The Demand Solutions Blog

3 Reasons Why Multifamily Must Adopt Self-Show

by Donald Davidoff | Apr 17, 2019 12:00:00 AM

Photo by Alex Ivashenko on UnsplashAs we get near the Apartment Innovation and Marketing (AIM) conference, I wanted to take a moment to discuss an innovation from single-family rentals (SFR) that I believe should be getting more attention from multifamily housing (MFH) operators.

As many of you know, we recently released a white paper, 20 for ’20: 20 Conversations with Senior Multi-family Executives About the Outlook for 2020 and Beyond. The paper presented findings about the nature of technology projects, recruiting and retention issues, the development of BI, the focus (or lack thereof) of executives to a variety of new technologies and the “state of the state” of pricing and revenue management.

One of the most surprising findings from 20 for ’20 was how slowly MFH is adopting self-show. Self-service is, after all, a mega-trend across all industries, and given that self-guided prospect tours have been so successful in the SFR space, we might wonder what’s holding us back in multifamily.

Self-Show Q&A

Here are several of the objections that we heard during the interviews as well as our response based on the extensive work we’ve done in the SFR sector:

  • “I want to make sure our tours are appropriately curated by our sales associates.” The reality is that, in a growing self-service oriented world, curated tours may not be as valuable as we think. SFR companies who have implemented self-showing have not seen a reduction in their closing ratios. That said, implementing self-show doesn’t mean you won’t offer curated tours—it just means you’ll leave the choice to the prospect whether they want one or not, and giving prospects choices is usually a good thing.
  • “We’re worried about theft or other bad things happening in our units.” Again the single-family rental experience shows this is not a material issue, at least in most markets. Prospects who self-show sign up with identification and a credit card and their entry and exit from units is tracked. This makes it substantially less likely that they will misbehave.
  • What about liability if a self-showing prospect injures themselves?” This question can be answered with a question: “What do you do about liability during a curated tour?” Self-guided tours are no more likely to result in “trip and fall” or other typical incidents, so it’s not materially different from curated tours.
  • “Is there a solution for common area access or front-door locks to buildings?” This is the most relevant concern as SFR companies don’t have to worry about this: the door to the home is the only lock to worry about. Many of our multifamily communities have building controls along with unit locks. While several vendors are beginning to offer solutions, this is what will most likely retard multi-family adoption in at least some areas. Of course, nothing would motivate vendors to move more quickly than several MFH customers committing to work with them.

Now, let's look at the upside

While there are some details for multifamily operators to work through none counts as a show-stopper. Meanwhile, self-showing solves several long-standing problems and creates some exciting opportunities for multifamily. Three obvious ones spring to mind:

  1. Night touring low season. Especially in northern climates, tours can end as early as 430p since there are legitimate safety concerns about leasing associates accompanying prospects when it’s dark. Self-showing extends this by as many hours as operators want.
  2. Handling overflow on busy weekends. If you’ve ever had more prospects wanting tours than there are leasing associates to tour them, it is obvious how self-showing can expand the number of tours.
  3. Aligning to the growing self-serve desire of prospects. As mentioned earlier, an ever-greater number of prospects may not want a leasing agent “hovering” over them as they tour. They’re used to self-service at airport kiosks, online check-in for hotels, car rental programs that let them go straight to a car and self-service check out in grocery stores. So shouldn’t we allow prospects to view their new apartment at leisure?

Learn more at AIM 2019

As we concluded in 20 for '20, self-tour is a matter of "when," not "if" in multifamily. If you want to learn more about how to make it happen for your company, be sure to register to attend AIM and let us know that you’ll be there. We are going to be exploring this in two sessions:

  • Dom Beveridge will be sharing the key implications of the results of our “20 for 20” in a session: “Technology Investment Outlook 2020” open to all attendees on Monday.
  • On Tuesday, we’ll be holding an exclusive, invitation-only lunch to dig more deeply into three big ideas in marketing and sales. We’re particularly pleased that Tina Mortera, SVP Marketing for Progress Residential, will be sharing her experience on their highly successful test and roll-out of self-show. Please let us know if you’d like to join the discussion

We’d love to see you at both sessions and to have the opportunity to carry on the discussion about how multifamily operators can accelerate towards making self-show a reality.

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