Red Oak teamed with CommonPlaces to plan and execute a much needed overhaul of the Red Oak Apartments leasing website and customer Portal. The new site has streamlined their apartment listing process, allowed for instant availability updates, and has given staff the ability to automate processes that were previously handled manually so that they can focus more on the property management aspects of the rental communities they serve.
The new site caught the attention of the Web Excellence Awards, who look for the "best of the best" in web design and development. The Red Oak site was given the Web Excellence Award for “Best Real Estate Website” in 2023.
The CommonPlaces team listened to our needs and helped us streamline and automate many of the processes that assist our clients when looking to rent a new apartment. Our new WordPress site is technologically advanced and puts our business ahead of our competition. It rivals what companies many times larger than us are attempting to do.
- Gerry Dupont, Red Oak Properties
Red Oak came to CommonPlaces to achieve the following goals.
- Update the overall design and functionality of their website to meet and exceed modern web standards
- Preserve and improve unique apartment search functionality to show available homes, and actual photos of the exact home a resident will be leasing
- Add fallbacks, or alternative options, to apartment search results so that a query always returns a search result
- Create a way to bookmark and share URLS for individual apartments
- Automate the display of apartment office contact information on the website based on the location searched
- Create a way to lock in rental rates for applicants to avoid back-out when it is time to sign the lease
CommonPlaces led the discovery and market research sessions with the Red Oak team to identify and document the current pain points, challenges, and the priorities of Red Oak for their website and resident portal. CommonPlaces then spoke with experienced staff to create a Customer Journey Map which provided helpful insight into making strategic decisions about the site layout, site search, navigation, and visual design.
Along with creating an engaging, responsive design Red Oak’s top priority was to maintain their unique approach to apartment search where the potential residents can see features and images of the exact apartment they would be renting when they search for homes. This was a tedious process for Red Oak in the Past, and CommonPlaces created automation so that apartments can be “shown” or “hidden” based on availability and upcoming availability dates. In addition, search functionality was updated so that queries would always return relevant results, even if all search criteria were not matched. This allowed potential residents to continue to browse options and make decisions based on apartment availability, location and options.
CommonPlaces also improved the overall usability and speed of Red Oak’s apartment search features, and online application process; along with integration for their property management self-service maintenance and payment portals through Yardi & Realpage. This overhaul also included improvements to their content management system which has streamlined the process of adding and updating their rental availability with a feature-rich real time apartment listing and search process.
One of the major pain points addressed was the fact that the individual apartment URLs were variable, and would update with a new date each and every day. This made it impossible to bookmark an apartment of interest for both future renters and sales staff. CommonPlaces resolved this issue by creating a static URL structure for every apartment listing.
With several properties spanning the New England area, Red Oak has four main offices in different regions. Based on customer location search results, relevant contact information is displayed in the header and other contact areas on the site. This includes the phone number and address of the local apartment management office so that tenants will know exactly the office they are contacting, and will know the correct leasing office to visit when looking at apartments. In the past, an operator would have to direct people to the correct office location based on information received, and this may not always be clearly understood. This dynamic content feature creates a good customer experience by eliminating confusion.
Red Oak can now lock in rates that are shown to applicants. This wasn’t always the case. The market rate of apartments is determined by a common third party service which keeps a fluctuating rental file available for all apartment communities. This means that rates can change daily. When potential residents fill out a rental application, the monthly rent can change by the time they are ready to sign the lease. This can deter people from leasing if the market rate goes up significantly. CommonPlaces was able to create a process where people can choose their lease options and length, see the market rate for their apartment lease, and fill out the rental application – which now saves the data to lock in the rate. This way, when they go to sign the lease, there are no surprises.