When it comes to leasing an apartment, the process usually isn’t fun for anyone. Not for the property owner. Not for the listing agent. Not for prospective residents.
Too much time goes into coordinating schedules, lining up property tours, and then traveling to and from the actual showings. It might take two or three hours to manage the logistics of a showing that only lasts 15 minutes.
3D Tours have already made it easier for residents to narrow down the number of units they want to check out. Now, if only there were a way to let prospects tour those units at their own leisure. That would really be something.
The Ease of Self-Showings
Thanks to new technology, now they can. Progressive landlords and property management companies are using smart lockboxes to make self-showing units easier than ever.
The process is simple: Landlords pay for a smart lockbox at each vacant unit they’re trying to rent. The lockbox is controlled remotely by the property owner. The owner can then send a unique access code to anyone interested in viewing the apartment. The process can even be automated to allow prospects to select a two-hour window to view the property, and they’ll be automatically sent a code that is only valid during that period.
Are Self-Showings Safe?
You might be wondering: is this safe?
It’s a reasonable concern, but landlords experienced in self-showings quickly point out all of the built-in safety features. Prospective renters are required to put in personal information to confirm they are who they say they are.
A verification code is sent to the person’s cell phone via SMS text message, and that code is used to authenticate the person’s account. Some smart lockbox software companies also require prospects to submit their credit card information and then charge a $0.99 fee to ensure the credit card is valid.
Credit card information is kept on file if any damage is caused during the self-guided tour of a rental
Still not convinced self-showings are safe?
Consider this: Waypoint Homes, co-founded by the same co-founders as Mynd and an early pioneer in the single-family rental space, relied on self-showings to rent thousands of units and reported only one security issue. One. Single. Issue.
Not a bad track record in the grand scheme of things.
Once authentication is complete, a prospective resident can specify the date/time they’d like to see a property. Showings can occur between 7 am and 8 pm, seven days a week, 365 days per year. This makes it easy to visit and tour properties at their convenience, without having to juggle schedules with an owner or property manager.
On the day/time of the appointment, the person planning to tour the unit simply arrives at the apartment. The owner or property manager will send over a unique 6-digit code to unlock the smart lockbox. That code is only valid for a short time period and can only be used by the person who received it.
Plugin the code, and the lockbox opens, where you’ll find a key to get inside the property. Potential tenants never feel pressured to hurry through a tour; they can explore the unit at their own pace without a pushy salesperson breathing down their neck. When the tour is complete, potential renters just pop the key back into the lockbox and go on their way. Piece of cake.
The landlord or property manager then follows up to see how the tour went, whether the person has questions about the apartment or whether they’re interested in moving forward to sign a lease.
They also check in to verify that the key was put back in the lockbox properly, making it readily available for prospects. In today’s day and age, renters are looking for instant gratification. That’s why they love self-showings.
They can tour a unit quickly and easily. They can even tour a unit multiple times without feeling like a burden. If they like the unit the first time around, they can easily schedule a follow-up showing their family, roommates, or significant others. Maybe they even schedule a third or fourth tour to pop in and take some measurements when buying furniture. In the past, this would have been an enormous time suck for listing agents. Nowadays, it’s no big deal.
What are the Benefits of Self Showing Homes for Rent?
It’s easy to see why renters love self-showings. But the benefits for landlords and property managers are even more dramatic.
- Properties lease faster
- Self-showings help shorten the leasing cycle by getting people in the door faster.
- More qualified leads
- Prospective tenants must create an account, submit credit card information, and confirm their appointment a day before arrival. It requires just enough up-front effort to ensure that those who are touring the unit are serious about renting the apartment.
- Save money
- Self-showings slash coordination by upwards of 80%, saving landlords and property managers valuable time and money. No more wasting time on the phone or in transit to unproductive showings.
- Manage more properties at once
- Showing properties is incredibly time-intensive, and frequent showings mean less time for other tasks. Self-showing frees up time for building the business and adding to the property manager’s portfolio. Self-showings also allow for easy home tours, especially when self-managing from out of state or out of the area. As an owner, you could be living in San Diego, CA or Seattle, WA, and managing a tour from Phoenix, AZ.
- Real-time analytics
- Track inquiries, property tours, and renters’ feedback with the click of a button.
With technology moving at lightning speed, we suspect it’s only a matter of time before smart lockbox technology is integrated into property management software. Eventually, apartment hunters will be able to schedule self-showings using the same app they’d use to message a landlord about resigning a lease or request a service repair. After all, the goal is to provide a more streamlined process for all of those involved.
As real estate tech evolves, the way landlords and property managers do business must evolve too.
By some estimates, 80% of tenants prefer to schedule showings online, and 60% want to schedule showings outside of regular business hours. To remain competitive, landlords and property managers must be responsive to residents’ demands. A willingness to schedule self-showings indicates a tech-savvy owner eager to stay ahead of the pack.
Don’t let the self-showing be the end of your relationship with technology.
Use Online Portals
Online portals make rent and security deposit collection a breeze. You no longer have to worry about checks getting lost in the mail, you can let tenants pay rent in increments, and you can choose to apply fees to late payments.
Online portals are also ideal for keeping track of communications with your tenants, contractors, and property managers. On many platforms, you can even prioritize messages and tasks by color. Since irresponsive communications is an often-cited reason for tenants not resigning their leases, online portals that let you prioritize messages can be indispensable.
Online portals can also be a place where you can have your tenants sign documents. The portals may contain templates, or you can find free templates online.
Finally, online portals can be where you make announcements to keep your tenants in the loop about everything going on with their property or even around town.
Install a Security System
For some landlords, crime is a surprising liability. But if a landlord hasn’t taken the necessary steps to protect their tenants or their community from crime, then the landlord can be sued. This is especially the case when the landlord knows that crimes have already been committed on the property.
A security system, which can be accessed remotely, can deter criminals and make self-showings go smoothly.
Use Keyless Entry to Conduct Fast Cleanings for a Quick Rental Property Turnover
The same system that allows for self-showings can also speed up your rental property turnovers by letting cleaners and contractors in remotely. Having a cleaning team you know well enough to allow them to operate with significant autonomy can be a real time saver. Your team can move even faster if you replace carpeting, which is often expensive and time-consuming to clean.
Keyless entry will also make it easier for your representative to check in on the space to make sure it’s clean enough to resemble the description and images you provided in your listing.
If more than a week passes between when your tenant-to-be last sees the property and their move-in date, keyless entry will make it easier to have the place cleaned one last time before their move-in.
Make Technological Property Improvements
Given all that remote showings can do for you, just think of what such technology can do for your tenants. Consider making improvements such as upgrading to smart appliances to add value to your rental property.
And don’t wait for a vacancy to make those changes. Upgrades that your current tenants can enjoy are just one of many gestures that show tenant appreciation and encourage lease resigning.
Consider Remote Property Management
If you’re fine not being there for a showing or even for a document signing, then maybe you’d be fine not being there at all. With remote property management, a plethora of investment strategies become available to you so you can quickly scale your investment portfolio. You can also invest in landlord friendly states and states with zero property taxes if you’re not already.
By owning properties in different parts of the country or state, you become a more resilient investor since all your eggs aren’t in one basket. You can also invest in different properties (data centers, hospitality, parking lots, etc.) and different classes of properties.
Cash on cash return (CCR) is the measure of how much money your money is making you. One way to increase CCR is by investing in class C or D properties, which are more affordable to invest in because they’re older, require more repairs, are in less desirable school districts, have higher turnover rates, and are less likely to appreciate.
Class C or D properties are often found in gateway cities, which are cities that used to be considered gateways to the American Dream. These cities are on the periphery of major metropolitan areas and often contain the region’s transportation, industrial, and manufacturing centers.
Unfortunately, many gateway cities were left behind when industrial and manufacturing jobs left, leaving them full of class C or D properties, making them a great source of investment opportunities. And since gateway cities are often walkable, close to other cities, and likely have a proud history, there’s always the possibility that you’ll get in on the ground floor of what will one day be a revitalized area (even if that’s a decade or two away).
Never Forget a Human Touch
Even if you decide to go fully remote, a trusted representative is key to success. Having a face to associate with your property makes it easier to build trust. You should also visit the place occasionally and introduce yourself. And whether it be you or your representative, it’s a good idea to go over all the house rules, like those concerning fire prevention, at least once because it’s possible that, otherwise, your tenants won’t look them over at all. The same goes for common, preventable lease violations.
Finally, leave a gift basket for your new tenants upon move-in, and keep track of holidays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries to give gift certificates to local businesses. It’ll show your tenants you care and help tie them to the local community.
Self-showings save you time and money, and that same technology can make a whole lot more easier too. By embracing what the future has to offer, you can scale your real estate investment business more quickly, make use of multiple investment strategies, and manage communication more effectively.
Irrespective of what you decide, technology is already altering real estate. So you can either catch up, get left behind, or be inventive and get ahead of the competition.