Earlier in the pandemic, many in the industry surmised that the pandemic had made senior living residents much more urgent with regard to moving into senior living But a new report published earlier this week appears to show that is not the case..
The pandemic’s effect on a resident’s number of days from inquiry to move-in has been “minimal,” according to the report, which was authored by Aline’s Lana Peck, and published earlier this week by Chicago-based investment bank Ziegler.
The report examined move-ins that occurred within 30 days and the average time it took for prospects to move in, cataloging over 1.62 million new leads and over 175,000 move-ins across 3,214 communities between January 2019 to January 2022.
In that period, “the volume of prospects with an ‘urgent need’ to move in — less than 30 days — has changed little since before the pandemic,” Peck said. She also noted that an “urgent need” does not necessarily correlate to acuity level.
In March of this year, prospects spent an average of 66 days in the sales funnel before moving in, compared to 106 days for life plan community residents. That is not much different from the industry’s 2019 average of 73 days and 109 days for IL and life plan communities.
“Operators must analyze their own internal data and verify that their sales strategies align with their specific market conditions,” Peck wrote. “Countering the belief that it now takes longer to convert prospects to sales may result in teams that are more responsive and more successful.”
The percentage of move-ins across IL that occurred within 30 days or less since last inquiry was 43% in 2019. In 2023, that total hit 49%.. On the flip side, AL move-in rates peaked at 57% in 2019 and fell to as low as 54% in 2020 and 2022 before returning to near-2019 levels this year with 56%.
The memory care sector reported 58% in 2019 before jumping to 65% in 2020 and falling as low as 61% last year. Life plan communities saw 25% between 2019 and 2022, and 28% this year.
Approximately 50 to 60% of IL, AL and memory care prospects could be considered “less-demanding conversions” in terms of time spent on leads compared to life plan communities, the report found.
Occupancy gains have been widely reported by operators nationwide since pressures from the pandemic eased, but Peck notes that the “momentum of occupancy growth has been waning since 2022.”
The slowdown could be due to rising rents, increased competition and outside forces like in-home care; along with inflationary pressures on the housing market and “deferred capex spending” to keep aging property stock in working order.
While demographics and tech-savvy customers will drive inquiries into senior living, operators must innovate on sales and marketing to adapt to changes in customer habits and desires.
“Given the pandemic’s lingering strain on operating budgets and compressed margins, sales and marketing teams are challenged with finding ways to allocate valuable time and resources most effectively,” the report states. “…Operators who accept those ideas fare well in many cases.”