The infamous apartment hunt: often one of the most dreaded inevitabilities facing modern renters today. While it’s no secret that almost all renters begin their apartment hunt online, most of us don’t factor in the exhaustion and fatigue that a renter undergoes just from a 10-minute search on an internet listing service (ILS) site such as Zillow or Apartments.com. From overwhelming property lists to confusing floor plans and amenities options that start to bleed together, renters lose any real perspective while they often confuse one property for the other.
When renters begin their search for a new apartment, some expect a painless, minutes-long process, like any other online shopping experience. Others understand that the task might be more involved, requiring a few hours of comparing prices and reading online reviews. But sadly, today’s renter journey more often involves days or weeks of going from location to location, meeting with leasing agents and touring properties.
But, times are changing. At one point in time, people needed to see a place or a product in-person before making a purchase decision, but technology has changed the way people search for, find and buy—and society has adapted. Today, there are generations of people, from baby boomers to millennials, who are tech-savvy. We are living in the Amazon generation, and people have been conditioned to expect ‘1-click’ immediate gratification, where a visit online can result in a box of goods shipped to you the next day, all without having to leave your home.
Mapping the future of apartment searching
Thankfully, as with many of life’s other burdens, technology has already vastly lightened the load when it comes to renting an apartment. The same way that anyone with access to the internet can search, shop, and buy virtually any commodity, renters crave the familiarity and convenience of technology as it applies to finding a new home. As a result, properties that give renters the ability to engage digitally are creating significant competitive advantage.
It starts with a simple Google search or a visit to an ILS, which kickstarts the process and allows users to begin researching and information gathering about possible options. At that point, a renter begins in earnest to satisfy four key criteria: location, availability, price and unit location.
The first three criteria—location, availability, price—are no surprise and are easily found on ILS’s or apartment websites. But, the missing link, and perhaps the most critical piece of information preventing a renter from leasing online instantly is unit location.
When it comes to the property website, management companies spend a lot of time and resources on branding, and often everything else becomes secondary. When a renter finally gets to the floor plans section of a site they only see a rendered list of units, maybe some photos or, if they’re lucky, a Matterport 3D tour, but none of these options offer contextual, location relevance.
A renter wants to know specifically where in a building or community they are potentially going to live. ‘Am I on the 15th floor, corner unit overlooking the beach, or on the 2nd floor interior unit looking at the transit station?’ There are a multitude of reasons why a renter may be attracted to a particular floor and unit location, but the result is clear— give them the ability to see where the unit is within the community and you close the loop on the renter’s journey.
Tech-savvy renters don’t want to browse on apartment websites, and they certainly do not want to schedule apartment tours. They want to search and experience with instantaneous results. This is the reason many properties are implementing interactive building maps like Engrain’s SightMap, which help to contextualize unit location within a building or apartment community. When connected to a property management system these maps can provide rich data visualizations, showcasing real-time pricing, availability, amenities, and other unit level details.
Searchable, filterable, interactive property maps fundamentally change the leasing experience. For owners and managers, they improve lead quality and velocity, introduce new efficiencies that compress and accelerate the lead-to-lease time frame, and all while improving the customer experience. For renters, interactive maps dramatically streamline the apartment search process and deliver the user experience they have come to expect in every other area of their digital lives.
Recognizing this progression in renter behavior and introducing visual search technology satisfies that final, but currently missing, evaluation criteria—unit location.