Rental properties require a lot of active management. From marketing to coordinating move-ins, move-outs, repairs, and collecting rent, there are a lot of moving parts to oversee. Now with the added pressure and growing preference to view, lease, and rent units in a safer, more virtual setting because of the coronavirus pandemic, it's more important than ever for property managers and landlords to have the ability to virtually lease rentals. Luckily, running a virtual rental business is easier than you may think. Whether you own 1 rental property or 50, here's how to take your rental business virtual in 2021.
Marketing and showing units
Social media platforms and free real estate websites make marketing a rental unit online easier than ever, often for free. Having high-quality photos that represent the unit properly is a good first step to get prospective tenants interested in the unit, but eventually the tenant will want a closer look. Traditionally, that meant touring the unit in person, but in today's COVID-19 era, many tenants prefer to see a unit virtually.
Virtual showings sound intimidating but can actually be as easy as walking through the unit with the prospective tenant on a free Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Skype (NASDAQ: MSFT), or Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) call. You can answer any questions they may have during the call and personalize the showing for them. This is a great solution for smaller "mom-and-pop" landlords or property managers with just one or a few rental units.
If you have a larger rental portfolio or want to simplify the showing process as a whole, you can hire a third-party virtual showing company or 3D service to record virtual walk-throughs on your website or marketing platform. Companies and apps like Zillow (NASDAQ: Z) 3D Home, Market Apartments, Matterport, and many more can record video or use 3D cameras to help tenants virtually walk through the unit, even adding additional services like virtual staging if desired. 3D showings like this can show each part of the unit and make the tenant feel as if they're touring without having to physically visit.
Leasing and move-ins
There are several different cloud-based software programs or online services that can prescreen tenants with customized rental applications, run background and credit checks, collect rent and security deposits online, and execute digital leases. The robustness and cost of the platform will vary by company, but there are several all-in-one solutions to help with the paperwork side of tenant screening and leasings.
Virtual move-ins can be done with a lockbox that's removed after the move-in, or the landlord can choose to upgrade to a keyless entry lock. Keyless door locks are an added up-front cost but can become a valuable tool for the property manager or landlord as you move your business virtual. When the tenant moves out, you simply reprogram the lock for the new tenant or provide a special code for any service or repair work to be completed by subcontractors. This helps you know who's accessing the property in the event of a dispute or damage to the property. It also means the tenant can move in or out without you having to be there.
It's a good idea to take pictures of the unit before move-in with a time stamp on the photos and execute a virtual move-in checklist signed by both parties to confirm the condition of the unit upon move-in. You can have the tenant complete and sign the checklist for free with an electronic document signing services like DocuSign (NASDAQ: DOCU) or HelloSign.
Repairs and rental collections
Many of the same online property management services and software that help screen and lease tenants can simply and virtually manage repairs and rental collections. Most property management software offers a repair request function that allows tenants to submit a repair request online. From there, the manager can contact their preferred contractor to complete the work.
When it's time for a tenant to move out, send the tenant a move-out checklist to help remind them of their responsibilities and expected standard for unit condition. Schedule a time to walk through the unit after they've left, and use the same checklist with photo documentation to determine if there are any damages to assess the tenant. This can be completed and signed via the same online document-signing software as before. If you use a keyless door lock, you can simply reformat the lock upon move-out.
The future of leasing is virtual
Over the past decade, rental real estate has been moving into a more virtual, digital setting -- the coronavirus pandemic simply accelerated the trend. Taking a rental business virtual when coming from an "old school" landlord operation can seem intimidating at first, but the myriad of tools available today make the virtual transition far simpler than many may expect. Research the various tools available to landlords, and ask for walk-throughs of the interface. Some programs are more complex than others, so finding the right tool for your specific needs and technological experience is important.