The coronavirus pandemic is pushing property managers and real estate agents to get creative about showing rentals to prospective tenants.
In the midst of one of the biggest health crises in American history, businesses are working to stay afloat while operating in non-traditional ways. Property management companies are feeling this same pain, as they explore virtual tour options best suited for renters.
Renters — the other side of the rental equation — are voicing their concerns about finding their next place, while remaining hopeful that virtual tours will give them what they desperately need. According to a recent study, more than 60% of renters said that coronavirus has negatively impacted their apartment search. Additionally, 30% of renters surveyed stated they’d prefer photos and floorplans in a virtual manner, while pre-recorded videos of units (27%), and live personalized unit tours (21%) rounded out the pressing desires of renters.
During this important shift in how many renters are viewing apartments, we decided to put together a complete rundown on the most popular, efficient and, now, necessary virtual tour options in the industry.
What You’ll Find in this Guide
- Where We Stand Today
- Renter-Friendly Options
- 2D Photos & Floorplans
- 3D Matterport Technology
- Pre-Recorded Video Walkthroughs
- Personal Tours
- Live Open-House Options
- Facebook Live
- Important Resources
Where We Stand Today
The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the real estate industry in a major way. From real estate agents dealing with empty open-houses to property managers to struggling to lease vacant units to renters searching for some sort of relief from monthly payments, it’s safe to say that everyone is feeling the pressure coming from both social distancing and — in some cities — shelter in place mandates.
Companies like Redfin and other real estate giants are looking for the most creative open-house and virtual tour solutions. And while the larger companies strive to find resources for virtual options, property managers know that showing rentals to prospective tenants each day is a huge piece of business that needs to continue. With this, comes a new norm — virtual tours.
Figuring out a way to make potential clients comfortable when viewing new apartments, signing a lease and making a move during these trying times is of utmost importance to management companies nationwide. So, let’s take a look at some of the most popular virtual tour options for property managers.
Renter-Friendly Virtual Tour Options
Virtual tours are typically not the preferred method to show an apartment. In a perfect world, tenants would be able to view an apartment in-person, take pictures, imagine their furniture in the space and maybe even bring friends or family back for a second viewing prior to signing the lease. Today, this option simply does not exist. But there are a few fantastic virtual tour platforms that are available to everyone, easy to use and renter-friendly.
2D Photos and Floorplans
While this isn’t a new, innovative technology, it’s still a great option when social distancing is of utmost importance.
High-quality photos can go a long way in terms of providing the renter with a first-hand view of what their future home might look like. When paired with a video walkthrough, floor plan details and photos are still extremely useful and incredibly renter-friendly.
3D Matterport Technology
Matterport’s 3D media platform lets you create, navigate, modify and share interactive 3D and virtual reality spaces for any rental unit on the market.
This software makes it extremely easy to give potential renters a feel for a unit while providing them with a much more detailed view of their future home — a view that they’d never be able to gather simply through photos. Online training is provided for first-time users and set up for “less technical” users is typically not so painful.
Pre-Recorded Video Walkthroughs
Pre-recorded video walkthroughs are another great option for long-distance (or social distancing) showings; however, renters have recently voiced concerns over the non-organic and overproduced feel of pre-recorded tours. What we do know is that renters are in constant search of trustworthy and authentic tours, specifically, tours that give them the vibe of daily interactions they’re having on social media, such as Instagram stories.
That said, leasing professionals can still provide potential tenants with recorded videos to show them how the rooms in an apartment connect, where the common areas and amenities are located and they can truly showcase the unique features of an apartment. In certain instances, videos might include background music, drone footage, and other new-age techniques. The video walkthrough is helpful for a time like this, as it can be easily shared among roommates or family members and can provide additional context beyond what photos might showcase — still a quality option.
Individual, personal tours have long been the standard (preferred by renters) in the industry. And Facetime offers that exact scenario, while simply using video conferencing.
According to industry studies, property managers are turning more toward Facetime tours as their top option. How well is this working? Well, management companies have reported an 18-20 percent leasing rate strictly from Facetime tours.
The above data tells us that while renting an apartment without seeing it in-person has long been a major concern for renters, that concern isn’t as prevalent as in years past. Most of us are very familiar with Facetime for use in our personal lives, which makes this platform a tremendous option for showings. Leasing professionals can walk tenants through an apartment at any time of the day simply by making a call to their phone. With no Internet access required, Facetime tours can be informal, timely and can be conducted from anywhere. And this is a great way to limit face-to-face contact while providing the most convenient and “real-life” tour as possible.
Much like Facetime, Skype is a video conferencing platform that provides endless options for property managers who want to provide individual, personal tours to potential tenants.
Skype has been used for years for out-of-town apartment tours, making cross-country moves much easier for the renter. Today, this platform provides renters the ability to speak to property managers in a matter of minutes to schedule personal tours with high-quality video capabilities.
Throughout the past several years, Facebook has worked tirelessly to create a marketplace for renters. Renters have been able to send a message through Facebook Messenger to schedule apartment showings in-person. Today, with renters in dire need of virtual tours, Facebook Live video capabilities have come to light as an option for virtual tours.
Facebook Live provides property managers with a way to easily connect with both residents and prospects. This form of video is casual — usually preferred by renters — and allows you to hop on a video call within minutes. Imagine a news broadcast, but instead of talking about the weather (or coronavirus) you can show behind-the-scenes footage of a brand-new apartment or a unit that has just come to market. All you need is a smartphone, the Facebook app and you can start a live video with just a single tap of a button.
On top of that, Facebook Live tours provide property managers the opportunity to save tour videos, share them widely within their social media network and even embed them on their property website. Moreover, many property managers are using Facebook Live as an effective way to generate leads, qualify truly interested renters and to share self-scheduling opportunities leading to personal tours as well.
YouTube, much like Facebook Live, is a great platform for hosting a virtual open-house to showcase your entire apartment community, along with specific units. With the ability to host large virtual gatherings, property managers can reach wide audiences with pertinent information, while eliminating the need for renters to actually trek to available pads.
As the second-largest search engine in the world, only trailing the almighty Google, YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches per month. So, along with virtual open-houses, ensuring that apartment communities and specific units are available for viewing on this platform, can help property management companies drive interest and leads, as well as self-scheduling opportunities for renters.
Much like YouTube, Periscope — a video streaming app — allows property managers to showcase their community to hundreds of potential customers in a virtual manner.
Long ago, this seemed like an outside-the-box idea, but today, it has become a necessity. In addition to showcasing apartment communities on Periscope, agents have had success in sharing local attractions and points of interest near their properties to give the renter a feel for living in the neighborhood.
In these trying times, we urge all property managers, leasing agents and anyone in the industry to practice safety and social distancing. While these times can be tough, virtual tours are a great way to keep showings on the schedule, while continuing to provide prospective renters with what they need to make educated and important decisions about their future residence.
For more information about how property managers are handling coronavirus issues, please view the resources below.
- COVID-19 Situation Summary (via CDC)
- Prevention and Treatment (via CDC)
- Tenant and Staff Communication Resource (via CDC)
- Immediate Steps for Businesses During COVID-19 (via U.S. Chamber)
- Disinfection Guidance for Residential Buildings (via NYC.gov)
- How to Continue Operating Your Apartment Community (via Sprout Marketing)
- National Apartment Association Guidance (via Forbes)
- NAA Coronavirus Webinar Recording (via IREM)
- Action for Property Managers (via GlobeSt)
- National Multifamily Housing Council Listserve Sign Up (via NMHC)
- NMHC & Pinnacle Webinar on COVID-19 (via Connect Media)
- NMHC Incident Response Plan for COVID-19 (Via NMHC)
- Important Actions Property Managers Can Take (via ABODO)
For more information, please contact ABODO here: firstname.lastname@example.org