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The Impact of Self-Guided Apartment Tours on Multifamily Properties

January 19, 2024

Self-guided tour

In the dynamic realm of real estate, multifamily management companies are continually exploring innovative ways to enhance and improve the leasing process. One such groundbreaking development is the integration of self-guided apartment tours, a technology-driven solution that not only streamlines community visits but also adds substantial value for both community owners and potential residents.
The self-guided tours feature emerged during the Covid pandemic, has really taken off in the last 2 years, and is becoming a must-have tool for multifamily professionals. Thus, it’s now being offered by many tech companies in the multifamily landscape, either as a stand alone app, or as a feature in access control applications, such as Gatewise.

Self-Guided vs. Virtual Tours

Self guided tours take place in the actual apartment and community, while the virtual tour happens in the virtual space – online. Virtual tour apps allow for the potential resident to browse through an interactive video or 3D models, and see the overall layout of the apartment. This means virtual tours can be a great tool for getting prospects interested in the community, but only a real visit via a (self) guided tour will give the potential resident a real sense of the place – sunlight in the apartment rooms, water pressure in the bathroom, etc. Thus, virtual tours can create an interest, while self-guided tours will get the deal closed.

How Self-Guided Apartment Tours Work

The self-guided tour experience started for me – the potential resident – when I downloaded a dedicated app, in which I can book the tour. Since the self-guided tour is usually one feature out of a suite of features, I get a chance already at this step to see and get a feeling of the property.
After booking, you’ll be asked to go through some kind of qualification. This step is important, as the community manager or leasing agent will not be hosting the tour, rather than me – the potential tenant.

Apartment tour

Qualification is usually done in one of two ways – ID check, in which I was asked to upload an image of my ID, so I can be validated when coming to do the tour. The second option is to charge the prospect credit card, which gives you a guarantee in case of damage done by the prospect. The downside of charging the prospect’s credit card is it can be a turnoff for many potential residents (I know it was for me…).
The next step after qualifying is accessing the community – both the common areas – like the parking, pool, gym, etc, and the apartment (many times it’s an apartment dedicated for this purpose). If you have a smart lock installed in the apartment, you can use it, especially if it’s integrated with your general access control platform. A less secure and convenient option is to use a lockbox, from which the prospect takes all the relevant keys/fobs they need for the tour. Although this is an acceptable option, I have to admit that doing everything via the app feels much more streamlined and secure.
If you’re using an integrated access control system, such as Gatewise, your prospect will get a secure access code that grants them entry into the community during the scheduled self-guided tour. This system ensures that only authorized individuals can access the apartment during specified time frames.

The tour begins

Once I gained access, I was able to start the tour. Self-guided tours typically utilize a mobile app that guides users through the community. The app provides a seamless and interactive experience, offering detailed information about each room, amenities, and the overall layout of the apartment. The more advanced apps use geolocation tracking to deliver the relevant narration as the prospect is touring the apartment, while the less advanced apps use a map with arrows and written guide. To me it felt like the live narration can sometimes be too much, but in most cases you can turn it off, and just rely on written & visual descriptions.

The Importance of Self-Guided Tours for Multifamily Professionals

Increased Flexibility

Self-guided apartment tours provide flexibility for both community owners and potential residents  Prospective renters can schedule tours at their convenience, reducing the logistical challenges associated with coordinating in-person showings

Time Efficiency

Multifamily management companies can optimize their resources by reducing the need for on-site staff during every community showing. This time efficiency allows community managers to focus on other crucial aspects of community management. It also means that the time range in which the potential residents can go through the tour is more flexible. More importantly this increases your NOI (Net Operating Income)!

Empowering Prospective residents

Offering self-guided tours empowers potential residents to explore properties independently. This sense of control often results in more engaged and serious inquiries, leading to a higher likelihood of successful leasing. The self part of the Self guided tour is also a big gain for the potential resident, as it’s reducing the stress and pressure feeling that comes with being guided by a realtor/sales man.

No contact

No contact tour

Even though the pandemic is behind us, it still has an effect on how people interact physically, especially for the elderly, and people with risk symptoms. Self-guided tours allow for contactless interaction, which some prospects will find important. Ostensibly, the pandemic is what started the self-guided tour rise.

Access Control Integration

Security is a paramount concern in multifamily living. That’s twice important when dealing with unknown visitors (hence the qualification step). Integrating the self-guided tour with your overall access control system can be a big advantage for that end.

Customized Access Codes

Each self-guided tour is facilitated by a unique access code, granting entry only during the scheduled time frame. This not only ensures the security of the community but also enables community owners to monitor and track visitor access.

Real-Time Monitoring

Access control systems integrated with self-guided tours provide real-time monitoring capabilities. community owners can track who enters the community, when they enter, and how long they stay, enhancing overall security measures.

Increasing Revenues for Multifamily: A Tangible Outcome

The incorporation of self-guided apartment tours directly contributes to the financial success of multifamily properties, offering several avenues for revenue enhancement.

Reduced Vacancy Rates

Self-guided tours expedite the leasing process, reducing the time units remain vacant. This swift turnover contributes to a decrease in vacancy rates, ensuring a steady stream of rental income for community owners.

Broadened Market Reach

The flexibility of self-guided tours allows multifamily properties to reach a wider audience. Individuals from different locations can explore properties, expanding the market reach and increasing the potential for securing leases from a diverse tenant pool.

Enhanced community Appeal

The innovative nature of self-guided tours enhances the overall appeal of multifamily properties. This modern approach attracts tech-savvy residents, positioning the community as a desirable and forward-thinking living space, potentially justifying premium rental prices.

Digital leasing experience

Most aspects of the leasing experience are getting digitized in the last years – signing contracts digitally, collecting payments digitally, and more. The self-guided tour feature is another (digital) brick in your leasing experience. If you can integrate your self-guided tour app with your CRM, you can see how it contributes to your marketing effort, and improve ROI over time.

Our thoughts on Self-guided tours

  • Self-guided apartment tours represent a shift in the way multifamily properties approach the leasing process, and you – the property professional – should be at least aware of the possibilities it holds for you.
  • Embracing technology, multifamily management companies can offer a more flexible and efficient experience for you – the community owner/manager – and to your potential residents.
  • The integration of access control features further enhances the overall appeal of self-guided tours, ensuring that your property remains at the forefront of innovation in the competitive real estate market. As a tangible outcome, the adoption of self-guided apartment tours translates into increased revenues, reduced vacancy rates, and a broader market reach, positioning your property for sustained success in the ever-evolving real estate landscape.