be easy, especially in the middle of a health crisis. But if you keep these tips in mind, you can appeal to those who are actively looking for housing while boosting your reputation within the community.

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