The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on many landlords. With many tenants out of work and unable to pay rent and eviction moratoriums in place, landlords are facing a tough time. But despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus, people are still looking for places to rent. This means that landlords must find ways to prepare the rental properties for new tenants.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the residential market, it’s not as bad as some predicted. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), nearly 90 percent of tenants continue to make full or partial rent payments during the pandemic. This is about the same amount when compared to 2019.
But times are changing in the rental market. To meet the COVID-19 challenges, landlords must adapt to change. For example, analysts predict that more of us will be working from home in the future. This fact means that more tenants will require fast broadband and space for a home office. Also, with social distancing in place and hygiene a top priority, showing prospective tenants around a rental presents new challenges.
How can landlords best get rental properties ready during COVID-19?
This guide looks at vital steps to prepare a rental unit for new tenants. You’ll also find out how to arrange for showings that don’t put you or the tenant at risk of catching the coronavirus.
Changes to Renting Properties During COVID-19
In many cases, the changes that COVID-19 has forced on landlords may become the "new norm." And many of these changes may benefit the property management business. For example, virtual tours, video conferencing with prospective tenants, accepting online payments, and electronic lease signatures save you time and money.
The ability of many landlords to survive COVID-19 may depend on how well they embrace these new technologies. So, rather than the coronavirus pandemic being a “stumbling block,” it could become a stepping stone to future success.
Let’s look at ways to prepare your business now for long-term changes in the rental market.
How to Get a Rental Property Ready During COVID-19 & Beyond
First, property managers and landlords need to prepare rental units for the new coronavirus era. Preparing rentals well not only helps protect your health, but it also puts the tenants' minds at ease when viewing a rental property.
Here are five ways to get a rental property ready for showings.
1. Clean and sanitize the rental property
The first step to getting any rental property ready is a thorough cleaning. Properties that are maintained to a high standard attract the best renters. However, due to COVID-19, getting the unit spotless has never been so crucial as now.
Because of the risk of infection, it’s best to call in a cleaning crew to get the unit ready for renting. Most cleaning firms have training in cleaning and sanitizing buildings during COVID-19. Also, a cleaning crew will get the unit rent-ready in optimal time, meaning that you can start showings as soon as possible after the previous tenant has vacated it.
When advertising the property for rent, remember to specify that you took particular measures to sanitize the whole property to meet stringent hygiene standards during COVID-19.
2. Arrange for virtual tours
Putting technology in place to provide virtual showings can help to fill vacancies during COVID-19. Due to "shelter-at-home" orders and social distancing, rental showings present challenges for tenants and landlords. While residential real estate services are an "essential service" during the pandemic, tenants are still nervous about physical meetings.
Virtual apartment tours allow prospective tenants to view a property without physically being there. You probably have all the equipment you need to film a video walkthrough—your smartphone. Here are a few handy tips for shooting a virtual tour on your phone:
- Turn on all the lights and open all the blind to make the apartment as bright as possible.
- Hold the camera or smartphone steady, keeping it at a 90-degree angle.
- Start at the entryway and walk through the property as a regular tenant would.
- Move slowly through the apartment, taking care not to pan left and right too quickly.
Apart from a walkthrough video, you should arrange for high-quality photographs to showcase the best features of the unit. Also, provide floor plans, pictures of common areas, and amenities. Your goal is to provide as much visual information as possible to any prospective tenant.
Other useful ideas for preparing to show a rental property to a tenant include the following:
- Provide an interactive 3-D virtual tour that allows tenants to explore the unit themselves.
- For single-family properties, take drone footage of the surrounding area and the property.
- Offer a live video tour where you are at the apartment and can discuss details with the tenant via video link.
Of course, you can hire a professional to make a high-quality video walkthrough of the rental unit.
3. Install the latest technology
Providing fast broadband is vital to getting a property ready for renting during COVID-19. According to McKinsey & Company, surveys show that more and more people are working from home. Also, many remote workers expect to continue working form home after the pandemic is over.
To attract the best tenants, fast broadband service is crucial. Workers who telecommute need reliable internet connections with plenty of bandwidth for video conferencing and other communication.
4. Utilize a lockbox
Lockboxes are a great tool to avoid unnecessary in-person meetings. You can use lockboxes to facilitate move-ins and move-outs so that you don’t have any physical contact with the tenant. Also, lockboxes are handy for allowing cleaning companies to clean up units to get them ready for the next tenant.
5. Prepare for remote rental closings
Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, it’s becoming more necessary for landlords to work remotely. To make sure that it’s possible to meet with tenants and close deals, it’s vital to have the right tools in place.
Thanks to new technology, it’s possible for the whole tenant journey to take place online—from viewing the unit to filling in the application and signing the lease.
Here are a few ways that landlords can fill vacant units without physically meeting the renter:
- Provide tenants with an electronic rental application or online form to fill out.
- Invest in technology such as DocuSign to sign lease agreements digitally.
- Have the right equipment, such as full-HD cameras and fast internet, to communicate with clients.
- Spend enough time screening applicants to ensure they can pay rent on time.
- Use property management apps to collect rent online, manage leases, or accept maintenance requests from tenants.
Getting Rental Properties Ready During COVID-19
Landlords face new challenges due to the COVID-19 health pandemic. Embracing these challenges now can help ensure that your property management business survives the major changes ahead.
Preparing rental properties during the COVID-19 crisis means more than sanitizing surfaces. It requires the right investment in technology to attract new tenants and rent properties remotely.
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