Virtual Showings: Show and Tell for Rental Properties

Show and Tell for Rental Properties
You have heard it said many times: A picture is worth a thousand words. If this is true, a well-staged, bright environment featuring a video tour of the property set to pleasing background music, has to be a worth volumes.

Virtual Showings
Today, everyone is afraid to make physical contact, never mind letting strangers into their homes. So how do you get over the hurdle of having to show a rental? You can follow all of the social distancing protocols previously mentioned, but there may be a better way.

We all know postings with pictures get noticed, but the pictures have to be great or they can produce a negative result. There are three levels of virtual tours we have found to be effective at varying price points.

This solution can range anywhere from photos from your phone to having a professional stager and photographer shoot the environment to show it at its best. It all depends on your entry price point and what you think you can rent the unit for. It is easy enough to upload pictures from your phone to your website or any number of apartment rental websites. The better your pictures are, the better your chances of having some great pictures to work with for your marketing flyers and advertising.

If you have about fifty or more photos of the rental, you can take it to the next level and string these together as a video slideshow. There’s free software just a few clicks away on a Google search to do this. On the Mac, there are programs like “Photos” or “iMovie” that are a great way to get some enticing videos of your space. There is also a feature to add soundtracks to your movie to help set the mood. These videos can then be easily uploaded to your website or a “YouTube” channel for your rental business.

Another option is to purchase a hand-held video stabilizer for about $100. You can attach your phone or digital camera in the stabilizer to shoot a walk-through video of the rental space. We suggest a stabilizer because our first attempts with this method resulted in jittery videos. Eliminating the bounce from your reel would be ideal. With iMovie, you can remove the apartment sounds, and once again enhance the experience with a suitable soundtrack. Then upload these just as you would any other videos or pictures to ad sites or “YouTube.”

Top 10 mistakes beginners make when filming video with their iPhone

  1. You have to remember that your phone is a phone.
    Go into do not disturb, or airport mode.
  2. Running out of battery and memory storage.
    You can get an external drive to download.
  3. Do not forget to lock your exposure in your native application. A square box shows up and you can tap on what you are focused on to do this. Lock the exposure by tapping and holding what you are focused on.
  4. Having crappy audio. Audio is a big deal.
    You can use external mics on the iPhone.
  5. Having crappy lighting. You do not have to go out and buy all kinds of expensive equipment, just make sure you have good lighting. Daylight works great.
  6. Zooming. Do not use the zoom. It creates grainy pictures in your videos.
  7. Filming in a high dynamic range situation. Really bright lights, and really dark shadows. Part of your video will be under exposed or overexposed. Change the view around to have proper exposure.
  8. Only using the native app. iPhone app is super easy to use. Take advantage of the time-lapse and slow-motion right on your iPhone.
  9. Expecting to be amazing at capturing video the first time around. It is going to take some trial and error. Do not give up!
  10. The video has no point to it. Make sure you have a message with your video. As simple as a video montage of the features of the apartment.

3D Virtual Tours
The next tier up in scale is to make an investment in a 360-degree camera and some software to create virtual 3D tours of your rental. A good 360-degree camera starts at about $1,000. Then the monthly software to host your tours depends on your volume of rentals.

At this level, you need to make a business decision. Realtors use these cameras in marketing properties because they can justify the cost from the commissions from the sale. But does it make sense for the landlord? Do you have the number of rentals you need to support the expense? Or, in a COVID 19 world, is this a sign of what is to come?

3D Virtual Tours PROS

  • Safe to view from home in a COVID 19 World, 24/7, 365 days, around the clock
  • With a virtual tour you set it up once and re-use for multiple tours
  • No more “no shows” or wasting your time to show vacancies
  • A candidate can take their time, then share the link with significant others
  • 3D tours allow you to spin your head around to see EVERYTHING
  • It sends a message about the caliber of your business – very professional

3D Virtual Tours CONS

  • There is a learning curve to do something different and new
  • There is an expense to start using this technology
  • There is likely to be a monthly subscription service fee
  • The rent amount you are asking for may not justify the cost for this feature
  • The condition of the rental unit may work against you, no place to hide defects
  • Even after the 3D tour, candidates may still want to see it (verify them first)

Top 3 Reasons to consider Virtual Tours

  1. Virtual Tours will keep you, your family, and everyone’s family safe
  2. Virtual Tours can automate the way you market your rental process
  3. Virtual Tours allow candidates to view on their own time, thus saving yours

If the unit is occupied and you think Virtual Tours will work for you, give your resident a call and do the following:

  1. Explain your concerns for their health, your health, and letting strangers into the rental unit
  2. Explain that by only having one person enter to shoot the video, you can give unlimited tours moving forward without having to displace or put your resident at risk
  3. Offer your resident a convenient time and date to come in to shoot a virtual tour on your mobile phone (5 to 15 minutes)
  4. Thank your resident with a gift card for $20 to $30 dollars
  5. Open up a YouTube account to upload the video(s)
  6. Post the video with contact information and links to your online Rental Application
  7. Serious candidates will download, fill out, and send back the Rental Application plus required documents to verify income, landlords, and rental history
  8. Start the screening and selection process to find the best candidate
  9. With an online service like ZelleVenmo, or PayPal, accept a holding deposit from a qualified candidate
  10. Sign the lease (online), set up a lock box for access, and start collecting rent (online)

3 Examples of online tours

Still Image Slideshow
Created with Mac “Photos” app

iPhone Video Walk Through
Created with Mac “iMovie” app

360 Virtual Self-Guided Tour
Created with Matterport Subscription Service and 360 cameras

Online Rental Applications
Even before COVID 19 happened, we realized we were spending a small fortune printing out our rental applications every month. Our rental application is currently 16 pages long, and it took time and resources every month to keep a healthy supply in stock. Then, there was always the issue of how to drop it off and then pick it up again. At showings, we always had candidates ask if they could take it with them, and then we never saw them again.

In 2019, we took our Belaire Rental Application and created a secured PDF document we are able to email to ALL candidates at their request. We created the application with editable field forms so anyone could download the PDF, open it with a password, fill in the blanks, and send it back as a secure online document. This practice alone has saved us hundreds of dollars a month.

We also use professional property management software. Each time we post a listing, our software creates an individual rental application based on a template we create to meet our criteria. We can then track traffic for individual units and screen the online applications as they come in, safe and secure.

Online Rental Application Methods

  1. Email
    In its most primitive use, it is feasible to send a list of questions back and forth to capture the basic rental application requirements with pictures of documents as attachments. Not a very secure practice at all.
  2. Websites
    For a modest price you could have a web site put together with an online form as your rental application. Important documents will still need to be sent via email or text. A more secure practice.
  3. PDF Forms
    It is easy to convert any document into a PDF to use as your rental application with editable form text fields. Still need to be sent via email or text. PDFs can be password protected.
  4. Word Docs
    Not everyone has Word, but this could be an option similar to sending a PDF. Documents and critical attachments till need to be sent via email or text. PDF documents can be password protected.
  5. Property Management Software
    When you get to 10 or more units, it may make sense to use online professional property management software. Track leads with ease, post rental ads & video, text and email capabilities, all within an online secure database.
  6. Online Verification of Residents
    Not much has changed here for screening during COVID 19. We have always performed a full pre-screening regime on all applications we receive. With a phone number, emails, texts, and a computer, we can complete most of these tasks without physical candidate contact.Top Ten Steps to qualify for our rentals are:

    1. Completed Rental Application for all applicants 18 years old and over
    2. Valid Photo ID for all applicants 18 years old and over
    3. Verification of Income from each applicant for the past 2 months
    4. A combined Rent/Income Ratio of at least 3.75
    5. No outstanding balances owed to other landlords (
    6. Not currently in the process of being evicted (
    7. No Felonies which may endanger our rental community
    8. No Smokers (cigarettes or anything else)
    9. If the candidate is weak but otherwise qualifies, a co-signer living in our state
    10. After passing these, a positive Credit Report looking for delinquent payments

If the candidate passed our initial background check (steps 1 thru 9), we will ask for at least one-month rent as a holding deposit while we complete our due diligence. After we receive the deposit, we pull a credit report to verify no other red flags appear on the applicant or the other occupants. If all systems check positive, we will move forward and offer the rental unit to the candidate.

  • Leases, Lock Boxes, and Move-In Inspections
    We have reached the final stage of our virtual rental process journey. We have completed our due diligence and found a qualified candidate that meets our rental criteria. The next steps are the final checklists to set up the occupancy, sign the required documents, and deliver the rental unit to our new resident.

    • Leases
      Our one-year lease is an online dynamic document that we set up for our residents in our property management software. Once it is completed with the specific details from our leasing questionnaire, we create a custom lease from our template specific to the unit going under agreement. Once the custom lease is created, we send out the link to the lease document via email for all residents and co-signers to read and initial and sign on all required pages. After all renters and co-signers have completed the lease signing, we are notified the lease is ready for us to countersign.The Lease Questionnaire Covers the Following Details:

      • Resident Information
      • Renter’s Insurance Requirements
      • Security Deposit Portion Amount(s)
      • Military Affidavit
      • Possession of Firearms LTC
      • Emergency Contact ICE
    • Deposits
      The initial holding deposit will be transferred to the resident accounting and recorded as a first month rent only. The next deposit is for the last month rent, which goes to the landlord to be placed in escrow. The final monies received are designated to be deposited into an escrow account for the Security Deposit. We always do the Security Deposit as the last step only after all inspections and other deposits have been received.
    • Utilities
      Just before the last step we need to verify the new resident has successfully been able to activate the utilities in their name on or before the move in date. If a resident cannot, or will not activate the utilities, all bets are off and we will refund all deposits. We will not give out the keys without completing this step.
    • Lock Box and Keys
      Success! We have reached the finish line! All other systems have checked out with a positive outcome. We have completed the rental application process, received all of the deposits which have cleared our operations bank account, transferred the utilities, and signed all of the required paperwork online with little or no contact with the candidate.The last step is to put a lock box on the building with the desired number of keys for the new resident, send them the access code, and welcome them home to the Belaire Property Management Rental Community.

What’s on Your Mind?

Do you have any other ideas on this topic you could share to help our online community? Please chime in to share a comment or review. All feedback is welcomed. Thank you in advance for your continued support!

Warmest regards,

Brian Lucier