As coronavirus spread through the US cities affecting millions of households and forcing almost a country-wide shutdown, it coincided with the start of an apartment leasing season. This is the time of the year almost half of all renters in the US start switching apartments. If you were like me looking to move, you did your research months ahead and picked out the buildings to tour, only to find yourself in a situation where those plans had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future. 

In times like these, we have to do our part and distance ourselves socially. It’s the right thing to do. At the moment, no one can tell when things will normalize or what the new normal will be. I predict it might take up to a year for the stigma against socializing to dissipate, if not longer. Until then, if we really need to switch apartments, we should start exploring safe ways of doing so. 

This is where self-guided tours come in. The concept has been around for over a decade in single-family rental space. Using the latest technology and user-centric intuitive design, we at Arcade advanced the concept to be used in the multifamily rental sector. 

Using smart access control, prospective renters can self-tour a vacant apartment once they fill out an online form and pass a quick screening check. Once approved, the renter receives a code that enables them to tour on the date and time as selected from the listing website. The leasing staff is notified that a tour has been confirmed and knows when the prospect enters and leaves the property.

Once the renter tours the property and leaves, the door is automatically locked and cannot be accessed outside of their appointment time.

I have been asked many times about the security implications and the need for the leasing staff to be present to answer questions. In this day and age, the majority of renters are digitally native. They prefer the convenience of touring at their own schedule and going through the leasing process online. And with the proper vetting procedures in place where renters have to submit a picture of their driver’s license or passport, leasing staff can ensure the safety of the space and the community residents. 

But you might ask, sure it’s convenient for renters and it increases the productivity of leasing staff but why should property owners deal with the cost and headache of implementing a new technology? 

According to NMHC’s OpTech Conference & Exposition data, lease conversions increased by 86% when self-guided tours were offered versus when the staff was escorting a prospect. And only 1.7% of prospects were refused to the community because of the likelihood that they are fraudulent. 

The technology has already been proven in the single-family rentals and have been widely implemented across the portfolio of Invitation Homes, a former Blackstone subsidiary. 

Over the past year, however, we have seen a significant interest from multifamily owners to implement the technology. Industry consulting group D2 Demand Solutions surveyed 20 multifamily executives and 85% of them have indicated they have self-guided tours on their to-do list for 2020. 

We have seen the self-serve model work extremely well in the travel industry. You no longer have to call a travel agent to book a flight, then print the ticket, stand in the check-in line just to board a plane. You can now do all these things on your phone! The travel industry embraced technology, and it benefitted both travelers and airlines greatly.  

We are unfortunately living in unprecedented times that require us to take extreme precautions. The motivation for property owners to implement self-guided tours does not necessarily have to be to offer convenience or streamline operations but to provide a safe way for prospective residents to tour apartments. After all, they are the ones who are paying the bill. 

I hope this was helpful as you navigate through these times. Please send me a note if you have thoughts or just to say hi at sherzod@arcadelistings.com 

 

-SI