The coronavirus pandemic’s effects have been widespread and have stretched through every industry, including real estate.
Many people are now turning to digital tools to overcome the challenges presented by social distancing, and many experts say this trend is here to stay. In fact, a recent study from Apartment Guide found that about 32 percent of renters used virtual apartment tours more frequently during the first six months of the pandemic compared to before COVID-19.
Because virtual house-hunting is the new normal, renters should prepare for what to expect and what to ask, especially if they’re renting sight unseen. This article will cover the best questions to ask on a virtual apartment tour to get a complete picture of a property.
How to prepare for your virtual apartment tour
When you’ve found an apartment in a desirable neighborhood, it’s time to set up a virtual tour. Preferably this will be a live tour, so you can get a customized and current view of the property. Just like you would when visiting an apartment community in person, make sure you take these steps to prepare for your virtual tour:
- Charge your battery: Chances are high that you’ll be using your cell phone or computer for the virtual tour. Make sure your device is fully charged or plugged in while on your virtual apartment tour so your battery doesn’t die halfway through.
- Check your signal: Just as you wouldn’t want your battery to die during your tour, you also don’t want your connection to drop. Find a place with a strong signal for your tour so you can clearly hear the property manager and they can hear you. Also, a stronger signal means better video quality, so you’ll be better able to see the finer details of the unit and property.
- Find a quiet place: Silence is golden during your virtual apartment tour. Find a quiet spot in your home away from distractions for your tour. A crowded coffee shop isn’t the best place for this. Even with social distancing.
- Dress to impress: First impressions matter, even over the phone. Treat your virtual tour as you would a job interview. Dress professionally so the leasing agent has a favorable opinion of you from the start.
- Do your homework: Before the tour, research the area and read the property descriptions on Rent.com. Luckily, with modern technology, you don’t need a real estate agent to help with your search, so you do not have to worry about paying commission fees. It’s also smart to look at property reviews from current residents to see if there are any recurring issues on a specific topic.
- Have a list of questions ready: You know what you’re looking for in a home more than the leasing agent. Write down a list of things you want to know, and ask these questions during the virtual apartment tour if anything isn’t clear. After all, you know what they say about assuming…
Things to ask during a virtual apartment tour
You might not have any unique questions during your virtual apartment tour. But there are still a few things you will need to know. Here’s a list of questions you should consider asking.
1. Can I see this room from another angle?
Get a good look at each room from multiple angles. If you want to see a wall or a tile up close, then ask. You want to get as much detail as if you were in person.
2. Can you open the appliances?
Make sure you get a look inside of the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, etc. You can also ask them to turn on appliances and faucets to make sure they work.
3. Is there a washer/dryer on-site?
If there’s a washer/dryer unit in the apartment, ask to see it during the tour. If there’s a laundry room in the building, ask to walk over to it and how much it costs to use the machines.
4. Can you turn on the shower?
A bathroom may look pristine, but if the water pressure of the shower is low, you probably won’t enjoy living there.
5. Can you open the windows?
Opening the windows can help with two things: seeing the view from the apartment and gauging the noise level from the street below.
6. How good is the Wi-Fi and cell phone service?
Some homes are in a complete dead zone, and others have shoddy reception, which is very inconvenient — especially if you work remotely or take online classes. Also, ask about which internet provider the property uses.
If the video or audio quality of the leasing agent isn’t very good, you might get this answer without having to ask.
7. Is parking included?
For renters with cars, you’ll want to know where parking is. You can also ask to see your parking spot or the parking garage during your tour.
8. What is the guest policy?
If you plan on having people over, you should inquire about the property’s guest policy. In the wake of coronavirus, it’s also perfectly normal to ask about mask policies and coronavirus screening tactics for those entering the premises.
9. What is the pet policy?
If you have pets, make sure you’re moving into a property that allows them! You can also ask about pet fees, such as monthly rent or a down payment.
10. Can you show me the grounds and amenities?
During in-person tours, you would likely walk the grounds and explore all the building’s amenities. There’s no reason why you should not do the same on a virtual tour.
11. Are utilities included?
Know if you’ll be on the hook for electricity, water and gas, which can greatly impact your monthly payments.
12. Who pays for maintenance?
Sometimes, landlords will require a tenant to pay a portion or all of the maintenance on a home. Make sure you understand the terms before signing your lease.
13. Do you accept online rental payments?
Many landlords and properties have modernized their payment methods. Ask about how they accept monthly rent and if you can pay online or by check.
14. Can I sign the lease digitally?
To accommodate renters, an increasing number of properties and landlords are offering virtual lease signings to minimize contact.
Get ready for your virtual apartment tour
As hunting for apartments online continues to be the norm, do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you see fit during virtual tours. Renting an apartment is a huge commitment, and that doesn’t change just because you’re touring from afar.