Virtual is an option for just about everything these days, from doctor’s appointments to school. Many apartment communities have hopped on board this trend with great gusto and are only too happy to show an apartment virtually when needed for prospective residents.
Before the days of Skype, Facetime and such, prospective tenants were left with few options for apartment tours. Either haul over to the apartment community for an in-person tour or sign on the dotted line, sight unseen. Since pictures of units are often misleading, the latter is definitely not an ideal option. Sure, not all tenants wound up disappointed in their rental space, but it’s a safe bet that some weren’t happy come move-in day.
What is a virtual tour of an apartment?
A virtual tour is just that — an apartment tour done virtually by landlords or others in charge. Unlike a live tour or in-person tour, this type uses apps or services like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom.
A typical rental property also offers a canned video for a prospective tenant to watch online, however, those don’t involve specific units, and instead, focus on the community as a whole. Think of that as more of a “highlight reel,” which shows common areas like the laundry facilities, other amenities and a sample unit. Landlords curate those to show the very best of the community.
Why choose a virtual apartment tour?
The purpose of a virtual apartment tour is to help a prospective tenant lay eyes on the unit and community without actually being there. A video call like this is extra helpful for people who can’t travel to do an in-person showing, but who want to have a good sense of what the community is like before signing a lease. A lot of renters have specific ideas about what they want from a new apartment or rental house, and a virtual tour can help them refine a lengthy list of a few top apartments.
How do you set up a virtual apartment tour?
A few years ago, setting up virtual apartment tours might have been something of a headache, but now it’s ultra easy to view a property. Simply do a Rent. search for the type of apartment that fits your needs. Most apartments have a handy “Schedule Tour” button on their Rent. listing, which serves as a step-by-step guide to getting the appointment set. The blue button is under the property phone number at the top right of the screen when viewing on a computer, or it’s within a white button at the bottom of a phone screen, when looking at it that way.
Common ways to tour apartments
Once you’ve clicked the “Schedule Tour” button, several options will pop up. These can include “Live Video Tour,” “Self-Guided Tour” and “In-Person Tour.” Apartment communities offer some, all or none of these options. Spoiler alert — a self-guided tour, while not terrible, is not the best option for potential renters with lots of questions about the house or apartment. This is why many people choose to take a virtual apartment tour that’s guided by landlords.
Scheduling a virtual tour
If “Live Video Tour” is available, click that option. A calendar should pop up showing the dates and times that virtual tours are available. Select the one that works best for you, fill in your contact information and add the event to your calendar.
How do I prepare for a virtual tour?
Like any other important life decision, it’s important to go into the apartment hunting experience prepared and with both eyes wide open. Once you make the virtual open house appointment, it’s important to prep accordingly. Here are some handy tips to make sure you cover everything.
Develop a list of general areas to “see”
The apartment unit and its floor plan aren’t the only part of the community you’ll want to see. Everything is fair game! Here’s a general list of areas you’ll want to see while on the virtual apartment tour:
- Parking situation (deck, lot or street?)
- All the amenities (pool, fitness, athletic courts, laundry, doggie run, etc.)
- The rental office
- Hallways leading to and from the unit in question
- Exterior landscaping
- Mail pickup and drop-off locations
- Garbage disposal areas
- The entire floor your prospective unit is on
If any of those are in disrepair it’s a sure bet that the unit itself isn’t properly maintained.
Put together a list of questions for landlords
This one-on-one time with the leasing agent is the ideal opportunity to ask questions, albeit in a virtual environment. Here are some sample questions to work from during virtual tours. A few things might not apply to your situation, but most will.
Tips for virtual tour questions
- What are the lease terms?
- What fees are you responsible for upon move-in? Are there any monthly fees in addition to rent, like parking costs?
- How are rent and other fees paid and when?
- Which ones are refundable upon move-out? How do you ensure that this happens?
- How much notice must a person give when terminating a lease?
- Is any work being done to the unit before move-in, such as carpet cleaning/replacement, painting, appliance repair/replacement, etc.?
- What are the pet policies and related fees at the property?
- How do tenants request maintenance/repairs for their apartments or building?
- How do renters file complaints?
- Does the community observe “quiet hours?” How do the landlords enforce them?
- What are the policies about painting, nails on the walls and other improvements?
- What’s the neighborhood like? How is access to public transportation, and are any businesses within walking distance?
- Will the building be repainted or have a new roof installed anytime soon?
- Is renters insurance necessary? If so, how much?
Take detailed notes during the tour, as all of this information will start to bleed together if you do multiple virtual tours.
How does a virtual tour work?
At this point, the typical leasing agent has done a lot of these types of tours, so they’ll probably have a process in place. Follow their lead, but don’t hang up from the call without seeing everything or asking all of your questions.
How to do a virtual apartment tour in the unit
At some point, you should explore the entire floor plan of the unit you’re interested in. Start at the base of the building. Move through the hallways and stairwells until you reach the correct floor. You’ll want to know ahead of time if your next-door neighbor plans to leave trash bags or 32 garden gnomes outside their door.
Tour each room
Once at the front door (note the unit number), it’s time to enjoy a full view of the potential new home. Visit all rooms, including bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, etc. Note how many windows there are, if the windows are in good repair and how much natural light is coming in at that time of day.
Examine the flooring
Take a close look at the flooring. If it’s carpeted, are there any stains, rips or tears? If so, how will they fix it? Note the other types of floor found in the unit, including laminate hardwoods, tile, etc. They require different cleaning methods.
Look closely at the paint
Next, note the paint in each room. Is it dingy and covered in dings and scuffs? If so, ask if they will repaint. Can you choose the new room color?
Make sure everything’s in working order
In the bathroom and kitchen area, ask the leasing agent to run water from all faucets, so you can gauge how good or bad the water pressure is. Also, make sure all appliances are in working order.
Check out the storage potential
Have the tour guide open up all cabinets and closets in each room, so that you see the storage space. Inquire about additional storage, if needed.
Examine the exterior
Visit the deck or balcony area and note any wood rot, beams that need replacing/painting, the view and so on. Smaller details really make or break an apartment!
Log your concerns
If anything needs repair or replacement in any room, take photos via screenshots and note your concerns. Send them in an email to the leasing agent and find out if they plan to rectify the issues. Once the landlord fixes the issues, ask them to take more photos and keep them on file, if you intend to move forward. A new place doesn’t need perfection but look for clean, fully functional and well maintained.
Virtual tour of the community
Once the prospective apartment has met expectations, it’s time to check out the rest of the rental property. Check off each spot on your list as you “go” there, so that you can see them all. A good property manager is only too happy to walk a wannabe tenant around.
Questions to ask about the community
This is a great time to ask general questions about the community. When does the pool open and close for the season? What hours are the fitness center and laundry facilities operational? When is trash day? That sort of thing.
Make note of anything that looks broken or dingy. Find out when the landlord scheduled any needed repairs. Don’t be afraid to ask property managers to zoom in on certain areas. Many apartments will have some areas that need work, but too much disarray is a warning sign.
Virtual tours are a great starting point
If at all possible, schedule in-person showings once you’ve landed on a few top rental properties. It’s always better to lay eyes directly on an apartment before renting than to rely on the camera work of a person you don’t really know. If you’re not local to the area, ask a trusted friend who is to tour on your behalf, then ask their honest opinion about the listing. It might seem like a lot of effort, but renters who do their due diligence are likely far happier in their new homes.