The pandemic has the potential to change the way any number of business verticals operate — especially industries like real estate, which typically have been based on in-person meetings and tours between property owners or real estate agents and would-be renters or homebuyers.
That model may be ripe for change in the age of social distancing.
To that end, Rently, an online platform, helps tenants find properties and allows them to “self-tour” — on premise — without the need for in-person interaction from the owners or agents.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Chief Operating Officer Andre Sanchez said the addressable market is a significant one. Roughly 20 million Americans move every year. As many as 86 percent of renters want to view a property before signing a lease.
In addition to listing single- and multi-family vacant properties on its site — where renters register, are subject to security checks and are matched to properties — the company also offers digital lockboxes and sensors along with online schedulers that help landlords manage their properties.
"We believe renters and home buyers should be able to easily, instantly access a property in a safe and secure way," Sanchez told PYMNTS.
He said demand for the company’s services has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic to the point where the firm is facilitating as many as a quarter of a million tours each month. At present, he said that the company is working with more than 3,000 operators — and has scaled significantly from its beginnings nearly a decade ago. Back then, the platform was viewed by some in the real estate industry as an operational tool to supplement existing office hours.
Demand has also increased across urban markets, he said, as the automated aspects of Rently’s model, and the self-touring elements, are appealing in dense housing and multi-family complexes. And where activity may have previously been primarily during the weekend pre-pandemic, viewings have now clustered to the week after work hours.
At a high level, he said, the platform model takes some of the exhaustion out of scheduling appointments to view properties and having whirlwind days of seeing properties at a stretch.
For the landlords, he said, the platform model also is efficient because every person who self-tours a property is also a lead.
“Everyone who walks into a property is somewhat interested,” he explained. “And if you can have a technology that drives more leads to your property, then you’re going to get it off the market quicker.”
Asked about compliance and security, Sanchez noted that Rently is ISO 27001 certified, which means that several layers of authentication, verification and documentation are in place (across, say, selfies, government IDs and card data).
In terms of conversion rates, he said that autonomous touring has sped up the process. Whereas in traditional real estate properties might be on the market for 30 days, he said that in many cases leases have been closed within 24 hours to 48 hours.
In five years, self-touring will become more prominent that ever, he said, likening the model to the Uberfication of renting.
“In the multi-family space and in the single-family space, we’re partnering with property management, software companies and third-party mapping companies and communications tools to help make the process for that prospective renter — and the manager and operator — completely seamless,” he told PYMNTS.