How can you reduce the number of times you show a property? Virtual tours. It’s time to weed out unnecessary in-person showings with time wasters and tire kickers.
Today, I am talking to James Barrett of Tenant Turner, a leading property management tool and resource that lets property managers manage tenant leads, schedule showings, and automate the leasing process.
[02:59] Goal of Virtual Tours: Educate potential tenants before choosing to visit property.
[03:27] Customer-Centric Concept: Virtual tours evolved from quality images to videos.
[04:20] ROI: Reduced costs for video camera equipment make virtual tours possible.
[07:40] Lack of competition makes virtual tours core to growth and promotion.
[08:28] Direct correlation between virtual tours, time on market, vacancy, and showings.
[08:53] Quality over Quantity: Maximize exposure to increase good-fit tenant leads.
[13:37] Virtual tours take time and money. Are they worth it? Promoted? Required?
[16:29] Record moves, maintenance, and inspections for marketing and leasing metrics.
[21:08] Options and Recommendations: Zillow’s 3D Home, zInspector, and Ricoh; or outsource and offload to PlanOmatic, VirtuallyinCredible, and HomeJab.
TweetablesListings with virtual tours increase interest by 250% and generate 49% more leads. Click To Tweet One-third of Tenant Turner’s customers do virtual tours; 11% of its listings include them. Click To Tweet Do virtual tours. If you do, you’ll be different, reduce vacancy, and make more money. Click To Tweet About 45% of millennial renters seek virtual tour technology before making a decision. Click To Tweet
Jason: Welcome DoorGrow hackers to the DoorGrow Show. If you are a property management entrepreneur that wants to add doors, make a difference, increase revenue, help others, impact lives, and you are interested in growing your business and life, and you are open to doing things a bit differently, then you are a DoorGrow Hacker.
DoorGrow Hackers love the opportunities, daily variety, unique challenges and freedom that property management brings. Many in real estate think you’re crazy for doing it, you think they’re crazy for not because you realize that property management is the ultimate high trust gateway to real estate deals, relationships, and residual income.
At DoorGrow, we are on a mission to transform property management businesses and their owners. We want to transform the industry, eliminate the BS, build awareness, change perception, expand the market and help the best property management entrepreneurs win. I’m your host, property management growth expert, Jason Hull, the founder and CEO of DoorGrow. Now, let’s get into the show. Today’s guest is my buddy James Barrett. James, how are you?
James: Doing well, sir. Good to be back on the show.
Jason: James and I were just in Nashville, at the Southern States Conference. We got to hang out afterwards and we went dancing. We went out on the town and it was crazy, wasn’t it?
James: It was a great time.
Jason: It was a great time.
James: Dance floors everywhere.
Jason: The musicians and the talent. Yeah, it was crazy. It was a lot of fun.
James: That’s what I tell people about Nashville all the time, the worst musician in Nashville is better than every musician everywhere else, it seems like.
Jason: I’m doing open mic night tomorrow night and everyone in Nashville’s better than me, that’s for sure. I’m taking the risk, I’m getting on stage.
James: That’s right, go out there. You can get a lot of practice behind the mic doing this podcast so it’ll…
Jason: I don’t know if that’s the same as singing with the guitar, but yeah.
James: We’ll see.
Jason: We’ll see. James, you’ve been on the show before, welcome back. I’m glad to have you here. In case anybody who’s listening doesn’t know James and they can’t see his shirt because they’re listening, he is part of a company called Tenant Turner, which consistently has been one of the top performing companies for vendors. In our Facebook group, we get a lot of positive feedback from clients on Tenant Turner. I’m glad to have you back on the show. Today, we’re going to be talking about virtual tour technologies, what is that?
James: For those of you who might be questioning, “Why is James from a scheduling software, where they do lock boxes and in person showing, why is he talking about virtual tours?” With virtual tours, the real goal is how can you reduce the number of showings that are happening because people are being educated before physically having to go to the property. Jason, as you alluded to with how highly we’re rated within the Facebook group and what not, we are a very customer centric, customer driven organization.
It is something that’s come up, particularly more recently, is just the concept of virtual tours. Seeing the evolution of quality images, which was kind of the norm 5-10 years ago. Making sure you have quality, high definition images on your listings, to then moving more to a model of video tours, which is a form of virtual tours but really just the gateway of virtual tours where you’re taking a video walking through the home.
Now, more and more, we see customers who are adopting these 3D virtual tours like those that are provided by like Matterport. It’s becoming very important within the industry because people are investing in this amount of time and effort into these virtual tours and they need to make sure they’re seeing an ROI on that.
Jason: Are they always seeing an ROI or is that a problem?
James: It’s been a problem largely because of the investment has always been so high, because one of the big companies that really got into the real estate market was Matterport, one that’s very highly rated, but their cameras are $4000. Every property management company in the world might want to do a virtual tour, but at that price point, it’s limited.
What we’ve seen more recently is there’s now lower cost 360 cameras that are used by not only Matterport, but companies like zInspector which are used by a lot of property managers for inspection software. Really, I think one of the big tipping points is Zillow, who recently came out with their own app that allows you to take a 360 virtual tours utilizing just an iPhone. You’re starting to see that barrier to entry drop down pretty significantly but it’s still early on in its adoption phases here.
Jason: We’ve had some really great episodes for those listening, if they look at like that so we do with Michael Sanz. He talked a lot about how he’s leveraged some of these cheaper cameras and took to offload and to reduce the number of showing significantly. Let’s dig in, so how does this apply to Tenant Turner?
James: One of the things we have is we have a nice, unique data set that tells us how many people are starting to adopt these types of virtual tours and put them in their listings. We started to see a nice little increase of such tours to date. Right now, it’s only about 11% of our active listings, but just a couple years ago, sub 1%, sub 2%. It was really just in its infancy. We started to see faster adoption of virtual tours and one of the things that’s also really interesting is 11% of our active rentals have virtual tours associated with them, but now a full third of our customers had at least one virtual tour. Companies in general are starting to adopt more and more of the virtual tours and basically building it to their process.
Jason: Let’s point this out, people that are using Tenant Turner are probably the more tech savvy, maybe more forthcoming property manager, I mean they’re a little more forward thinking, is what I mean. They’re early adopters and using your technology. You may have 11% and maybe 33% or whatever a third or have at least one but I would imagine outside Tenant Turner, the number has got to be way lower.
This is still a huge differentiating factor for a management company that say, “Hey, we do these tours.” It’s probably really rare that people are going to bump into any competitors that are doing this yet. Even the people that are savvy enough to be using a scheduling software and showing software like Tenant Turner, only 11% of the properties it’s really being used for.
James: Yeah, and I think where there’s a huge opportunity within the property management space, is now that some of these barriers have been brought down, making it core to your growth model being able to promote the fact that you do this. You actually have an artifact that is created that you can then share with the property owner, that’s part of the whole thing, it’s part of the inspection process. It’s part of your now marketing material where you can say, “Look at these beautiful virtual tours that we’re providing,” that really nobody else in your market may be doing.
Jason: Yeah and I’m sure there’s a direct correlation between virtual tours, and time on the market, and vacancy, and not having to do showings and all of this.
James: It’s really interesting, there’s a lot of similarities between Tenant Turner and our goals and what virtual tours do. With Tenant Turner, we want to make the process as streamlined as possible. On one hand we’re generating more leads because we want to make sure we maximize our customer’s exposure, but on the other hand, we want to eliminate anyone who’s not a good fit. On the one side, we’re a 24/7 service that can respond to the leads instantly, but on the other side, we have a pre qualification scoring tool that weeds out people who aren’t a good fit.
These virtual tours are kind of the same thing but for the other side of the market. With virtual tours, because you have a virtual tour on your listing, statistically it’s going to get more page views. It’s going to get more clicks.
Apartments.com, they actually did a nice little study on this and it’s something that they’ve started offering through their website is highlighting listings that have virtual tours. There’s a 250% increase in time on page for a listing that has a virtual tour versus one that does not
Jason: Okay, you said 250%?
James: 250%, yep. You got to think too, a lot of these listing sites, they’re very vanilla, you can go to Zillow or HotPads or apartments.com and it’s pretty cookie cutter in a lot of ways. If you are able to provide a virtual tour and it gets pushed out to those different sites and they can put a little tag or icon next to it, it can go a long way into generating more clicks. Similar to Tenant Turner, they’re trying to increase leads with virtual tours and we see more time on page. They’ve also seen a 49% increase in the number of leads. That’s one of the goals of virtual tours is how can we get more leads into the top end of the funnel.
At the same time, just like Tenant Turner, how we like to weed out people who aren’t a good fit, the virtual tours are helping prospective tenants weed themselves out if they think that the place is a good fit for them.
Jason: Right. Yeah, makes sense.
James: More leads on one hand but at the same time better fit leads, so that way when it does get time for a showing, you’ll ultimately have fewer showings at a particular property but it will be more people who are qualified…
Jason: More relevant.
James:…exactly, exactly. It’s a quality over quantity type solution.
Jason: Yeah, I mean relevancy is the crux of everything. It doesn’t matter how great the property is or how many tenants you have going through it, if the showings aren’t relevant or they’re not interested. It allows them to filter it out. They can see the kitchen and say, “No, that’s too small,” or they can see the backyard, “That’s not what I was hoping for.” They just get a better feel for what it would like to be in it without having actually go and do it. If there is a virtual tour and somebody scheduled to showing they’re probably fairly legit interested. They’re probably seriously considering putting an application in on this place. They’re probably ready to move. Whereas, instead of getting a whole host of tire kickers and time wasters.
James: That’s right. What we’re seeing, the big thing right now in our industry is the movement to support self access viewings and whatnot. Within Tenant Turner, only a third of our properties are enabled for self access, because if you have an occupied property, if the owner won’t allow self access to the particular property, if the price point’s too low, you’re still going to show and if the price points too high, you’re still going to show it. This is a huge tool to help weed out unnecessary in-person showings.
If you have your showing agent, like you said, driving around town interacting with all these different tire kickers who would’ve weeded themselves out of the process if they actually saw what it looked like from the curb, if they actually had an opportunity to see the size of the backyard and wouldn’t fit their two or three dogs. If they saw the layout of it and they know they want an open floor plan, but then as soon as they walk in they see it’s not an open floor plan, they’re going to walk right back out.
It is a huge opportunity to generate more leads because you’ve got people who are going to be more engaged with your listing, but then also allow them to self identify that it’s really not a good fit for them based upon what they’re seeing in the virtual tour.
Jason: Yeah, I mean it’s really difficult when you’re just looking at a bunch of photos where you’re just seeing an angle from one corner of a room, and that’s all you see of each room. It’s really hard to get perspective as a renter and you have no idea how these rooms kind of fit together, how that works and what the flow of the place would be like, so all that makes sense. How is Tenant Turner allowing people to get the virtual showings into the listings?
James: Yeah, it was kind of a surprising thing that we saw come through our enhancements requests and whatnot, it was just really people—they’re spending a lot of money. Whether they own their own Matterport camera or they’re putting a lot of time into it and these virtual tours can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to record. Some people like to go in at Matterport and do video editing or maybe they pay a service like VirtuallyinCredible to do virtual tour, where they stitch together the images for you and stuff like that. They’re either putting in a lot of time or putting in a lot of money or effort or both.
One of the downsides with a lot of these listing sites,and even with Tenant Turner for awhile was that you couldn’t really put links in the description that were clickable that enabled that to be highlighted element. They came through in our enhancement request, just making sure that those things are being promoted appropriately that got Tenant Turner now their own section where people can watch tours. It highlights the fact that that particular listing has a tour versus the ones that do not.
The links are in the descriptions, hyperlinks and clickable, which then engages a new window for them to be able to watch the tours before they go through and schedule a showing. Some of our customers, they even have custom questions built into the Tenant Turner Questionnaire that asks if they have viewed the tour.
Jason: I was going to say, can they require in order to schedule a showing or even to do a self access, can you require them to confirm that they have seen the virtual tour so no time’s wasted?
James: Yeah and that’s a huge thing. We’ve seen that in past questions that customers created. It was really like, “Have you driven through the neighborhood?” was kind of the beginning part of it, because they didn’t want to meet somebody at a home that the person has no idea what the neighborhood is like, if it’s going to be a good fit for them, have they driven by and seen the outside. Now we’re starting to see more people do that with the virtual tours and say, “Have you watched the virtual tour?” If not, draw attention to it before they schedule an appointment, because if they’re not satisfied with the virtual tour, they’re not going to be satisfied with an in-person tour once they get to the property.
Jason; Right. Very clever. What are some other ways that people are leveraging these or making sure that it’s all tied together? You’re at the forefront of seeing how people are reaching this stuff. I think that’s a clever hack to require the virtual tour in some way or fashion. Are there any other things like that that you’re noticing people are doing to facilitate this?
James: Yes. I think one thing that’s really interesting and really smart is particularly the cost of these cameras is dropping and there are more options for property managers than there’s ever been before. As you’re doing your move outs and some of the homes obviously, they’re going to need some maintenance as you turn them over, and maybe a new coat of paint, a new carpet, whatever, but as you do your next move-in inspection, if you have a 360 camera for using the Zillow 3D Home app, if you’re using your own iPhone in order to record your pictures and whatnot, use that next move-in inspection as an opportunity to not only record what the status of the home is before the new tenant moves in, but then use that as an opportunity for your marketing material too.
A lot of these tools like Matterport for example if you use one of their cameras, it’ll take all the pictures panoramic pictures for you, and then you can even take out specific 2D images and use those for your marketing materials too. Basically, if you have the right equipment and your budget allows for it, put the camera on the tripod, put it inside each room, it’ll take stance of the entire room, it’ll create a 3D floor plan, it’ll create a dollhouse view of the home, and it will create all the individual images that you would need for your listings and for your inspection. Take that as an opportunity to combine the maintenance and loop-in element with the marketing elements so that you can have that 3D tour for that home in the future.
Jason: Right. Then when your tenant puts a notice, you can start marketing the property right away, you can put it out there, you can put out the tour and everything else before, and you may be able to get the place rented before it’s even vacant.
James: Absolutely. That’s another big benefit that some property managers are realizing with high quality virtual tours is that they can get the properties rented, sight unseen. If the virtual tour is good enough whether the person lives in town or not, if the property’s occupied and they want to put it out there in the market, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll have the home rented sight unseen with a high quality virtual tour. I think that’s the goal.
With Tenant Turner, we’re trying to manage the leads and schedule the appointments to get people into the home, but ultimately what we’re trying to do is streamline the leasing process. If we can help minimize the number of showings to help minimize the amount of back and forth that goes on with these virtual tours, maybe even prevent somebody from going to a property altogether, it’s a win-win.
Jason: The property managers that are not doing this stuff, if they’re tracking their metrics, and they’re tracking their average time to get things rented out, their time on market, some of these variables, and then they start using maybe Tenant Turner to start using maybe self access, maybe start using virtual 360 cameras and tours, and all this, they probably will see a dramatic difference.
To be able to say in a sales presentation to a prospective owner, “Hey, this is where we were before, like all the companies out there, and here’s where we’re at now, and what we’ve noticed,” it’s such a huge differentiator in selling point. Even a month of vacancy, even a couple weeks of vacancy can be pretty expensive. In some markets, that could be thousands of dollars depending on the property.
James: Yeah. It’s just another kind of tool in the tool belt. I think a big thing is some of the concepts from virtual tours and I think something like Matterport too, just because the cost has been so high, you can get into doing virtual tours relatively easier now because of the Zillow’s 3D home app, you can do it now just with the quality of phones being able to take your own panoramic pictures. I know a lot of people out there, they’re using tools like zInspector already for their home inspections, but they also offer a virtual tour tool.
There’s a lot more out there now than there’s ever been before and I think the property managers who are willing to take that leap into putting a little bit of extra effort into it, and putting a little bit of extra time in it, they’re going to be the ones to receive the biggest returns by reducing their vacancy, reducing their rent loss to vacancy, but then also like you said, being able to inject those core metrics back into their value prop to their customers.
Jason: Between you and me, because it’s just you and me right now, just us, if you’re hanging out with one of your buddies that runs a property management company and they’re like, “Hey, what should I use? What camera should I get? I’ve got your system Tenant Turner.” What would your go to recommendation be right now?
James: I think the Zillow thing is really intriguing because it’s free, but for all of us in the industry, Zillow, they’re kind of a…
Jason: It makes everyone scared. We’re all afraid of Zillow.
Jason: We’re all watching Zillow, but we’re all a little bit afraid.
James: With Zillow, I mean they own and control your data because you’re recording it in their app, you’re uploading it to their servers, and I know a lot of people in this industry, they’re thinking at the back of their mind, “It’s just a matter of time before I’ve uploaded this to their servers for free and then they’re going to take me out of the process completely because now they have my virtual tour.”
I would say, the Zillow one is appealing because of the cost, it costs nothing to do it, but I do think for property managers who are a bit more sophisticated and a bit more in the know in the industry, and maybe have some fears of Zillow and for good reason, there’s a couple of hundred dollar camera, a RICOH camera which is a reputable brand. It works with zInspector, it works with Matterport, you can use it with either one of those products and probably a couple of others, and that’s a great place to be able to create these beautiful 360 panoramic vantage points of the rental property.
This is what we saw in the data that we looked at, a third of our customers are doing virtual tours, but only 11% of our listings have virtual tours. The higher end properties or maybe some of your smaller multifamily that you can reuse the layout or use a virtual tour across multiple units, that’s where you’re also going to get the most bang for your buck.
I think as time goes on, maybe we’re not quite there yet where this is going to be a ubiquitous part of everybody’s process, you can use it as an upsell to an owner, you can use it as something particular for those higher end listings. You tell somebody and say, “Hey, you have a top tier property, you have a beautiful space, and I want to be the property manager for you, and this is how I’m going to do it.” That’s part of a way you can help win that management agreement.
I don’t think it has to be something that’s used all the time by every property out there. I think that’s a good way to overcome it. If you don’t have a camera and you want to test the waters, the RICOH cameras, and there are a couple of them out there, but they’re more like $400 versus the Matterport’s $4000. It’s a good way to test it out and see if it’s a good fit for your organization.
To your point earlier is it going to positively impact your key metrics, are you going to see a reduction in your days vacant, are you going to see a reduction of your time on market, are you going to see an increase in either maybe an additional fee or more management contracts because you offer this, and nobody else in your market does.
Jason: Say you’ve got a $20 an hour employee that’s helping do some of this stuff, whatever. If it’s a $400 camera and if it saves you 20 hours ever at $20 an hour, you’ve broken even on the camera. I would imagine, what is that, 20 showings maybe, or trips out to a place, or whatever. I think it’s a no brainer. You could probably justify the $4000 camera if you needed two guys or gals, but $400 is pretty easy to start with.
James: Exactly. We have seen with some of the bigger groups, particularly property managers who are tied into larger real estate offices that primarily focus on sales, they tend to have access to the Matterport cameras because these Matterport cameras have taken off more on the for sale side. That’s another thing. Whether it’s within the NARPM world or within your just local real estate group, you may have a friend that has one. Whether or not they let you borrow their $4000 camera…
Jason: Rent it.
James: Rent it, that’s an option. There are services too, depending upon what you think your choke point is, but there’s tools out there or services out there. PlanOmatic is one, Zillow also offers their own network of professional photographers that have access to the 3D tour technology. PlanOmatic is in partnership with Matterport. HomeJab is another new one that has 50 offices nationwide. If your issue is getting somebody to go to the property, take pictures and do the editing, PlanOmatic, HomeJab, those tools are in place. Those services are offered.
Jason: You can offload it.
James: Exactly. Think about what’s the most appropriate part of the process to potentially outsource. VirtuallyinCredible, they do a good job in creating virtual tours that can then be promoted through your various listings, and websites, and whatnot. If you have an editing, if that’s where your constraint is, you don’t feel like you have the time or talent to do it, there’s another place where you can offload and outsource that component to it. You should be doing it, and if you do it, you will differentiate yourself to make more money and reduce your days vacant, so it makes sense to do it, but if you have hesitancies around buying a camera, then borrow one, or use one of these services, or go the Zillow route.
If you can overcome that hurdle and your concern is really around editing, and formatting, and getting it to the appropriate level, you can use another one of those services like VirtuallyinCredible who can piece it all together for you, but any stage of the game where you think you have hesitancy or you’re resistant to taking it on, there are opportunities to buy equipment or utilize an existing service who’s an expert in it.
Jason: Perfect. I think you’ve sold people on the idea of virtual tour technologies. Anything else that that they should know about this that you’re seeing from your 30-foot view with all the different property management companies that you’re helping them with the leasing side?
James: Yeah. I would say one thing to add is that some people might be listening to this saying, “We don’t really need to do that, the technology is not there yet,” at least be thinking about this, whether you look at strategic components every quarter, or every year, or whatever, because one of the big statistics that came out of some of the research done by apartments.com and Zillow is, about 45% of millennial renters are really leaning into virtual tours before they make a decision.
If you don’t think the stats are compelling, if you don’t want to try it, just know that the largest group of renters that continues to expand within the markets that we serve, they are looking for this type of technology. Again, it’s something that you can use to help sell to your owners, but as you look at quality tenants, this is something that those folks are going to be looking for, and they’ll look past your listings eventually if this is not going to be there. Be ready.
Jason: I would wager to say there might be a correlation between the most tech savvy of renters and the safest ones to be placing into properties. It might help you attract better tenants. Maybe.
James: Yeah, I agree.
Jason: Psychologically, it seems sound to me, but who knows. James, it was really cool to have you here again. I don’t know when the next conference is but we’ll have to go dancing again.
James: That’s right.
Jason: With all our homies. To be clear, it’s not just Jason and I dancing.
Jason: No, we’re not dancing together.
James: Good times.
Jason: You’re married, but I’m single again, so I can pick up…
James: I could be your wingman.
Jason: You’ll be my wingman, I could use a wingman.
James: I got you covered.
Jason: Alright, well hey, it’s really good to see you again. James, it’s really good to see you again. I love what you guys are doing at Tenant Turner. I appreciate you coming on the show and how could people get in touch with Tenant Turner?
James: Yeah, if you guys ever need any help with your showings, software, lock boxes, or locks, or ever just a resource to chat with as you can tell, we’re really into the data, we’re really into the industry, and we want to be of service to folks. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Definitely come to our website. We’ve got a live chat feature. Anytime you want to speak with somebody, we have folks standing by all US based who would love to hear from you. Come on through.
Jason: I saw your Instagram. I’m going to let you get another quick plug here. You have some new lock boxes that you guys are doing now?
James: That’s right, yes. One of the big and exciting things that we’ve been rolling out, we’ve been doing it in a slow launch and actually Calvin, he owns his own property management company, Keyrenter Richmond. He was one of our guinea pig customers. We put new lock boxes on his property. They’re SentriLock lock boxes, SentriLock’s a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Association of Realtors. It is an extremely high quality lock box with the six year warranty. For anybody who has had a desire to experiment with self access but maybe was hesitant because of the lock boxes, what we have now is top tier and will last you a good long time and help prevent you from having to go to those properties showings yourself.
Jason: Perfect, awesome. Alright, cool. Well James, thanks again for coming on and I will let you go.
James: Cool, thank you, Jason, it was a pleasure.
Jason: Alright, so great to see him again and have him on the show. Check out Tenant Turner at tenantturner.com and if you are […] business feel free to reach out. Test your website at doorgrow.com/quiz. Test your website out. See if it’s effective, and if not, you maybe want to talk with us and that might help you realize there’s that leak, but you probably have several other leaks that we can help you with in your sales pipeline. Our goal is to show up trust, show up those leaks because trust is the speed in which you’re able to get clients on close deals and grow your company. That’s what we specialize in is helping maximize trust and organic growth and we’re on lead generation at DoorGrow. With that I will let everybody have an awesome day, let everybody go and until next time, to our mutual growth. Bye everyone.