VOLUME VAttracting Tech-Savvy RentersVideos Tours, Social Media Posts and Self-Tour Homes in Today’s Real Estate MarketBy Juliana Torres-MasonEven after the global pandemic has calmed down and people head back to in-person interactions worldwide, the real estate industry has made permanent changes in this digital-dominant world. Fueling that trend is a growing population of digitally savvy renters who expect technology to be a part of their home-shopping experience, including social media, self-guided tours and virtual tours.

Pros and Cons of Video ToursAs renters migrate to new cities, a virtual tour might be their best chance at “seeing” a property before they need to sign a lease. Beyond that, consumers of all circumstances increasingly use virtual tours to narrow down their list of housing options.

During the height of the pandemic, Realtor.com found that listings with virtual tours had 29% more user visits and more engagement. Also, 64% experienced a virtual tour, and 45% preferred listings that included them.

Offering a video tour of a property does not have to be complicated or expensive. Realtors can hire a professional to create a virtual tour or use a specialized app to create the experience.

However, a survey by Rentable found that renters are more likely to trust authentic-looking walk-through videos over the professional alternative. A walk-through video can be recorded on a high-quality smartphone. It should be well-lit, filmed at a steady but reasonable “walking” pace, and use a phone stabilizer to avoid shakiness.

Although it may seem mundane, the goal of virtual walk-through videos should be what renters may want to see—even if the property owner is used to seeing it. For example, open cabinets, walk into closets, show which doors lead to the garage or outside, and the view from each window. It’s not just about big perks like the number of bedrooms or new appliances.

Landlords could also offer live video tours to renters who have expressed interest in a property but can’t see it in person. Unlike a pre-recorded walk-through video, virtual video tours give a property owner a chance to interact with the potential renter remotely and answer questions about the property.

Social Media Marketing Meets Real Estate MarketingWhile traditional listing sites are still a relevant way to advertise rental homes, property owners also should consider their property’s presence on social media. In 2021, the Pew Research Center found that 72% of the American public used some type of social media.

First, real estate professionals should determine their goals for using social media. One-off posts to highlight specific properties can be an effective way to draw viewers to rental listings. However, social media works best when users are invested in long-term presence and work to create a relationship with their target audience. Audiences learn to trust a property owner when information is not just professional but informative within the industry.

Second, property owners should make sure that any social media profile includes relevant contact information about their business. Although users may choose to send direct messages, others may still prefer to contact potential landlords outside of the platform via phone or email.

A third consideration in which social media platforms make the most sense is to find new renters. No matter the platform (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp, Reddit), there is an audience for everyone. However, property owners should be cognizant of where they market, and don’t market, their rentals to avoid risk of Fair Housing violations.

Additionally, while there are social media enthusiasts of varying demographics, that does not automatically mean that same platform is used to find a new rental. Traditional real estate marketing listings on an official website (ex. Realtor’s site, property manager listing) are still highly recommended.

Ins and Outs of Self-Guided ToursAnother option for reaching tech-savvy renters is offering self-guided rental tours. Traditionally, landlords meet potential renters onsite to open the front door and allow them to tour each room. Having knowledgeable representatives in person allows the prospective tenant to ask questions directly and listen to any market insight they might have.

However, during the pandemic, more property owners offered the option of viewing the property without anyone present. If the owner is not free (and doesn’t have a Realtor) when a potential tenant is, self-guided tours are a happy medium for all. This is also a win-win for out-of-town landlords or those who aren’t so great with leaving keys in a readily available place.

The potential tenant is given a lockbox code that contains the key to the house, usually hung on or near the front door. Or, landlords can utilize smart technology. A website or third-party app can collect information about potential tenants, even using their driver’s license and facial recognition software to verify their identity.

The app, operated from a smartphone, can schedule a time for the showing and automatically unlock the door when the prospective tenant arrives. A security system equipped with cameras will allow landlords to keep an eye on the property while it’s being toured. The prospective tenants enjoy the advantage of touring the property at their own pace and during a time that works for them.

The disadvantage is potentially missing an opportunity to establish a relationship in person, either to seal the deal or begin a positive working relationship with a new tenant. Property owners should follow up with potential renters after their tour to make sure they have the information they need to decide and gauge their interest in the property. Even for property owners juggling multiple properties, that added personalization will let the tenant know that they can still effectively market each location.

As landlords consider any new technology in the rental industry, they should remember that the primary purpose is to connect and create new business relationships. Devices, social media and virtual experiences may help bring in quality tenants, but they are no substitute for good communication and thorough customer service.

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