by Todd Katler
Six months after it began in the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic is still with us.
Hopefully, a vaccine is on the not-too-distant horizon, and things can return to something resembling normalcy. Until then, multifamily owners and operators will have to continue to adapt to a challenging market.
One of the keys to successfully adapting to the pandemic is to realize that nothing has to be set up perfectly before implementation. Take self-guided tours, for example.
Self-guided tours were certainly becoming more common in multifamily before COVID-19. Now, with the need to practice social distancing, the adaption of them has accelerated.
But perhaps you are hesitant to immediately invest for a full-blown, complete implementation of this technology. Do you really have to have all the associated hardware – such as smart locks – from the start? Do you have to go whole hog, or can you just do the bare minimum for now and grow as necessary? The answer to that last question is “yes.”
You can offer a scaled-back, barebones version of a self-guided tour in which, for example, a prospect shows a driver’s license through the leasing office window and then an associate passes the prospect a FOB or a key through a slot.
The reasons why an operator would want to implement self-guided tours in some form or fashion are obvious. For example, one apartment operator that began offering self-guided tours earlier this year has found that its prospects who complete a self-guided tour at any point in the leasing process have a 54% higher conversion rate compared to those who only take an agent-led tour. In addition, according to an analysis by Anyone Home, 62% of people who use a self-guided tour and subsequently lease complete that tour within 60 minutes of their initial inquiry, which shows that prospects who use this technology are anxious to move along the buyer’s journey.
So bear this in mind when you’re considering new adaptions, whether they be self-guided tours or video tours or anything else: You don’t have to go full bore from the start. You can take baby steps and then decide if a full-scale implementation is warranted.
Options, options and more options
Another idea to keep in mind is to focus your adaptations on the consumer experience. To the extent that you can, give your prospects and residents the ability to “trade in their own currency,” i.e., interact with a community in the way they want to, whether it’s by phone, text, email or chat. Some prospective renters will want to take in-person self-guided tours, while others will prefer a video tour or, when it’s safe, an associate-led one. Whenever feasible, make sure a prospect has a full array of choices in how they move along the buyer’s journey when considering your properties.
Giving prospects this ability can help your portfolio outperform others in a challenging market, one in which many communities are competing for relatively few new leases.