Talk to your Web designer or host about adding features that will help you stand out to prospects and improve relations with tenants.
Here are some website features to consider:
Downloadable forms. Make it easy for prospects to apply for an apartment. Post your application form on your website so that prospects can download and print it from their computer. Also consider including other documents you think may be important or helpful, such as your tenant selection plan, a map of your property, or floor plans of each size apartment.
If you make documents available for download, convert any word processing files to the PDF format before posting. This will ensure that prospects who download your forms can't alter them.
Maintenance requests. Add an online form so tenants can alert you to maintenance and repair issues easily and at any hour. The form should ask tenants for all the information you might need to respond to their request.
Community bulletin board. Make your tenants feel like they're part of a close-knit community. Include a tenants-only bulletin board in which tenants can list job postings, items for sale (or wanted for purchase), lost or found items, and announcements. To be sure all postings are relevant and free of offensive material, review and approve all submissions.
Helpful resources. Include links to useful neighborhood resources, such as the weather report, a local news station, your municipality's street cleaning or garbage collection schedule, nearby attractions, and neighborhood restaurant reviews. Invite tenants to e-mail you with additional link suggestions.
Online rent payment. Accepting credit cards requires a small fee, but you may find that it's well worth it. Many people prefer the convenience of online billing to the traditional check-in-the-mail, so there's no doubt many of your tenants will appreciate this amenity. And you may get your monthly rent payments sooner.
Ask your Web designer about setting up an online payment system for tenants. If you're creating your website on your own, ask your Web host about your options or search for "accepting credit cards" on the Web to learn about convenient third-party solutions.
Respond Promptly to Web Inquiries
If you invite prospects to contact you by e-mail or by completing an online form on your website, keep track of all inquiries and be sure to respond promptly and consistently to each one. If you delay even a few days, a prospect may wonder whether you got the message and may look elsewhere. If you don't respond to an inquiry at all, you risk that a prospect will accuse you of ignoring her inquiry for a discriminatory reason (for instance, because her name implies she is Hispanic or her grammar and vocabulary suggests that she wasn't born in the United States).
If you accept inquiries through an online form, have prospects reach a confirmation page that thanks them for their inquiry and assures them that someone will reply within one or two business days. If prospects e-mail you directly, set up an automated reply (using your e-mail program's out-of-office assistant) that accomplishes this task.
To learn about more ways landlords can improve their business while minimizing risks, get Every Landlord's Property Protection Guide: 10 Ways to Cut Your Risk Now, by Ron Leshnower (Nolo).
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