By Georgianna W. Oliver, Founder of Tour24
As property technology (#proptech) continues to take the multifamily world by storm, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options available to help lease units faster! These technology enhancements are here to stay, and the next generation of renters not only expects tech amenities, they are naturally attracted to tools that offer self-service.
The hottest example of new products is the self-guided tour (#sgt). The idea of prospects being able to access and tour a community without supervision is new and some property managers may need some time to feel comfortable with and fully embrace this idea. Despite their apprehension, they know these enhancements are going to become the norm (remember when the thought of getting in a car or staying with someone you didn’t know – Uber and Airbnb- seemed crazy?) and will be vital to help to keep communities leased up and thriving with today’s renters.
The biggest advantage to adopting a self-guided tour amenity is: More Leases More Quickly. Our studies show that 40% of prospects have passed on a property they were interested in because they couldn’t find time to come see it during office hours. (Zogby Analytics Study, March 2018)
Or, how many times does someone come up to the front entrance only to see the dreaded “Be back in 30 minutes” clock sign? It’s a frustrating experience for prospects AND you may have just lost a future resident. This frustration turns to delight however when they see that they can take a tour on their own, even after the office is closed and especially on a Sunday!
Another advantage to self-guided tours is they are consistent, high-quality tours every time – the technology never fails to mention a luxury amenity or feature that makes a community unique and interesting. Prospects can also do the tour “they” want. They may not care about the fitness center and just want to see the dog park, the kitchen, and, of course, the model or vacant unit.
Renting units in today’s environment is happening faster than ever before. (Keep in mind that with short-term rental providers, prospects can rent a home in minutes, not days.) If prospects like what they see during the self-guided tour, they can click a button and start the leasing process right away. So this tool can be a real partner for leasing agents who want to lease units quickly!
Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know about self-guided tours:
#1 – It’s not a virtual tour
Most prospects today start by checking out the property website and beautiful photos. This has progressed to a variety of online (virtual) tours that you view from your own computer
The virtual tours are meant to give you a feel for the community from the privacy of your own home, but most prospects still want to see an apartment “IRL” (in real life) before they sign a lease.
A self-guided tour is not a virtual tour. It is actually a tour at the property itself; without a leasing agent. Prospects visit the property with one-time, limited access and take a tour on their own.
#2 – Key FOBs and Lockboxes and Smart Locks, Oh My!
There are a number of players in the lock space – properties are experimenting with smart locks, mobile access, and other products to gain access to common areas and units.
Most self-guided tour providers use some kind of smart lock option. The prospect may get a code to open the smart box and retrieve a key fob which they have to remember to return to the lockbox after the tour. With other providers you download an app to your phone that will open the lock when you are standing in front of the door.
For many communities, the thought of switching to another type of lock or system can be daunting. But, change is happening. There is no clear leader or unified standard in the industry yet. Our approach with our product, Tour24, has been to be agnostic and work with each property to gain access using their equipment or add equipment on a limited basis when needed. We work with a variety of partners to help properties ease into this smart tech so they are not left behind, and don’t have to make drastic changes once the multifamily industry figures it all out.
Make no mistake, access and locks is the most complicated part of setting up your community for self-guided tours. Being able to track prospects and their entry and exit from the model/vacant unit and maintaining a secure environment is essential and the only way to do this is with smart technology.
#3 – What About Security?
One of the essential components of self-guided tours needs to be the upfront screening process that happens before someone is given access. With Tour24, we use a three-pronged approach: prospects must pass Facial Recognition, Valid ID and Valid Credit Card tests before they can schedule a tour. Then, when they are on the tour, geolocation beacons ping their every move and time stamp where they are and how long they stayed.
If someone wanted to do damage, would they spend time entering all their information, including credit card data, and allow their every move to be tracked? One could argue that this is safer than the current system used today in leasing offices of holding a driver’s license in a drawer. It could also be considered safer for the entire community if a prospect has gone through a screening process to verify identity.
Plus, the leasing team chooses when to enable self-guided tours.
#4 – The Tour Guide. What Happens in the Community?
Once you get through the front door, then what?
Some self-guided tours have the prospect check-in with a person on-site who confirms the prospect’s ID before they can tour on their own. They may provide an iPad with a map of the available units. Some leasing offices have monitor screens and kiosks showing available units, floor plans, and maps of the property.
Other companies check a credit card and ID and charge a nominal fee to the prospect to use their service. Or they offer an online tour scheduler to make an appointment. Although everyone is moving towards smart locks, many #sgt providers still require prospects to pick up a physical key from a lockbox — similar to how Airbnb and VRBO allow access to short-term rentals today. Prospects then walk around the property on their own, without a tour.
With Tour24, we create a full, multimedia walking tour, much like you’d get in a museum or college tour. It highlights different features and amenities throughout the community, telling a story….and then guides the prospect to the model or vacant unit.
Tour24 is flexible and can be turned on and off “on the fly” to meet the needs of the community. Most self-guided tours are scheduled outside of standard office hours and on weekends…especially Sundays. Because of this flexibility communities are able to access a segment of prospects that were previously unavailable.
#5 – Putting It All Together: À La Carte or One-Stop Shop
Many of the players entering the self-guided tour space offer one piece of the puzzle (e.g. the smart lock, the map, the scheduling.) Property managers can now choose between an à la carte solution using different vendors, or an all-in-one approach like the one Tour24 offers today. Tour24 is a full-service application that includes pre-screening, scheduling, smart lock access, interactive tour, data reporting and analytics.
Self-guided tours are here. The future is now, so learn everything possible to gain confidence in this new tool leasing more units more quickly. Maybe start with one property to learn what works and go from there. What do you have to lose?
For more information on Tour24, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit tour24now.com