The Virtual Leasing Handbook

Your Main Resource for Online Leasing Solutions

What is virtual leasing?

Virtual leasing is a marketing strategy that consists of completely online operations in multifamily, commercial real estate and other real estate sectors that focus their efforts on leasing and selling property.

Conducting business in this way has been around for some time, but became a requirement for many management companies and landlords with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020.

Being stripped of their greatest asset in leasing homes - in-person property tours - the main resource for real estate professionals has become their property website. Various tools and optimization techniques are leveraged in order to provide an effective home search experience completely digitally.

Although people are settling into their "new normal", virtual leasing has proven to yield exceptional results, and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.


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The Benefits of Virtual Leasing
Virtual Leasing Tools
How to Prepare for Giving a Virtual Tour
Virtual Leasing Best Practices
The Future of Virtual Leasing
Tips and Tricks for Virtual Leasing

Office Building Exterior

What are the benefits of virtual leasing?

Aside from being detrimental to leasing efforts amid COVID-19, virtual leasing also yields extraordinary benefits.

Our leasing team seamlessly transitioned to operating 100% virtually because our marketing resources did not rely on showing the physical building. These 3D renderings were a major driver of pre-leasing success.

 

In a survey conducted by LCP360 looking at multifamily marketing during COVID-19, we found that a majority of marketers have been focused solely on digital leasing efforts—not a huge surprise.

We also found that 97% of marketers surveyed stated they pivoted their strategies to virtual tours at the start of Q2Y2020, with 55% claiming to have invested more into social media marketing.

Download the full Coronavirus Response Survey to see what else we learned.

VT Stats (1)

This data only looks at the benefits of virtual tours for recent virtual leasing efforts. Recent studies are showing that technology as a whole is transforming the way all businesses operate—the catalyst? COVID-19.

Efficiency advantage

The forced reinvention of real estate businesses took a lot of adjustment over the past few months. But what many industry professionals are citing is how efficiently operations have run since turning to virtual leasing solutions.

A huge variable is analytics and data tracking that is an added benefit of digital solutions due to the fact that businesses can now track everything that happens on their websites, from engagement all the way to hotspots. This information aids in effectively targeting potential prospects as well as positioning your brand in local search results.

From there, lead generation and conversion directly benefit from the optimization of your website because your team is equipped with advanced tools that provide extensive data for a quicker and more efficient outreach technique.

Multifamily 3D Rendering - Clubroom

Virtual leasing tools

Everything you need for transitioning to online leasing efforts.

The overall goal of virtual leasing tools is to provide all aspects of in-person tours completely online, within property domains, social media, listings, etc.

Whether it’s for convenience, safety, or better results business-wise, integrating some -or all- of these tools into marketing strategies can elevate your property to modern consumer trends.

Virtual Tours

Briefly mentioned above, virtual tours are insanely beneficial alternatives to in-person tours. Delivering features such as self and/or guided navigation, hosting capabilities, and immediate CTAs, virtual tours can provide the informative experience renters are looking for.

Video

Out of all internet users in the U.S., 85% watch online video content every month on their devices. In fact, video is quickly becoming the most sought after marketing tool for industries of all kinds—which makes it the perfect addition to online efforts.

The benefit of video in virtual leasing is the delivery of information in a short, but concise manner. Their storytelling capabilities make them one of the best alternatives to in-person tours—not to mention

Real estate video marketing tools include the following:

360 video

Not quite a virtual tour, but a similar idea. 360 videos are essentially a virtual tour walk-through, but in video format. The idea is to take prospects on a guided tour, but without an actual host.

Walk-through/fly-through animations

These movie trailer inspired videos can include everything from customized audio to suspenseful transitions. They take prospects through the entire property, targeting sense perception to insight interest and increase engagement.

Virtual Staging

A convenient and budget friendly alternative to traditional staging, virtual staging is the process of taking a high-quality image and digitally creating furniture and decor for a photorealistic finish.

Although virtual staging already reaps substantial results, it has become the sole resource for marketers who can’t conduct in-person tours to show potential prospects a staged space.

Since renters can’t physically go into a unit and gauge the space and dimensions as it relates to their interior plans, virtual staging provides a lot of insight as to how a room can be set up.

Floor Plans

Whether opting for 2D or 3D floor plans, you can guarantee they will be a worthy investment.

Similar to virtual staging, floor plans allow renters to better visualize their belongings within a space, as well as aid in planning. Complete with layout, dimensions, and measurements at the very least, 3D floor plans with staging are the most realistic, and in-turn provide renters with greater information.

Drone services

Drone services include photography as well as videography, and are actively increasing in popularity within the real estate market.

Think of this: if consumers aren’t physically touring properties, they are also missing out on important exterior components that could be essential to decision making. Provided aerial footage captures expansive and unique perspectives of neighborhoods, highways, local businesses, etc., there really isn't an alternative to the information it provides.

Chatbots

With leasing offices temporarily closing, marketing professionals needed an additional channel of communication to ensure prospects needs were attended to.

Many leveraged chatbots, which provides 24/7 customer support—an important benefit in the era of COVID-19 and general uncertainty. 

Chatbots assist in virtual leasing efforts by not only providing maximum assistance, but also acting as an effective lead generation tool as well as a convenient outlet for both consumers and marketers.

CRM

Connecting a CRM to your website works by filtering leads through web forms, ultimately streamlining qualified leads ready for sales and leasing outreach.

CRM is a great tool for virtual leasing because it replaces the lack of face to face connection with prospective prospects in an organized and trackable manner.

Just remember to find a CRM that integrates well with current tools and works for your operations.

Display Ads

One downside to virtual leasing is that information delivered completely digitally and in such great capacity can sometimes get lost in the mix.

To stay top of mind, leveraging display ads can be a gentle reminder to prospects of your business, and ultimately increase visibility among local competition.

Online application solutions

In order to create an end-to-end virtual leasing experience, be sure to leverage online applications and formal document solutions to ensure the entire renting process can be done remotely.

Panoskin Virtual Tour Mockup - Mac

How to prepare for giving a virtual apartment tour

A few necessary steps that will guarantee success.

Since real estate professionals no longer have in-person tours at their disposal, perfecting the virtual tour experience will be an essential part of the home search experience.

1. Focus on communication

Since there’s a bit of a communication barrier speaking through a device, it’ll be beneficial to practice scripts for guiding a virtual tour. This could include anything from ice breakers, questions about requirements, or even just structuring conversation around which part of the community you are currently navigating.

2. Practice going through the tour first

Just like with an in-person tour, guiding a virtual tour will take some practice. Teams should take the time before their first guided tour to practice navigating and communicating through mirroring features.

3. Take notes for a better follow up strategy

Guiding a virtual apartment tour takes quite a lot of multitasking. Taking mental and physical notes during a tour will provide an excellent resource for follow-up material that caters to renters needs.

Multifamily Bedroom Still Image

Virtual leasing
best practices

These areas should be first priority for your virtual leasing strategy.

Accessibility

Consider this: as of 2020, the Internet World Penetration Rate in North America reached 94.6%. In addition, The U.S. Census Bureau cited that nearly 1 in 5 individuals suffers from a disability.

The mere capacity of those numbers tells us that about 19% of the U.S. population must try to navigate the internet through some sort of mental or physical obstacle. And considering the fact that a majority of businesses are turning completely digital amidst the pandemic, ensuring website accessibility should be first priority.

Follow WCAG and ADA Guidelines

Both sets of guidelines were put into place in order to develop a “single shared standard for web content accessibility" that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.”

These guidelines collectively focus on design components, code markup, necessary information, and overall construction of websites. Becoming familiar with the two will act as a helpful foundation for an accessible website.

Optimize your website

With virtual leasing, your main source of information is your website. By focusing on SEO strategies and functionality, you’re increasing your chances of being discovered in general. Best practices for optimizing your website are listed below.

  • Update information and content on your Google Business listing
  • Leverage informative visuals
  • Implement a chat bot for quick questions
  • Optimize web pages to work for all devices, especially mobile
  • Maintain an active blog and social media accounts

Use alt-tags

In the same census report mentioned above, it has been found that 8.1 million people find it difficult seeing, with up to 2 million blind or unable to see.

Alt-tags, or alternative text, are words or phrases connected to an HTML that describe an image on your website, which provide useful information to the visually impaired. In addition, alt-tags boost SEO by telling search engines exactly what is on your website, making it easier to find as well as elevating your property’s search performance.

Google My Business

Consider this: according to Google for small businesses, 84% of consumers turn to search engines to find out information for a local purchase.

As the country cyclically reopens and closes back down, a clear and concise description of current operations on Google business listings will be mandatory. Whether you’re currently open to the public, or are working remotely, let renters know how and where to interact with your business via COVID-19 updates or in your listings description. Also at the forefront of your listing should be updated hours, contact information, and links to helpful resources such as virtual tours. Lastly, make sure to keep up with Google My Business changes amid COVID to ensure necessary updates are made and consumers are aware of how they affect your business.

Below are a few tips for your Google My Business as the country reopens.

  • Post images of any updated spaces
  • Update Google Street View
  • Update photos of the exterior if there were changes to parking, entrances, etc.
  • Consider leveraging video content for an inside look at your business
  • Focus blog content on how your business is operating in response to COVID-19
  • Utilize Google Business listings COVID-19 update posts
  • Integrate a Google virtual tour

Real estate professionals should make it best practice to keep an eye on analytics through Google Insights to track how consumers are finding and interacting with your listing. Success in virtual leasing starts with your ability to attract potential renters, so optimizing the way in which your business is searched for should be first priority.

Multifamily Laptop Mockup

The future of
virtual leasing

What once started as a test case is now a go-to marketing strategy.

Organizations that rest on their existing digital laurels can be surpassed by those that invest in adapting their digital capabilities for the post-coronavirus future—a future that looks very different from the world pre-pandemic.

-BDA

 

The pandemic has acted as somewhat of a “test case” for digital transformation. The companies that either already implemented digital solutions, or those that quickly jumped on board this transformation are currently the ones on top, with no indication of downward movement.

In the past, real estate turned to digital solutions to cater to obstacles such as out of state renters, and busy schedules. What Coronavirus has shown us, however, is that businesses that leveraged virtual leasing as their main method of operation found a litany of advantages to overall business.

Efficiency advantage → streamline operations
Productivity advantage → company familiarity with technology
Security advantage → prepared for unforeseeable obstacles
Customer advantage → advanced analytics tracking
Agility advantage → data-driven insight allows quick response

To summarize, digital transformation as a competitive advantage in real estate will be a continuous driving force—even post-COVID.

As demand grows, so will the process of virtual leasing. So expect advancement in tools and marketing strategies to overwhelm real estate operations as we know them.

Multifamily Rooftop Still Image

Tips and tricks for

virtual leasing

Marketing your apartment development

According to a survey from The National Multifamily Housing Council, 53% of multifamily developers are still reporting delays in construction. Because of these delays, development marketers have cited not forming a proper lease-up strategy due to much uncertainty in regards to timelines.

Virtually leasing a development with the correct digital marketing tools has been proven to increase visibility to communities under construction as well as help meet strict pre-leasing goals. Below are a few tools guaranteed to put your property on the map.

  • Video
  • 3D renderings
  • Virtual tours
  • 3D floor plans
  • Stacking/site plans

By leveraging tools that accurately portray a vision for a community under construction, potential prospects are able to feel secure in their choice to sign a lease sight-unseen, and development marketers can cement strategies while streamlining the pre-leasing process.

Showing off amenities

Currently, one of the biggest renter trends is upgraded amenities. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, businesses have had to set aside their greatest asset to ensure safety measures are in affect leaving many renters upset.

Showing off amenities in the COVID-19 era can be tricky—although you want to market such a huge selling point, you also have to be transparent about regulations and availability of each space during these uncertain times. Read below for a few tips and tricks on marketing your amenities.

1. Update photos of your amenities

Virtual leasing means more people are using just the internet to evaluate your property. Because of this, it should be priority number one to upgrade photography so that you provide an accurate depiction of your community. By scheduling a photo shoot for new property photography, you have an increased chance of building trust with potential prospects.

2. Create targeted campaigns

Different renters are looking for different amenities—the way you market them should reflect that. Creating campaigns that focus on data as well as general knowledge will ensure they resonate with your content. The key to success is formulating web forms that ask the right questions, and in-turn give you quality material to leverage.

3. Create meaningful digital interactions

Since your amenities currently aren't accessible by in-person tours, you will need an alternative strategy for renters to experience your space in a meaningful way. The best tools for immersive content are virtual tours and 360 videos—the provide an extensive and accurate view of your property and can even include the option of a guided tour to connect with renters on a deeper level.

Social media marketing

Data shows that in 2019, 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers were active social media users. And that was before Coronavirus transformed the digital landscape.

Right now, a main resource for discovery is in fact social media. Not only does it increase visibility, but it also provides additional channels that drive prospects to your property website.

Keep in mind that 54% of social browsers use social media to research products, which makes social media upkeep almost just as important as an optimized Google My Business listing. So take this opportunity to capitalize on social media marketing by staying active online—just be sure to mix up content as well as post during the best times to maximize engagement.