Rethink Your Leasing Strategy with Virtual and Self-Guided Tours

Learn how to make the most of your marketing efforts with these new tours.
July 31, 2020

The year 2020 has been filled with unprecedented adversity and challenge for everyone in the multifamily industry. And we’re not even half-way through it.

The ways in which apartment operators had conducted business in the past relied heavily-upon human interaction.  The global pandemic and crisis caused by COVID-19 eliminated any possibility for traditional marketing methods.  Everyone in the multifamily industry had to react by implementing unorthodox and even unproven methods for handling basic functions.  Specifically, new ways of giving tours for prospective renters were invented seemingly overnight.  

With the restrictions brought on by social distancing, the following four different types of tours have quickly become standard in multifamily housing.  We asked the marketing experts at Shelton Residential and MC Companies to help us break-down all of the different tour types happening in multifamily right now. Which of these tours best fit the needs of your apartment community?

Apartment Tours

1. Virtual Guided

Apartment Virtual Guided Tour

“Since Covid-19 has happened, our employees have had to adjust and revive their digital skills to prepare them for virtual tours.” —Jordan Ruditys, Director of Marketing, Shelton Residential

A virtual guided tour is any tour facilitated by a leasing agent where the prospect is not physically at the property.  This tour requires the use of video conferencing technology such as GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.  This type of meeting allows the lease prospect to meet with a leasing agent as well as view a community and unit from the comfort of their own home—or really, anywhere with an internet connection.  This is the safest method as social distancing will never be compromised for your leasing team and rental prospects.

“Our sales training has always been about creating a personal experience for our customers when selling so this drastic change was a shock for all.  MC Companies took an immediate pivot to online leasing and virtual touring.” —Kelly Johnson, Vice President of Marketing, MC Companies

As Kelly states, creating a personal experience is at the core of what they do. Now how is this accomplished virtually?  If you haven’t experienced it for yourself already, you will be pleasantly surprised by how personal a video conference can be.  Be sure to treat it like a normal meeting.  Wear appropriate attire and check your lighting and background.  Don’t hesitate to turn that camera on, which will likely encourage your audience to do the same.  You will get a much-better feel for how your meeting is going when you can view facial expressions and body language.

2. Virtual Self-Guided

Apartment Virtual Self-Guided Tour

A virtual self-guided tour is the ultimate self-service option.  The lease prospect can access a video or a ‘Matterport’ of a model floor plan via a URL.  These tours are instant, enabling the ability to immediately capitalize on the lessee’s interest.  These do not need to be scheduled and can be done any time of day or night.  The disadvantage is the lack of emotional connectivity to what the rental prospect is doing during this tour.  There is no opportunity for your leasing team to verbally paint the picture of what it’s like to live at your community, answer questions that may come up or close for next steps.

3. On-Site Self-Guided

Apartment On-Site Self-Guided Tour

“As we move into the next phase of opening up the business while following the recommended guidelines we are introducing “self-guided” tours as an option to give a prospective resident the ability to self-tour a vacant apartment.” —Kelly Johnson, Vice President of Marketing, MC Companies

The on-site self-guided tour is a self-showing where a prospect is given a code to access a unit without being accompanied by a leasing agent.  This is the safest and most-compliant on-premise method for allowing your potential lessee to tour an apartment.  This technology involves providing the rental prospect temporary access to the property.  Not only is a leasing agent not required to be present, the registering and scheduling of this tour is handled online.  Net, a lease prospect can schedule and conduct their own on-site tour without ever interacting with a human being.  As with virtual self-guided tours, there is no immediate opportunity to answer questions and close.

4. On-Site Guided

Apartment On-Site Guided Tour

It would be remiss to not at least mention the on-site guided tour.  It is possible for your leasing agents to conduct this tour while being safe and compliant.

Practicing proper separation—among other best practices—will enable your leasing team to guide your prospective renters through your community.

Need Help with Supporting All of These Options?

As virtual is the new normal, virtual assistants are here to help.  The addition of these new types of tours has taken our marketing well outside of normal business hours and traditional means.  Prospective renters are shopping when it’s convenient for them, which may often be weeknights and weekends when leasing offices are closed.

Property managers are turning to virtual assistants that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to converse with prospective renters.  Virtual assistants will respond to specific questions about your community, collect critical contact information and even schedule these tours.  Your prospective renters can call or text a virtual assistant anytime—day or night.  They can also chat with a virtual assistant through a web-based chatbot while browsing a property website.  

For information on putting a virtual assistant to work for you, click here.

Apartment Tour Types

What Happens Next?

“The future of leasing at MC will most likely include all of the lessons we have learned from this experience and our customers will have a say in how they move through the sales process going forward.” —Kelly Johnson, Vice President of Marketing, MC Companies

Kelly understands that the market has been conditioned to these new touring methods.  The rapid adaption and utilization are evidence that your prospects may actually prefer these new tour types.  Renters are comfortable shopping for and choosing their new homes in different ways. It’s in our best interest to continue to give them these options.

“We have adapted our practices the past few months but I believe it will forever change our industry as these types of tours will be here to stay.” —Jordan Ruditys, Director of Marketing, Shelton Residential

This crisis has forced the invention of all-new ways to market multifamily housing.  But what happens when the restrictions are lifted and we are free to interact?  As Jordan has stated, these new methods have proven their worth and truly are here to stay.  Through these new tour types, we are realizing new levels of efficiency.  Marketing our properties has become an anywhere and all-hours endeavor.

Now, how would you like to tour your next apartment home?

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