The calculator – whether in school math classes or using the calculator phone app to calculate a tip, it is something most people are comfortable with using. It’s reliable. It always gives the same experience. Great, right? Well, maybe not.  What about a particularly difficult calculation? Or what if the user has a question about the calculation? Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot the trusty calculator can do to help you out if you need more than just some baseline numbers crunched.

In multifamily real estate, the same can be said about a virtual floor plan. It can be a solid tool – reliable and functional. But it can’t do everything leasing teams or prospective residents need when trying to find the right new home for them. Even the best floor plan software out there can’t do it all. So, what’s the answer?  If virtual floor plans are the calculator of the multifamily real estate world, what’s the more modern upgrade? What’s the TI-89 calculator of the multifamily world? 

For many communities, it’s live video tours. Live video tours offer everything a virtual floor plan does by showcasing the layout, wall placements, closets, etc., but so much more. Let’s take a closer look at what virtual floor plans may be lacking and how live video tours can help in taking that experience to the next level. 

Lack of Character

When was the last time anyone thought, “Wow. This calculator really has character! It definitely shows me the uniqueness of this equation.” Probably never. The same can be said of a virtual floor plan. When it comes to a home, people want to see the character of the place. They want to see what makes it unique, even a little quirky. They want to know how things flow from one space to the next, the view out the window, the feel of standing in the kitchen while looking into the living room. Virtual floor plans just can’t provide that. A live video tour, however, means showing and seeing all of the fun little parts of a unit that can make it the perfect home for someone. A live video tour means actually walking through a unit and showcasing flow, the views, and the true, genuine, transparent character of the space. 

A One Trick Pony

When an equation is entered into a calculator, it spits out one answer, one view of the solution. In reality, there could be a multiple ways to solve for x, but the user only gets the final answer as typed in to the calculator. Virtual floor plans run into the same issue. While there could be plenty of ways to look at a room or the unit as a whole, even the best floor plan creators can only show a viewer one perspective. A live video tour has one critical word as part of its essence and existence…live. Live videos tours are just that…living experiences. A real multifamily professional can walk a real prospective resident (or multiple) through that formerly 2D floor plan and show what it looks like when you look left outside the window or show what the inside of the cabinets look like. There is no limit to what can be shown on a live video tour? Want to know how the sun shines in the windows in the morning? While the leasing agent may not enjoy the early morning video tour, it can be arranged and setup live. Even a step further…the noise. Live video can even convey the experience from a noise level as well for attendees on that tour. There are more than one way to view a multifamily unit, unless it’s shown as just one floor plan.

Can’t Answer Questions

While Siri and Alexa and other voice activated platforms have come to market, if you were to talk to your calculator, you would likely get some sideways glances. But, more importantly, it’s also probably not going to answer back. What was the first step in solving this equation? How do I solve for y before solving for x? When it comes to virtual floor plans, the situation is the same. While there may be a live chat option through a community website, there’s no active engagement between the viewer of a virtual floor plan and a leasing agent. Even with online chat, prospects likely won’t get visual answers when asking to see inside the pantry or the shelving in the bathroom closet. With a live video tour, a leasing agent is right there giving the tour and is available to answer all of the questions and more. The value of a live video tour is that it is truly real-time and responsive. Not only can prospective residents get their questions answered, but they get to see and hear how the question gets answered, which can sometimes be more telling than the answer itself. 

Lack of Personalization

A calculator is great at performing the same task over and over again and is literally programmed to only be able to do a defined number of things. It can reliably do those things over and over again, but unless you bedazzle the case, you aren’t going to get any personalization out of your calculator. Even with a high-tech floor plan creator, a virtual floor plan will always only provide exactly what it is programmed to provide. Viewers, no matter who they are or what they need, will be served the same sort of experience. There’s no accounting for prospect A caring about the cabinet and countertop colors or prospect B only wanting to see the view. A floor plan is just…what it is…and that is what prospects get. The exact opposite takes place with a live video tour though. These experiences are live and the prospect has a direct role to play in customizing exactly what that live tour ends up being. Leasing agents can show prospective residents exactly what they want to see, answer, their questions (above point), and actually build a relationship with them throughout the process by getting to know them, what they’re looking for, what they like or don’t like, and more. The limits to what can be done or shown on a live tour are limitless and the biggest value in those experiences is the personal nature of human to human interaction. 

Don’t get us wrong, calculators and virtual floor plans have nothing intrinsically wrong with them. They do serve a purpose. But, it’s inevitable that the lack of emotional character, the fact they can’t qualify or answer questions, nor can they provide a tailored experience, will eventually prove to be too much. In the day and age where prospective residents want personalized experiences, want instant connection, and will go to your nearest comp faster than you can type an email, a live video tour can be the difference between meeting the needs of prospective residents in a more powerful, and all around better and more successful way, or missing a prime opportunity to connect with and close on a new resident for your community. 

Until next time…keep it real!