UPDATE July 1, 2020: At the onset of Illinois’ first round of stay-at-home orders in March 2020, many landlords had to quickly roll out alternative plans for showing vacant apartments in Chicago. The go-to solution was virtual showings, where a live video call or pre-recorded walkthrough video had to substitute for the traditional methods of in-person showings to slow the spread of Coronavirus in Chicago apartments.

Now, Illinois and the City of Chicago have progressed beyond the most severe shutdowns and stay-at-home orders as new Coronavirus cases have declined across the state. The state’s reopening follows a phased approach and Phase 3 was ushered in at the beginning of June 2020. Phase 3 guidelines included permission for real estate service professionals to resume in-person showings of apartments for rent — with restrictions in place.

The question facing many real estate pros as Illinois barrels toward summer of 2020: Is it better for landlords and brokers/agents to continue hosting virtual tours or should they go back to traditional, in-person showings? It depends on a few things.

The first thing that landlords, brokers, agents and renters all should consider is their own health. Immunocompromised people should take the most precautions when it comes to being indoors in the same space as other people, even if it’s for something as short-lived as a 15-minute apartment tour. The same advice goes for the elderly, young children and any other group facing heightened risk from COVID-19.

Next, landlords and agents should assess their own comfort level handling the technology o facilitate great virtual showings. Is it making life easier to set up a virtual tour or a virtual open house? Or is it making things more difficult? Landlords who find themselves agreeing with the latter sentiment should read on because this blog post has useful tips for setting up virtual apartment tours. If landlords or brokers find that virtual showings are making life easier, then by all means continue them! Renters are also benefiting from the added efficiency of remotely touring homes and apartments, so this is one of those “win-win” scenarios for both landlords and renters in their busy lives.

Staying Safe with Help from Technology

“Virtual tours are excellent ways to engage with renters who are out of state or just unable to tour apartments onsite,” says Max Downs, the marketing director at PPM Apartments. “Whether it’s through FaceTime, Skype or through video recorded on a phone,” Downs says, “it’s vital to our leasing process.”

Landlords should indicate that they’re open to arrange virtual showings in the apartment description field. Mention that you’re willing to host tours via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts or whichever platform is most intuitive and easy for you to use.

Anyone who has an iPhone can use FaceTime to showcase the excellent natural light in an apartment or broadcast the spacious floor plan. Leasing agents should make things interactive as well, not just giving a tour that’s “on rails” like an amusement park ride. Allow renters to ask questions and try to show them exactly what they inquire about with the smartphone’s camera. For example, if a renter asks about the age of the appliances in the apartment then agents can point the camera at the kitchen and let renters at the other end of the video call see for themselves.

Using Video Chat Tools to Show Apartments

Agents and landlords should block out the time of a showing on the calendar so the video calls don’t interrupt other errands or plans. Consider hosting a “virtual open house” where renters can connect via video chat in a certain set of hours. Leverage social media, email lists, and your ILS listing to advertise the virtual open house hours.

Leasing managers who need to advertise a newly listed unit can try live-streaming a walkthrough on Facebook or Instagram Live. People are invariably turning to their phones during a time when they’re instructed to avoid social gatherings of more than 50 people. Landlords and brokers can accomplish a lot with virtual tours that they might have overlooked back when they were done in person. Start capturing tours on camera and sharing clips on social media to garner a following of apartment enthusiasts and prospective tenants.

Enhance Listings by Posting Video, 3D Floor Plans & Panoramic Photos

Photos are a crucial asset to marketing a listing. But landlords can further step up their photo game with panoramas and wide angle shots. Many of the latest generation smartphones have similar features built in to their cameras. Additionally, there’s a wide array of smartphone accessories and apps that enhance photos taken on slightly older phones. Agents can use this time to get comfortable with posting walkthrough videos to Youtube. It’s easy to share these videos directly on their Domu listings by adding the link in the listing setup form.

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