It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, but just as often, a technology is created well before it comes into popular use. Perhaps the proverb should be amended: necessity is the mother of adoption – we see this few places more clearly than real estate and online leasing.
Video tours and online leasing have been around for years. Forward thinking landlords and those that operate remotely have used them since they became available, but those two groups represent a small fraction of real estate professionals. Instead, it took a global pandemic to bring these technologies to a wider real estate audience.
The impact of Covid is still being sorted out and will be for years to come. Even in real estate, it’s unclear just how seismic a shift has occurred, particularly when it comes to office rentals and remote working. But one thing seems likely to stay: video tours and digital document signing have transformed the way tenants and landlords interact during the leasing process.
Traditionally, when a tenant was interested in a rental property, that meant they needed to physically go and see it. A landlord, property manager, or someone representing them had to coordinate a time to arrive, they had to show the property and answer questions, and they often had to do this more than once for every unit. Conversely, tenants moving into a new city or traveling / busy during requested tour times may also have to send a representative on their behalf or miss out on the property entirely.
A small fraction of landlords recognized these issues early and began using a variety of services that assist in digital video tours. But for the most part, landlords and property managers chose not to disrupt the status quo, even if it was a little inconvenient.
With the outbreak of Covid, relatively minor inconveniences became significant health risks, and even if it was easy to find a time and tour a property, landlords, property managers, and prospective tenants felt unsafe doing so. Rather than stop leasing out their properties entirely, most real estate investors chose to adapt.
According to a survey conducted by Entrata, 96% of property managers utilized virtual tours or self-guided tours during the pandemic. And this decision was one clearly brought on by the pandemic, as 74% of that group stated 2020 was the first year they had done so. Entrata also revealed that these same property managers classified virtual tours as the single most helpful technology during a challenging year.
Clearly, Covid made digital tours a necessity, but that doesn’t mean landlords will abandon them in a post-pandemic future. A study conducted by the NAA found that 87% of property managers believe that digital communication (including virtual tours) is here to stay and Appfolio found that 40% of renters want to have the option to view units virtually.
Online Document Signing
Like virtual tours, online document signing has been around for quite a while. In fact, the eSign Act was digitally signed into law all the way back in the year 2000. Over the past 20 years, digital document signing has transformed entire industries, not least of which is real estate which rarely sees an offer to purchase a property signed on paper. Still, many landlords have continued to use paper documents, even if it means scanning, printing, signing, and scanning again.
While the level of inconvenience in this kind of process is notable, the inertia of “the way we’ve always done it” has been a major impediment to landlords and property managers fully adopting a digital solution. That changed significantly in 2020. According to internal data here at Innago, we saw a 360% increase in the number of documents signed online per landlord.
For renters working remotely, moving closer to home, or simply trying to avoid contact with others, digital leasing has been a huge help. But it also makes life quite a bit simpler for landlords who need to spend less time coordinating and monitoring the signing process.
And like virtual tours, the staying power of online lease signing seems to be significant. Across multiple industries, documents signed electronically reduce the turnaround time on execution by 80%. That’s a massive time savings that means landlords who use digital signatures are leasing faster and spending less time doing it.
Whether they’re being used to stave off a deadly virus or to make the leasing process for tenants and landlords a little more streamlined, the value of virtual tours and online document signing is finally being revealed. Moving forward, we believe landlords and property managers will continue to choose convenience and that these digital innovations are here to stay.
Innago is a free, easy-to-use property management software solution, designed to save you time & money. Innago allows you to easily: collect rent, screen tenants, list properties, manage work orders, create applications, sign leases, organize financials, communicate with tenants, & much more! Learn more here