The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges, physically, mentally, and socially. Some of its consequences are minor inconveniences, while others pose obstacles never previously imagined. With the ultimate goal of keeping everyone as safe as possible, every person has adopted new rituals and protocols. This includes property owners and landlords, who suddenly find themselves having to house hundreds of prospective tenants without allowing them to take conventional tours because of the current social distancing rules.
Just a couple of months ago, renting a home without physically visiting and examining it first seemed preposterous. But in the wake of the pandemic, people who need to find new housing have been left with no option but to settle for virtual apartment tours.
As a property owner or landlord, you’ll have to adopt new practices to make people comfortable signing a lease without an on-site visit. Above all else, t’s crucial for you to guarantee that everyone who shows interest in renting from you knows precisely what they’re getting.
Prospective tenants know what’s going on, so don’t try to sugarcoat the current situation. You don’t have to be somber and pessimistic to be real, just be clear that you realize the seriousness of the state of affairs. Admit that these are trying times for everyone, including tenants and property managers, and sympathize with their position while assuring them that they’re in competent hands. Offer to email them letters of recommendation or other testaments to your honesty and professionalism.
The current climate requires you to go beyond transparency. You should also provide details about the cleanliness and sanitation procedures performed on all of your properties, as well as what measures maintenance has taken to ensure tenant safety. If amenities like a gym, common area, or pool have recently been closed to circumvent the spread of the virus, let prospective tenants know up front.
Provide as Many Visuals as Possible
To ease the dilemma of not being able to physically tour the unit, it’s essential that you provide as many visual aids as possible. Take the highest resolution possible photos of every room in available units. The conventional photos of the past won’t do anymore, as they typically only provide an overview. When people are renting sight unseen, they need clear close-ups of every wall, ceiling, closet, built-in shelving unit, kitchen cabinet (inside and out), window, porch, balcony, on-site parking facility, and common area, even if they’re not currently available for use.
Virtual videos and 3D tours are also helpful for giving tenants a feel for the layout and flow of the property. Again, be sure to pause on important areas like flooring, carpets, and angles in rooms that are unusual or challenging for furniture placement. If your potential tenants don’t have a smartphone, film a walkthrough video tour or slideshow and transfer it to a DVD for their convenience.
A good layout is near the top of almost every renter’s list. Be sure all the measurements you provide are accurate, and that all your units include overhead light fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets. Include window sizes and sill depths to make drapery decisions easy.
List Out All Included Furniture and Appliances
The truth is that the photos and videos provided online typically come off as staged, making ample use of the current tenant’s decor and appliances to sell the unit to new renters. During an in-person tour, it’s easy to point out which appliances, furniture, and accessories are actually included with the rental. But when you’re relying solely on visual images, it’s imperative that you list out in writing exactly which items are included.
The dimensions of major appliances and furniture pieces are also important to prospective tenants, especially if they’re being asked to buy them in addition to paying rent. Knowing that the sofa in the pictures is six feet long and two feet deep is extremely helpful, as is knowing the sizes of any beds thrown into the deal.
Schedule a Facetime Call or Video Chat with Each Prospective Tenant
Emails and phone conversations are fine for initial correspondence with interested renters, but putting a face to your voice is essential if you want to gain their confidence. It makes the interaction much more personal and instills trust in both parties. It also gives them a chance to ask questions about things like local schools, grocery stores, restaurants, community activities, entertainment options, and public transportation. Be sure to do your research before you reach this point in negotiations, as it reassures your client that their business means a lot to you and that you’re sincerely interested in meeting their needs.
Always be available. Answer questions as quickly and thoroughly as possible to compensate for your lack of face-to-face accessibility. Be a friend, not just an agent, to help people through these trying times. Suggest neighborhood Facebook pages or other local communication sites to give new renters a chance to get to know the other members of their community.