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How Class C and D Properties Can Compete In a Market Full of New Starts

How Class C and D Properties Can Compete In a Market Full of New Starts
October 26, 2021

The housing market can be a difficult place for Class C and D properties. With older construction, less flashy amenities, and less affluent neighborhoods with fewer public services and attractions, Class C and D properties can struggle to appeal to prospective renters. And with plenty of new developments filling out the ranks of A- and B-Class properties, the competition can seem especially stiff.

But the truth is, there’s a market for C- and D-Class communities; the challenge simply lies in figuring out how to tap into it. From our years of experience in apartment marketing across a variety of property classes, we’ve never met a community we couldn’t connect with the right audience, even amid waves of new starts offering additional competition. If you have a C- or D-Class property you’re struggling to market effectively, here are our top four tips toward better apartment marketing results.

Understand Your Audience

If you’re asking yourself why anyone would choose to live at a C- or D-Class property when there are so many A- and B-Class communities out there, you may be overlooking entire sections of the American renter audience. Understanding who your audience is and what motivates them is the first step to a successful real estate marketing strategy.

Start by letting go of your assumptions. Although you may be starting with some good ideas, it’s also important to overcome any potential bias you may have about your audience, especially if you’ve never lived in a C- or D-Class apartment community yourself and therefore lack this insider perspective.

Instead of operating on your own assumptions, it’s time to do some research. First and foremost, get out there and ask actual people what motivates them when choosing where to live. Conducting quick surveys on the street in the neighborhood surrounding your community is an excellent place to start. If you have trouble finding participants, offering to enter people into a drawing for a prize can help overcome this hurdle. You can also send surveys online, gathering responses through services like Survey Monkey or Qualtrics.

person signing apartment lease

In addition to this on-the-ground research, research the demographic and sociographic information of your neighborhood. You might be surprised how much information you can find for free online. One tool we often use is the ESRI Tapestry Segmentation profiles, which provides demographic and sociographic info for over 60 different audience segments in the US. ESRI also has an in-browser Know Your Neighborhood app which allows you to look up audience segmentation info by zip code (scroll down and click “Explore Your Zip Code”).

Don’t Be Afraid of the Word “Affordable”

Now that you’ve ditched your biases in favor of a data-driven approach, it’s time to overcome another common instinct we tend to see among apartment marketers, owners, and property managers. If you’re afraid of the word “affordable,” you’re far from alone. But avoiding this term doesn’t serve you or your audience.

The truth is, one of the primary reasons some residents are drawn to Class C and Class D communities is because they know they’ll get a better deal that suits their budget. For many, cutting-edge amenities and brand new interiors are simply out of their price range, or they’d prefer to save the extra money they’d otherwise spend on these nice-to-haves and instead focus on the essentials. Don’t snub this audience by avoiding terms like “cheap” and “affordable” like they are dirty words. In nearly every market, keyword research shows that search terms including the words “cheap,” “affordable,” and “low cost” get plenty of search volume, revealing just how many are interested in precisely that. By including these words in your website and ad copy, you help this audience weed out the communities that don’t fit their needs and find a community that is perfect for them—namely, yours.

Just in case you still have some hesitation, consider this: There certainly are those for whom “cheap” and “affordable” carry negative connotations. Some prospects will indeed see those terms and use that as a reason to not click on your ad or your website. But this is actually a good thing. The more you qualify your audience by connecting with people who actually want what you offer, the less time, energy, and money you waste on prospects who are more likely to look elsewhere.

example of apartment display ad using the word "affordable"

Show Your Online Reputation Some Love

Class C and D properties tend to be on the older side, which means you’ve had plenty of time to accumulate reviews—and we all know people are more likely to leave a review when angry than when they’re satisfied. Plus, older communities tend to face added maintenance challenges, which are common catalysts for negative online reviews, even if those challenges are resolved later. Not only that, but for Class C and D properties who are in neighborhoods that enjoy less financial stability and less access to public services tend to face higher instances of on-site vandalism, theft, and other crimes, which is also a common reason that some upset residents are inspired to take their concerns online.

These overlapping factors can all come together to spell disaster for your online reputation if you’re not careful. But there’s a lot you can do to turn your reputation around and show residents both current and future that you care. To see the tips we’ve compiled from our own Reputation Management experts, check out the posts below.

How To Make Online Property Reviews Work for You

How to Give a Boost to Your Business’ Online Reputation

Enhance Your Online Visibility

Do you have a modern website? Updated Google My Business page? Social media accounts? Active search ads? Just because your building may be older doesn’t mean your marketing tactics have to be. These days, nearly every housing search begins online, so enhancing your online visibility is one of the quickest ways to connect with your audience.

For starters, be sure to keep your Google My Business page up to date. Even if you don’t have a shiny new website with great UX, simply having an up-to-date GMB page with accurate contact information, leasing office hours, and property photos helps make you visible to the wide range of prospects who begin their apartment search on Google.

If you don’t have that shiny new website with great UX we mentioned, it might be time for an update. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but an outdated website with broken links and missing information is easy for prospects to spot and likely to disqualify you early on in a prospect’s buyer journey. If building a new website from scratch isn’t in the cards, consider at least creating a single landing page with all your most important information and links to apply online. A single landing page can be cheaper, quicker, and sometimes just as effective as a multi-page website.

Finally, get in front of your audience with strategic ad campaigns. For example, YouTube ads are a great awareness tactic, especially for Gen Z and Millennial prospects. And you don’t have to have stunning photography or videography assets to make them work for you—stock photography and videography, paired with upbeat music and a compelling message can be all you need to make a difference. Geofencing may also be a useful tactic to reach more renters who may already be living or working in your neighborhood and looking for a place to live. And Google Search Ads are a must for driving site traffic and conversions among prospects who are actively searching for housing.

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