URBAN TURF – Has the Future of Apartment Touring Arrived?
March 4, 2019
Move over, virtual tours: a new platform professes to enable prospective renters to tour properties at their leisure.
Tour24 debuted in December at apartment buildings in Houston, as well as at South Cathedral Mansions in Woodley Park. UrbanTurf decided to take the app out for a spin to see if the conveniences of a self-tour were worth the inconveniences of such new technology.
Before touring, potential renters must fill out a guest card and input their credit card information. These steps are part of a three-step verification process Tour24 touts as a security measure; the third step, facial recognition, can be required at the discretion of each property.
After scheduling the tour, one downloads the Tour24 app and the app for the apartment building that they would like to tour. (Tour24 says that there will be just one app in the future.)
When you get to the building, you sign into both apps, use a predetermined code to enter at the callbox, and turn the Bluetooth on your smartphone so the apps can access your location data. Once inside the building, the experience is relatively simple, albeit surreal.
The property’s app gives directions and suggestions, guiding the prospect through the building to the amenities while describing each amenity similar to how a leasing agent would. The next step in the tour, however, made this writer glad her tour was still during business hours.
After arriving at the apartment you will tour, you switch back over to the Tour24 app to unlock the door. The apartment doors have electronic locks, so the Bluetooth enables the app to detect your proximity to the lock and use your phone as a fob.
On the first try, the app did not register my being in front of the door, requiring me to sign out and sign in again. The second time around, the app registered the presence of the lock and activated the fob, but the handle didn’t turn, demonstrating the potential pitfalls of self-touring — technology cannot account for human error, and the door had been manually locked by a staff member earlier in the day.
While a visit back downstairs to the concierge desk and the help of an on-site manager still afforded the opportunity to see the apartment and complete the tour, the possibility remains that some prospects touring after business hours could slip through the cracks. Also, although the apps gather data on location and duration of time spent on the premises, it is unclear how prospects who overstay their welcome will be dealt with.
Overall, the platform creates more opportunity for prospects to view a property (or at least properties outfitted with electronic locks throughout); just be prepared for the possibility of returning for a second look during the daytime. Tour24 is in talks with other properties in DC to deploy the platform elsewhere.