Interesting Article – Five Best Apartment Search Tools

Just wanted to share this article. It seems interesting. A friend of mine just forwarded me this article from LifeHacker.com, “Five Best Apartment Search Tools”. With the exception of Apartments.com, these websites seem to be geared more toward micromanagement companies and individual owners rather than tradititional property management companies.  Obvioulsy, Craigslist has become a standard advertising source for many of us, however, I’m not sure the others have or will.  Each seems to offer it’s own unique perspective and features.

Conducting a Google search for “Detroit Apartments”, Apartments.com was number one in the organic search, followed by Craigslist at listing number 7, Myapartmentmap.com at listing number 16, while the others were not in the top 50 organic search results.  A search for “Chicago Apartments” put Apartments.com at number 2, Craigslist at 4 and Myapartmentmap did not appear until page 5.  Results varied from city to city, however the only two that remained consistently on the first page were Apartments.com and Craigslist.

There seem to be a lot of companies popping up trying to win the share of apartment traffic to their websites and likely taking up a lot of our time with sales calls.  Until they are proven, I would stick with putting any extra money into your own website and making sure it is optimized.  Some companies out there are doing this and they happen to be ranking much higher on the organic search results than 3 out of 5 of the “5 Best Apartment Search Tools”.

Get Zing’d

padzing.com

padzing.com

I just received a personal tour of Padzing.com from Mike Mueller and my first impression is that Padzing.com is to market surveys as Wonder is to sliced bread.  If you are a numbers and data junkie, then you will definitely want to check this out.  Padzing is a compilation of data from Rent.com and Vaultware.  Simply put, the data has been gathered from communities advertising on Rent.com and the users of Vaultware.  “We developed it with the idea of going to one website to see what your peers are charging for their apartments,” says Mueller, CEO of Realty Data Trust.

A quick search on Padzing by zip code or city and state provides the user with current vacancy information, average rents, and average rent per square foot by Nationally or by, State, County and where available Zip Code.  It also breaks it down by unit type.   Graphs provide a snapshot of the history of those numbers so you can follow trends.  Mapping options allow you to gather the same date by radius.  Reports can be exported into MS Excel.  With all of these different options, the number of ways to review the data are countless.

If you decide to use this information you will have to take into account the number of properties that are being used to compile that data.  The great thing about it is they disclose that information on every page.  So if 5 properties in your Zip Code reporting data isn’t enough, then you can research the other 5 on your own, but your analysis is halfway complete.  If your top 3 competitors are listed on Padzing and your analysis is based on them, then a great deal of your information is collected for you already.

While this tool is truly in it’s infancy, with support and cooperation from the industry it can only get better. Enhancements are already being devoloped including a feature that will send an email or a text message if pricing is changed at a community you are following.  Take advantage of this tool while it’s still free!

“It’s where the industry is heading,” says Mueller.  “Padzing.com puts transparency into pricing.  It’s a poor man’s revenue management.”

Where It’s App

 

AG iPhone application

AG iPhone application

So the numbers are in for the Apartment Guide iPhone application and on paper it looks pretty good, according to Primedia’s press release earlier today.  Over 230,000 downloads.  Like most of you, I’d like to dig a little deeper and find out how many of those downloads resulted in email or phone inquiries.  I’m sure my account rep will be in this month to tell me.  

Without that information available, I’d like to draw a picture of how truly remarkable this could be.  This is  the equivalent of 230,000 Apartment Guides being added to their distribution.  That’s 28,750 books per month since they started in October.  I would imagine it’s probably closer to 40 – 50,000 per month since they launched their advertising campaign in March.  40 to 50,000 additional users of the Apartment Guide without adding a single page of print.  At that rate they will approach 600,000 downloads by the end of the year.

There are a million and one questions that need to be asked and answered, but at first blush, this seems to be a successful first step in the right direction to improve the consumer experience and potentially increase traffic to communities advertising on Apartment Guide.  Win-win.

Email Is the New Snail Mail

Think about it.  Many have used email as a way to delay, avoid or procrastinate. A salesman calls you at the office and you don’t have time, so you tell him to email you the information for you to review. You might as well ask him to put a stamp on it and mail it to you.  You’d probably be more likely to open it up.  (I still love getting mail).  A week later he calls to follow up and you haven’t opened the email yet.

Now, people want instant communication.  Texting and Instant Messaging are the preferred form of communication for many and that number is growing rapidly.  While teenagers are mainly responsible for the spike in those statistics, it is very obvious that many adults are moving to these forms of communication as well.  Go to any bar or club on a Friday or Saturday night and you will see the soft glow of cell phones throughout.  And they aren’t up to ears, but thumbs.  

So how can we bring this into our world of leasing apartments?  Social Media and Marketing is great, but it’s not necessarily an instant conversation, typically.  It’s a static post on Facebook, myspace or even twitter and an occasional response.  Check out AIMCO’s chat online feature.  Super cool.  I am actually shopping apartments in Dallas as I write this blog.  The agent on the other end is very helpful.  Oh and by the way, it’s Sunday night and it’s 6:20 in Dallas.  

JessicaR (thanks for your help) first asked how I was doing today.  I’ve shopped live leasing consultants that didn’t ask me that question!  JessicaR also used my name throughout the conversation.  Our conversation went at a good pace and I didn’t have to sit and wait for a response, except once when she was looking up the apartments in the area I requested.  She politely asked if I could wait so I didn’t get impatient.  Overall, it was an excellent experience and I was able to get the information I needed quickly and it never felt impersonal.

JessicaR also mentioned that they chat a lot with existing residents.  What a great way to service your busy, professional clients that don’t have time to call or stop by the office.  They can chat with the agent while they are on a conference call (you’ve done it too, so don’t roll your eyes like that’s crazy!)  At the end of the session I was asked if I wanted a transcript of the session emailed to me.  What a great way for management to document a resident complaint as well.