For most, the experience of leasing an apartment has not kept up with renters’ expectations. In today’s multifamily climate with slowing rent growth and consistent staffing challenges, operators must provide a personalized 24/7 self-service renter experience to compete for leads. Often, staffed leasing office hours don’t align with times that renters actually search for their next home — typically nights and weekends when most offices are closed. 

That’s according to Sarah Randolph, director of marketing technology at RKW Residential, an NMHC top 50 third-party manager with more than 35,000 units under management, who discovered the insight when testing Funnel’s AI virtual leasing agent, which Randolph and the RKW team named “Kit” (short for “keep in touch”). 

“We use Kit almost as if they’re a leasing team member,” says Randolph. “They work hand in hand with our team to communicate with prospects, convert them — and schedule property tours.” 

Using the AI assistant that’s built directly on Funnel’s CRM is making the leasing process more friendly and responsive for both renters and onsite teams. Additionally, as a third-party multifamily property management firm, Randolph says it’s also helping RKW Residential attract and win new business. “RKW’s high-tech, high-touch platform, augmented by AI, is one of our key differentiators,” says Randolph.

The New Normal for Property Search 

When RKW Residential first implemented Kit, the company opted for a slow, strategic rollout to understand its impact before expanding it. 

“We did a case study comparing two sister properties in the same submarket to fully understand the impact of an AI assistant on lead nurturing,” says Randolph. “It quickly became obvious that Kit had a very positive impact on the community.” 

During the first 90 days at the community leveraging Funnel’s AI, 100% of prospects received an immediate response, even after hours, when the team wasn’t available. Additionally, 70% to 72% of tours were fully scheduled, after hours, by Kit. 

“As a marketer working to generate leads, the last thing you want to hear is that we’re missing an opportunity to sell the community to the prospective renter and be part of their apartment shopping experience,” says Randolph. “With Funnel’s virtual leasing agent, we have an advantage to get in front of the prospect on the platform they’ve chosen, at the time they’ve chosen it.” 

Supporting Centralization and New Business 

There is a perpetuated misconception that the centralized operating model doesn’t apply to third-party managers, RKW’s centralization and AI journey serve as proof that the long-standing myth is an incorrect limiting belief. Along with the virtual leasing agent capabilities, Funnel’s platform enables easy management of leads at many properties through their single guest card data architecture, which only has one record of the renter, no matter how many in-portfolio properties they’re actively shopping. 

This renter-centric architecture drives efficiency and an ideal renter experience because it avoids the wasted time associated with traditional property-centric technology architecture: logging in to multiple individual properties within the CRM and allows specialized centralized teams to optimize each part of the customer journey. The centralized operating model the technology unlocks, as well as the sophisticated AI provides RKW a competitive advantage when speaking with new owner groups seeking a third-party property management partner. 

“Our clients rely on us to understand the tools we use to lease their buildings and keep residents happy,” says Randolph. “Many expect automation, and using the virtual leasing agent that is built to work cohesively with the renter-centric CRM puts us ahead of the game.” 

When asked about the first steps to take when starting with a virtual leasing agent, Randolph recommends starting with the perfect streamlined, self-service renter experience in mind. “My number one recommendation to anyone testing a new platform, but especially with AI, is to ask plenty of questions, participate in multiple demos, and dive into all aspects of the functionality. Measure the results but, even more important, consider the renter experience.”