What to Look for When Choosing Self-Guided Apartment Tour Technology

By: Kathryn Casna

Self-guided tour solutions have the power to attract more prospects, boost site team efficiency and help you meet your NOI goals. But not all solutions work the same or fit with your current systems. Finding the right one can mean the difference between getting a solid return on your investment or spending more on leasing than you budgeted.

The best SGT solution will make life easier for you, your staff and your prospects. Here’s what to look for to ensure everyone benefits from your choice.

What owners/operators should look for

While your site team and prospects will view your SGT solution from the perspective of how it changes their own day-to-day lives, you’ll want to zoom out and see the big picture. How well does each option fit into your current or planned systems? Will it be a good representation of your brand? And will the company be the right fit for your specific portfolio?

Full integration with your other systems

Self-guided tours are a great addition to other smart technology solutions, but, chances are, they’re not the only tech-forward solution you have — or will have. So the ability to integrate well with other solutions is critical for maximizing your team’s efficiency and analyzing any data you collect.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know if an SGT solution plays well with others. Many companies say they integrate, but, in practice, your site teams may end up doing more platform switching than is really necessary. The key is to look for full API integration, which means your SGT solution talks directly to your other solutions without any work from you or your staff.

CRM and PMS integrations

A full API integration allows for automatic data sharing between platforms. Without it, your leasing agents might end up wasting valuable time transferring data between platforms via .csv files.

Smart locks, thermostats and other hardware

A full integration ensures a seamless experience for your prospects — and minimal vendor fatigue for your team. Without it, your staff might need multiple apps or dashboards to manage the various hardware that makes up your smart community systems.

Stays true to your brand

You’ve likely spent considerable time and money building your real estate and community brand, so your prospect-facing SGT solution should show off that brand.

Look for tools that allow you to white label them — that is, add your branding instead of the tool’s. Additionally, make sure your chosen SGT solution gives tour-takers a great experience. If the interface is hard to use or introduces a lot of friction into the process, you risk portraying your brand as behind the times or hard to deal with.

A provider with staying power

Switching tech solutions often can take a toll on your team and your bottom line as you lose time and money to inefficiencies, onboarding and training. So when you choose an SGT solution, make sure the company behind it has a reputation for delivering what it promises and is built to last. That way, you’ll be less likely to need to switch tools again later.

Choose a company with great reviews and documented case studies from owner/operators who have portfolios similar to yours. If you’re in multifamily, for example, make sure other multifamily owners love the solution you choose.

You might notice that a lot of SGT providers are relatively young. In the tech space, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The real estate industry is experiencing a technical revolution, and that means you’ll see a lot of new ideas and new companies.

Instead of focusing on company age, it often makes more sense to focus on the experience level of the people at those companies. Did the founders come from a real estate background? If so, there’s a good chance their solutions will be better tailored to your needs.

What site teams should look for

From an efficiency standpoint, your site team stands to gain the most from self-guided tours. To help them the most, look for an SGT solution that’s fully customizable, integrable and automated — and offers help if needed.

Customizable follow-up flows

One of the greatest concerns site teams have about implementing self-guided tours is that they’ll have fewer personal touchpoints with prospects. But the best SGT solutions find ways to connect your leasing team to prospects after a tour. The platform you choose should have built-in, branded tools for follow-ups.

Look for options like these:

  • Post-tour surveys that deliver valuable feedback and insights

  • Automatic “thank you” texts or emails

  • Templates for more personalized texts or emails from your agents

  • Enticing links to your online application and clear instructions for next steps

  • Multiple ways to contact your leasing team with questions

  • A place to feature links to your other communities

Full integration with your CRM and PMS

Most site teams love that self-guided tours mean fewer interruptions throughout the day. But to really boost their efficiency, choose an SGT solution that streamlines other elements of their work too. Do that by finding one that fully integrates with your CRM and PMS.

Plenty of SGT solutions advertise compatibility with the most popular platforms, but that might mean as little as the ability to download a .csv file so you can manually move data over to your CRM or PMS. Instead, find a solution that supports API integration with your platforms of choice. Your team will save hours of data-entry time and end up with cleaner, more accurate information.

Dual tech support

When your team has questions about your self-guided tour system, they need answers fast so they can resolve the issue without getting bogged down. And if prospects need help, a tech support team can jump in and help without pulling your team away from their other duties. Choose an SGT solution that makes it easy for both site teams and tour-takers to get help right away.

Automation at every step

To fully optimize self-guided tours your site team needs a solution that can be completely hands-off. Look for features like these:

  • The ability to build your own custom tour content and narration, based on your leasing team’s experience

  • Hands-off access control features like self-generating key codes and automated activation and deactivation before and after tours

  • Parking access and validation as needed

What prospects want

A self-guided tour is often the first impression your leasing team and your community make on a prospect. Delivering an easy, seamless tour experience will give prospects a taste of what it’s like to live in an exceptional community.

Mobile-friendly websites are better than apps

To deliver a great tour experience you’ll need either an app or a website that can handle bookings, verify IDs and guide prospects around your communities. Generally, a website that’s designed to be used on a mobile phone is better than an app. Most people don’t like downloading an app they’ll use only once or twice, so a website introduces less friction.

ID verification is better than a credit card

To ensure the right person shows up for a self-guided tour, choose an SGT solution that includes an easy way to instantly verify someone’s identity. The best solutions use a photo of the prospect’s ID, then match that with a live photo of them taken outside your community just before the tour.

Some solutions require a credit card, but this can cause friction in the leasing process. This method of verification often requires that you charge a small fee to the prospect’s card. Paying even a dollar for an apartment tour can turn people off. And if you have any Section 8 housing, your prospects might not have credit cards at all.

Advance and instant booking options

Some prospects will find your listing online and will appreciate an easy way to book a tour from there. If they book several days out, appointment reminders will be helpful too.

Others may drive by your community on the way to work and want to stop in for a quick peek. These prospects will appreciate an easily remembered website URL or a QR code they can scan for an immediate tour.

All prospects appreciate clear confirmations at every step of the booking process, and they’ll start their tour already feeling good about your leasing team.

Simple navigation and top-notch content

Navigating an unfamiliar place isn’t easy, especially on your own. Simple, intuitive wayfinding is critical to a great tour. Choose an SGT solution with these three forms of navigation:

  • Accurate, interactive maps. These are ideal for giving prospects a bird’s eye view of your community, its amenities and the tourable units.

  • Up-to-date photos. These can help prospects quickly decide what amenities interest them. You’ll also build confidence that what they see in your photos are what they get in reality.

  • GPS navigation (geofencing). Geofencing tracks prospects’ phones so they can see exactly where they are in your community in real time.