Apartment Websites, Apartment Guides & Craigslist

Guest post by Georgia Fojo, University of Florida Advertising Senior.

As our charming group of 6 interns stood proudly in front of our audience, we knew we were ready to show off all the research, insights and tidbits that we gained from our internship with Swamprentals.com-an online apartment finder in Gainesville, FL.  Presenting our slideshow Insights from the Inside, each intern segmented a part of our research and funneled the results. We decided to do a grand presentation and share our views with several community managers in and around Gainesville and provide an open forum for discussion. This was done to determine what properties could do to better their apartment ratings and satisfy incoming and existing renters.

My topic focused on apartment’s individual websites, printed apartment guides/magazines and online classifieds.

In understanding individual websites I first had to ask the question: What do prospects WANT to see on an apartment community’s website?

In our research we established that personal search is the number one influence in turning traffic into leases. So, when prospects visit your website, this is the chance to capture their attention. With that said, they want to see current prices, specials and amenities. Prospects are more willing to continue their search if they have a feel for price range. It is crucial to create a “feel” for an apartment complex online and create a virtual sense of community. Prospects want to see how an apartment looks on the inside.  This can be done through virtual tours, videos and pictures.

In traditional print magazines, we emphasized that this is where brand building happens.
Here is the opportunity to capture attention and build awareness- not to list prices.
According to our research, 32% of people want to get an idea from print, and then they look online.

With printed apartment guides, let’s be honest, they are less of an influence than they once were, but some people are still using them. In fact, according to our research they are neck and neck with magazines. Prospects still want to get a sense of the community through pictures, but we are seeing that the online influence is more powerful.

And lastly, the online classifieds. We went about determining the effectiveness of this by doing a study over the course of a 2 day period. We created a post for a car on Craigslist versus a paid classified on Autotrader to see what kind of traffic each would receive.
The results were interesting. Craigslist received over 12+ email inquiries whereas Autotrader received 2 emails. It was clear after just two days that Craigslist brings in unqualified, inefficient and often time consuming traffic that does not lead to sales. Autotrader interests were ready to buy sales even though the paid posting had lower accessibility. This means less traffic, but more qualified traffic.

So, ask yourself: Do you really need the unqualified traffic?

It’s important to weigh the hidden cost of having traffic that is not viable.  Though the postings on Craigslist are free, they can be time consuming when dealing with phone calls versus focusing your energies in more effective ways.

See other posts from "Insights from the Inside - A renter's perspective on finding your apartment":

    1. Insights from the Inside – Introduction to our work
    2. Word of Mouth & Social Media for Apartments
    3. Best Practices for Apartments Using an Internet Listing Service (ILS)
    4. Apartment Websites, Apartment Guides & Craigslist
    5. Apartment Reviews & the Upside to Uncertainty
    6. You’ve Been Shopped, Gainesville Apartments!
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