Blog October 6, 2020

Apartment leasing tours perform better with a personal touch

By Brian Zrimsek

Since the onset of the pandemic, apartment leasing teams have had to get creative in order to balance leasing activities with social distancing. We took a quick look at roughly 10,000 tours that took place during the traditionally busy summer months from May through August of 2020, as tracked in MRI Lead Management, to see which ones were most effective.

While agent-guided tours (tours that are led by an experienced leasing agent) have traditionally served as the go-to apartment tour type, this summer has seen a clear rise in alternatives to that model. Three different tour types have gained popularity since the onset of the pandemic to accommodate social distancing requirements:

  • Self-guided tours allow prospects to access models or available units on an appointment basis, leveraging programmable keypads or smart locks to manage physical access.
  • Video tours using Zoom, Facetime and the like allow a leasing team member to walk through a model or available unit with the prospect on the other side of the video call, creating an opportunity to emphasize key selling points of the unit with color commentary on location features and property amenities.
  • Apartment virtual tours allow prospects to experience a 3D walkthrough of a property from their own computer or device, and these are typically managed on a request basis so the lead can be captured before providing access to the virtual experience.

Even though agent-guided tours still dominate the market, these three new tour types listed above now represent 25% of all apartment tours given. Here’s a breakdown of how popular each of the four tour types currently are:

What makes each tour type different is how much contact the prospect has with a leasing agent and where that tour takes place. When we chart all four of these tour types by how much human interaction is required and where they can be performed, we’re left with the following two-by-two matrix.

Attendance

Video and virtual apartment tours get the highest marks for attendance rate with virtual tours averaging 94%. This is due to the convenience of taking the tour from a location remote to the property, likely, in the prospect’s current home. Tours on property, while most popular by volume, have relatively poor attendance, dipping as low as 67%.

Conversion

Generally speaking, the pandemic has dampened conversion rates. As reported in the MRI Software Market Insights report for August 2020, traffic has been above prior year levels since May, but move-ins continue to lag 2019’s pace.

In the current market, especially as we enter a traditionally slower leasing season, every lead matters. Unfortunately, strong tour type attendance does not translate into similarly strong lease conversion rates.

As we follow scheduled tours through the resident lifecycle, we see a much stronger conversion rate for video tours followed by agent-guided tours, while virtual tours convert the least. While the sample size is more limited for newer tour types, the behaviors indicated can be telling:

  • Prospects taking apartment virtual tours on their own terms, own time and without the benefit of a knowledgeable leasing consultant rarely convert. They’re likely just shopping the market and gathering information in a low contact, low expectation manner.
  • Prospects who physically experience the property, whether self or agent guided, convert at nearly the same rate. Making an effort to physically visit the property is a strong lead qualifier and indicates the importance of interacting with the physical space as part of the touring process.
  • Prospects who experience a personal interaction convert at higher rates than those who do not, showing that knowledgeable leasing staff clearly make a difference to prospective residents.

The bottom line is that while all of these tour types are needed to provide flexibility for today’s prospective resident, more focus should be placed on ensuring that a human is part of the activity in order to provide contextual information that enhances the leasing process and closes more deals.

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