Adapting to the New Normal: Is Virtual Leasing the Way of the Future?
This year sure isn’t panning out the way anyone expected. As COVID-19 began shutting down the country and made many things in our everyday life come to a screeching halt, it left us wondering when things might be normal again.
Housing needs don’t halt for a pandemic. As a property owner or manager, you still need to lease your available space. To do so safely, you may need to make some changes to the way you market your residential properties. As more and more states are reemerging from lockdown, what can we expect to see as a “new normal” in the apartments and property management industry?
Regardless of a pandemic, people still need housing. New tenants will be looking for places to rent, existing tenants will end their lease, and none of this will slow down simply because of COVID-19. But potential tenants may be leery of how to do this in today’s current environment.
As much as you know your properties are the perfect place for potential tenants, very few want to sign a lease on a place they haven’t seen. With face-to-face visits and tours being more problematic and difficult in today’s world, how can you adapt to safely showcase your properties? Open houses with smaller attendance capacity is an option, but you then spend more staff hours hosting multiple events. So, what is the best option? Virtual leasing is a safe and convenient option to offer to potential renters during a global pandemic. Here’s how virtual leasing is emerging as a trend in the industry, and how you can use virtual leasing to fill vacancies in your residential properties.
How to Attract New Tenants Virtually
As with much in today’s world, virtual may be our best option as we look to the future. Whether your potential tenant is moving to your community from across the country, across the state, or across the street, virtual options allow you to showcase your property from afar. Utilizing technology also allows renters to feel more at ease about the place they are committing to for at least the next year.
A Google Trends search for “virtual tours real estate” can quickly highlight how much potential renters are seeking out the opportunity to explore their potential living space online. As we look ahead to the fall and winter months, and the potential for another spike in COVID-19 cases, implementing these online tour strategies now will be helpful in the coming months as well.
As virtual leasing becomes more and more popular, best practices for using the technology are beginning to emerge. These best practices are all perfect for use now—during the COVID-19 pandemic—as well as in the future.
Use technology in real-time
Many of us have become video conference experts since the pandemic began. With so many options (FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom) for real-time, face-to-face video conferencing, you can easily arrange a virtual intro with your potential tenant to provide a tour of your facility and the available space. Real-time virtual tours allow the tenants to ask more questions, see just how their items will work in the space, and connect with you and your staff as their landlord.
Upgrade your website with walkthrough options
By enhancing your website capabilities, you can offer walkthrough tours for potential tenants to look at from home. This allows them to tour the space on their own or during a scheduled visit with a member of your staff.
Customize and pre-record videos
Depending on how many requests for virtual tours you’re receiving, a pre-recorded video might be a great option for you. You can film a walk-through tour of the spaces and share via YouTube on your website or in an email sent directly to potential renters. You can also customize those videos for potential tenants as needed. The personal touch, even if you can’t be together face to face, is an important aspect to maintain.
Not sure how to set up virtual apartment tours? Check out this virtual apartment tour guide to give you an idea of how to best show off your property to potential renters.
It’s important to spend time highlighting your community space and amenities when offering these virtual tour options, as well as added protection steps your staff may be taking to keep those spaces safe for all residents during this time. For example, if your community offers gym access to your residents, make sure you take time to post a video showing what sort of equipment is available. However, if you’re restricting use or have completely closed your gym space for the time being, make a note of that. You don’t want to trick your tenants into committing for an amenity they aren’t able to use.
Be ready to add and update your virtual options as well. The one thing we’ve learned most from this pandemic is just how quickly things change. Be flexible and adaptable, and this tool will serve you well.
Consider Virtual Property Management
Once you’ve been able to properly showcase your property and secure tenants for your space, what are some ways to continue to maintain safety while supporting your renters during the pandemic?
First and foremost, it is important to communicate with your tenants. Make sure they are aware you have taken all the proper steps to ensure their safety, particularly in regards to their rent. Some may be worried about face to face interaction with you, or visiting common spaces to drop off rent, so coming up with alternative options for them may be a benefit to you.
Contact-free payment options
Collecting rent on time is a challenge even when there isn’t a pandemic. Your tenants will likely always have the option to pay by mail or drop off a payment, but you may shy away from collecting rent in person during the pandemic. Another option to consider, if you’re not already doing it, is to collect rent online.
There are a number of online sites that offer online payment options for landlords. You can search for “online rental collection services” to find a summary, and select which may work best for you. These online services often come with a price tag, and prices will vary based on the plan you select. It will be up to you to determine what is best suited for your properties and business.
If you don’t want to invest in an online payment service, options such as PayPal or Venmo are definitely something to consider. There are pros and cons to each of these, such as fees and sometimes a lag in the deposit of funds into your account, but you can weigh these against your business model.
Hire a professional property manager
When all else fails, and should you have the means, you can always outsource your rent collection to a property management company. The added perks of this option is, not only do they manage your rental payments, but they will also work directly with your tenants to clear up any complaints, manage maintenance issues, and help fill vacancies. Depending on how many properties you own, this may not be the first choice for all landlords.
Virtual Leasing: A Success Story
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, no one knew what would happen, and the closure of our nation’s economy left much hanging in the balance. One company, Oddo Development, found success despite all the uncertainty.
The team at Oddo quickly learned that those who were seeking out virtual tour options were those most motivated to move, and the ones wanting to do so quickly. Oddo was able to handle their requests by limiting tours to those individuals looking to move within 60 days. This was implemented to help ease the burden on their limited onsite staff.
Move-in day normally would require some face to face interaction, but Oddo found a way to help with that as well. Asking questions in advance to ensure the tenant is in good health and not putting other renters at risk is critical. A lockbox is then placed on the door with email instructions for move-in day. This simple step has ensured the health and safety of their team members and tenants.
Being able to step back, assess, and pivot how they could continue their business despite the pandemic allowed Oddo to remain successful, and their success is a great roadmap for other businesses looking to follow suit.
Moving Forward Into a “New Normal” Virtual World
We don’t have a crystal ball to predict when this pandemic will end. We know there’s a good chance many of the things we considered “normal” before will be changed forever. Virtual leasing and the ease in which you can showcase your properties to potential tenants may be something you choose to continue, pandemic or not. These simple steps may be just what you need to boost your properties and fill your vacancies faster.
But remember, while the option of virtual leasing will certainly make things easier for you and your tenants, the reality is that you will need to interact face-to-face with them at some point in time. Remember to follow proper safety guidelines when interaction is absolutely necessary. Remember to wash your hands, and if possible, wear gloves and face masks, particularly when interacting with a tenant or potential renter. Also make sure you clean all areas before and after someone new enters the space.
Ultimately, your health and the health of your staff and tenants is the highest priority. It is important to do everything you can to reduce unnecessary interaction, maintain social distance, and ensure all parties involved feel safe.
Reliable Water Services is Here for You
Hot water is critical to health, sanitation, and safety in general, but it’s especially vital to the industries we serve—and the majority of those industries are considered essential businesses. As our customers remain operational during these unprecedented times, so does Reliable Water Services.
Making sure our customers have hot water has always been our main priority, and now more than ever, we are here for you. We will continue to provide 24/7 water heater services to our customers, ensuring you have the hot water your business relies on. Our office team is practicing social distancing by working remotely or staying 6 feet apart with our masks on while in the office. Meanwhile, our service technicians and installing contractors are following extra safety guidelines to ensure they can service your building safely without putting themselves or your staff members at risk.
Our team at RWS has always viewed the relationship with each of our customers as a partnership. Through this partnership, we will work together and get through these unique and challenging times. As always, should you need service contact us 24/7 at 1-800-356-1444. Stay safe, and be well!