The number of multifamily homes in the U.S. has tripled from 56.15 million in 2019 to 155.25 million in 2023. All those units need to be filled, which means taking potential renters on property tours. Leasing agents are available during work hours, which is exactly when prospective tenants are busy. Likewise, leasing agents lose much of their productivity staying available for tours. This has given rise to multiple formats of property tours, both virtual and in-person.
Digital Journal talked to Dorota Firek, VP of Marketing at real estate touring tech innovator Tour24, about how technology is addressing the needs of both leasing agents and potential renters through multiple formats, including some that incorporate artificial intelligence and ChatGPT.
Digital Journal: How has technology evolved to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of both leasing agents and potential renters?
Dorota Firek: When COVID hit, renters couldn’t see apartments in person. Technology was on the rise, but property management companies were slow to adapt. People were afraid of technology. Today, renters drive innovation and expect flexibility and self service. Leasing agents embrace renters needs by enhancing customer experience through technology.
DJ: How do you see technology changing how property companies rent apartments?
Firek: It’s all about user experience, future renters, and their journey. Younger generations expect visit flexibility, and want to tour after business hours and on weekends when leasing offices are closed. Technology enhances flexibility and keeps the office “open” while leasing agents enjoy their weekends without missing out on leases. Younger renters move often and live for experiences. Tech is a must-have for the future of leasing.
DJ: How have apartment tours traditionally been managed and how is it different today?
Firek: Self-guided tours were not previously an option. Today, innovative technology allows prospective renters to set up tours online or when they’re already on a property using a QR code at the building’s front door, and start a walkthrough within 15 minutes. A self-guided tour app verifies prospects’ ID when they decide to tour the community.
Potential residents can listen to the pre-recorded tour-guide (set up possible in multiple languages) for a museum tour-like experience. Visitors who complete a tour automatically receive an application, and can finish the leasing process immediately without involving an agent. Self-service technology increases occupancy rates and gives renters the flexibility they deserve.
DJ: What advantages has technology introduced into the touring process?
Firek: Technology has made tour options limitless. Flexibility is the biggest advancement for our busy, mobile society. Property owner ROI goes up as leasing offices no longer schedule their day around property visits.
DJ: As more people are renting in their twenties and thirties, do you find they expect different experiences with technology?
Firek: Younger generations are digital natives and want to take care of everything instantly and remotely. The whole world is going in that direction, because you don’t have to wait for anybody. Between 20 and 30, and 30 and 40 are the demographics using technology for touring the most. Older renters are a little more traditional, but future generations will be even more reliant on self-guided tours, so it will be an incredible advantage to adopt this tour technology now.
DJ: What benefit does self-guided tour technology offer to renters as opposed to the owners and operators of multifamily properties?
Firek: Residents have a different appreciation for self-guided tour technology than owners and operators. The prospect experience is all about flexibility thanks to the luxury of touring unescorted in their own time. Visitors also won’t feel the pressure of being guided by busy leasing agents trying to hit target numbers, and can explore at their own speed, even multiple times. On the other hand, owners and operators benefit from implementing self-guided tour technology and increase their margins by filling the gap in productivity of busy leasing offices, while the self-touring option fills in for missing leasing agents.
DJ: What tour options are available for prospective renters and how does the technology support these variants?
Firek: The first type is a virtual or 3D tour, which helps all prospective residents to view the property or unit in more detail than just through the photos. The second tour type is a video tour (prerecorded) or a live video tour with a leasing agent. These tours help renters decide if they want to see the unit in person. Finally, in -person self-guided tours allow prospects to tour on their own time or after business hours to view their dream apartment. This platform is filled with helpful features: ID verification, digital keys, audio-visual content, maps, interactive experiences, and instant leasing.
DJ: How do you see AI playing into the multifamily industry in either the short term or the long term?
Firek: AI is a hot buzzword in every industry, and it’s going to play a big role in how we lease apartments. Home-hunters can ask ChatGPT for a list of apartments fitting their criteria in the city or area where they want to live. Many properties already have chatbots using a conversational AI to answer simple questions from visitors touring apartments. AI can be super helpful for the multifamily industry, and will bring tremendous productivity to the leasing office if used right.