Leasing Sight Unseen: How to Lease Units Virtually
May 07, 2020
Over the past few years, virtual apartment tours have been a slowly evolving feature of the leasing process. However, the concept of showing a property and leasing a unit to a resident without an in-person tour has been launched into overdrive.
In other words, we went from a steady climb with two legs to a jet pack strapped on our back.
In today’s current environment, leasing a property sight unseen is the new reality.
We know that April and May are peak leasing months for the multifamily industry, especially in metropolitan areas. This means that even with everything going on, normal things are still happening — such as leases expiring and apartment hunting. While residents have many compelling reasons to re-sign their current lease and not deal with the incredible hassle of moving while social distancing, many residents are on the flip side where they have equally compelling reasons to move.
Such as, they are unhappy with how their current property management is handling the outbreak, their income has changed and they can’t afford their current high rent, they lost a job and must move closer to a new one, they can’t support a single-unit and must move somewhere with a roommate.
Below we outline the main components of a successful leasing sight unseen strategy:
Comprehensive Video Tours
When you’re striving to lease an apartment sight unseen, the most important tool in your arsenal is video.
If virtual tours have not been implemented at your property yet, your first step is to record video tours of available units and community amenities and get them live on your apartment website as soon as possible.
It’s time to show, not tell.
If you already have virtual tours available, take another look; see what you can improve and make more comprehensive.
You will not win a new lease from a resident who has never physically been to your property with mediocre video.
While your video quality is definitely important, video comprehensiveness takes the cake — or the lease.
In other words, record video tours of everything.
The goal is to show the prospective resident everything they would see on a full property tour. This creates the semblance of the renter actually being there and increases property transparency. Make the prospective resident feel as if nothing is hidden and they have the ability to see every nook and cranny of the apartment.
It’s not just about showing the rooms, effective video tours showcase every detail and help prospects visualize themselves living happily in the space. For example, for a video tour of the bedroom, you should show where the wall outlets are, how the natural light filters in from the windows, if there’s a ceiling fan, where the air vents are, and what the closet space looks like.
One of the biggest fears of apartment searchers who can’t visit the property is that not every area of the property is at the same high caliber as the one unit they saw in a video tour. They also might fear they will encounter unknown “surprises” such as an out-of-date fitness center or small pool. Your property can alleviate that with comprehensive videos of every aspect of the property.
Depending on your specific community amenities, here is a list of the video tours your website should offer:
- A separate video tour of each apartment layout that is offered or available
- Include bedroom(s), bathroom(s), closet(s), kitchen, storage options, living room, hallways, front door, windows, cabinets, balcony or terrace, and so on.
- A video tour for each of the community amenities
- Courtyard and/or patio
- Outdoor seating
- Fitness center
- Work areas and/or meeting rooms
- Charging stations
- Coffee bar
- Main office or lobby
- Hallways and elevators
- Building decor
- Parking garage
- Pet amenities
To sum it up, have a video tour of every single thing your property offers.
Informative Audio or Text Layover
Unfortunately, some information that prospective residents will want to be made aware of can not be conveyed visually.
This is why we recommend that you include either voice-over or text additions to your virtual tours. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate venture, simplicity is best.
Here are a few suggestions apartment searchers will appreciate…
Don’t limit your video tours to just visual elements, layer them with text and audio to offer the viewer a wealth of information on their possible new home.
Live Virtual Tours
Once you’ve nailed down your video tours, we suggest exploring the option of hosting live virtual tours for prospective residents.
We know that the personal aspect of the leasing process is a huge factor for success. Often, it’s your staff that sells the property, rather than the property simply selling itself. Because let’s be real, there’s a lot of competition in the multifamily market, but nothing can compete with an amazing leasing agent connecting with prospective residents.
One major fear of leasing a sight unseen is the loss of the personal aspect. By implementing live virtual tours with FaceTime or another video conferencing tool, you can continue giving prospective residents that personal connection.
Flexibility and Certainty
Two aspects that go hand-in-hand for successfully leasing units unseen to new residents are flexibility and certainty.
Not only is this process new for you, but it is new to renters as well. They need to feel like there is a reliable process in place.
Be flexible in any way you can and show prospective residents that your property is striving to accommodate them throughout the decision process. It is understandable that residents are extremely frustrated with the fact they cannot physically visit the property in person; be empathetic towards that.
One way to be flexible is by offering a wide variety of times that residents can schedule live virtual tours or phone calls with leasing agents. As well, you can offer additional concessions such as granting early move-in or promising to raise the rent upon renewal.
To establish a feeling of certainty that new residents can rely on, strive to be as transparent as possible about the lease process, move-in process, extra fees, and rent policy. The main goal is to ensure new residents that they will not experience any unwanted “surprises” throughout their lease.
Lastly, winning a new resident during this time might take lease concessions you had never before considered offering. One example is the lease lengths you offer. While the standard is 12 months, consider offering six- or nine-month leases. Getting a new resident to your property is the big battle, once they are there, you have more faculties at your side to win them for a longer period of time.
Leasing Your Community Virtually Is the Future of the Multifamily Industry
Winning a lease sight unseen will take substantial effort on your part, but it is extremely possible.
With comprehensive virtual video tours, live tours, and understanding staff ready to aid prospective residents, you can continue leasing available units even while there are social distancing measures in place.
Even after the current pandemic ceases, we believe that virtual tours will still become the new normal. Our industry was already heading that way, we’ve just reached it faster than originally anticipated.