Your ultimate guide to successful property management onboarding

Welcome to Cloudfox guides, where today, we look at the art of property management onboarding tailored explicitly for student living.

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Your ultimate guide to successful property management onboarding

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Picture this: a new term begins, and the floodgates open with eager students searching for their perfect home away from home. In this competitive landscape, a well-structured property management onboarding experience can be the decisive factor in retaining tenants.

Welcome to Cloudfox guides, where today, we look at the art of onboarding tailored explicitly for student living. 

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Understanding property management onboarding processes for student accommodation 

A well-executed onboarding process is the cornerstone of success when managing student accommodation. Let's dive deeper into the essence of property management onboarding, its significance, and how it sets the groundwork for a thriving property. 


Defining property management onboarding for student accommodation 

Property management onboarding is more than handing over the keys and signing a lease. It's about welcoming new tenants, ensuring a seamless move-in, and establishing a positive first impression.

From the initial inquiry to the move-in day, every interaction shapes the tenant's perception of their new home and your property management company. As such, you must understand your key objectives and how to leverage what you have. 


Key objectives and benefits of a well-structured onboarding process 

An onboarding process done right reaps a host of benefits: 

  • Tenant satisfaction - A well-crafted onboarding experience leads to happier tenants, increased retention rates, and positive word-of-mouth referrals. 
  • Smooth transition - A structured onboarding process reduces confusion, streamlines operations, and helps tenants settle in quickly. 
  • Mitigate potential issues - Property managers can proactively address concerns during onboarding to prevent future complications. 
  • Time and cost efficiency - Efficient onboarding saves you time and allows you to focus on other crucial aspects of property management. 


Now that we've explored the essence and importance of onboarding, let's move on to the next step: "Preparing for onboarding success." We'll guide you through the essential steps to assess property readiness and establish clear onboarding goals. 


How to prepare your PBSA or BTR for onboarding success 

Here are your recommended steps to ensure you are prepared to take on new PBSA or BTR tenants. 


1. Assessing property requirements and readiness

Before diving into onboarding, assessing your property's readiness to welcome new tenants is essential. Conduct a thorough inspection to ensure the property meets safety standards and is move-in ready. We always recommend Inventory Hive to our clients for this step.  


2. Setting clear onboarding goals and expectations

Without a roadmap, it's easy to lose track of onboarding objectives. Define clear, achievable goals, and set expectations for your team to follow. 

Start by determining the ideal timeframes for responding to inquiries, completing tenant applications, finalising lease agreements and taking first instalments. Then set goals for your team to ensure each of these stages is seamless.


3. Identifying necessary resources and team members

Onboarding requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders. Ensure you have the right resources and team members in place:

  • Communication & processing systems - Assess your systems to ensure they are updated with any feedback from last year and are set to automate communication at the right touchpoints in the customer journey. 
  • Dedicated onboarding staff - Designate specific team members to handle onboarding tasks and provide personalised support to new tenants. 
  • Invest in technology and software - Invest in property management software where you need to streamline onboarding workflows and enhance communication. Software like Spike or HeyHub are excellent choices as they can be configured to hand over all the information new residents will need, including key door access and the ability to purchase additional services. 


By assessing property readiness, setting clear goals, and organising the right resources, you'll lay the groundwork for a successful onboarding experience.

Once you have this, you can create a strategy.


Crafting your tailored student onboarding strategy 

Let's create a customised onboarding strategy that caters to your student accommodation needs. Again, we'll do this in steps to make it easy to follow. 


1. Mapping out the onboarding journey for student accommodation properties

Every student's journey starts with a desire for a comfortable and nurturing living space. Here's how you can design an exceptional onboarding experience:

  • Intuitive application process - Simplify the application process with an online platform that allows prospective tenants to apply seamlessly. HubSpot could work well for you here. 
  • Transparent screening - Communicate tenant screening criteria to set realistic expectations for applicants. 
  • Open communication - Make it easy for your students to get the help they need when needed. It's best to consider several self-serve out-of-hours options but back this up with fast and friendly support hotlines.
  • Offer moving-in support - It could be a friendly drop-in for service assistance or offer extra services like help with moving or room bundles and bedroom packs.  Trolly and cages also work extremely well and help prevent damage to lifts and walls. 
  • Make room for feedback - Providing easy ways for students to address issues helps us learn to improve our operations. It also helps us gain trust. 

2. Integrating new technology and software for streamlined processes

Earlier, we mentioned investing in new tech where you need it. Here’s how to tackle that within your strategy:

  • Map out where new tech sits in your system build 
  • Determine what data needs migration and how you can do that safely 
  • Determine where integration is needed rather than migration 
  • And remap your workflow to include your tech team working ahead to provide support and training (Need help here? We can handle system set up for you) 


3. Engaging the right partners and service providers

The success of your property management onboarding also hinges on the expertise and support you receive from partners and service providers. When looking for your new partners, consider the following:

  • Experience and reputation - Look for established companies with a track record of success in managing student accommodation properties. 
  • Tenant-centric approach - Opt for companies prioritising tenant satisfaction and demonstrating a commitment to creating a positive living experience. 
  • Communication, support and responsiveness - Evaluate their communication channels and response time to ensure efficient collaboration. 
  • Offer - Collaborate with suppliers that provide students with extras that you cannot provide yourself, from furniture and bike rentals to property maintenance and checks. 

By engaging the right partners and service providers, you create a support system that fosters efficiency and enhances the overall onboarding experience for your student accommodation. 


Navigating lease agreements and legalities during onboarding 

As a property manager, understanding the legal aspects of student accommodation is paramount to ensuring a smooth onboarding process. This section guides you through essential considerations and best practices for handling lease agreements and legalities. 


Complying with local regulations and tenancy laws for student properties 

Before finalising any lease agreement, familiarise yourself with the local regulations and tenancy laws specific to student accommodation. Consider the following steps:

  • Research local laws - Research the tenancy laws in your region, as they may have specific provisions related to student housing. 
  • Occupancy limitations - Be aware of any restrictions on the number of students allowed per property as per local regulations. 
  • Understand how to handle first-instalments and deposits - Make sure your payment options and gateways comply with charge requirements and safeguard your tenant's privacy. 

Drafting transparent and student-friendly lease agreements 

Clarity and transparency in lease agreements are vital to fostering a positive tenant relationship. Ensure your lease agreements include the following elements:

  • Rental terms - Clearly outline the rental amount, due dates, and acceptable payment methods. 
  • Maintenance responsibilities - Define the responsibilities of both tenants and property managers for property maintenance and repairs. 
  • House rules and policies - Communicate specific regulations, policies, or restrictions to avoid misunderstandings. 
  • Tenancy timelines - Give your students clear timelines of critical dates in their tenancy. Helping them be prepared for inspections helps everything run smoothly and avoids charges. 

Handling deposit and rent collection with ease 

Efficiently managing deposit and rent collection contributes to a stress-free onboarding process. 

Offer multiple secure payment options for tenants' convenience. We recommend Stripe for credit and debit cards and GoCardless for direct debit payments.

Comply with deposit protection schemes mandated by local laws to safeguard tenants' deposits.

Use accounting software that helps you track and report onboarding payments and individual tenant payment histories. We always recommend Xero for this.

Navigating lease agreements and legal issues thoroughly and transparently builds trust with your student tenants from the outset of their tenancy. 


Personalising the onboarding experience for your students 

A friendly and welcoming environment for your student tenants is the key to a successful onboarding process. This section explores how to personalise the onboarding experience and make a lasting impression on your new residents. 


Understanding the unique needs and expectations of student tenants 

Every student is different, and understanding their needs and expectations is essential to tailor the onboarding experience:

  • Communication preferences - Identify their preferred communication channels: email, text messages, or a dedicated online portal. 
  • Academic calendar - Consider the academic calendar to anticipate peak periods when students are most likely to move in. 
  • Accessibility and inclusiveness - Part of a tenant's well-being and happiness is their ability to feel welcomed. Nowhere is more sacred than where we call "home". Exploring your new cohort's needs allows you to adapt and implement strategies beyond their initial onboarding experience to make their new home feel like a home. 

Creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for new arrivals 

First impressions matter, and a warm welcome sets the tone for a positive tenant experience:

  • Personal greeting - Consider welcoming new tenants with a personalised note or welcome basket. 
  • Orientation and welcome events - Host orientation sessions to help students get acquainted with the property and their peers. 
  • Consider event calendars - Don't stop once the onboarding is done. Provide plenty of opportunities for your tenants to build community. Highlighting this during onboarding could win you more thumbs up. 

Handling the pre-arrival process for increased client satisfaction 

The pre-arrival process is like your pre-flight checks – it's an opportunity for your team to make sure all outstanding payments are made, and important information is passed to incoming tenants. 

  • Meeting payment deadlines – Set your payment cut-off date and ensure staff chase payments so that nothing is outstanding at least 2 weeks before moving in day.   
  • Upsell early arrival bookings for a day or two prior to their main lease starting – This will add a little extra income and cut the chaos of moving day down to a minimum. Ensure that you record payments and booking types correctly in your finance system to understand how this worked for you later on. 
  • Talk to students to stagger check-ins - Find out from students what their expected ETA is, as some overseas students may not arrive when your check-in window opens. That will help you stagger arrivals equally throughout the weekend. Systems like Hubspot, StarRez, Spike and Heyhub are great tools for the job! Remember having 300 residents and parents turn up simultaneously can cause havoc on the roads and reception, so plan and allocate timed slots so you can spread the move throughout the weekend. 
  • Cleaning and room checks – All room cleaning and final checks should be completed the week before, including setting up covers in the lifts and extra floor protection for all those heavy boxes. 
  • Provide some refreshments – Provide a range of options from fruit teas to coffee so that your tenants and their families can relax on arrival with the team.  
  • Roster in your team – Ensure that you have as many staff as you need, helping on the floor. Parents will appreciate it and it makes getting to know your tenants so much easier. 

Getting moving weekend right 

Making sure your team is ready for your tenant's moving in day is essential, because if handled wrong, it can quickly spiral into chaos leaving tenants feeling less than happy with their lease. 

  • Make your staff visible – Ensure your staff wear welcome shirts/t-shirts/caps so they can be instantly recognised among a crowd. Remember you’ll be dealing with tenants, their families and movers. 
  • Give each team member a moving day pack – Print off lists of pre-arrival tenants and check in steps, just in case you face system issues on the day. If your staff are prepared, then they’ll feel less flustered if things don’t go to plan and have a natural back-up solution. This also gives your team time to provide vital face-to-face tenant time. 
  • Arrange any keyfobs – If you are still using keyfobs, ensure these are ready days before move in. Speeding up your check-ins allows for a seamless first impression with new tenants. 
  • Confirmation of incentives - If you offered incentives for people to book, now is a great time to get any additional paperwork completed and information handed over. 

Providing essential information and extra resources for a smooth transition 

Empower your student tenants with the information they need to settle in seamlessly:

  • Local services - Offer information on nearby grocery stores, public transportation, and other essential services. 
  • Emergency contacts - Provide emergency contact details for property managers and maintenance staff. 
  • Highlight partners - Partner with local businesses to give your students discounts. Consider your partners to offer a wide range of goods and services that will make student life more manageable (think gyms, coffee shops, book shops, etc.). 
  • Job boards - Incoming students will be looking for work. Help them pay their bills by hosting job boards where local businesses can pin notices when they have vacancies. 

Personalising the onboarding experience and providing the necessary resources demonstrate a genuine commitment to your student tenants' well-being and comfort. Moreover, once word gets out; a good experience can lead to more enquiries! 


How to monitor and optimise your onboarding process 

The best way to get a handle on how well your onboarding process is received is to set up some initial KPIs. Let's take a look at what to include. 


Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) for onboarding success 

Here’s what you’ll want to track: 

  • Tenant retention rate - Monitor how many tenants renew their lease after the first year. 
  • Feedback and satisfaction surveys - Regularly collect feedback through surveys to understand the overall tenant experience. Ensure you include this for those who don’t renew, as learning why people leave is as important as working out if they enjoy the experience of boarding with you. 
  • Time-to-occupancy - Measure the time it takes from application to move-in to identify potential bottlenecks. 
  • Referral rates - Track referral rates during onboarding, specifically referrals from fellow onboarding students - you'd be surprised at how many dissatisfied students actively seek new digs. 

Continuously improving the onboarding experience 

Based on your data, you can improve your customer experience in a few ways:

  • Act on feedback - Address concerns and suggestions from tenants promptly and transparently. 
  • Act on your data - Consider what your data is telling you and act accordingly to help students and staff during the process. 
  • Benchmarking - Compare your onboarding process with industry best practices to identify areas for enhancement. 

Adapting to changing market trends and student demands 

Student accommodation is a dynamic sector, and staying ahead of market trends is vital to maintaining a competitive edge:

  • Stay updated - Regularly monitor market trends and adapt your onboarding process to meet changing student demands. 
  • Innovate and improve - Embrace new technologies and innovative solutions that enhance the onboarding experience. 

By continuously monitoring and optimising the onboarding process, you ensure your student accommodation properties remain sought after and competitive. 


Conclusion: Successful property management onboarding 

A fantastic experience during property management onboarding is the gateway to fostering lasting tenant relationships, optimising occupancy rates, and maximising tenant satisfaction. By defining clear onboarding goals, leveraging technology, and personalising the experience, you can set your student accommodation properties apart in a competitive market. 

Remember to continuously monitor key performance indicators, gather feedback, and adapt to market trends to stay ahead. You’d be surprised how much difference this makes to the detail of your offer.

Most importantly, put your students first and work your process around their expectations and touchpoints with your business. You are much more likely to succeed in tenant satisfaction and quickly build a solid reputation through word-of-mouth. 

Ready to transform your student accommodation onboarding journey? Fill in our contact form below, and let us show you how we can help you develop the perfect tech stack for managing your process. 

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