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The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Accelerate the Trend of Self-Guided Tours

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Self-guided tours aren’t a new trend, but they may be the new normal as people adjust to social distancing in light of COVID-19. When we turn on the news, we hear constant updates about overflowing hospitals, flattening curves, health expert recommendations, and the not-so-distant peak, where hopefully the number of new cases will begin to lessen each day. But even with our sights set on the other side of the pandemic, we know that the extent of the effects of this  disease are not yet fully known. No one can predict when or what the new normal will be, but we can expect drastic changes in all areas of our lives, including how we buy, sell, and lease real estate. 

Huge spikes in demand for virtual property tours as well as showings through FaceTime and Zoom signify how quickly the property industry is willing to adapt. Self-guided tours are another way real estate is building its new normal. Because of the convenience and efficiency associated with self-guided tours, they were already becoming a viable option for many properties equipped with the software needed to handle them. SmartRent is one such platform that allows its clients’ properties to offer more innovative leasing solutions. 

How does it work? Properties can easily integrate SmartRent’s self-guided tour platform for prospective residents, regardless of their current smart home automation software. For properties without any software, SmartRent sends a “starter kit” that includes a lock, hub, motion, and contact sensor that they can install themselves. When a property opts-in, it is provided with a code snippet to feature on its website that directs users through the process of scheduling their tours, all of which can be done on a mobile device. The property can set parameters for available tour times, and the potential lessee selects whatever date or time works best for their schedule. The user will then be required to undergo a brief pre-qualification process, which includes uploading a picture of their driver’s license and a selfie to verify the photo identification matches.

Because the majority of apartment hunting is done online, people who elect to take a self-guided tour are probably doing so in order to finalize their decision. It is essentially the final step before actually applying, so most users will have no qualms about undergoing a simple verification process. Considering the user may eventually live in that same building, they would probably appreciate the added layer of security. Once the prequalification process is complete, the user is sent an access code to their mobile device which will allow them to gain entry to the building, amenities, and the units being toured. The property can decide which parts of the building are accessible during self-guided tours.

Self-guided tours allow potential renters and buyers to explore the property at their pace. This leisurely mindset relaxes prospects and helps them get to know the property without being rushed or required to stick to someone else’s schedule. Just as people’s lifestyles are different, so are their needs when it comes to finding a place to live. Maybe the prospect enjoys fitness and wants to thoroughly explore the exercise facilities to ensure it has all the equipment they like to use. Perhaps the prospect enjoys hosting his or her friends for dinner parties every month and they want to see what kinds of spaces are available to accommodate gatherings. They can spend more time where it matters to them.

Once the potential renter completes their self-guided tour, they are prompted to fill out an application, increasing the number of same day leases. Information gathered from prospects could also prove insightful for properties to determine which demographics are most interesting and the best ways to reach them through marketing initiatives. SmartRent’s intuitive software makes data management easier by using an integrated system for effective follow-ups. For leasing agents and listing brokers, the time saved by not giving tours is an enormous benefit, allowing them to focus on other matters without sacrificing new leases. 

While we all attempt to decipher what the new normal will look like, we have to continue finding innovative ways to adapt to the current physical restrictions of social distancing. Allowing potential residents to use self-guided tours is one of the ways we are adapting, but even before COVID-19, people were interested in finding ways to be more efficient with their time. Making tours available for people to schedule and complete autonomously was already a primary initiative for many properties. Now, as it becomes a necessity, property managers and leasing agents will find that adopting self-guided tours doesn’t have to be a hassle. Integrating them into an existing platform like SmartRent assures a seamless transition into the new normal, both during and after COVID-19.

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