Are Contactless Apartment Rentals Here to Stay?

By: Kathryn Casna

The rental process was among the many things completely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep filling vacancies, leasing teams had to find ways to substitute contactless service for face-to-face interaction. Savvy multifamily owners and operators turned to proptech—like self-guided tours and smart access control—to attract potential renters and show them available units.
What owners soon discovered was that contactless apartment rental technologies benefited more than just their vacancy levels.

Contactless apartment rentals can help owners/operators centralize their operations, increase site team productivity and attract more prospects. If you’re considering implementing or improving your contactless rental experience, here’s what you need to know.

What are contactless apartment rentals?

Contactless apartment rentals allow people to rent in your multifamily community without ever having to be in the same room with your staff. The process is often powered by technology like self-guided tours, smart access control, and smart apartments.

Some property managers focus on making just the renting experience contactless. Others make contactless apartment living a part of residents’ daily lives for as long as they’re in the community.

Are contactless apartment rentals the way of the future?

We think contactless apartment rentals are here to stay because they provide so many benefits to owners/operators, site teams, and residents. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this type of renting experience became popular as a way to protect the health of both renters and staff. But contactless renting has remained popular for many reasons.

Contactless apartments can help:

  • Attract residents who seek or expect high-tech amenities

  • Save your team time through automation

  • Keep your teams more organized thanks to event logging and reporting

  • Centralize your operations

The technology behind contactless apartment rentals

Investing in contactless apartment rentals typically means investing in proptech. Exactly what tech you need depends on how much of the renting experience you want to make contactless, but you’ll probably want to check out the following options:

  • Self-guided tour solutions: Prospects use their phones to tour your property, then receive digital follow-up touchpoints to help seal the deal.

  • Smart access control: Eliminate physical keys and simplify access with digital codes, monitoring, and contactless move-in/move-out.

  • Smart apartments: Connect smart devices like thermostats and locks to a single dashboard you can manage remotely.

  • Answer automation: Deliver reliable service and respond immediately to calls so residents don’t need to come to your office.

  • Resident app and experience: An easy, convenient way for renters to control smart devices and communicate with staff, all from their phones.

  • Work management: Residents can communicate directly with technicians remotely.

  • Parking management: Residents, guests, and vendors can access and pay for parking on their own.

  • Community WiFi: Keep residents connected to your staff and smart devices, anywhere in the community.

You may also want solutions for online vetting services, electronic payments, online amenity booking, and contactless package management.

What is a self-guided apartment tour?

Self-guided apartment tours allow prospects to tour your community and units without a leasing agent. They get to take the tour on their own schedule without feeling pressured to make a decision, and your staff won’t have to worry about working extra hours to accommodate after-hours appointments.

How it works

Prospects sign up for a tour appointment or a drop-in, and confirm their identity using their smartphones. They gain access to the community, usually with a PIN code. Then they begin their tour using their phones to check out any narration or FAQs you’ve prepared for them. Afterward, your leasing team can use a mix of automated and personalized communications to follow up.

To create great self-guided tours, property managers use these proptech solutions:

  • Self-Guided Tours

  • Smart Access Control

  • Smart Apartments

  • Parking Management

  • Answer Automation

  • Community WiFi

Self-guided tours help you fill vacancies without direct contact with prospects, but you’ll also need online vetting and payment solutions to keep the entire process digital.

Beyond tours: going contactless in property management

When it comes to contactless apartment rentals, many property managers stop at filling vacancies. But with the right technology, you can make nearly the entire renting experience contactless.

Contactless payments

Paying rent and other fees with a check is becoming a nuisance for residents and staff alike. Digital payments have become the norm, and that makes contactless payments easy, too.

With contactless payments, residents transfer funds to you completely digitally so no one has to deal with cash or checks. Tracking who’s paid and who’s late is easy. Residents can even set up automatic payments so they don’t miss their due date. And your staff doesn’t need to be present on the first of the month to collect rent.

To implement easy contactless payments, property managers use these proptech solutions:

  • A digital payment platform

  • Answer automation

Contactless entry systems

Taking your entry systems contactless typically means eliminating the need to hand off keys to residents, vendors and other staff. When there are no keys to manage, it frees up your site teams to focus on other tasks like leasing, preventative maintenance and improving the resident experience.

Using key fobs instead of physical keys is one option, but you’ll need a way to hand off and collect fobs upon move-in and move-out. Or you can make move-in and move-out automated by using PIN codes or mobile apps for access. If your access control system integrates well with your PMS, you can automatically generate these types of credentials and schedule them to go live on move-in day.

You can make access to communal areas, parking areas and individual apartments completely contactless, too.

To make their entry systems contactless, property managers use these proptech solutions:

  • Access Control

  • Smart Apartments

  • Parking Management

  • Community WiFi

Contactless maintenance ticketing systems

When residents have a maintenance request, they could walk into your office and put in the request in person. Or, if you have the right technology, they could put in their requests digitally via their resident app.

Using an app to make maintenance requests saves residents time, and it means you can generate and assign maintenance tickets automatically. You can even activate access credentials in the background when a technician begins a job, so they don’t have to pick up keys.

Contactless maintenance ticketing also allows residents to provide more information when submitting a request. They can add photos, videos and comments about their request to help your techs better prepare to tackle the issue in a single visit. And if your techs do have questions, they can call or message the resident to get more information or walk the resident through immediate mitigation steps, like turning off a water valve to prevent water damage.

To implement contactless maintenance ticketing, property managers use these proptech solutions:

  • Resident App and Experience

  • Work Management

  • Access Control

  • Smart Apartments

  • Community WiFi

Contactless move-in, move-out and renewals

During the lifecycle of a prospect, move-ins, move-outs and lease renewals are the times when in-person contact is most needed. But with the right proptech, even these occasions can be contactless.

All move-in info and paperwork can be handled electronically. You can automatically generate and share entry credentials via text, email or a resident app. And residents can set up their own internet connection in minutes with Community WiFi.

Contactless move-outs can be a similar virtual process. Residents can even complete inspections using their smartphone cameras to give you a virtual tour of the unit before they leave the community — or sign a renewal lease.

To implement contactless move-in, move-out, and renewals, property managers use these proptech solutions:

  • Access Control

  • Smart Apartments

  • Resident App and Experience

  • Parking Management

  • Community WiFi

Where does contactless apartment technology go from here?

Contactless apartment rentals gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, but this trend continues to benefit owners/operators, site teams, and residents. Residents have learned to live life more digitally. Many work, play, and socialize digitally, so they expect more self-service options, better mobile connections, and less in-person contact.

As a result, more owners/operators are investing in proptech that delivers contactless options during some or all stages of the rental process. It can take time and a significant upfront investment to implement the necessary proptech, so communities that start now will stay ahead of competitors who wait.

The good news is SmartRent is here to help. We can help you customize a proptech plan that’s built around your unique community, hits your profitability goals, and keeps your investors happy. Our solutions work together seamlessly and fully integrate with many other platforms, so you can implement your solution all at once or build it over time.