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 was a way to let prospects tour those units at their own leisure. That would really be something!
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 (or by the property manager, on the owner’s behalf). 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 in which to view the property, and they’ll be automatically sent a code that is only valid during that period.
You might be wondering: is this safe?
It’s a reasonable concern, but landlords experienced in self-showings are quick to 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 in case of any damage caused during the self-guided tour of a rental.
Still not convinced self-showings are safe? Consider this: Waypoint Homes (now Starwood Waypoint), 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 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 take place between 7am and 8pm, 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 period of time (usually, between one and two hours) and can only be used by the person who received it. Plug in 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 question 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 they key was put back in the lockbox properly, making it readily available for future 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 for their family, roommates or significant other. 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 a huge time suck for listing agents. Nowadays, it’s no big deal.
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 are required to 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 (or worse, last minute cancellations or no-shows!).
- 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.
- 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 to 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 normal business hours. In order 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.