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The Case for Self-Guided Touring

Division BG Multifamily, BG Talent, BGSF, Community Outreach, Property Management, Real Estate Division
December 10, 2020

Four years ago, self-guided touring was the newest technology to hit multifamily housing. A number of start-up companies were in on this, speaking on how leasing could continue 24-7, allowing the prospect to guide themself through the amenities and model apartment, using a one-time code that allowed for doors to be unlocked for a certain period of time. This whole concept raised some questions. What about the rapport that leasing associates were expected to build during the leasing process? What about safety and loss prevention? More importantly- would this mean the end of traditional leasing offices?

Enter 2020. In a pandemic and post-pandemic world, there are several large management firms that have opted to pull the trigger on self-guided tours. In a time of distancing and no contact, self-guided tours mean that prospects can continue to apartment hunt without the worry of encountering others.

A self-guided tour, no matter the company that offers it, is usually pretty standard. A prospect can schedule the appointment from a website or a link provided by the leasing team. Upon giving an ID number and (sometimes) a credit card number for incidentals, the tour is set and all the prospect has to do is show up. Once a prospect has arrived, the coordinating tour app on their phone guides them through each step of the tour- with picture and video guides. Doors unlock magically with their one-time code, interior cameras are set up to monitor time spent in each space, and most apps usually have a feature to show off additional benefits in each room (i.e. “Check out the granite countertops and soft-close cabinets!”). As a bonus, the app will also ask the prospect if they are ready to lease the apartment home- and give them the direct link to apply right then and there. Easy, right?

The list of additional pros for self-guided touring is amazing. Allowing only one prospect or prospect group per slot, there’s no chance of double booking. Additionally, while there is a time limit, it’s not a short one. You can take your time strolling through amenity areas, the model home, and community spaces at your leisure. For the prospect, there’s no “pressure” of making a leasing decision right then and there. It’s easy to inspect every square inch of the model apartment or vacant apartment without a leasing associate’s attentive presence. Plus, self-guided tours are usually scheduled for extended hours- starting as early at 6 am at some communities and ending at 8 pm. If you are one of the majority of Americans who work until 5 pm or 6 pm, you don’t have to scramble to get to a leasing office before closing time- simply schedule your self-guided tour at a time that’s the most convenient for you.

As new technologies usually do, there are some cons, or at the very least, some questions that a renter or management company needs to consider before spending upwards of $10,000 to outfit a model home for a self-guided tour. What if things go missing? Loss prevention is one of the biggest setbacks and concerns for companies wanting to take the next step in self-guided tours. Sure, the prospect must submit a driver’s license when they tour as well as a credit card- but what if it’s fake? What if your custom furniture or décor gets nabbed out of a model home or an amenity area gets trashed? Some would say the risk outweighs the reward. Other concerns have to do with the personal touch that a leasing experience can provide. If prospects choose to go the self-guided route, who is there to overcome their objections? How will they form an emotional connection to the office team? What if they have questions, get lost on the tour route, or meet a resident who just HAS to tell them about their negative experience and there’s no leasing associate there to usher them kindly away? These are the things keeping some VPs up at night.

There’s no argument that the leasing process is shifting- not only due to COVID-19, but also due to emerging technologies, a faster pace of life, and more people wanting to dole out their time wisely; whether that means more time at home with their family, or working-from-home and homeschooling coinciding with their typical nine to five jobs. As we continue to evolve as an industry, we need to be able to be flexible with the changing needs of our residents and prospective residents to stay relevant.

Regardless of whether your company is beginning self-guided tours or keeping it old school, BG Real Estate is here for you. Maybe it’s in-person leasing associates or an additional concierge to assist with keeping that self-guided tour path clean. No matter your stance or where you are today, BGRE is making sure that your future is our purpose. Find out more at BGSF.com.