Coronavirus is taking its toll on our economy, our health, and our livelihood as leasing agents. While it can all feel overwhelming at times, we can at least take comfort knowing that we’re fighting this together! During times like these, it’s more important than ever to stay positive and productive, especially when working with rental properties.
Some of the best ways to do that are to:
1. Think critically about how these new challenges will change the way we handle rental transactions
2. Set ourselves up to thrive in the new status quo of how to best close a rental
It’s crucial to realize that even though coronavirus will have a short-term impact on our ability to conduct business, it may very well create long-term changes that we all must adjust to. Luckily, the data for rentals during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that there is opportunity to still have success. Specifically, in the 6 months prior to the shutdown, rental applications was on a decline of about 1.4%. During the shutdown however, rental applications increased by 14%. So let's go through some of the major changes and how we can make the most of our time to prepare to successfully rent homes during this difficult period.
1. Rethink Rental Showings
Open houses are not the only activity on the decline. Showings themselves have dropped precipitously due to grave health concerns and the various “shelter-in-place” orders issued. While this can pose many challenges, it also can help to weed out all but the most serious potential tenants.
The good news is that “residential and commercial real estate services” has recently been listed as an essential service by the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. (However, certain local orders could be stricter and may, therefore, restrict these activities.)
These changes should lead you to rethink the way you are marketing and promoting rental listings. This will also benefit you in the long-term because virtual business could very well sustain its popularity in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
While it may be difficult trying to close a rental transaction when the applicant has limited or no ability to see the property, you likely have a better chance of closing a rental compared to a sales transaction.
If you haven’t already done so, here are a couple of features you might consider incorporating into your rental process.
- Walkthrough Videos – Linear video recording that walks the viewer through the video’s perspective.
- 3D (Virtual) Tours – Provides an immersive exploration of the actual space that the potential tenant can view at his or her own pace.
- Extra photographs – Never a bad idea to provide additional context and perspectives.
- Social Media - Social media can also become a powerful marketing tool, as showings can be hosted on Facebook Live or Instagram TV, and different sections of the rental properties can be featured on separate Instagram stories. Since many tenants receive updates on coronavirus from social media, the different platforms can be leveraged to gain more traction and viewings.Taking the extra time to set up some “virtual” options could be just what you need to continue closing rentals despite some of the restrictions in place.
2. Improve Client Interactions
Whether you’re speaking with a prospective renter or a landlord, you need to make sure that you have a virtual option that will allow you to interact via video so you don’t completely lose all face-to-face interaction with your clients/prospective tenants. There are a variety of free and paid options available. Regardless of what you use, make sure you think through the details so that you always make a good impression.
1. Do you have a fast/stable internet connection? You can’t control the other side, but you want to at least make sure you have the technical kinks worked out on your end.
2. Do you have a high-quality camera? Good webcams aren’t expensive. Make sure you have one to avoid appearing grainy or blurry during your conversations. 1080p or 4k resolution would be ideal.
3. Are you well-lit? Speaking remotely, you want to make sure you don’t appear to be speaking in an underlit area. Being close to a window with some natural lighting usually does the trick.
4. Is your background clean? Make sure you tidy up the room you are speaking from so you appear professional.
5. Is your surface stable? Avoid holding a laptop in your lap or your phone in your hand when on video. A shaky video looks unprofessional and can make the other side dizzy. Consider investing in a tripod to hold the camera or smartphone in place while recording.
6. Can you share your screen? Make sure your software allows you to share your screen for when you need to display information. Practice ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable.
7. Is there ambient noise? Try to find a quiet place to avoid outside noise from leaking into your conversation. If not possible, some headsets can prevent ambient sounds from entering the call.
Above all, remember that this is meant to replace an in-person conversation, so you need to make sure that the quality is as close to “life-like” as possible. Given the coronavirus, it becomes extremely important to consult with national and state-wide changes in regulations that affect renters and property owners, for example, moratoriums on evictions and deferring rental payments.
3. Prepare for Remote Rental Transactions
The ability to complete a rental transaction remotely is going to also prove as an invaluable skill. This is important now due to the health crisis but will likely carry into the future as expectations shift to emphasize efficiency.
Here are some of the activities you need to think about in order to work with rental efficiently:
- Signing lease agreements, rental applications, etc.
- Marketing the property
- Screening tenants for rentals
You should consider carefully which steps can be completed remotely and then make sure that you have the correct tools in place to do so. In metropolitan areas considered epicenters for coronavirus, think about offering free resources to tenants on how they can protect themselves and maintain a clean home.
The coming months (and years) will likely lead to some major changes in how rental properties are listed, marketed and leased. That means that now is the time for you to revamp your outlook and your mindset so that you can not only survive, but thrive in the rental space.