Rental Trends: Online Self-Service Features are the Top Factors Impacting Rental Decisions


Woman Using Resident Portal

When it comes to succeeding in business, nothing is more important than knowing what your customers want and adapting to changes in customer demand. In our industry, as renter preferences develop, we have to work hard to stay ahead of the curve, or we will fall far behind.

A recent survey of renter attitudes, published in the June issue of UNITS magazine, highlighted some new shifts in resident demands that every property manager needs to take into consideration. The results suggest that a robust online resident portal is not only important to residents, but that it is quickly becoming essential to competing in an increasingly digital rental market.

Apartment Renters Demand Online Self Service via Resident Portal

In the survey conducted by SatisFacts and 30 Lines, more than 5,000 residents were asked to rate how important various factors are when it comes to influencing their rental decision. The highest-rated factor was the ability to conduct online rent payments. Online service requests came in at number five. And the ability to communicate easily with site staff – which can be done through an online resident portal – came in at number four.

All told, if you don’t have a resident portal that allows renters to pay rent, submit a service request, and contact the office online, you’re missing out on three of the top five things that renters look for when leasing a new apartment.

What stood out to me about the survey results was that when it comes time to renew a lease, renters are often looking for totally different things. When asked what influences their decision to renew, these same renters focused more on the intangibles – quality of maintenance service and quality of customer service by the office staff were two of the top three responses.

Ultimately, the quality of service is what is most important to residents, but this is something that is very difficult to evaluate before moving into an apartment. Prospective renters don’t really know whether they will receive excellent customer service at an apartment community. So instead, new renters will look to things like online payments and online service requests as a signal of the type of company they are dealing with.

The Online Renter Experience has Reached a Tipping Point

I believe that we are quickly approaching a tipping point for the online renter experience. More and more renters are demanding digital and online self-service technologies from their apartment communities. Where online payments and online service requests were once nice amenities, they are quickly becoming expectations. Those who still require residents to trundle down to the leasing office with a paper check each month will run the risk of seeming old-fashioned, and ultimately not meeting their residents’ demand.

Soon, even offering online payments won’t be enough to stand out from the crowd. As these features continue to become the norm, cutting-edge companies must continue to adopt new technology that appeals residents, such as the ability to sign or renew a lease online. As technology continues to develop—and as resident demands evolve—the tech-savvy property management companies will stay ahead of the curve.

What about your company? Do you offer online rent payments and online service requests today? Can residents sign or renew their lease online? How do you stay ahead of the technology curve and compete as a tech-savvy company?


Senior Vice President – Payments, Portals & CSM

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Kimberly has extensive expertise in rules and regulations to maintain compliance in support of the Payments system. She is certified by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) as an accredited ACH professional. She is also a member of the ACH Marketing Advisory Council Committee for SWACHA (a regional association of NACHA) and on Wells Fargo’s advisory board council. Before joining RealPage, she was the director of operations for RealPage’s payment partner, Select Payment (acquired by Jack Henry and Associates in 2006).

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