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What is a Lease Up? Apartment Lease Up Strategy & Guide

Lease Up Your Apartment Faster.

Slow lease ups are crazy expensive. Take a scenario of a 200 unit property that rents for an average of $2,000 per month. A 12 month Lease Up would have a vacancy cost of $2,200,000. That same property, if leased up in 6 months, would have a vacancy cost of just $1,360,000. That's a difference of over $840,000 in rental income.

With so much on the line, a sense of urgency and the right strategy can be the difference between success and failure in this regard. At Lease Engine, we make it our job to lease up apartments fast -- and if you read on, we'll spill the beans on some of the ways we do it.

If you're planning your lease up strategy, this is the place to be.

Our standard lease up plan is pretty straightforward, and it involves six critical marketing initiatives:

  1. Developing strong branding and property identity
  2. Investing in compelling building signage and amazing renders (and or photography) 
  3. Showcasing your property and begin pre-leasing through a website
  4. Leveraging PR, social media, influencer marketing, and local news 
  5. Running apartment PPC and digital advertising to secure deposits
  6. Maximizing reach by posting on ILS systems like Zillow and apartments.com

This is the lease up checklist we use with our clients at Lease Engine. I’m happy to share it with you and show how to get the most out of your lease-up budget. 

I’ve even included FAQs and bonus lease up tips from apartment lease up experts at the end.

Keep reading for more.

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap to higher occupancy.

What is a Lease Up? Lease Up Meaning

A lease up or “lease-up period” is the time ranging from pre-leasing and stabilization for an apartment or multifamily housing project. A standard lease-up period takes between 5-7 months. But without the right plan in place, this phase can take upwards of a year depending on the property’s location and the availability of residents. 

Stabilization is the point when a lease up property reaches its breakeven occupancy rate - usually around 92ish%. The faster a project can reach stabilization; the sooner it can expect steady operating revenue and higher NOI (net operating income).

Why You Need a Defined Lease Up Strategy

Steady cash flow is a key reason for a defined lease-up strategy. 

Without a steady stream of tenants, your building may not generate positive net income. This could lead to a longer time to stabilization, higher risk, and overextension.

The faster you can lease up, demonstrate ROI, and reach stabilization; the faster you can satisfy your investors and lenders too.

Having a defined lease up strategy also means:

  • Your apartment community will develop its presence in the neighborhood faster.
  • Leasing up properties can sometimes secure higher rental income.

So what does an effective apartment lease up strategy look like?

Lease Engine’s Apartment Lease-Up Checklist

  1. Develop strong branding and property identity 

Branding is the foundation for all of your apartment marketing and promotional efforts. Your investment rests on this foundation for its lifetime.  

  1. Invest in building signage and photography

Signage and photography are often overlooked extensions of branding and identity. But they’re critical for making sure people can find your building and identify it from other properties.

  1. Make a strong first impression through a website 

A website is often the first place people go to learn more about the community you’re building. You only get one shot at a first impression, so make it count. 

  1. Leverage PR, social media, influencer marketing, and local news 

Getting in touch with local news reporters and influencers helps establish your name. It builds awareness and can lead to trust in your market – in some cases it's free. 

  1. Run apartment PPC and digital advertising to secure deposits

Apartment PPC can help you reach prospective tenants and stand out from your competition. PPC allows you to bid on keywords like “New Apartments Near Me” and send traffic to your website to generate leads.

  1. Maximize reach by posting on Zillow and apartments.com 

This may seem obvious, but it's an important aspect of any successful lease-up. Optimizing your appearance on these platforms can help you secure early deposits.

6 Marketing Ideas for Apartment Leasing

I’ve defined lease-up in real estate terms and shared Lease Engine’s 6-point checklist.

But now, let’s dive deeper into each aspect of those lease-up strategies.

1. Develop strong branding and property identity

The first thing you should do when marketing your community is to establish a brand. 

Branding allows you to position yourself uniquely compared to your competition. It also helps you tell people the story of what your community is all about. 

We highly recommend working with apartment lease up experts like Lease Engine to build your brand.

Branding can seem like a big expense. But it’s a critical early investment that pays dividends over the life of your building.

2. Invest in building signage, 3D modeling, and photography

Consider investing in high-quality photography and visually striking assets depending on the construction stage of your apartment building. These assets can play a critical role in marketing efforts such as paid advertising and creating eye-catching signage.

If your building is in the early stages of construction and you don't have photographs, you can hire a freelancer on platforms like Fiverr. They can help you create stunningly realistic 3D renderings of the building based on your architectural plans.

For signage, you can choose something simple yet informative that highlights the building to passersby before it's completed. Alternatively, if your building is far enough along, consider  bold, attractive signage on the building or at the entrance.

Creating exceptional apartment signage and captivating images can make a lasting impression. It can also provide a snapshot of what your building and community will look and feel like. 

Signage and visuals help people passing by envision the building and can inspire them to consider it as their future home.

3. Make a strong first impression through a website 

Four major factors contribute to how well your website makes a proper first impression, including:

  1. Navigation
  2. Mobile-friendly responsiveness
  3. Delightful user experience
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO)


Your website should be easy to navigate. Nothing is more frustrating for visitors than having to search for contact information or request more information.

The idea here is not only to provide a compelling visual experience. But also to reduce friction and provide as much clarity to visitors as possible. 

Mobile-friendly responsiveness

Secondly, you’ll want to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly.

Visitors should be able to access the same information across all devices without having to worry about missing key details.

Today, more people browse housing websites on their phones than on computers. Therefore, it's particularly important to ensure that websites are optimized for mobile devices to reach the largest possible audience.

Delightful user experience

You also want your visitors to experience delight when checking out your website.

You don’t want to bombard them with information or distract them with unrelated content. They should: 

  • Feel welcomed through an inviting aesthetic
  • Get exactly what they came to the site for
  • And engage with your brand in positive ways

Think of your website as an online brochure or digital flyer - it’s your 24/7 digital brand representative.

Search optimization (SEO)

A lot goes into optimizing your website for search. Apartment SEO is a whole topic we cover in other articles.

But one of the best ways to do this is by working with apartment lease up experts from the beginning. They can help to optimize your site for local search through services like Google My Business and more.

Already optimized your website for search using SEO best practices? Over time you can expect it to rank for specific search phrases like “apartments near me” in Google.

4. Leverage PR, social media, influencer marketing, and local news

Consider reaching out to local reporters and news outlets relevant to your area. 

Are you able to get in touch with a reporter at your local newspaper or TV station? If yes, tell them about your new apartment community. Ask if they would be interested in writing an article or covering your development in a report. 

Overall, the more buzz you can generate around your property, the better. You stand a better chance of filling up empty apartments and reaching stabilization faster.

Also, don't forget to post and share on social media channels. 

Social media is another great way to spread the word about your apartment property and attract potential tenants.

Just make sure that your social media posts are professional and polished. You don't want to come off as spammy. 

Building a social following can be hard work in the beginning. This is why we recommend teaming up with local influencers. They can help to grow your following quickly. 

Oftentimes, these influencers will ask for payment. But this can still be a cost-effective way to generate interest in your building or complex.

5. Run apartment PPC and digital advertising to secure deposits

Apartment PPC or digital ads, like Google Ads, Meta (Facebook Ads), and Snapchat, are fantastic tools for driving visitors to your website. 

These tools are especially valuable during the pre-leasing phase. But can still play a vital role once you open your doors.

The trick is executing a strategy that ensures people see your building when actively searching for a new home. 

Keep in mind that apartment PPC is a bit of science and art. It takes research and know-how to execute properly. Otherwise, you stand to waste a lot of marketing dollars. 

At Lease Engine, we often help our clients run apartment PPC campaigns to:

  • Target renters who are moving soon.
  • Target renters who have recently moved to the area.
  • Target renters who are looking for a new apartment.
  • Target renters at competitors' buildings through geofencing.

We also help our clients showcase amenitized living by running ads that:

  • List the amenities that matter most to your target audience.
  • Include a photo of each amenity.
  • Include a description of each amenity, including what it is and why it matters to tenants.
  • Include a link to the amenity page. This should include details about each amenity in more detail and what makes it special for tenants, as well as links back to the main site if applicable (for example, if there’s an application process).
  • Include a link to the amenity page on a mobile device so potential tenants can see it before they sign up.

6. Maximize reach by posting on Zillow and apartments.com 

Posting and sponsoring your listings on Zillow and Apartments.com is a standard apartment marketing practice. 

We always recommend “Playing the game” in this space. But we also offer a word of caution. 

Relying on these platforms alone can leave you stuck in the lease up phase for longer than desired. It can also result in higher-than-expected tenant acquisition costs. 

Still, these are powerful platforms and are fantastic places to reach prospective renters. 

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap to higher occupancy.

Bonus Lease Up Tips from Apartment Lease Up Experts 

I’ve covered the essential components of a successful lease up marketing strategy. But here are some next-level tips and tricks.

1. Monitor and focus on improving your lead-to-lease conversion rates

Already have leads coming in through your website? Converting the most qualified people should then be your number-one goal. 

But measuring success here can be like walking in the dark - unless you know what to look for. 

This is where Lead-to-Lease conversion measurement and optimization come in. It should be one of the key metrics tracked by your leasing team. 

Curious to see how your team is stacking up? Check out Lease Engine’s free Lead-to-Lease conversion calculator.

2. Plan Ahead -- Understand the Costs of Marketing and the Opportunity Cost of Not

Conducting a scenario analysis before your lease up endeavor can be one of the most powerful ways to plan for and allocate marketing and leasing resources ahead of time. While yes, marketing can be an expensive part of your lease up, a long lease up is almost ALWAYS more expensive. That's why we built our Lease Up Marketing ROI spreadsheet, and created a template version for anyone to use.

Discover the Real Cost of Your Lease Up
Lease Ups Can be Expensive. But the true cost isn't what you think. Get our free lease up calculator to intelligently plan your next project.
Get the free planner

3. Deploy one-time leasing offers to get people in the door

Consider offering a one-time discount or using a loss leader strategy. You can price one or two rooms lower than the rest of those in your building. It's a great way to get people in the door.

You can incentivize potential tenants during the lease-up period by offering deals. Consider waiving the second month's rent or providing a temporary discount. 

Deals can be a great tool for converting indecisive apartment seekers. It's important to remember the value of each lease. Move-in specials offering add-ons worth $500, $1,000, or more aren’t uncommon.

4. Nurture leads with email marketing

Email marketing is a great way to keep in touch with prospective renters. It's a proven way to nurture leads through the leasing process. 

It's also a great opportunity to improve your lead-to-lease conversion rate. This can help you fill more units faster.

The trick is to make sure you don't overdo it. You don't want to send too many emails or overwhelm your prospects with information too soon. 

Try to find interesting things to highlight about your new building in your emails and keep a consistent cadence.

Lease Up Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked lease up questions we hear from prospective clients.

What is the typical lease-up period for an apartment building?

The typical lease-up period for an apartment building can vary. It depends on various factors like location, market conditions, size of the building, amenities, and marketing efforts. Generally, lease-up periods can range from a few months to a year or more. 

However, a typical lease-up period for a newly constructed apartment building can take around six to nine months. This period may be shorter or longer. It often depends on local market conditions and the demand for rental properties in the area.

What strategies reduce the lease-up period for an apartment building?

Several strategies can reduce the lease-up period for an apartment building and help attract tenants more quickly. Here are some examples:

  1. Pre-leasing

Property owners and managers can start pre-leasing units before the building is completed or even before construction begins. This can help build anticipation for the new building and lock in lease agreements before opening.

  1. Offering incentives

Move-in specials, such as reduced rent, gift cards, and waived application fees can incentivize prospective residents to sign a lease.

  1. Utilizing social media and online advertising

Property owners and managers can use Facebook, Instagram, and online advertising to promote the building and its amenities.

  1. Working with local businesses and employers

Partnering with local businesses and employers to offer discounts or other incentives to employees can attract more tenants.

  1. Hosting events

Hosting open houses, events, and tours can give potential tenants an opportunity to see the building and its amenities in person. This can help build excitement and encourage them to sign a lease more quickly.

  1. Offering flexible lease terms

Offering flexible lease terms, like month-to-month or short-term leases can attract tenants who need flexible living situations.

What are the benefits of a shorter lease-up period for an apartment building?

There are several benefits of a shorter lease-up period for an apartment building, including:

  1. Faster return on investment 

A shorter lease-up period means building units get occupied more quickly. This generates rental income for the owner or developer sooner. It also helps to recoup investment faster.

  1. Lower vacancy rates

A shorter lease-up period means that the building's units are less likely to sit empty for extended periods. This can help reduce the overall vacancy rate, help the building maintain a positive reputation, and attract more tenants.

  1. Reduced marketing costs

A shorter lease-up period means less investment in marketing materials and advertising efforts. This can help reduce overall costs and increase profitability.

  1. Improved cash flow

A shorter lease-up period can improve the building's cash flow, as rental income starts to come in more quickly. This can help property owners and managers pay down debt, cover expenses, and reinvest in the building.

  1. Greater tenant satisfaction

A shorter lease-up period means tenants can move into their new homes sooner. This reduces the stress and inconvenience of finding a place to live. It can also improve tenant satisfaction and retention, leading to positive word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals.

What are the risks associated with a longer lease-up period for an apartment building?

A longer lease-up period can result in:

  1. Increased holding costs
  2. Higher vacancy rates
  3. Negative cash flow
  4. Reduced profitability
  5. Vulnerability to market changes

All of these factors can pose risks to a lease up property manager or owner.

Schedule a Call With An Apartment Marketing Expert

Get a free expert consultation and create a roadmap to higher occupancy.

Ready to work with an apartment building lease up service?

Leasing up an apartment building can be stress-free with the right strategies. Our apartment lease-up company has the expertise to help you achieve your occupancy and lease-up goals.

With effective branding, public relations, advertising, and community awareness, any well-priced building can thrive in any market.

As lease-up experts, we can offer you the right strategies to achieve your goals. Need more information? Feel free to reach out to our team. We're always happy to help.

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