One of Rentsync's valued ILS partners, RentBoard.ca, recently conducted a survey that provides new insights around major topics impacting renters and property searches throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In this report, we will outline the results from the survey and make recommendations based upon the feedback provided.
Survey Sample Size and Rationale
The following survey asked 700 RentBoard.ca users a total of (6) questions that heavily address their rental experiences during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The feedback will help to build a narrative for property owners and marketers looking for direction during this uncertain time. It will help them to develop initiatives that offer a frictionless experience, attract more prospects, and position themselves favourably in the eyes of renters.
The results from the survey are as follows:
Key Takeaway: The majority of respondents have a number of unique reasons (33.7%) for moving right now, including: divorce, rent increases, downsizing, or renting after selling a home. Deals on rentals, however, are the ultimate driving factor for many of those searching right now (25.5%). This aligns with a report by REMI Network, which states that,
"Even with financial uncertainty, people with stable employment will be looking for deals in many of the markets that were strong before the COVID-19 crisis."
Therefore, property management firms can use this information to develop new promotions to attract prospective renters right away in their marketing.
Key Takeaway: This is a major opportunity for property owners right now, as the majority of renters are either Very Serious (53.6%) or Serious (21.4%) about signing a lease during COVID-19. This means that leads have a higher chance of converting into renters right now, so providing competitive differentiators such as virtual tours, featuring ads on ILS', and revamping your website content and messaging will all contribute to how you stand out from the crowd.
Key Takeaway: The focus of this question is to gauge intention right now; are people simply "window shopping" or are they ready to move ASAP. The results again seem to confirm that renters are very ambitious about relocating as soon as possible, with 49.6% hoping to take possession as soon as they find a place and are given the green light to move. This indicates that there will most certainly be a larger than normal wave of move-ins and move-outs once restrictions are lifted.
As you look to the future, property owners and managers must consider a plan for move-ins and outs as soon as COVID-19 is over. This issue could create significant stress for landlords, so it's important to have a strategy in place once the government has lifted quarantine measures and renters begin to mobilize again. If you're preparing now (i.e. building reservation lists) for this inevitability, you should find yourself in a good position to manage turnovers.
On the other hand, if you're not, you could find yourself experiencing higher than usual vacancies once tenants are allowed to start moving again, and give competitors such as vacant AirBnbs a chance to swoop in.
Key Takeaway: As social distancing measures continue and in-person touring becomes less frequently available to prospective renters, property owners must adapt. According to these results, renters are beginning to understand that virtual touring is the best way to decide on rental properties during the pandemic.
The results indicate that renters are Very Willing (19.6%), Willing (24.6%), or Somewhat Willing (27.6%) to rent solely based off of a virtual tour. This is good news for property owners, as it shows that if they are able to offer these features on their listings and their website, nearly 72% of renters show confidence in renting without seeing a property in-person.
Key Takeaway: Renters are looking to get as close to your property as possible. The results show that renters prefer a combination of both "self-guided virtual tours" i.e. Matterport 3D walkthroughs, in addition to "guided virtual tours with an agent" (59.1%) to help them make a decision on a rental right now.
Therefore, properties should aim to provide both options, and update their marketing and communications to maximize lead conversions and build trust with renters during this time.
The final question from the RentBoard.ca survey asked renters to, "Please expand on your experience finding a rental during COVID-19, and how it could be improved, if at all."
Here are the top 5 most common concerns for renters right now and our recommendations in response:
- Lack of communication and responses to inquiries from property owners/operators.
- Unclear on property conditions, maintenance, cleanliness and general upkeep.
- Considerations for in-person touring should be made available so long as social distancing measures are practiced.
- There should be more incentives for new leases signed during this time.
- Difficulty finding help with move-ins and outs due to the current situation.
The most overwhelming issue for renters right now is lack of communication by property owners and operators. As property management firms are considered an essential service, it's important that resources have been set aside to help with incoming leads and requests at this time.
Additionally, marketing strategies should match those of the current situation. Since renters are less likely to see properties in-person during this time, incentives must be considered to attract and gain confidence from interested prospects. Moreover, the more information you can give prospective tenants the better i.e. floor plans with detailed dimensions, virtual tours, and an available agent to answer questions online.
Finally, as short-term rentals and vacation rentals start to flood the long-term rental market (listings are up 12% month-over-month in March alone), properties need to level-up to compete. They need to consider how to enhance their offerings, especially their marketing collateral, or they'll continue to experience vacancies and lost income not only now, but in the long-term.
Property owners have a lot to consider as the pandemic and emergency measures continue. However, rather than recoil and shut down communications, property owners should see this as an opportunity for progress. According to RentBoard's acting communications advisor, Mitch Fanning, his recommendation for the industry is as follows:
"More than ever, owner/operators and property managers must keep their ears and eyes peeled to renter pain points, and turn these problems into solutions. Now is the time to adapt your marketing strategies and make key investments that will allow you and your team to communicate with prospects more effectively. Whether that's through your website, advertising or virtual communications. The ability to act swiftly and provide the tools and support necessary for building confidence with prospects will reveal the difference between winners and laggards during this time."