The emergence of COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise and affected the routines, procedures, and activities of people across the globe. Like most professionals, landlords must continue running their businesses despite the pandemic. This may mean adjusting pre-existing practices or even thinking of new and creative ways to continue forward.
The main goal, of course, is to ensure the safety of current tenants, prospective renters, all staff members, and landlords, while also filling vacancies, updating leases, and collecting timely payments.
The rule of thumb here is to complete all communications and transactions online when possible, and exercise proper safety precautions when in-person interactions cannot be avoided, but let’s break it down further.
Know Your State’s Guidelines
The first and most important step is to be aware of your state’s laws and recommendations before proceeding forward. Some states have deemed real estate to be an essential service. In this case, landlords are likely able to continue in-person showings of their vacancies if they so desire.
Other states, however, have decided that real estate is not an essential service, which means that the use of online tools is the only way to conduct showings for prospective tenants.
There are pros and cons in both situations. The most notable pro when it comes to states that are able to continue face-to-face showings is that they don’t have to go through the hassle of learning new virtual ways of showing their property. Even so, the drawback to conducting solely in-person showings is that some renters may not want to come physically see a vacancy out of the fear of contagion. Adopting new virtual methods of showings may increase your market of potential tenants due to the safe and accessible manner of the technology.
Use Online Tools to Show Vacancies
Despite the pandemic, tenants still need to view rentals, and landlords still have vacancies that need showing – at least this much hasn’t changed! What has changed, perhaps, is the way in which these interactions must take place. In order to keep everyone as safe as possible — and to follow your state’s guidelines — landlords should consider using tools to show vacancies virtually. There are multiple different approaches for online showings, but it is important to find the simplest tools that work best for you and your tenants’ needs.
Probably the easiest way to conduct online showings is to create an extensive catalog of pictures of your vacant spaces. While this will be effective in showing the majority of a property and is simple to do, it is not the most interactive or thorough approach.
Another option is to do live tours using platforms like Skype, Facebook, and Zoom. This allows for more interaction between you and the renter, immediate feedback for the renter’s questions, and more customization for the tours. Additionally, many landlords have been using three-dimensional interactive property scans to show their vacant properties. These can be done via platforms such as Matterport, Cupix, and EyeSpy360.
Again, these are more customizable and interactive than simple photo catalogs, but may require special equipment.
No matter which approach you choose, you may find that these virtual tours are something that you would like to continue once things go back to normal, however and whenever that happens. Online showings allow for a greater accessibility than their in-person forms. They might be particularly useful for prospective tenants that are looking to relocate from out of state, but don’t want to make the trip to view the property.
Sign Leases Online
Once you have completed your virtual tours and tenants are ready to sign a lease, the safest and simplest way to finalize the agreement is to use online tools. Many property management software companies like our friends at Innago offer this feature.
Not only does signing leases online allow for adequate social distancing, many tenants and landlords will find it to be simpler than the traditional method, making it quicker and easier to fill vacancies. Again, landlords might find this to be a tool that they want to continue using after the current crisis has passed due to its simplicity, accessibility, and organization.
Use Virtual Payments Methods
Rent payments are a topic of hot debate during this time of many uncertainties, and landlords are facing tough decisions when it comes to accommodating tenants needs, while also considering the needs of their businesses.
Regardless of the route you’ve chosen – may it be waiving rent, deferring rent, or continuing as is – you will likely need to collect money from your tenants at some point now or in the near future. There are a number of platforms you can use, from Venmo, to Paypal, to more formal property management software.
This eliminates the need for in-person and mailed payments, which not only keeps everyone safe, but also reduces the likelihood of late payments and checks for the wrong amount. Tenants won’t have to wonder about how much they owe, and you won’t have to track them down to collect their payments, allowing everyone to maintain a safe social distance.
Follow Proper Safety Guidelines when Interaction is Unavoidable
Despite everyone’s best efforts, some face-to-face interactions will inevitably be unavoidable. Whether it is showings, maintenance calls, or any other service that must be conducted in-person, it is important to take the appropriate measures to keep all parties safe and healthy. Again, the best list of procedures to follow is that which is given to you by your state’s officials, but there are some universal precautions that we can all follow to ensure the safety of ourselves and others.
The first thing to do is to wash your hands. It is recommended that you wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If possible, it is also advised that you wear gloves and face masks, particularly when showing your properties or interacting with tenants. While not everyone has access to these supplies, everyone that can get ahold of them should wear them and follow the proper instructions on how best to use them. Next, you should clean any areas before and after someone new enters them.
For example, if you are conducting an in-person showing, it is best to make sure that the property is cleaned before the prospective tenant arrives, and again after they leave. Lastly, you should do your absolute best to ensure that all parties involved have not been exposed. Although you can never be completely sure about the exposure of yourself or others, encouraging honesty during this time is crucial.
Maintaining Perspective as we Move Forward
Ultimately, the health of both the tenants and landlords is everyone’s highest priority. Doing everything we can to reduce face-to-face interaction, maintain appropriate social distance, and ensure the health of ourselves and others is our responsibility as fellow citizens and neighbors. Let this social responsibility guide you as you continue to run your real estate businesses.