Following up on my prior articles about Smart Apartments and Smart Locks, I wanted to touch on a way we are seeing companies being built on the back of hardware devices. The concept of self-touring (a prospective renter or home buyer tours the property on their own, without an agent) has been around for a long time, but with the help of smart locks, smart home devices, and software integrations, we are seeing the true potential of self-touring. Yes, one can leave a key under a rock or in a lock box, but once that key is out from the protection of the rock or lock box, there’s no way to track that key. Further, how can you verify you are granting access to the correct person and how long did they stay in the property? No property owner wants a squatter, even if only for a few hours.

Smart locks are the driving force behind the more recent breakthroughs in self-touring capabilities. After a prospect’s identity has been verified, smart locks allow the prospect to enter a unit at a specific time. The self-touring software (such as Tour24) can track exactly what time the prospect entered and exited the unit. Was the tour only 2 minutes? If so, perhaps the prospect was not a fan of the unit’s layout or finishes and the property manager should follow up with additional unit types. Was the tour 25 minutes? Well, your prospect might be really interested in the unit and is already planning on where they are going to place their furniture to best entertain their friends.

Adding other smart home equipment and smart controlled access enhances the prospect’s experience, which may lead to more signed leases. Smart intercoms can be integrated into the self-touring software to allow the tenant to enter the property, without dialing for an operator. As the prospect walks through the common areas, doors and/or elevators can be unlocked, granting the necessary amount of access to showcase the property’s amenities. Smart thermostats can be programmed to set the temperature of the unit to a comfortable setting, just before the prospect arrives for their tour. Smart light bulbs or light switches can be turned on the second a prospect enters the access code to their smart lock, welcoming them to their potential home.

Why is it important or even necessary to provide prospects with self-touring capabilities? Perhaps a property management team is swamped on a given day and unable to accommodate any additional tours for the day. However, a prospect may only be available on that given day to tour, and they will end up going to another property. If this prospect (or any other prior scheduled prospects) was able to tour by themselves, it would stretch the capacity of the on-site staff. This may lead to additional leases (due to more tours) or even reduce a property manager’s costs, as they may be able to cut back on the leasing team’s hours or not have to pay for overtime. Plus, any extra time created for the management staff might enable them to deal with that mountain of packages.

Another reason to provide self-touring capabilities is that sometimes people don’t want to hear the leasing agent’s sales pitch (just being honest here). The prospect might know the location, perhaps they even have a friend in the building, but they just want to check out the unit in person and verify it’s everything the website said it was. Personally, I’ve toured a unit and within 5 seconds, I did not like the unit for whatever reason. However, I felt obligated to stay in the unit for another 5 minutes or so as the leasing agent wanted to showcase certain features and see if they could change my mind about the unit. I just wanted to see the next unit. Some people will always want a leasing agent to tour them, and that is ok. Leasing agents will be needed, but sometimes prospects want a different experience.

As smart home equipment and smart intercoms are becoming more prevalent in housing, entrepreneurs are able to string these devices together via software and create better experiences for prospects, residents, and property managers. Self-touring technology is just one example, and we are excited to see startups create new hardware-enabled companies. If you have an interesting idea on how smart technology can create better experiences or operational efficiencies in real estate, we would love to hear from you.