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Everything Landlords Need to Know About Self-Guided Showings

Contactless showings, also called self showings or self-guided tours for real estate, allow renters to show themselves around an available rental unit.

One clear trend in the way that consumers engage with businesses these days is that they want to use their phones to get everything they need. Two-thirds of Americans' Internet usage and nearly half of everything sold online happens on a phone.

People want to find and get leases on their phones as well, but with one key difference: 9 in 10 renters still need to see a the place in person before signing a lease. Video and virtual viewings are helpful, but not enough.

For these reasons — and because of the coronavirus related health risks of guided tours or open houses — contactless rental showings are gaining in popularity. Also called self-tours or self-guided tours, they allow renters to see a listing advertisement, book a viewing for any time of day and tour privately.

What are contactless rental showings?

Contactless showings refer to a system that gives prospective tenants private access to an available rental unit without putting the property at risk. Renters let themselves in using a key from a lockbox or a smart lock on the door. They look around and then they apply if they like it.

If you've never heard of this before it may sound pretty out-there. It stands in stark contrast to the traditional way of showing rental properties, where the landlord, property manager or their agent schedules an appointment with a prospective tenant and meets them there to give a guided tour.

Here’s how contactless viewings work, step by step:

1. A consumer discovers a listing online. This could be on any listing website, like Facebook, Craigslist or Zillow. 2. Instead of scheduling a viewing appointment over email the prospect is directed to an online calendar. They select from available time windows. 3. They're guided through a mandatory screening process. This can be customized but should include identity verification at a minimum. 4. At their appointment time, they get a unique access code that opens either a lockbox with keys or a smart lock on the door itself. 5. They show themselves around (potentially referencing notes sent to them by the owner so they're sure to see every feature) and lock the door on their way out.

The basic idea of self-guided showings has been around for a while in the form of a traditional lockbox kept at the property and a leasing agent who would hold a photo ID at their office while a prospect viewed. Technology has made it possible to scale self-guided showings without scaling risk, and now the country's biggest property managers are offering them throughout their portfolios.

Up next

If you're interested in offering self tours but not ready to sign a big sales contract, sink a lot of time into a whole new way of doing things, or jeopardize your property then you've come to the right place. This guide will walk you through all of the decision that you'll have to either make or be aware of. We'll cover:

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.