The pandemic immediately affected apartment leasing activity, but about six weeks after the pandemic started, leasing activity recovered to normal levels. Quarantine, distance learning, and work-from-home policies encouraged people to move to more accommodating homes, which increased the demand for leasing. However, the leasing process has changed since the pandemic started, and those changes – virtual leasing – will take longer to get back to normal.
"At the start of the pandemic, our early data indicated a significant drop in lead volumes as people in a number of US states became accustomed to home work and physical distancing mandates." Stacy Holden, Industry chief and director AppFoliotells GlobeSt.com. “After about six weeks, however, leasing activity largely recovered to the expected level. There are geographical differences as the timing of the effects of the pandemic varies but people continue to want to be drawn to places that suit their needs. Indeed, one could argue that the experience of quarantine at home for so many months has led many renters to seek their next home for a change of scene or something better for their new normal. "
In addition to lifestyle changes such as work-from-home and remote learning that created demand for larger spaces, many people also had the flexibility to move farther away from work to more affordable markets. This trend again led to leasing activities. "With many people having the opportunity to work remotely this year, the need to live near the office may have decreased for some," says Holden. “Without them, it might have encouraged some people to find homes in less populated areas outside of the urban centers, ultimately increasing leasing demand in the suburbs and decreasing it in large cities. In addition, there are more vacancies in urban areas where there are many colleges and universities as students do not physically return to school this semester. "
However, it is more difficult today than it used to be to lease units. “Pandemic or not, there will always be vacancies. The problem is not that units sit in the market without moving – the demand is still there in many regions – the problem so far is that it is simply more difficult to move the leasing process forward in a distant reality, ”says Holden. "But now it is definitely time for property managers to prepare their businesses to thrive in all market conditions."
This change in the leasing process was more of a nuisance than the sudden drop in leasing activity at the start of the pandemic. “Leasing has always been a personal process, so moving to physical distancing has been a major disruptive factor in the way the industry has historically converted leads into new residents,” says Holden. “This is the biggest trend in leasing during the pandemic – a monumental shift towards the virtual implementation of leasing activities. It's also a trend that, given the flexibility and convenience it offers potential residents and leasing agents alike, we actually expect to stay long term. "