How many days does it take to convert a rental lead into a lease?

Oct 31, 2023

Colorful image of a renter holding a house and standing next to a clock

You’ve probably wondered about the amount of time it takes for a rental lead to turn into a lease. Do prospective renters click your ad and move in two weeks later? A month later? Two months later? And does it vary depending on the marketing source?

The good news is that if you’re looking for rental lead conversion data, you’ve come to the right place.

We recently did a study of lead-to-lease conversion times, using data from 979 apartment communities across the U.S. We studied days-to-convert for leads from multiple marketing sources, including SEO, PPC and six of the top ILSs.

Keep reading to find out which source converts leads the quickest. We’ll also share which one had the highest conversion rate. Finish up by watching a presentation of the data.

Average days to convert by source

For this study, we looked at the lead-to-lease conversion time for leases attributed to SEO, PPC and six of the leading ILSs. One of the ILSs is our own, RentCafe.com, and the others we have labeled A-E.

Bar graph of rental lead conversion data by source

As you can see, RentCafe.com is the source with the shortest average days-to-convert, coming in at 32.3 days. SEO came in second place, at 37.64 days — followed closely by another ILS with a 37.67-day average lead-to-lease cycle.

How days-to-convert data impacts rental marketing

For every source, the average rental lead took over a month to move from first contact to a lease. This isn’t too surprising given the large commitment and timeline involved when it comes to moving.

What is surprising is the range of results in the study. There is about a 23-day difference between the marketing source that converted leads the quickest and the one that converted leads the slowest. That’s more than three weeks!

As a marketer, if you see numbers like these, you might already be thinking of how to close that gap, so you can unlock an extra three weeks of rental revenue.

ILS, SEO & PPC: How they work together

Early in the leasing journey, people searching for new homes typically start on an ILS. Renters look to see what’s available in which neighborhoods and what the rent range is. They become familiar with the communities in that area.

Then, as they focus their search, prospective renters often move from ILSs to focused search queries. This is where SEO marketing comes in. They will search for exactly what they want in the specific neighborhood they want. If they’ve already encountered a brand on an ILS, they can be more likely to click on its link in the search results.

PPC advertising will also help you during this search phase. It puts your ads at or near the top of targeted searches. It can help you leapfrog competition with stronger SEO and help you market specific floor plans with high availability. People who click on PPC ads are often the most rent-ready leads who are motivated to take the next step.

Rental lead conversion rates

We also looked at conversion rates in this same study. It may come as no surprise that the highest conversion rate came from SEO at 9.49%.

We’ve seen this repeatedly in studies at different times with different properties. That’s because SEO leads have confidence that the websites they visit as a result of search will meet their specific needs.  

After that, PPC leads converted the next highest at 7%. That’s because they’re also rent-ready leads.

All the ILSs rolled up together convert around 2%. Why is that? Because renters looking at ILSs are just starting their searches. But even if they’re not making contact through your ILS listing, this is where they are likely to find you and gain awareness. Awareness makes them more likely to click to your website and ads later in their search.

Interestingly, year over year, the average ILS conversion rate is up.

Tips for balancing your marketing & improving returns

So traditional ILS listings are an important part of the leasing journey, but direct-to-renter marketing sources like SEO and PPC are proven to have higher conversion rates and a stronger return on ad spend. Do you really need all three?

Yes, to be able to meet your customers wherever they are in their journey you need to have all three marketing sources available to you. But you don’t need to commit the same level of budget or time quarter-over-quarter. Flexibility is key.

SEO should be the foundation of your strategy because it delivers the highest lease volume at the lowest cost. Then, select the best-performing ILS sources for your property, market and budget. You don’t have to be on every ILS to make an impact — one or two are usually enough. Finally, add PPC when you need it, like during a lease-up, but make sure you have the ability to turn it up or off as needed.

When you’re balancing your strategy and budget between these three marketing sources, these are the things most apartment marketers look at: financial return, conversion rate and journey presence. But elite marketers go beyond to consider length of journey. It’s one more element to create that impressive balancing strategy.

Remember that this study represents a broad average. Be sure to look at your own specific numbers using whatever marketing analytics are available to you.

Watch a presentation of the lead-to-lease data

Marketing source audit

If you’re interested in auditing your marketing sources for days to convert and conversion rates, but don’t want to go it alone, we’re here to help!

Make sure you’re understanding the data and making meaningful changes that will drive success. Contact us or schedule time with your favorite REACH representative for a free consultation.

Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives is the manager of marketing content at Yardi. She leads content initiatives for REACH by RentCafe. Writing may be her first love, but data is a close second. Geneva is based in Santa Barbara, California.

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