Are Self-Guided Tours Right for My Community?

By: Kathryn Casna

Self-guided tours are a great way to let prospects view your community when it's convenient for them, without feeling any pressure from your staff. When highly automated, these tours can free up your leasing team during normal working hours. And, in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s also a contactless way to fill your units.

Giving a great self-guided tour can involve an upfront investment. You’ll need to build tour content and work out new access-control protocols whether you invest in smart locks or not. And your site team may need to learn new skills or adjust their workflow. For that reason, it’s best to carefully consider if now is the right time to start giving self-guided tours — and plan how your team will implement them.

How should I invest in SGT technology?

While there are low-tech ways to implement just about any element of a self-guided tour, they tend to create a less-than-ideal experience for both prospects and site teams. For example, using old-fashioned lock boxes instead of smart locks means someone will still need to keep track of physical keys, and it’ll be harder to know whether a prospect showed up for an after-hours tour.

Some site teams at smaller communities give great self-guided tours using one or a handful of smart locks. They place these locks on shared spaces and tourable units, then move them to newly vacant units as needed. However, changing out analog locks for smart ones every time a unit is vacant (and back again when it’s leased) can mean extra work for your maintenance and leasing teams.

For larger communities, we recommend swapping out smart locks only as a temporary step toward implementing fully automated self-guided tours. It’ll be much easier on your team if you eventually invest in smart locks throughout your community so you can automate access for multiple tours simultaneously and automatically. Plus, your residents will get to enjoy them.

How should I invest in SGT content?

To create a great experience you need more than fancy tech. You also need great tour content. It takes time and expertise to create a tour flow that’s just as good as a guided tour. If you don’t provide helpful narration or answer enough questions, prospects might miss out on unique amenities or walk away feeling confused.

The good news is that you already have expert tour guides on your leasing team. Make sure your best leasing agents help build the tour experience by suggesting an ideal flow, choosing what to highlight, and answering common questions about the unit and community. And make sure you have follow-up content ready too — like a post-tour survey and email templates.

Plan to invest the most in creating tour content before you launch self-guided tours. Then, as you receive feedback, you can keep adding and adjusting your content to improve the experience. After a few months of tweaking and refining, you should only need to update content if there are significant changes to your community.

How much does an SGT system cost?

At a minimum, self guided tours require two lockboxes or smart locks: one at the community entrance and one at the tourable unit. You might pay between $150 and $600 for hardware. You’ll also need to add a touring tool to your website, which typically comes with a monthly fee around $100–$150 per month. But if you want more than one tourable unit, sensors that tell you when someone has entered or left the unit, or seamless integration with the other smart-tech systems you use, you’ll pay more.

If your community already has smart locks, in-unit security systems and smart hubs throughout, your investment in self-guided tours could be minimal. But if you’re starting from physical keys and not much else, fully tech-enabled SGTs might not be within easy reach. We recommend starting out with a small starter kit or investing in community-wide smart locks first.

Are self-guided apartment tours suitable for my community?

Implementing tech-forward solutions like self-guided tours is pivotal for modern leasing processes. They enhance prospect experiences, streamline operations, and boost NOI. Prioritize selecting the right tech tools, such as smart locks and integrated CRM systems. Assess the upfront costs and consider the benefits for both prospects and current residents. Involve leasing and site teams early to make informed decisions.