By Brent Steiner, CEO, Engrain
For millions of people across the country, the apartment rental process is yet another hassle. Whether upsizing, downsizing or moving to a new city, renting a new apartment involves setting a budget, searching through listings and the arduous process of scheduling property tours to find the perfect home. Because of the challenges associated with renting, various players have begun attempts to streamline the process. However, while many of these innovations may positively impact the industry, there are some uniquely poised to benefit renters and real estate professionals alike, particularly alternative methods of touring.
The most basic non-conventional touring method is “self-guided touring,” which aims to bring more flexibility and accessibility to renters by allowing potential residents to view apartments by themselves – removing the hassle of coordinating their schedule with that of the leasing agent.
Virtual touring, on the other hand, offers the convenience of remote accessibility to the property—eliminating the need for renters to coordinate in-person tours at all. While self-guided touring is a great solution for renters with busy schedules, virtual touring has a particularly strong value proposition for people relocating to another city and want to experience their new home before making a cross-country trip.
These advancements aren’t intended to reduce the role of leasing agents, but instead allow them to focus on other crucial aspects of the job like tracking leads, daily reporting and providing quality customer service.
Virtual touring simply refers to creating the experience of an actual tour without physically being in the apartment. While this was always possible on a minimal level — 50 years ago, people could look at photographs of an apartment before renting it — with modern real estate technology tools, it can now serve as a reasonable alternative to traditional tours.
Some of the tech platforms that support the maturation of virtual touring include Matterport, whose 3D-cameras allow leasing agents to capture 3D digital copies of a space in incredible detail and enable virtual walk-throughs of a property. Using this technology, potential residents can view every room of an apartment, various amenities and other important details.
For renters who want to envision their personal belongings and furniture in a prospective space, this is made possible by augmented reality tools like roOomy. The platform gives consumers the ability to “try before you buy” and eliminates the need to physically move in, set up furniture and otherwise unpack to get a feel for the home.
Self-guided touring goes beyond just virtual viewing options and gives renters the ability to visit and tour a potential unit in-person whenever works best for them—whether it’s weekdays at noon or a late Sunday evening. With the advances of technology, physical apartment tours are no longer limited by leasing agents’ busy schedules or an apartment building’s specific office hours ¬– now residents have the option to tour 24/7.
Engrain recently added self-touring capabilities to its TouchTour technology, which will allow renters to visit and tour future homes using the TouchTour mobile app. Participating apartments will be outfitted with a technology-enabled key box that lets apartment hunters enter the unit at whatever time and day they choose. Residents will also be guided through the apartment using Engrain’s TouchTour technology, with customizable digital property tours showcasing floor plans, apartment photos, amenities and more.
The platform will ultimately guide residents through the tour and provide all the necessary information and important factors which help prospective renters decide whether or not they have found their new home.
Self-touring technology will ultimately allow apartment communities to accommodate a higher volume of tours per day—not only increasing the possibility of successful lead conversion but also freeing up hours of staff time otherwise spent on lengthy guided tours.