As a property management professional, you know from experience that business operations have changed considerably over the past year. Companies had to quickly pivot in order to accommodate work-from-home and social-distancing directives. Technology helped bridge the gaps that emerged in a very big way, especially for those working in leasing operations.
But as workers begin trickling back into offices and society slowly returns to business as usual, many leasing professionals are wondering if the changes implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic were temporary or are here to stay. And if these ultimately become lasting changes, what can we expect the future of leasing to look like?
To answer this, our team at AppFolio sat down with 25-year industry veteran Lisa Trosien, founder of ApartmentExpert.com and Apartment All Stars. Here’s what Trosien had to say.
Throw out the rulebook
Trosien understands that very few things in life are set in stone. That’s why she advises leasing professionals to start over and say, “You know what, we don’t have to do it that way. We’re going to do it virtually. Let’s make it different, let’s make it better.” With that said, there are some best practices you can implement to ensure your virtual tours are as impactful as possible.
Make the apartment the star
“One of the biggest problems is when companies end up using their virtual tours as a creativity contest,” Trosien says. “You’re taking the emphasis away from the apartment itself, which is what the customer actually wants to buy.
If the customer is distracted by a bunch of different things, you’re going to lose that focus on the product.”
While flashy editing can go a long way in certain instances, it’s not necessarily the right priority when it comes to virtual showings. In fact, it can ultimately detract from the experience, as the virtual tour should replicate an in-person tour as much as possible. One long take, stabilized with a gimbal, is a simple way to provide the most true-to-life experience.
When it comes to adding music, make sure you’re not violating any copyright laws, and you can clearly hear the leasing agent’s voice against the music. This brings us to Trosien’s next tip.
Use a tour guide
“I think it’s really important that a person introduces a virtual tour,” Trosien says. “You need to introduce yourself before introducing the apartment—you need a face at the beginning of the experience.”
People like to put a face with the product. It’s human nature. But people also need to know what they are looking at. It’s this combination of being personable while providing important information that ultimately closes deals.
Trosien explains, “We see virtual showings that range from overly creative virtual tours to videos that are completely silent except for the sounds of the shoes of the leasing professional as they clip-clop through the apartment and the jingle of jewelry or keys. There’s no talk of, ‘This is our two-bedroom, two-bath Bradford apartment. It’s available on floors one through five. Let’s take a quick look!’ or ‘Here’s the full-size washer and dryer. It’s a Maytag; you’re going to love it. Let’s go into the master bedroom. It’s 15 by 12.’ You don’t necessarily have to fill the video with a ton of voiceover, but just some comments so that potential tenants know what they’re looking at.”
Flexibility is here to stay
In addition to an increasing emphasis on virtual channels, the future of leasing lies in flexibility. Self-guided tours have proven to be an important and effective way for renters to remotely view apartments. So, in lieu of a leasing assistant standing next to interested tenants answering any questions, it’s vital to make sure that enough information is given from the get-go.
“Self-guided tours are great, but sometimes renters will enter the apartments for a viewing and they don’t know how high the countertops are, they don’t know what the dimensions in the room are, they don’t know anything,” Trosien says. “There is often no signage whatsoever to explain to renters what they’re seeing. Does this apartment face east, west, north, or south? We need to equip our customers with all the same necessary information.”
Whether using paper signage, digital signage, or augmented reality to provide details, Trosien makes it clear that, “You can never give them too much information.”