By Georgianna W. Oliver, Founder and CEO, Tour24

At every phase of the leasing journey, artificial intelligence is automating repetitive processes and creating better experiences for prospects. AI marketing platforms can turn prospects into residents with automated nurture communications, AI chatbots can answer common questions about the communities, and workflow automation software can save leasing agents time and minimize the likelihood of turnover during renewals.

Automating in-person property tours has proven more difficult, comparatively. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual property tours emerged as a solution for a time when in-person contact was limited. However, virtual agent-led tours neither save agents time nor allow prospects to see, touch, and experience units and communities for themselves. Furthermore, they either require prospects to complete their tours on the agent’s timetable or require leasing agents to work outside regular business hours, making for a less-than-ideal lead-to-tour conversion process.

Self-led touring options also gained popularity during the pandemic. Self-led tours were an effective way to avoid person-to-person contact and catered to the preferences of younger prospects. However, simply providing access to a property is not sufficient — prospects left to their own devices often have an incomplete touring experience, and without direction and supplementary information, may fail to see all a property has to offer.

Self-guided tours: An intelligent alternative

Self-guided tours offer the best of both worlds; they offer prospects a high-quality, engaging touring experience with maximum flexibility while saving leasing agent’s time. Rather than giving prospects limited access to a property and minimal information, app-based self-guided tours shepherd prospects through a property according to a predefined flow. Customizable tour apps provide the most compelling and accurate information about a property to be relayed to customers as they tour.

Self-guided tours integrate perfectly with an AI-enhanced leasing journey. AI and workflow automation solutions enhance pre and post-tour prospect engagement with automated drip campaigns, win-back campaigns, availability, leasing specials, scaled email blasts, and open-house marketing. Rather than forming a bottleneck in the leasing journey, self-guided tours can easily accommodate all prospects on their own terms and schedules. In short, an automated leasing journey built around self-guided tours makes the leasing process more productive and efficient for prospects and leasing agents alike.

Efficient, digital-first experiences are especially important in today’s multifamily rental market. The number of multifamily homes in the U.S. has tripled from 56.15 million in 2019 to 155.25 million in 2023. This massive increase in supply is reducing rent prices in cities across the U.S. To fill these new homes, multifamily operators have become innovative. A recent study found that 60 percent of prospects will pursue a different opportunity if their call or email is not returned within 30 minutes. An AI-enhanced leasing journey ensures swift communication and keeps potential renters engaged. 

The students become the teachers

Student housing, which caters heavily to younger digital natives, has been ahead of the curve on AI and self-guided tours. This is because the market that student housing primarily caters to is especially sensitive to frustrations stemming from inadequate digital experiences. That’s not to mention the 90% of Gen Zers who report “phone phobia” and only want to interact through apps and text. Student housing communities also see heavy turnover – often one-third of residents move each year as students graduate and move on, which is far higher than the rate for other kinds of residents. By selecting best-in-class AI driven self-guided tour solutions, student housing operators are boosting leasing team efficiency and increasing conversions.

The students can be our teachers. People still need to experience a community in-person, but by incorporating AI and automation at each stage in the leasing journey, multifamily operators can amplify their leasing team’s efforts, meet prospects where they are, and increase conversions.

[SOURCE: Multifamily Insider]