The leasing agent’s job isn’t going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Even with sleek software that offers to automate much of an agent’s work, there’s still a need for the human touch.
This is especially true of property showings. While self-guided tours were a near necessity during the pandemic, when property owners and managers leaned on app-based technology to minimize exposure, the software is more of a supplement today. Self-guided tours are used to accommodate renters beyond business hours and provide an alternative to traditional agent-led showings.
Here’s how it works: Properties invite prospects to download an app that works as a digital map of the property. The app might provide a keycode to an available unit or unlock doors via Bluetooth-equipped lockboxes. Prospects then can tour at their own pace.
“The leasing agent is still involved from beginning to end,” says Jim Losik, vice president, sales and leasing at Draper and Kramer, a privately held financial and property services firm. “This is just another tool in their arsenal.”
And like any tool, a self-guided tour works only as well as you use it.
MFE spoke with three industry professionals about how to get the most out of this technology. Here are three tips to streamline operations and increase closings with self-guided tours:
1. Chart a Clear Path
You want the self-guided tour to be user-friendly and show your property in the best light possible.
Property managers can customize tour routes by adding navigation pins to the preprogrammed digital wayfinding map that guides the user to an available unit or model unit with points of interest along the way.
“Obviously, we want the tour to be as easy to follow as possible,” Losik says. “So, if the directions are confusing or if prospects get lost, it kind of defeats the purpose. … The on-site staff has to work hand in hand with this technology to make sure that what the prospect is experiencing through this tour is very favorable.”
In other words, be prepared to do several trial runs.
While self-guided tours are convenient, property owners and managers are giving up some control over what a prospect sees or doesn’t see.
“You’re limited in your ability to steer their eyeballs,” says Marc Hershberg, managing partner and CEO of Topaz Capital Group, a New York-based multifamily private equity real estate firm. “A self-guided tour provides a good frame of reference, but, at the end of the day, we still want the money shots seen through the eye of a tenant.”
That’s why property owners and managers stress the importance of the follow-up (more on that later).
2. Pair Self-Guided Tech with a Good CRM
Among other things, customer relationship management (CRM) software helps property managers prioritize and organize leads. A self-guided tour is very much a lead-generating tool.
Nurture leads from self-guided tours just as you would any other lead, advises Zak Sawan, vice president of operations of RPM Living’s Dallas-Fort Worth market.
“With RPM specifically, we have expectations with touch points, and we monitor that through our CRM very closely. Our performance team is very engaged with that to ensure we pull weekly data that shows the touch points everyone is making, and they give an average score for the week, and we have benchmarks and KPIs we’re supposed to meet to be at a certain percentage of engagement,” says Sawan. “We’re making sure we’re treating them the same as any other prospect who would come through the door.”
3. Invite Prospects for Another Tour
Your prospects may or may not get a full understanding of your community through a self-guided tour. As part of your follow-up, property managers recommend inviting leads for a second tour with an agent. This is your opportunity to discuss community events, package lockers, propertywide Wi-Fi, common spaces, and other perks that set your property apart.
“They may have completely overlooked some of the assets on a self-guided tour,” such as the pool, gym, or other amenities, Hershberg says. “That’s why we encourage them to come back when a leasing agent is there.”
While self-guided tours might direct people to a furnished model unit, an in-person tour can show prospects available units so they can know the full scope of their options.
“The tour is great for getting them to the property, but we still have that human interaction with the leasing agent to direct them to a unit they’re most interested in,” Losik says.