SF Apartment : May 2017


Future Of First Impressions

by Eric Andresen

Spring is finally here, thank goodness. I never thought I’d be so happy to see the end of the rainy season. This time of year, we enjoy the beautiful flowers and happy trees, the green hills and filled reservoirs—but this year, we as property owners have some unique challenges to face.

As always, especially after a heavy rainy season, it’s the perfect time to check for water damage. We should all check for leaks, mold, and other damages—and make this a part of our annual routine. And, of course, we should check our roofs. If you need a roofing contractor, it’s a good idea to schedule one now, before the next rainy season begins. I’d bet most roofing contractors are quite busy right about now.

What’s unique about this year’s spring cleaning and maintenance, though, is what we’ve been hearing industry professionals talk about for quite some time: new competition in a changed market. Now is the time for rental property owners to up their game if they want to fill vacancies quickly with good tenants paying strong rents.

The Competition

Residential buildings are popping up like spring flowers throughout San Francisco. Construction is everywhere. These new units are presenting us with a challenge that we haven’t seen for many, many years: competition. Competition for new renters, competition in the market, competition over rents, and competition that will press each of us to do the most we can to present our units in the best way possible.

These brand new, sparkling, high-tech units are numbering in the thousands. Of course, these units don’t necessarily draw the attention of all of the potential renters out there, but there are enough of them to make a difference in the market and require us to bring our marketing techniques to the next level.

Common Areas and Curb Appeal

No matter how well we furnish a vacant unit with top-of-the-line appliances and trendy flooring and countertops, if the outdoor and common areas of our buildings don’t look their best, we’re still losing out on the potential of our investment.

In today’s competitive market, common areas need to sparkle. Buildings need to look inviting and clean. A well-maintained common area will draw people to the building, showing them that the ownership is proud of the property and willing to take care of it.

Imagine yourself visiting your property for the first time. Take a walk in an applicant’s shoes, starting from the street, going through the front door into the lobby, up the elevator if there is one, down the halls and up the stairs. Don’t forget to visit places like the laundry room and garbage areas. How does everything look from a potential applicant’s perspective? Do the common areas in your buildings positively represent the overall living experience?

It is likely that most—if not all—applicants have done a Google search of the address. This means that they’ve seen the front exterior of the building before even contacting you. Search for your property on Google Maps using Street View. How is your building’s curb appeal? Does the building look well-maintained, welcoming, and safe from this angle? Are the Google results outdated? If so, represent the current Street View in your listing with your own high-quality photos.

Online Presence and Technology

As we learned at the SFAA member meeting in March, how to successfully market a vacant unit has changed dramatically over the past few years. While Craigslist will still attract applicants, the reality is that most potential renters are using the technology available to them to narrow down their options before contacting a single owner or manager. Property owners need to become familiar with all of the new rental sites and apps, like Zumper, Zillow and ApartmentGuide, for example.

Additionally, we need to take full advantage of the marketing opportunities that these rental apps provide. Oftentimes, potential renters will decide which properties to apply to based on the online information available alone, without ever seeing an apartment in person. We need to grab the attention of potential renters by representing our buildings on these sites with professional and clear photos and detailed and accurate information, boasting the top features and amenities.

Lackluster photos and incomplete information can turn potential renters off. And believe it or not, this also goes for having too many photos or too much information. Applicants want to get a good look at an apartment, but they don’t want to waste time having to weed through dozens of photos or skimming pages of text to find the key information they’re looking for.

And what better time to have professional photos taken of your property than the spring? The sun is bright and the days are clear. Take advantage of the spring bounty and add some color to your property by planting a garden or even just adding some potted plants and flowers. Make sure trees and bushes are healthy and trimmed. And then, take new photos while everything is fresh and bright to update your listing.

The same goes for the interior of your property. Take interior photos when your unit is sun-filled, looking as cheerful and bright as the natural light will allow. Remember to pay attention to background images, too: look at what’s showing through the window, for example. Make sure you take the time to get all the right angles that make the most of your listing.

First Impression

All of the above information is the first (and maybe the last) thing potential renters will see. While the methods have changed, the need for making a positive first impression hasn’t. We don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression, so don’t miss the first chance. Make sure you represent yourself and your building in the best light possible. High quality photos and clear, competent communication may add a friendly new neighbor to your building and be the start of a reliable tenancy. And don’t forget, while the market might feel slower at times, applicants need to make a great first impression, too.

Spring, with its beauty and new growth, brings that feeling of new beginnings and hope. Project that, and you’ll be well on your way to getting that perfect tenant to fill your vacancy.

Eric Andresen is the current president of the SFAA. He owns both West Coast Property Management and West Coast Property Maintenace Company. He can be reached at eric@wcpm.com