Real estate goes virtual with contactless viewings, signings, and property management
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Purchasing a home or renting an apartment can be a cumbersome process, exacerbated — and made less safe — by COVID-19. In-person showings and signings are difficult, if not impossible, to manage while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Syncing various schedules can also be a headache, especially for buyers and tenants with kids and inflexible jobs. And what about those last-minute questions that tend to pop up at 2 a.m.?
However, some real estate and property management companies are making the homebuying, rental, and property management process a lot easier — and reducing the probability of contracting COVID-19 — through the use of a variety of virtual solutions.
Mynd Management is headquartered in Oakland, California, and has numerous locations throughout the country. “Self-showings are an important part of our process; however, fraud is a big problem,” says Colin Wiel, co-founder and chairman. “When setting up self-showing visits, we perform identity verification using facial recognition software to compare a ‘selfie’ they take of themselves to their driver's license picture.”
In addition to fraudulent prospects, another concern is wasting time with curious viewers who may have no intention of renting the property — or may not meet the rental requirements. “We also use a machine-learning algorithm to identify the most promising prospects by looking at factors such as through what source they came to us,” Wiel says. “We also look at which of the optional fields they filled out when they submitted their inquiry, and what time of day they submitted the inquiry.”
“We’re a technology company first and a real estate brokerage second,” explains Tyler Forte, co-founder and CEO at Felix Homes, which is based in Franklin, Tennessee, and services clients throughout Middle Tennessee. The company uses virtual leasing agents that allow buyers to view homes from the comfort of their home. “They can view pictures, see detailed information and request an in-person or virtual tour of any apartment.”
And if someone wants to make an offer, Forte says they can complete all of the paperwork electronically without having to step foot in a sales office. “We implemented this technology at the beginning of the year and have seen a lot of interest specifically from out-of-state clients,” he explains. “Our platform allows these individuals to learn about particular neighborhoods as well as the amenities offered by a particular apartment complex.”
Onerent is located in San Jose, California, and manages properties in seven major metros in California, Colorado, and Washington, making it the largest single-family property management company on the West Coast. Onerent’s virtual assistant, Ace, provides a competitive edge by handling both rentals and property management.
“Ace from Onerent provides a contactless rental experience for homeowners and renters through our 3D virtual tours, free online application, and AI-driven chatbot,” explains Ray Wei, director of marketing.” Using the company’s personal rental concierge, renters can find and apply for a rental home while avoiding human contact.
“For homeowners, having Ace handle your leasing and management inquiries can reduce response times through automated messaging.” Wei explains that this provides a better experience for the renter (who is not sitting around waiting for a reply), and takes the burden off of the homeowner’s shoulder.
“With the challenges of lockdown orders and health concerns, Onerent’s Ace platform allows us to scan a new rental property and turn it into a 3D digital twin,” Wei says. “We extract high-quality listing photos and convert the scans into detailed floor plans.” Potential renters can view images, floorplans, and 3D virtual tours at their convenience.
“Immersive virtual tours allow renters to visit a large volume of properties in a short period,” he says. “Renters can take their time virtually walking around the home at their own leisure or with a spouse or roommate.”
Going virtual definitely provides an advantage when courting younger clients. “Almost half (48%) of prospective renters are aged 18 to 34 and these are millennial and Gen Z renters who may prefer a digital experience when renting.” Ace also helps the company maximize property exposure for homeowners. “Virtual tours make rental properties more competitive in their neighborhood and they make the rental property unique, which results in more inquiries and lower vacancies for the homeowner.”
And Ace goes a step further, even automating maintenance for renters and homeowners. “Ace simplifies maintenance tickets for renters by providing detailed 3D mapping of maintenance walkthroughs,” Wei explains. Ace also provides troubleshooting tips that the renter can try before creating a maintenance ticket. Yet another advantage: Ace conducts move-out inspections.
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