This article was originally published 5/30/2019. It has been updated to reflect the necessity of live online property tours during times of social distancing, including during the coronavirus and COVID-19 health crisis.
One of the best ways to market vacant units is to take prospects on a live virtual tour of your properties. However, many people are too busy or live too far away to make in-person appointments.
There are other times when you may not have a choice but to conduct tours virtually. The coronavirus health crisis requires social distancing and makes in-person tours a health risk to you, your staff, your prospects and your community. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that empty units need to be filled to prevent your business from going under.
Here’s what you need to know about making live online property tours work for you.
1. Teach yourself how to conduct a live online tour
Live streaming is a great way to drive more prospects to your properties — imagine showing a unit to 100 people at once. There are many free streaming services, such as Zoom, Periscope, Skype and FaceTime.
Here’s a “cheat sheet” of things to remember before you start your live online tour:
- Check the maintenance schedule. The unit you’re showing and the neighboring units should not have any work being done while you show.
- Walk through the entire unit before you go live. Check that everything is tidy and presentable.
- At the start of the live online tour, introduce yourself and state your role. Give an overview of the property and unit: the floor plan, rent, nearby laundry facilities and amenities, etc.
- When you enter a new room, state what’s new or exciting about that space. Are there recent upgrades or remodeling jobs worth mentioning?
- To save time, anticipate common questions and answer them before they’re asked. What’s the pet policy? Are there any additional rental fees, such as parking or cleaning?
- Commercial property managers should mention any CAM fees the tenant will need to cover.
Pro tip: During a health crisis, wait a few days before walking through a recently vacated property. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces for a few hours up to several days.
2. Get found by prospects on Facebook
Property managers are quickly discovering that social media is an effective way to communicate with prospects. In fact, according to the most recent NMHC/Kingsley Apartment Renter Preferences Report, 40% of all apartment hunters will visit a property’s social media. Most of these visits will be to Facebook. Are you connecting with that sizable market, or will your competition get to them first?
Here’s more on why you should use Facebook for live tours of your properties:
- Millennials and Gen X are most likely to visit Facebook over other social media. These generations are renting more than any other age group, so it’s important to connect with them where they are.
- Facebook Live videos are free and easy to upload. Facebook also offers the world’s biggest advertising tool, in case you want to set a budget and promote your properties online.
- Your videos will be saved, so future visitors can find them on your Facebook page.
3. Feature live tours on your website
On average, 79% of all renters will visit a property management website. If you offer online tours, make sure to mention it on your site as well as all your social media channels.
While public tours are a smart way to engage a lot of people at once, it’s also important to give people the opportunity for a one-on-one tour. Encourage prospects to contact you for a private showing, either in person or with a conferencing method like FaceTime.
4. Text your prospects
If you’re often calling prospects to set up live and online tours, you might want to consider texting instead. That’s because 90% of people say they’d rather receive a text from a business than a phone call.
Yardi Breeze offers built-in text messaging support that allows you to text both prospects and tenants. This way, your texts come from a professional portal and not your personal phone number.
There are many benefits to texting. To name a few:
- People can respond on their own time.
- Texting makes follow-up faster and easier. That’s great because people tend to rent from the first party to follow up after the initial contact.
- Many people don’t answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize.
- Texting lets you schedule appointments or send a direct link to previously recorded online tours.
To respect your prospects’ personal space, keep text communications professional and to-the-point.
5. Don’t forget to email video links
While texting is great for short messages, email allows for more detail and content. You’re often better off sending an email when you want to embed photos, videos and/or attachments in your message. (Of course, you’ll want to communicate with each tenant according to their preference).
Use Yardi Breeze to email your tenants with relevant information only, such as the live online tour recording they requested. Don’t send them anything they didn’t ask for, or they may stop reading your messages altogether.
Email is also a great marketing tool for your properties. If you have a business newsletter, your latest live tour can drop right in prospects’ inboxes. This keeps more people in your circle of influence.
6. Bank on the “tech effect” of social distancing
The spread of COVID-19 has forced many Americans to practice social distancing. In a strange way, this may result in more people getting used to meeting online. Many people never had a Zoom meeting or FaceTime hangout before, but the coronavirus changed all that. With more people now using these virtual conferencing technologies, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find more prospects (of all ages) willing and able to attend live online property tours.