Pros and Cons of Self-Showings for Rental Properties

February 18, 2024

With new technology entering the property management industry, the way that prospective renters tour rental properties has changed drastically. From live video tours to 3D floor plans to self-showings, touring technology has enabled prospective renters to see properties faster, more conveniently, and more comfortably. 

But from the perspective of the property manager or landlord, is this technology actually beneficial for leasing properties faster, cheaper, more efficiently?

Self-showings are truly the pinnacle of how technology has impacted the way prospective renters schedule showings and tour vacant properties. So what are the pros and cons of self-showings for property management companies and their potential tenants?

Pros of self-showings:

Self-showings are convenient (flexible scheduling)Because of Millennials and Gen Z flooding the rental market, convenience is of the utmost importance. Younger generations of renters seek convenience, and they will happily use technology if it makes the scheduling process easier, faster, and more convenient.

Self-showings allow the most convenience possible by allowing prospective renters to see properties on their schedule, which likely include evenings after work, weekends, and holidays. 

Multiple viewings are even easierIt’s common that someone who is interested in renting an available property might want to see the place multiple times before making a decision to rent it or before moving in. However, it’s not a good use of your time (or the time of a leasing agent) to meet the same prospective renter multiple times at the same property - self-showings would let the prospective renter see the property however many times they’d like, without costing you time or money.

The same goes for when there’s a group of young adult roommates who make up 21% of the US renter market. If they can't all schedule a tour for the same time, you can allow each roommate to self-tour the property when it’s convenient which will help you get buy-in from each person on the lease.

Prospects can see the property by themselves and under less pressureDid you know that 95% of consumers want some time to themselves during the shopping experience? From a consumer behavior perspective, self-showings allow potential renters to feel more comfortable and less under pressure than when accompanied by a showing agent. Being left alone at a property offers privacy for the prospect to openly discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a property with their partner or roommate(s). 

No-shows don't matter as muchHow much frustration have you experienced when a prospect doesn’t show up for their tour time? You know as well as anyone that no-shows happen all the time. Even with scheduling confirmation, there’s still a chance that a prospect will miss their tour.

Instead of risking your time or the time of your leasing/showing agent, self-showings eliminate the possibility of being stood up. When a prospective renter schedules a self-showing, it’s up to them to show up or not. Regardless of what happens, at least no one else’s time will be wasted.

Self-showings save time for property managersSpeaking of saving time, self-showings save property managers so much time that they’re able to get so many other, more strategic tasks done. As a business owner, it’s important to focus on performing tasks that only you can do - if you’re not already outsourcing your showings, consider using self-showings so that your time can be better spent elsewhere!

Fill vacancies faster with self-showingsAccording to Tenant Turner’s Owner Kit, properties that allow self-showings will see 31% more tours than if they don’t offer self-showings. This is likely due to the difference in tour availability between tours with a showing agent and self-tours with higher availability.

This statistic might be different for Showdigs users since tours with a showing agent and self-showing tours are both highly accessible to prospects. Regardless, it makes sense that the more available a property is to be toured (self-toured in this case), the more tours it will have and the more applications it will receive. Thus, self-showings can help you fill your vacancies fast and shorten the leasing process!

Excellent ROIThe cost of setting up self-showings is pretty minimal - there’s the one-time cost of purchasing a smart lockbox (we recommend CodeBox) and then the price of software that can help seamlessly schedule self-tours.

Self-showings also require very little of your time and way fewer trips to the property, making them even more cost effective. According to Yardi Breeze, of those who take self-guided tours, 33% wind up renting. It’s safe to say that self-showings prove to be an excellent return on investment - however, the return on investment of self-showings is very dependent on the property and level of demand. 

Cons of self-showings:

Safety concerns The number one concern about self-showings has to do with security. How can you trust a stranger/prospective renter to let themselves into your vacant property, treat it with respect, and then properly lock up after themselves? Not to mention the risk (and cost) associated with a prospect leaving the lights or HVAC running.

It’s also worth mentioning the potential for theft - although the likelihood of theft is extremely low, and on top of that, self-showings almost always happen at vacant properties so there isn’t much to steal anyway.

Prospects might not be familiar with smart locks/self-showing technologyIf a prospective renter doesn’t work in the real estate industry, they probably haven’t used a lockbox or smart lock before.

The learning curve to use a lockbox isn’t high, but there’s always room for error when someone isn’t familiar with how to use a lockbox. Plus, if a prospect is worried about using a lockbox because they’re not sure how to lock it up properly or they’re concerned about locating the lockbox, they might not even book a tour to see the place.

If you’re concerned about this, try having instructions in place to send to the prospect ahead of time or have a note on/near the lockbox itself.

It’s also worth mentioning that from the prospect’s standpoint, the process to book a self-showing is a lot more complicated/invasive than what they’re used to. If you're looking for software that helps you manage scheduling and self-showings, look for one that handles prospect communication with a real human support center. This can help your prospects feel more at ease when signing up for a self-showing.

Self-showings can feel less high-touchOn the flip side of prospective renters feeling more comfortable and less under pressure when they self-tour a property, self-showing is much less high-touch than when an agent is there to meet them.

If a prospective tenant has questions about the property or lease requirements, they will have to contact the property manager after the tour and then wait for a reply - the longer someone has to wait for a response, the less likely they are to submit an application or rent the property.

Because self-showings are less high-touch than traditional tours, there’s a chance it’ll take more showings to rent the property and that will lower the conversion rate.

The case for self-showings really just depends on the property

As you can tell, there are plenty of pros and cons for self-showings. What matters most when deciding to try self-showings is to understand what the best use cases are. Vacant properties with high demand are ideal for self-showings, while high-end occupied apartments are not.

Whatever you decide, just make sure you use a smart lockbox and software that makes the process as easy for you as possible!

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