Do you want to tour a Houston apartment without leaving your couch? Got your eyes on an apartment in Baltimore, but don’t want to deal with the traffic?
A virtual apartment tour is the perfect way to check out a property before you commit to anything. They’re great for potential tenants who live outside the area or would rather tour from the comfort of home.
The up-and-coming virtual tour is a convenient and safe time-saver for renters, leasing agents, and property managers across the country. Here’s how to get the most out of your private walkthrough.
What is a virtual apartment tour?
During a virtual apartment tour, you’ll use your smartphone, computer, or tablet to tour an apartment unit. A leasing agent, property manager, or landlord usually serves as your tour guide during a live tour.
“Virtual tours create immersive experiences that effectively communicate the apartment’s potential to renters and help them make informed decisions,” says Gabriel Esteban of Plus Render.
Virtual tours allow renters to “walk through” the space and look at the unit and overall apartment complex. Some tours allow you to speak with someone on the property and ask questions along the way.
There are three main types of virtual apartment tours:
- Live video call tour: A live tour is the most hands-on option. An on-site representative will walk around the unit to show you the space and answer your questions in real time.
- Recorded video tour: A recorded tour shows the apartment from the first-person point of view, but it isn’t in real time. The person recording the video has complete control over the pace of the tour and what is (and isn’t) shown.
- 3D virtual apartment tour: A 360° camera and specialized software create a premade 3D rendering of the apartment. Renters “navigate” through the unit by clicking around in different parts of the unit, similar to the 3D home tour many people use when they consider buying a house on Redfin.
Any virtual tour can provide a handy way to view an apartment without being there in person. However, many people find live tours the most helpful since they can ask live questions and make requests on the spot. Here’s how to prepare ahead of time:
6 things to look for during a live virtual apartment tour
A live tour gives you the power to ask questions on the spot. Researching the apartment and complex beforehand gives you a leg up during the tour.
1. Floor plan and layout
The floor plan could determine how well the space functions for your needs and how comfortable you’ll feel living inside. Do a little homework ahead of time to understand how the space is laid out before you see it virtually. If you have to focus too much on the layout during the tour, you could miss other details like worn fixtures or poor lighting. If you have any questions or concerns, write them down and look (or ask) for answers during the tour.
“Embrace an immersive perspective,” says Alex Narvaez of Superior Property Management. “Tenants should ask about the morning sun’s trajectory, whether the kitchen is spacious enough for their gourmet cooking sessions, or if the balcony can accommodate their favorite hammock. It’s vital to understand amenities, parking policies, and rent payment logistics. Unleash your lifestyle onto the apartment to ensure it suits you, not just on paper, but in practice. Truly “living” the space through a virtual lens is paramount.”
Jaime Sanford from Prime Property Group adds, “When embarking on virtual apartment tours, it’s crucial to gather vital information to make an informed decision. Start by finding out about the apartment’s layout, dimensions, and storage options to assess if it suits your needs and belongings.”
2. Spaciousness of rooms and total size of the unit
Knowing the layout, you can ask your virtual tour guide questions that help determine the furniture placement if the unit isn’t a furnished apartment. Use the tour to decide whether certain areas might feel cramped. This could help you determine if you want to pursue this unit or look into a bigger one or a different complex altogether.
“Be sure to ask for a floor plan or blueprint or at least room dimensions after you conduct your virtual tour,” says Nate Morris of Laker Real Estate. Also, ask the person giving the tour for the ceiling height, which is normally not included in standard blueprints. When you’re doing a virtual showing, the camera can tend to make spaces feel bigger than they really are. You’ll want to make sure you understand the actual square footage of the space and the measurements of things such as wall space in relation to things such as windows and doors. This allows you to better plan for furniture layouts and interior decorations.”
3. Storage options
It always helps to know how much space you’ll have for storage, especially if you have a lot of stuff. Ask your tour guide to open cabinets and closets to see whether they’re big enough for your clothes and other belongings. If you like the unit but storage is lacking, you might consider buying storage furniture ahead of time to bump up your storage space. For example, opting for a storage ottoman instead of a traditional ottoman adds precious cubic feet of storage space to your home.
4. Natural lighting and views
A camera doesn’t always display light accurately, so schedule your virtual tour during a time of day with ample natural light. Ask your virtual tour guide to stand in the middle of each room and pause in each direction to see how light fills the space. Spend more time in the main living areas and rooms with outdoor views. Ask the guide to place the camera next to the window to preview your view from each room.
5. Functionality and signs of wear and tear
If you were there in person, you’d probably open cabinets, look closely at finishes, explore appliances for wear and tear, and get a general feel for the apartment’s cleanliness.
Ask your tour guide to slow down while they show the kitchen or kitchenette to get an up-close look at cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, and appliances. Do the same for the flooring, ceiling, and walls.
Ask your tour guide to test water pressure in the kitchen and bathroom, then turn appliances on and off to verify that they function. Look closely at windows, doors, and locks to ensure they’re in good working order. Keep a watchful eye out for any signs of moisture or water damage, which can lead to harmful mold in the apartment.
6. Outside condition and curb appeal
Take your time in the entry area and lobby, noting the number of people coming and going. Note the condition of each area. Look at the staircases and elevators and see what kind of shape they’re in. How well property management maintains the interior and exterior can tell you a lot about how the complex is maintained overall.
10 questions to ask during your virtual apartment tour
1. Which changes can I make to the apartment?
Adding personal touches to a new apartment truly turns it into your space, but not all changes will be allowed. Find out which types of changes they’ll allow, and whether you’ll need to reverse your changes when you move out. For example, if you can’t paint or put up shelves, you’ll need a backup plan for decor.
2. Which amenities does my lease include?
Utilities may or may not be included in your lease. If tenants are responsible, find out about typical monthly utility costs to help determine how much you’ll need to budget. If the landlord does pay for the utilities, are cable or internet included? Apartment amenities might also include fitness centers, pools, on-location laundry, and community rooms.
3. Where will I park?
Find out how on-site parking is handled, whether in an open lot, a covered parking spot, or a garage. Ask about any costs involved and how spaces are situated, including potential inconveniences like tandem parking. A unit with assigned spots is highly regarded since it means you’ll never have a problem finding a place to park.
4. What’s the guest policy?
Knowing the building’s guest policy can save you a lot of trouble, especially if you plan to host parties or have groups of people over for dinner. Ask about any limits to the number of guests, including how long they can stay. That way, you’ll stay in your property manager’s good graces.
5. What’s the pet policy?
If you want to bring a pet into your apartment, find out if the building allows them. Ask about any size and breed restrictions. Some facilities charge tenants a pet deposit and an additional monthly fee and may even require your pet’s vaccination records. A landlord has the power to turn down specific breeds if their insurance policy prohibits them.
6. Are there any plans to update the building?
Construction is messy, noisy, and generally inconvenient. If there are plans to renovate, you’ll want to know how long the project will take ahead of time. Completed renovations will reward you with an up-to-date living environment or new amenities if you can live with the inconvenience during construction.
7. How do I pay my rent?
You want to be able to pay your rent quickly and easily. Ask if the property manager accepts bank transfers or provides an online payment portal. Some landlords and property managers still require a physical check.
If you plan to start your lease in the middle of a pay period, ask if they prorate the rent. If so, you’ll only pay for the portion of the month you’re living in the unit.
8. How are emergency repairs handled?
Ask your tour guide if there’s an emergency repair number to call and how quickly you can expect a response. Ask for information about how to submit apartment maintenance requests for non-emergency repairs.
9. Which security features does the complex have?
Feeling safe and secure is an important part of any rental home. Ask whether there’s a door or gate buzzer for access and if a security guard monitors the area. Is there a fire escape on your floor? What’s the nearest exit in case of an emergency?
10. Which shops and services are nearby?
Learn what’s in the neighborhood. Ask your guide about any notable shops, services, and restaurants within short walking or driving distance. It never hurts to come prepared with some research of your own too. Get a head start by skimming any online resources geared toward that area, like this Atlanta city guide, for example.
4 tips for 3D apartment tours
1. Know how a 3D tour works
A 3D virtual tour offers 24/7 access to images of the apartment unit, with interactive views from every angle inside the apartment. A 3D tour allows potential tenants to change views while viewing each room. They can then decide whether or not to schedule an in-person walkthrough.
2. Understand how to navigate inside a 3D tour
A 3D virtual tour will feature one or more of these views:
- Inside view: This view lets you virtually walk through any room in the unit and zoom in wherever you want. It helps you get an idea of what you’ll see walking through the actual apartment.
- Dollhouse view: This is an outside perspective like you’re looking at a doll house. You’ll see the whole room and rotate around to view it from different angles.
- Floor plan view: This shows you the room layout, just like an architectural drawing or blueprint. It’s usually a bird’s eye view looking down.
- Measurement view: This displays measurements for wall lengths and ceiling heights for each room and the unit overall. It provides the specific size and layout for the kitchen, bathroom, living area, bedroom, and all other rooms in the unit.
3. Verify that all the appliances work
Another key component to verify during a virtual tour is whether all the appliances are in working order. This can be difficult to verify virtually if you don’t specifically ask. “Ask for a video of all the working appliances in the property to ensure that everything is fully functional,” says Lena Stevens of Dwellsy. “This should include faucets, lights, fans, garbage disposals, and more. The same applies to water pressure – ask for a video showing the shower running so you know that you’re going to get the shower you want.”
4. Know when a 3D tour is most useful
A 3D virtual tour is best served before you schedule a live virtual tour or in-person walkthrough. After you explore the apartment on your own time, you can decide if you want to take the time to get a more in-depth look.
Why should you tour an apartment virtually?
A virtual apartment tour can help you pre-qualify an apartment before visiting in person. They’re a convenient, time-saving way to eliminate the properties you don’t like before you invest more time into your search. If a virtual tour checks all your boxes, you can check it out in person, address any concerns, and fill out an application.
Virtual tour tips if you’re renting out an apartment
Virtual tours are great for renters, but they can be a great tool for landlords. Here are a couple of things to consider if you’re a landlord planning on offering virtual tours.
Virtual tours can benefit landlords as well as tenants
“While most tenants would still prefer to see the rental unit in person before signing a lease, incorporating a virtual apartment tour offers some benefits to both landlords and tenants,” says Meng Chen, founder of PortfolioBay. “For landlords, sharing a pre-recorded tour video with multiple prospects can reduce the number of physical showings required.”
Keep security in mind
“Virtual apartment tours provide a convenient and flexible method for potential tenants to explore properties at their own pace, it also opens the door for on-demand touring while potential tenants drive past your property,” says Roel van de Ven of Keyrenter Property Management Miami West. “To safeguard against scams, it is crucial to prioritize safety. Always request identification before sharing the lockbox code, and regularly change the code to prevent unauthorized access. Moreover, in today’s digitally driven society, renters often prefer receiving information about rent payments, parking policies, and amenities digitally, allowing them to review the details at their convenience.”