The Pandemic Has Changed Apartment Touring For The Better And For Good
Multifamily property owners and managers haven’t always been quick when it comes to adopting the latest high-tech tools. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed that, and it will leave a permanent mark on the industry.
“This has caused a lot of forced change for the positive,” Kass Management Services principal Mark Durakovic said during Bisnow’s Multifamily Annual Conference Dec. 3.
Allowing prospective tenants to take virtual tours is something that was technically possible for years, but it has only come into widespread use in the past few months, UrbanStreet Group Managing Partner Bob Burk said. That has made it far easier and more efficient to lease up properties, and Burk expects that it is just one of the new ways of doing business that will outlast the crisis.
“You’re seeing a lot less personal contact throughout the entire process,” Burk said.
Durakovic said prior to the pandemic, his firm only leased a handful of apartments sight unseen. Now it is the norm.
“We have basically changed the entire way we’re doing business,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the personal touch will be absent.
“Renters still want to see an apartment before they fully commit,” Waterton Executive Vice President Lela Cirjakovic said.
As long as COVID-19 remains a worry, prospective renters should probably tour apartments on their own, she added, and personal tours can resume once fears subside, at least for prospects that still want such services. But even then, the old way of leasing units is probably not coming back.
“Folks that usually would come three times to see an apartment are now just coming the last time. They’re doing the rest with technology,” Burk said.
“That’s something we can and probably should sustain,” Cirjakovic said. “Rather than being tour agents, we’re actually really closing or cementing that conversation when they’re on-site. And it doesn’t necessarily require an associate to accompany the person. In fact, depending on the demographic that’s viewing the apartment, many like to do it on their own.”
A more efficient leasing process doesn’t mean managers can just sit back and take it easy, Durakovic said. Prospects that used to view at least 10 apartments before making a decision now typically see three or fewer. That makes the technology used by property managers more important than ever.
“You’ve got to capture that renter, that prospect, online with 3D tours, videos,” Durakovic said. “Right now, you’ve got to try everything, and don’t be afraid to fail.”
“The old days of beta-testing something for six months before you implement, that certainly has accelerated,” she said.