Over the years, we have had the odd tenant here and there, who was unable to physically inspect a property before taking possession. In these instances, we would have them sign a waiver and also strongly encourage a friend or relative to inspect the property on their behalf before accepting their application. Basically, we gave them someone else to blame if the property didn’t meet their expectations.
This is no longer the case. In fact, although this is not yet the “norm”, it is not at all unusual for us to secure a lease without a physical inspection ever being conducted at a property. And the numbers are increasing as tenants become more comfortable with the idea.
This is, in part, due to lockdown restrictions and the reduced opportunity for travel from different areas. No longer do you hear of someone flying interstate for a few days to check out a few potential properties – it is simply too hard.
The other key player in this trend is technology.
The ability to “virtually” walk through properties, whether it be by a professionally filmed video tour or one shot from a property manager’s phone, provides potential tenants the opportunity to inspect a property from the comfort of their own home (or car). It is also not unusual for a property manager to “Facetime” someone from the property if they are unable to make a physical inspection.
Prospective tenants really enjoy the convenience of viewing a property in this way. They can virtually inspect the property as many times as they like before deciding whether to take the next step and can easily ask their friends and family to provide their thoughts as well. Google Street View also helps with giving them a feel for the area if they are unable to drive past the property.
Another contributing factor is the level of transparency surrounding the process, compared to years gone past. Changes in legislation, the ability to check out what other peoples experiences have been with an agency using rating platforms and a general increase in tenant knowledge have all combined to help people feel more comfortable leasing a property without ever having stepped foot in it.
We also suspect online shopping has played a part too – not so long ago you wouldn’t dream of buying a pair of shoes without trying them on, but now… it is not such a big deal.
Regardless of how comfortable a tenant may seem about signing a lease without actually visiting a property, we understand there is always the risk they may feel a little disappointed when they open the front door for the first time. This is why we always ensure we have them speak with someone from our agency who knows the property well before they sign the dotted line. Not only does this give them an opportunity to ask any questions they may have, but allows us to help manage their expectations during what can often be a very stressful time.
We expect that over the next few years, leasing a property virtually will become as commonplace as booking a holiday home through AirBnB.
We have all the measures already in place for our owners when it comes to renting property virtually– 360 degree virtual tours and video walk thru with an agent are part of the standard practice when we are advertising rental property now.