The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives.
As we all try to keep up with all the ways the coronavirus is impacting real estate investors, many landlords are scrambling to figure out how to fill vacancies during the pandemic. Landlords and tenants alike must adapt drastically different ways of showing vacant rental properties.
With social distancing our new norm, how do landlords, property managers, and real estate agents safely showcase their vacant rental properties?
Enter: virtual tours.
Why Virtual Tours?
In a time when most landlords can’t physically meet prospective renters to show their vacant rental units, they still need a way to showcase the unit.
Save time and money: Showing homes takes time. Time is money. You get the point. Mere pictures and a description often boosted to accentuate the positive does not always tell the true picture. A virtual tour can provide much more depth. This means that less time will be spent showing the property to the curious onlookers.
Higher traffic: Virtual tours can boost property listing click-throughs. This means that when a customer sees your rental property with an available virtual tour, they are more apt to take a look. As a matter of fact, according to Animoto, one of the more popular virtual tour creators, it is as much as 403% more likely.
Convenience: In the days of tech here and tech there, more and more consumers want convenience. And virtual tours offer just that.
Safety: Virtual tours prevent the possibility of a dangerous situation. As a Realtor, I have found myself in scary situations. Having the ability to offer virtual tours offers a security. And with the current event of the corona virus causing us to socially separate, virtual tours permit many of us to continue business as usual.
Renters Want Them: According to a study by Abodo, over 60% of moving renters said the coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted their search for a new home.Many went on to say they wanted to see floor plans in the rental listing, along with walk-through videos showcasing the unit.
How to Create a Virtual Tour
Landlords have several options to create a virtual tour of their vacant unit. You can hire someone to create a virtual tour for you.
Or you can quickly and easily create it yourself using an online tool.
Hiring a professional can cost upwards of a thousand dollars in some cases. And in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many local providers can’t get to your property.
There is, however, something to be said for professionally created videos and photos. There is a reason why many Realtors hire the professionals. You can scrub through thousands of home photo shoots and virtual tours and always pinpoint those done by a pro. A great way to search for a professional real estate videographer is by using a great tool called Thumbtack. Search keywords like “Real Estate Video Services” or Real Estate Photographers” and then choose the zip-code. Voila! You will have several to investigate.
Once you find a few, make sure to thoroughly investigate by conducting a Google search for their reputation. Another way to find a good virtual video producer is to look to social medial Go to your local groups and publish a recommendations post. Look for the repetitive names.
Alternatively, you can quickly and cheaply create your own virtual tour. Frankly, during the coronavirus crisis, this is most likely a more viable solution. Video technology has become very user friendly. For instance, Animoto provides a simple to use, drag and drop technology. Many of these available tools help you create quite a professional, marketing tool for your rental properties. Prices vary but generally start at about $30 per month. Animoto has a free version which is still packed full of features.
Try Virtual Staging
To circumvent the current barriers in front of us during the coronavirus pandemic, creativity is a must.
For instance, did you know that there is a company that will virtually stage your rental unit? Virtual Staging Solutions is a company that will take your photos and turn them into beautiful, perfectly staged (with virtual furniture) for the greatest of virtual showings.
Play around with it. The results are impressive!
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Options for Physical Showings
Landlords who still want to let prospective renters walk through the property have two options: a traditional guided showing (albeit with protective measures in place), and a self-guided showing.
If you still want to meet prospects yourself in person, put several safety measures in effect. When you meet rental applicants, always stay at least six feet apart at the rental. Make sure and don your mask and gloves. Consider simply opening the door for them, then standing back and remaining outside while allowing them to walk through.
Before meeting any prospective tenants in person, take some precautions:
1. Pre-screen your candidates. Have them complete a pre-screening form or answer several key questions before showing them. No sense in wasting your time conducting a showing to someone who won’t even qualify for your rental.
2. Consider one-day of showings. Space them apart so that you are being socially-separate.
3. Make sure to notify your applicants that no more than two people (no children) will be permitted at once to view the available property.
4. Keep the showings under a certain time.
5. Open up all cabinets, closets and doors. Turn on all lights. Open all window coverings. Ask your viewers not to touch anything.
6. Wipe all door handles in between showings.
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Install a lock box or smart door lock, and smart security cameras. Consider installing a video-enabled smart doorbell, if the neighborhood and property justify the expense. Many smart cameras turn on automatically when they detect motion. In some cases, you can install these easily yourself for a safe and secure smart home.
This way your prospects can tour the vacant rental property themselves while you watch from the comfort and safety of your home. You can also opt to park near the vacant rental while your prospects walk-through the property, if you want to stay close for it. Make sure and place printed notifications that video surveillance in present throughout the home.
Consider using the self-showing service Rently.com. The specialize in self-touring technology.
Far too many landlords remain stuck in the 20th Century, using paper rental applications and lease agreements. It’s time to modernize.
Remember the less face-to-face and hand-to-hand contact you have, the safer you are from the coronavirus. Ditch the paper rental applications and explain to your prospective tenants that you collect all rental applications online. Collect their name and email address, and send them a request for them to fill out the rental application online.
While you’re at it, you can request tenant screening reports to check their credit, criminal, and eviction history.
And when you find the right tenant, you can digitally sign a lease agreement with them, all done via email.
Additional Safety Tips
Remember to always take precautionary measures to ensure your safety and the safety of your eventual renters. Make sure and check on all of your vacant rental properties frequently. Change lock box combinations regularly. Make sure that you have a written showing policy and procedures available. Remember, FHA anti-discrimination policies are always in effect and it is important to remain in constant compliance.
Additionally, remember that under our current pandemic situations, there are new regulations in effect regarding rents, evictions and the like. Before letting loose a rent collection tirade, be sure to read how rents remaining unpaid, evictions and defaults should be handled during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lastly, without sounding too cliché-ish, we are all in this together. Work together to stay safe!♦
What creative solutions have you put into place or have used? How are they working out for you?
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About the Author
Deni Supplee is a landlord, property manager, licensed real estate agent, house hacker, and co-founder at SparkRental. She pursues financial independence so she can spend even more time with her (enormous) family. Want to reach financial independence too? Join Deni, Brian, and guest Scott Hoefler for a free masterclass on how Scott ditched his day job in under five years.