With social distancing and online classes continuing on campuses nationwide in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), owners and operators are trying to reconfigure their leasing strategy for success in the new environment.
Last week, Student Housing Business released a complimentary webinar sponsored by VR Student Housing, during which student housing experts discussed best practices for maintaining leasing velocity despite the uncertainties brought on by COVID-19.
Jake Jarman, COO and principal of Redstone Residential, moderated the discussion between Mason McConathy, director of marketing at University Partners; Chris Gardner, managing partner at Jumpem; and Chris Vasilakis, CEO and co-founder of VR Student Housing.
“At University Partners, we really came into COVID-19 with the idea of putting our employees and our residents first,” says McConathy. “We had to quickly mobilize and figure out how we were going to attack this. With our employees, we have set up contests for delinquency and leasing goals to keep everyone motivated. We’ve also focused on making sure our residents feel like they are at home. It’s amazing how many renewals we have seen come out of the woodwork over the last few weeks just because we handled things correctly during this time of crisis.”
“We didn’t make moves as a selfish company, we made moves together as an industry to better things for our residents, and it has been noticed,” McConathy continues. “We have hosted social distancing events, which were a big hit. How you handle this crisis is going to have a big impact on your renewals, so we’ve been focused on communication. Any time we have an operational change, we push that out. We want to make sure everyone is in the loop on what we’re doing and why.”
In terms of digital marketing strategy, the top priority in today’s environment is flexibility. “In this environment with COVID-19, it is important to make sure you are able to pivot,” says Gardner of Jumpem. “You don’t want to have limitations on key words because your marketing will need to evolve as the situation does.”
With students unable to tour properties in-person, virtual tours are able to keep tours running, turning leads into virtual leases. “You can offer a virtual reality tour with a leasing agent, which will guide your prospects through a tour of your property pointing out key features,” says Vasilakis. “This virtual tour can be texted or emailed to students, automating the touring process. When COVID-19 happened, our customers who offer this virtual tour didn’t skip a beat because they’re already offering tours digitally and virtually.”