on Oct 14, 2020 12:55:32 PM

Apartment teams turn to virtual leasing, tours during COVID

Since the start of COVID-19, touring and leasing an apartment has made a dramatic switch from a face-to-face interaction to a personal, virtual conversation. Leasing processes and community teams have shifted to digital platforms to ensure social distancing is top-of-mind while the apartment search continues for new and incoming residents.

According to the National Apartment Association, apartment communities across the nation are leaning on location-awareness features, screen-sharing, 3D images, interactive maps and videos to better interact with current and future residents. 

In the case of Cityville on 9th, one of Hubbell Apartment Living's nearly 40 apartment communities, Assistant Apartment Manager Drew Mason noticed the change in an extremely positive light. Although COVID meant more challenges in day-to-day interactions with his residents, it also brought opportunities to make the apartment process more streamlined and seamless. 

"Around the start of COVID-19, we maintained high hopes to help people find an apartment home while keeping social distancing top of mind," said Mason. "In our industry, a lot of our rapport building happens with that first interaction, in-person tour, it's a critical meeting for us to learn their apartment needs and for them to get to know us."

For existing residents, the Hubbell apartment teams looked first to their new Resident Portal via their payment and maintenance request platform, Entrata. This platform allowed residents to pay rent online, submit work orders through an app, see real-time community updates and chat online with property managers. 

"We needed to keep that genuine experience while keeping as much social distance as we could," said Mason. 

For incoming residents, Mason and his team most heavily relied on Facebook Messenger to give video tours, flipping the camera from their face to community amenities and apartment tours. Over time, many more apps were integrated like Skype, Teams, Google Meet, FaceTime and generic texting. Many teams were also recording tours of their most popular floorplans and amenity spaces so they could send to a prospective resident at a moments notice.

"Tours don't stop, leasing doesn't stop so virtual touring was implemented. We use Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and in conjunction to that, we had to revamp our communication process leading up to the meeting as well," said Mason.

Other digital media like 3D Matterport tours, social media follows and self-guided tours were also crucial in leasing successes. Self-guided tours began in late summer, once a handful of restrictions were lifted in Iowa. These tours allow a resident, who may need to physically see the space in person, visit the property, receive a key from the onsite team and take a tour of the property in a scheduled time frame. 

"We saw so much success with it, from a convenience factor, that it's a tool we want to keep around," said Mason. 

Mason says the move-in process has become more efficient due to the pandemic's pressing need for change and social distancing. He says it's a very small silver lining in a situation like this. 

"Those who are coming from out of town or out of state, we're very optimistic in the future uses of this tool. We're still able to build that connection, just through screens rather than face-to-face."



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