How To Lease An Apartment Sight Unseen
April 9, 2020 | By Aaron Galvin

Leasing an apartment sight unseen to a client happens, but is usually the exception and not the rule. I have mainly seen this type of leasing activity for a person relocating to a new city for work. But in today’s leasing environment, sight unseen is the new reality. I’m aware of numerous apartment buildings that have suspended in-person tours and transitioned to virtual tours due to safety precautions taken to protect public health. I anticipate that most, if not all, apartment buildings across the country will shortly follow suit.

April and May are peak leasing months for most metros across the country. This means a significant number of leases are expiring during this time of great unknown. What options should current landlords offer these tenants? What can other apartments do to attract new renters without being able to show them their potential new home? How can leasing agents rent apartments while working from home?
Flexible Renewals

The reality is a current tenant with a lease expiring in the next 90 days may not have an option to move or may not feel comfortable moving. Property managers and owners should consider offering month-to-month leases or incentives to retain the tenant for another year. Be mindful of the tenant’s personal life. They are living with a lot of uncertainty.

Selling The Dream, Sight Unseen

How do you lease an apartment unit to someone who has never seen the building and unit? Start with inquiring about the basics such as ideal move date, price range, pets and living arrangement. With the current environment, leasing agents need to be as transparent as possible about the building’s move-in recommendations. We’ve seen many apartments encouraging renters to move in very quickly, while some are pausing all move-ins for the next few weeks. During times of uncertainty, the client’s price range may be impacted. Leasing agents should also share any resources available to renters that may protect them from unexpected financial hardship. Then, understand what is most important to them. Is it location? Is it being in the newest building?

Having leased so many units sight unseen over the years, my firm has learned how to sell the dream from a distance. Video tours are now the most important leasing tool. If you haven’t already, start building a database of videos for your apartment building now. Leasing agents need to capture not only panning shots of each space, but also walkthroughs of the front entry, lobby, hallways, unit and amenity spaces.

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