by Derek Lobo
At last check the vacancy rate in the GTA was hovering at 2.7%, and has been up considerably right across Canada. Considering the numbers provided by the CMHC and other research firms, if you're an owner with a vacancy rate higher than 3%, chances are the marketplace isn't your problem. In our experience with many owners facing the same situation, we've found it to be a combination of the following:
Anemic Marketing: Gone are the days when a simple ad in the classifieds along with a generic "For Rent" sign was enough to bring in the traffic needed to quickly lease up a site. Now owners are facing aggressive competition combined with many concessions ranging from a sign-up bonus to a months free rent yet many owners have changed little about their marketing strategies. A well-planned marketing plan incorporating innovative ideas is the first step in boosting occupancy without having to resort to concessions. If you're giving away freebies, then you haven't given enough thought to marketing.
Poor Salesmanship: Owners need to realize that leasing agents are in fact salespeople and therefore must take a sales approach to renting apartments. Considering the competition and state of the marketplace, an agent can no longer just answer the phone and show apartments they have to go beyond the basics and ask for the sale. Making use of a targeted leasing seminar that covers everything from telephone techniques to closing, along with ongoing refresher courses can help turn an average agent into a first class salesperson. A training seminar that focuses on closing techniques can help increase your community's closing rate by over three times than without one.
Infrequent Evaluation: The simplest way to measure the effectiveness of your leasing staff is to have them anonymously mystery shopped. Shopping your agents will improve your front line performance, and help you reduce one of your biggest expenses: loss due to vacancy. Reduce your advertising costs by teaching your agents how to make the most of every call and how to entice more callers to visit your community. It costs a lot of money to make the telephone in your leasing office ring. Don't you want to know how those calls are being handled?
Identify and Correct Problems: A good mystery shopping report will identify your front line's strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to focus attention on problem areas. Ultimately, the report should provide guidelines on how to teach your front line how to increase your traffic numbers, the number of applicants, and ultimately, your occupancy percentage.