Using Self-Tours In The Leasing Process To Boost Your Investment

Co-Founder & CMO at Onerent, a real estate services and PropTech company serving property owners and renters in 7 rental markets.

Pandemic or not, the real estate industry has been going digital to simplify the process of leasing a property. Even the National Association of Realtors encourages both new and long-time players in real estate investing to consider using digital alternatives to in-person interactions in order to minimize vacancy costs and maximize their income. One such process is called “self-tours.” Unlike in-person showings, self-tours let prospective renters tour houses for rent or lease without the physical presence of an agent. This shortens the touring process, helps fill up vacancies faster and ultimately future-proofs your rental investment. What are the advantages?

Shorten Leasing Time With Self-Tours

The more viewers you have, and the sooner they see your property, the better your chances of leasing out your property at the soonest possible time.

Through smart electronic lockboxes, you and the interested renter don’t need to align schedules to view your property. Interested renters can tour your property without you needing to hand off your keys physically.

Property tours can be booked online and prospective renters can verify their identity through sharing a valid ID and a selfie. On the day of the tour, they can receive a unique one-time access code to open the electronic lockbox that contains the keys to your property.

Once done with the tour, the prospective renter simply drops the virtual keys to your property back into the electronic lockbox to complete the visit.

Increase Safety From Scammers, Damages And Fraud

Self-tours have safety measures in place to protect you, the property and the renter.

For your peace of mind as the owner, you can keep your property for viewing unfurnished or minimally furnished to lessen chances of damage to furniture, appliances and other fixtures during the tour.

Electronic lockboxes typically also have high-security locks to keep the property and keys secured at all times. You can also opt to monitor your property’s security by remote video.

To protect you against scammers and unlawful occupants, the names, contact numbers, IDs and selfie photos can be strictly confirmed and reconfirmed so that only the verified prospects are given the one-time access code. What’s more, it’s possible for these access codes to expire an hour after the prospect renter receives it. If they miss the window, they’ll have to request a new access code.

Through these safeguards, you can entertain quality renters who are truly interested in your property.

Getting Started With Self-Tours

Setting up your property with self-tours can be done through a tech-enabled property manager or by purchasing the smart lockboxes yourself. There are various options if you choose to purchase your own smart lockboxes. Codebox, Rently, Supra and Sentrilock are a few popular smart lockbox brands that are self-tour capable.

When choosing a smart lockbox, look for one that fits your budget. Some providers require you to pay a monthly subscription to rent the lockbox and have access to the software. Others allow you to purchase the lockbox. Other features to consider include a rechargeable or replaceable battery, keypad versus smartphone entry, Wi-Fi connection and interchangeable codes.

The process for signing up for self-tours vary between lockbox providers as well. To increase safety for yourself and prospective tenants, I recommend choosing a lockbox that generates a one-time access code after you’ve verified their identity through a selfie and photo ID. Verification can be done within an app for self-tours, SMS, or FaceTime. After verification is complete, you can securely send over an access code over SMS.

If you don’t have the budget to purchase a smart lockbox, you can alternatively install smart locks on all doors or use your standard lockbox. For this, I still recommend verifying their identity through a photo ID and a video call during the self-tour. You’ll need to manually reset the lockbox and smart lock codes after the tour or have a neighbor do it for you. While this option is budget-friendly, it does cut into the convenience and safety of smart lockboxes.

How Self-Tours Affect Your Investment

With social distancing being the new norm, we found 25% of our rental property owners at Onerent have shifted from traditional guided to self-tours. We also saw an 80% increase in applications during lockdown from renters after self-touring a property, 65% of whom are the tech-savvy Generation Z and millenials. Self-tours are enabling real estate investors, like you, to catch the attention of these renters. It provides them with the privacy, convenience and flexibility to book and tour your property at their pleasure.

A process like self-tours, using various forms of technology, allows prospective renters to find and tour your property at the soonest and most convenient time. The more self-tours you have, the more prospective renters; therefore, your chances of leasing out your property at the soonest possible time are higher. The sooner that rental income is in the bank, the sooner you’ll be cash flow positive.


Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *