Perhaps one of the longstanding fears that has kept much of the real estate industry from embracing technology is that it will somehow take away from personalized service or interactions. Much of real estate has relied on face-to-face interactions and longstanding relationships, and to some extent these tenets will still hold. But times have changed. Face-to-face personal interactions are no longer the societal norm and real estate companies that adapt more quickly will be the winners in the long run.
Property managers that are quick to incorporate technology into their business processes are outpacing the competition. Self-guided tours are a great example of this. Public perception about self-guided tours changed drastically over the course of a few months during the pandemic. Whereas before property managers may have feared that this process would detract from the personal attention a leasing agent provides during tours, now it is viewed as a necessity for business continuity.
Similarly, prospects are showing more interest and more satisfaction from having the ability to tour properties at their own pace, on their own time, without the safety issues or unnecessary distractions of having other people around. Even though the experience is different, the level of service doesn’t have to be. Innovative self-guided tour providers like Walk.in have implemented easy chat functions to make connecting to leasing agents during the tour a seamless experience, and they plan to deploy a video chat option as well. “That’s one of the reasons Walk.in’s slogan is ‘Rent Your Way.’ We want each renter to go at their own speed, in the order they want and, on their time, while enabling them to get help from an agent when it works for them. It also stands for the fact nothing is stopping you from seeing an apartment. As soon as you find the listing you can go see it—no coordination needed,” says Andrew Goldfarb, creator of Walk.in.
From the leasing agent’s perspective, this kind of technology can help them do their jobs better by giving them more time to focus on closing deals and ensuring that tenant experiences get off on the right foot. Recently, Goldfarb Properties piloted self-guided tours using Walk.in’s technology to assist in leasing, not only during the pandemic, but also during the busy summer leasing season. This pilot helped to shed light onto how integrating technology can actually enhance personalized service rather than take away from it. “Walk.in has enabled us to answer the question of, ‘When can I see the apartment?’ with ‘Any time that works for you!’ It has completely removed the difficulty of scheduling viewings,” said Trevor Schaper, Goldfarb’s VP of Operations.
Walk.in’s technology features a real time agent dashboard that allows leasing agents to see when the building, apartment, or amenities have been accessed so they can easily see where the prospect is and in which stage of the tour. “When a prospect walks into a building, an agent in the office is immediately notified. At this point, the agent engages with the prospect and puts on their sale cap to give the highest level of virtual customer service, which will hopefully produce an application,” Goldfarb explained.
While many self-guided tours run on autopilot, Walk.in’s strategy aims to ensure that customer service standards are still exceeded, even virtually, which was one of the primary reasons Goldfarb chose to pilot with them. They wanted to increase touring capabilities and increase staff efficiency without sacrificing customer-focused standards, and the numbers generated thus far seem to indicate their goal was met. “Goldfarb has experienced a 55 percent increase in tours and a 37 percent increase in the efficiency of agents,” said Andrew. Meanwhile, many property managers in New York City were struggling to conduct even the most basic job functions during the pandemic, let alone seeing an increase in tours conducted.
Self-guided tours have allowed for business continuity during a time when leasing reached record lows, and understandably, property managers want to ensure resident safety by limiting tours. This is why verified, contactless viewing has been such a game changer. Prospects can safely view a property on their time without the unnecessary (potentially dangerous) interaction that comes along with traditional tours. Residents benefit from knowing that each prospect has been verified beforehand to ensure proper screening, and they benefit from the additional time saved by providing self-guided tours—property management can focus on their needs.
Now, as other property managers witness the success of using self-guided touring technology like Walk.in’s, widespread adoption is inevitable as prospects show greater interest in being able to tour on their own time. The long-standing fear of technology taking away from customer service is becoming null and void as landlords, tenants, and prospects alike experience self-guided tours that integrate chat functionality to ensure all questions are answered. The days of metaphorically holding a prospect’s hand as they walk through a property are gone (as are the days of handshakes in general). The fear around technology is misguided. Rather than replacing the interactions that have fueled the property industry since the beginning, tech is helping to amplify them in a way that is more useful and convenient for the prospect, creating a rare win-win for everyone involved.