How to Get Buy-In on Early Preleasing

By Chris Arnold
Early preleasing wide

Progressive marketers in the multifamily space understand that starting onsite activations and early leasing activities can impact lease-up results in tremendous ways.

But just as more and more marketers shift to this mindset, there are still just as many (or more!) developers and owners who still need to catch up with this evolution.

In-house marketers or hired third-party partners alike, selling this idea into a project can be complex. After all, it asks for more investment in an already tight capital stack.

Since completing dozens of lease-ups over the last half-decade, we've come up against this more than a few times! Below, I'll assemble a few recommendations to get your team(s) on board so preleasing activities can begin as soon as possible.

But before we get to that, why start early to begin with?

What should your framing be to leadership?

Here are a few talking points:

  • Starting early means building a list we can nurture.
  • Starting early enables residents to feel included.
  • Starting early is an opportunity to gather fast feedback.
  • Starting early is an investment in your project's ROI.

On the flip side of these, though, we'll often find the objection to starting preleasing activities early.

Let's run through those one by one and capture how the framing of these conversations can go a long way.

Objection 1

"We don't need to get a list of people together that early. The timing will be off for their housing needs."

Your response: Nurturing potential residents will always be a challenging science. Yes, the fact is that many on the list will disqualify themselves over the next (8mos/10mos/1yr) for one reason or another.

Changes in life circumstances are endless (location, family, career, and more). But that's OK.

Remember that a list that grows from 5 to 50 to 250 over months of consistency means that the leasing team will have 250 more candidates to work when leasing activities ramp up compared to starting cold.

Furthermore, those 250 will have told their friends and family. The additional organic interest from those conversations is priceless.

Simply put, this is a low investment, high upside motion in the lease-up marketing stack.

Objection 2

"Renters won't feel included just because of a few emails. They can't even see the building yet. It's a construction site."

Your response: There is a golden rule surrounding inclusion, and it has to do with the difference in feeling like someone is in front of the curtain or behind it.

Is the potential resident sitting in the crowd with everyone else waiting for something to happen, or are they backstage?

Do they see the countertop installation photos, the dog-run grass going in, and the coffee shop concept coming to life? Or, are they kept waiting, with nothing to go on, like most communities?

Inclusion, in this sense of the word, is all about the little things during the construction phase. People want to see progress as they imagine selecting a property for their new home.

Objection 3

"Why would we care about the opinions of someone who may not even live in our building? Let's leave the feedback to our internal team."

Your response: Who is the best group of people to ask about that last-minute paint color or surface top installation? The interior design team is the easy answer, but what about residents already considering the property?

Thinking about it: if you're choosing between dark and light wood, or matte versus satin, or even gym equipment brands, why not ask those you're nurturing as well?

"Hey, future resident, would you prefer Rogue Fitness equipment and free weights over ellipticals and stair steppers? How would you use the space? We want to hear from you!"

It could be a touch out of the box, but imagine the feedback you could gather directly from your future resident base. It's powerful. Refer back to Objection 2, as well.

Objection 4

"We don't have this in the budget. Every penny matters when it comes to marketing, and this adds too much expense."

Your response: Let's say that our 100 luxury units (for example) average $2,500/mo in rent, and our target is $250K/mo NOI.

We can estimate stabilizing over nine months if we decide to abandon early onsite activations, nurturing campaigns, etc. But, if we invest an extra $50K (for round numbers!) in these early activities, we could estimate stabilizing in five months.

Four months faster and approaching an additional $1M in NOI as compared to limping into stabilization in just under a year.

It might not be in the budget now, but it needs to be! Investing today will make the project money in the end.

Marketing Confidence

It can be a tall order fighting for every little piece of marketing budget, but when framed well and aligned with a story that makes sense, it's an easier conversation.

Developers and owners care a lot about investment levels, NOI, and of course, ROI. As they should – there is a lot on the line for them and their capital partners.

Having said that, building a swell of brand support for your property early and often can be the difference between a rapid and successful lease-up and a slow, painful, arduous process that takes longer than anyone expected.

Choose wisely, and fight for what will move the needle!

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