The benefits of contactless showings for renters and for landlords boil down to convenience and time savings.
Renters can view units on their own timeline and at their own pace. This makes it easier for them to see units they're interested in. Half of renters report taking time off work to find an apartment and 40% passed on one because they couldn’t find time to see it in real life. It also makes it easier to come to a decision about whether or not they can see themselves living in your unit. As one recent survey of 3,500 adults discovered, the biggest benefit of self tours from the renter perspective was not getting rushed by a salesperson.
As a landlord, you'll save time in two ways. One, you can send all leads to online calendar as soon as they express interest. This means you're no longer answering questions like "Is this still available?" or coordinating appointment times over email. Two, you won't be traveling to host tours anymore so cancellations or no-shows won't take up any more of your day.
So what are the downsides? Getting a proper self showing operation up and running takes time and care whether you're doing it yourself or using a third-party platform like Caretaker. You'll need to make sure that you get the minimum necessary software features to make the most out of self-tours and that you're using the most secure and user-friendly lock hardware. If your lock breaks, lets the wrong person in or doesn't work for the renter then the repercussions can be massive.
All that said, the pros and cons vary based on the size and scope of your business and your market. Below we've done the analysis for a few different common situations.
Deciding if contactless showings are right for your business
Going to the trouble of offering self-guided showings is only worth it for some businesses in some markets. Situations where self tours can be most impactful are:
Long distance investors: You own (and you’d like to own more) properties in different parts of a city or different cities altogether. Since you aren't there, you'll have to hire boots-on-the ground to show your property. This varies, but local real estate agents on average charge 8% of annual rent. Compare this to roughly $200 to $300 that you would spend on a smart lock and camera (recommended). It's up to you to weigh these cost savings (the benefit) against the costs of spending your time thinking about locks and camera hardware.
Growth-focused property managers or investor landlords who self-manage: Whether you're building a portfolio of rentals to rehab, refinance and hold or growing a property management business, more units means more work. This probably means you're considering hiring your first or a new leasing agent. A full-time leasing agent's average salary is $56,390 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if they spend only half their time on showings, you'll be out $2,350 per month. Compare this with the one-time cost of two smart locks (we recommend always having one on hand when another is out in the field, so if you're showing one vacancy per month you should have at least two).
Situations where it's probably not worth the time and effort required to offer self tours are:
You're a landlord who self manages and you're not focused on growth: There are plenty of amazing landlords out there who own between one and ten units and enjoy every aspect of the job, including visiting tenants' to help them fix things and spending time meeting new prospective tenants. If this is you and you have no plans to grow beyond your own capacity then the only reason to consider self-tours would be the benefit of social distancing.
You're a landlord with a couple of rental units that are nearby: Do you rent out the apartment next door or in your garage? The other unit in a two-family home? The costs of even thinking about contactless showings are most likely not worth it if this is your situation because vacancies will be so infrequent and it's relatively easy for you to shuttle back and forth between your rental property for showings when you do need to. If you own just one or two units and getting back and forth to them in the middle of your day isn't a stressor for you, then don't bother.
For the above scenarios, we made the assumption that you would be setting up contactless showings yourself. If you think you'd rather delegate to a platform like Caretaker then replace the hardware costs with a flat $79 per month fee.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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