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Are Prospects Beginning to Expect Self-Guided Tours?

Self-Guided Tours

Self-guided tours can potentially save time and standardize the leasing process, but apartment operators need to know how to utilize the technology to make it effective.

In single-family rentals, self-guided tours are nothing new.

“At least 60 percent of single-family rental operators are using self-guided tours,” Sean Miller, President of Point Central said at the Maximize Conference in October. “In 10 years, most of the multifamily market will be conducting self-guided tours.”

One reason that self-guided tours will be more widely adopted is cost. Right now, tours are a few hundred dollars per community (apartment), but that should come down. “In 10 years, I don’t see the cost of this technology being cost prohibitive,” Demetrios Barnes, COO of SmartRent, says.

Having proved itself in the single-family sector, self-service leasing software, hardware and automation have the potential to extend leasing hours and create opportunities for prospective apartment residents to tour a vacant unit and transact a lease without any human touch or traditional leasing agent support.

In fact, tours may soon be something customers expect. “People value their time,” says UDR COO Jerry Davis. “If you give them the tools to do a tour themselves, that’s what they want.”

Davis is not the only one. “Having an apartment available for self-guided tours when consumers are looking to do them is incredibly important,” says Caren Maio, CEO for Nestio. “If they can book tours on your website, that is even more attractive to prospects.”

Maio says apartment operators are already using tours to augment their leasing teams.

Davis sees self-guided tours as not only an attraction for prospective residents but also a way to combat inconsistent presentations in an era of high turnover among leasing professionals.

“Turnover is so high; you have a bunch of new people to the industry running tours,” Davis says. “No matter what type of [self-guided] tour a community decides to implement, it can add consistency to the process.”

To supplement tours, Barnes suggests adding a “screen visual” to guide prospective residents. Audio is also important. “Having tours where Alexa is talking to prospects [as they go through an apartment] can be incredibly effective,” Miller says.

Screening prospective residents before enabling them to take a self-guided tour is important. It weeds out people who are not seriously looking to rent or who might have alternative reasons for wanting to walk through an apartment unit. Miller suggests qualifying all prospective residents through phone calls, chat and email.

Despite their vast potential, self-guided tours cannot provide answers to all residents’ questions, which means some human interaction remains necessary.

“If you implement self-guided tours, you are making leasing agents your customer service representatives,” Davis says.

Before self-guided tours become a reality in every portfolio, Henry Pye, Vice President at RealPage, says there are hurdles that apartment operators need to overcome. Namely, access control in exterior doors, interior doors, elevators and vacant apartment doors can present issues. 

"Even with new systems, there are significant technology hurdles as the access system and future residents' phones must have connectivity," he says.