Jeremy Schmidt: Making the First Contact Count

by Katie Sloan

The moment a student finds your property, checks out the photos, reads feedback and decides to reach out to set up a showing — that’s the perfect moment for any owner or property manager to build on. An excited potential renter is a landlord’s dream. Renters don’t want to keep researching, keep getting their hopes up and keep looking for a place. They want to make the decision. They want to live with you.

Make the most of that first moment, because enthusiasm doesn’t last forever. With each passing hour or day, interested renters are a little less likely to remember what made your place so perfect. If they don’t hear back from you soon, they’ll move on, take a deep breath and resume their search for another option. You’ll move to the back of their mind, and your chances of turning them into a rent-paying tenant will drop considerably.

If you’re getting back to an interested student prospect more than a day after they reached out to you about touring your property, you needn’t wonder why you weren’t able to get them in for a showing or get them to sign a lease on an open unit. It was your response time that killed the deal.

In the past month, we reached out to students across 12 campuses spread throughout the nation to analyze text message response rates. We needed a solid sample size of different campuses to gauge how different types of students reacted, and we wanted to use the text message because we know that it’s the form of communication most likely to get a response from young renters.

The results when we reached out to students via text within 24 hours of a lead being sent were staggering compared to the responses we received after 48 hours:

  • Within 24 hours: 56 percent response rate
  • After 48 hours: 24 percent response rate

It shouldn’t be any shock that we were getting so many responses the earlier we reached out. Students WANT to follow up about the places they’re considering living in. We asked students if they had heard from the landlord they contacted and if they were able to set up showings. Too often, they hadn’t heard back from anyone yet. And more often than not, if a student hadn’t heard from a landlord, they asked us if we knew of any other options. Some students even said they were in panic mode. A student in panic mode about finding a place to live that isn’t hearing back from a landlord they reached out to is a huge missed opportunity for a landlord looking to lease a unit.

Students want to hear from you quickly and via their preferred method of communication. And your quick response matters for a variety of reasons.

  • Students aren’t just contacting your property. They’re weighing a lot of factors and contacting multiple landlords when making the decision about where to live. Just having a good property isn’t enough anymore. You’ve got to be able to stand out from other places in the area when a student reaches out. Responding quickly with a friendly, informative message, is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition.
  • Your responsiveness is your first impression. If you take 24 hours to respond to a student, that’s setting their expectation for how their experience living at your property will be. If they can’t get ahold of you when they’re looking to find a place to rent, they’re going to be worried that they won’t be able to get ahold of you when they’re locked out of the house or have a broken furnace.
  • Don’t just settle for a voice mail. If you’re calling, it’s likely a student isn’t answering. Students rarely answer the phone when their friends call, let alone when a number they don’t automatically recognize appears on their home screen. Feel free to call, but follow that up with a text message and an email response answering any questions your potential new renter may have. Qualify the lead up front by letting them know what your property is and isn’t, then look to move along to a showing once you know that this renter may be a good fit.

This won’t be news to you, but the student housing market only gets more competitive every year. Large apartments are popping up at what seems like a record rate, renewals are starting earlier and earlier, and seasons continue to shift towards the beginning of the academic year. Competition among landlords is stiff, so it’s important to look for small, scalable edges. The first edge you can give your business is a simple one; respond quickly and watch engagement rates grow.

Jeremy Schmidt is the Chief Marketing Officer of Rent College Pads. He leads and facilitates Rent College Pads’ digital and on-campus guerilla strategies for connecting with students nationwide.

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