Just a few short years ago, sending an unsupervised prospect to check out a rental unit or tour a property was unheard of — but those days appear to be over. Increasingly, property management companies are enabling self-guided tours to better meet the wants and needs of prospective renters. In fact, according to data from 2019 — before COVID-19 — 65% of attendees polled at NMHC OpTech Conference and Exposition said they were either planning to adopt self-guided tours in the next two years or have already done so.
With self-guided tours, lease conversions showed an 86% increase when compared to traditional leasing agent-led tours, according to the NMHC OpTech research. But why? After all, don’t most people want a cheerful, knowledgeable agent to usher them around a property? And in our tech-savvy world, aren’t high-definition videos and virtual tours enough?
Apparently not. According to a RENTCafe survey of 3,500 Americans, 83% of respondents said they would use self-guided tours to see a property in person, despite virtual tour options. Sixty-three percent prefer self-guided tours so they can view apartments at their own pace, and 43% said they prefer self-guided tours because they enable them to visit properties after business hours and on weekends. In other words, self-guided tours offer potential renters a valuable service, especially now when the COVID-19 pandemic is still impacting our everyday lives.
Another major benefit of self-guide tours: They offer property management companies the opportunity to use screening tools to vet and qualify prospects before they even set foot on a property.
“Self-guided tours are great for landlords or owners,” says Jeremy, an agent in the Raleigh, North Carolina, market. “They can qualify someone prior to them seeing a property, and it’s also a great way for them to keep track of who has been in the property. That can be critical in the event of COVID-19 exposure or even if damage is done to the property.”
Ultimately, the upside of self-guided tours outweighs the liabilities — but for property managers to truly mitigate the risks, they need a stringent but quick and user-friendly screening process.
But what about the liabilities?
While self-guided tours certainly enable social distancing, they also invite risk, including damage to property and other residents’ safety. Fraud is one of the largest concerns, especially during a time when it is already increasing. Sixty-six percent of property managers reported they have been a victim of fraudulent rental applications, and that has increased 9% month-over-month during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the 2020 Fraud in the Rental Industry Survey.
That said, data shows that application fraud is on the rise, yet only 1.7% of prospects were refused access to a community because of the likelihood that they were fraudulent, according to the NMHC OpTech research. That is a clear sign that plenty of application fraud is likely going undetected.
In fact, most fraud is discovered after residents move in, once the damage is already done. A full 70% of property managers identify fraud within the first six months, leading to turnover well before the end of a typical lease, according to a study by Forrester Consulting. By then it’s too late as fraud can drive up delinquent payments, eviction costs, damage to the property and more.
Learn more about reducing fraud
The goal of every property management company should be to detect fraud before someone moves in. Identity verification solutions offer the opportunity to begin screening prospective renters early in the process, so you don’t send risky and unqualified prospects into the property and put other residents — and your reputation — at risk.
ResidentID® is the TransUnion identity management solution designed specifically for multi-family operators. It enables you to verify identities and detect potentially fraudulent applicants without impacting the speedy approval of high-quality renters. Offering three layers of protection — identity verification, digital verification and identity authentication — ResidentID offers you the confidence that applicants are who they say they are.
To learn more, visit transunion.com/product/residentid.