Four Killer Mistakes that Turn the Leasing Process into an Apartment Horror Story


As an employee at a leading multifamily technology provider, it’s easy for me to take for granted the apartment leasing process. It’s natural for me to think that every apartment community at the end of the street has a full suite of marketing and leasing products that enable prospective renters to arrive at a property knowing, in some cases, as much about an apartment community as the leasing agent.

But the dark reality is that without the proper balance of technology, customer service, and good old-fashioned how-do-you-do salesmanship; today’s leasing process can turn into an American horror story. Without this balance, prospective residents can vanish into thin air just as quickly as a vampire bursting into flames at sunrise.

The Psycho Search for an Apartment

I chatted with a coworker recently about his psycho search for a new place to live because of a failed exorcism. He had to sever several apartment communities from his list because of a ghost of an online presence, buried information, and frightful customer service.

I listened in macabre fascination as he recounted his ghastly leasing experience:

I searched several apartment communities in my area, using Ghougle as my guide only to learn that several didn’t come up on searches. Further, one apartment agent insisted I tour a unit and experience the amenities in person rather than provide all the information in advance. My Sunday afternoon was slaughtered when I found out that there were no hexagram floor plans available for the apartment that fit my budget. Later I learned that I would not have been able to fill out an application online.

Oh, the horror. The horror.

When Leasing Becomes a Nightmare on Elm Street

It’s hard to believe that apartment communities in the Internet age would lack for information, and fail to capture new residents during the leasing process. It’s like Jason letting teenagers leave Camp Crystal Lake without so much as a machete scar!

But just like a scene out of a horror movie, no matter how serene and quaint that little cabin in the woods may appear, something sinister is always lurking.

Here are four mistakes an apartment community can make that will surely kill a prospective resident’s interest in leasing from you faster than Freddie Krueger at a narcoleptics’ convention.

Killer Mistake #1: Missing Apartment Property Websites

As crazy as it sounds, there are still apartment properties that are missing community websites. The lack of a quality website – or one at all – is a surefire way to be overlooked by prospective residents searching online for their next place to live, let alone an inability to capture quality online leads.

The apartment community website should be the center of its digital universe. There is no better place – no Internet listing service, no visiting site, no social media site –to credibly talk about the property than the website. An apartment community might as well change its name to The Bates Motel if it doesn’t have a strong web presence.

Killer Mistake #2: Treating Prospects like the Invisible Man

Making your prospects wait is a sure way to drive away business. If you think people like to wait for something, just look at all the zombie-like faces at the DMV. Certainly, there are instances when staffing can’t handle a rush at the office. But when my coworker visited a property he noticed that several families left soon after they learned there would be a 30- to 40-minute wait to visit with an agent.

Think those families returned? Unlikely. At the minimum, a property should offer prospects an opportunity to sign in, either in person or electronically with a kiosk so an agent can get back to them later.

Killer Mistake #3: Torturing Prospects

We live in a self-service oriented culture. Prospective renters want options: from flexible lease terms and pricing, to online leasing and applications. You’re torturing those prospects when you lure them out of their comfort zone and force them to visit the property, complete a bunch of paperwork, and make them wait for the results of a manual credit and background check because “that’s just the way you do business.”

Killer Mistake #4: Decapitating Easy Payment Options

I don’t understand much about the youth of today other than a couple of things: They tend to get killed off in particularly gruesome fashion in horror movies and they HATE writing checks. In fact, I think they would prefer to spend the night in a haunted house than write checks. So if the only payment type you accept is a physical check, you can bet that you’re slicing into your occupancy rates from lost leads.

Carrie or Cinderella? Give Your Leasing Story a Happy Ending

You could end up with less-qualified residents who have a bloody and slightly homicidal history—that you don’t discover until it’s too late due to a weak background check and resident screening—if you’re not more cautious and better equipped for a painless leasing process.

By limiting these killer mistakes, you won’t kill of so many of your leads and hopefully close more leases. Have you encountered any other killer mistakes that turned a leasing fairy tale into a spine-chilling tale of fear?


Image Credit: iStock



Contributor, Property Management Insider

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Michael Cunningham is Content Marketing Manager at ProofHQ, and the former Managing Editor of He worked as a social media manager for RealPage, Inc., a provider of on-demand software solutions that integrate and streamline single-family and a wide variety of multifamily rental property management business functions. He is responsible for promoting the company through various media channels, including editorial, print and online advertising, and social media. Michael received his education at Indiana University where he majored in English.

3 responses to “Four Killer Mistakes that Turn the Leasing Process into an Apartment Horror Story”

  1. Lisa Trosien says:

    Michael, I know that while this is done tongue in cheek, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging a prospect to visit a community. Although online has come a long, long way, getting them to visit is definitely not a ‘killer mistake’.


    • Michael Cunningham says:

      The point I tried to make was about forcing prospects to come to the property because it was the ONLY option for conducting business.

      There is surely value in on-site visits and my point wasn’t to say all of them were bad.

      Thanks for chiming in, Lisa!

      Michael Cunningham
      Managing Editor

  2. Lisa Trosien says:

    Thanks for clarifying!


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