Dallas — It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way owners and operators lease and market their properties. With in-person tours and events eradicated last year due to safety concerns, the industry had to pivot and find new ways of attracting residents to their properties and getting heads in beds.
InterFace Conference Group’s third annual LeaseCon/TurnCon conference kicked off yesterday evening at the Renaissance Hotel in Dallas, where members of the student housing sector gathered to discuss best practices for navigating the evolving challenges inherent with leasing and turn.
Billy Wilkinson, CEO of Threshold, led today’s first panel, ‘Marketing, Leasing & Turn Have Changed Dramatically in the Past 18 Months — What Comes Next?’ Discussing the topic was Lindsay Brown, vice president of leasing and marketing at Campus Advantage; Julie Bonnin, principal and COO of Asset Living; Jerry Wojenski, CEO of Varsity Campus; and Jonathan Bove, executive vice president of acquisition and management services at Landmark Properties.
“We’ve talked about digital assets ad nauseum with COVID, but it really was our saving grace during the pandemic and making sure our digital assets and digital curb appeal looked good because everything had to go virtual,” began Brown. “In thinking about that and where we go from here, there is a lot of discussion about the virtual space.”
“I think self-guided tours will be entering our sector more and more,” she continued. “Students want to do things on their time — it’s that Amazon demographic that wants it right here, right now. Providing a virtual tour option alongside self-guided tours is going to be very important.”
Bonnin of Asset Living noted that 80 percent of what is done on its leasing side is done through a virtual medium. “This demographic wants the convenience but they also want the leasing experience,” she said. “We’re trying to modify our leasing offices to provide more of an experience for residents and prospects whenever they come into the office.”
“But we also know that this demographic has proven that they want to lease on their own time when it is convenient for them,” she continued. “We have talked to a couple of vendors to work on self-guided tours, as Lindsay mentioned, prospects are able to come in on their own time. Costs are also rising on the salary side of things and with self-guided tours, we might be able to lessen our staff presence on the weekends.”
Check back next week for more from this and other panels featuring expert insight across all facets of the leasing, marketing and turn process in student housing.