20 Essential Tips For Your Next Virtual Apartment Tour

Laker Real Estate Services was a contributor to this article which can be found on Redfin.com at https://www.redfin.com/blog/virtual-apartment-tour/ or by clicking the picture above.

Do you want to tour a Houston apartment without leaving your couch? Got your eyes on an apartment in Baltimore, but don’t want to deal with the traffic?A virtual apartment tour is the perfect way to check out a property before you commit to anything. They’re great for potential tenants who live outside the area or would rather tour from the comfort of home.The up-and-coming virtual tour is a convenient and safe time-saver for renters, leasing agents, and property managers across the country. Here’s how to get the most out of your private walkthrough.

leasing agent conducting a virtual apartment tour

What is a virtual apartment tour?

During a virtual apartment tour, you’ll use your smartphone, computer, or tablet to tour an apartment unit. A leasing agent, property manager, or landlord usually serves as your tour guide during a live tour.“Virtual tours create immersive experiences that effectively communicate the apartment’s potential to renters and help them make informed decisions,” says Gabriel Esteban of Plus Render.Virtual tours allow renters to “walk through” the space and look at the unit and overall apartment complex. Some tours allow you to speak with someone on the property and ask questions along the way.There are three main types of virtual apartment tours:

  1.     Live video call tour: A live tour is the most hands-on option. An on-site representative will walk around the unit to show you the space and answer your questions in real time.
  2.     Recorded video tour: A recorded tour shows the apartment from the first-person point of view, but it isn’t in real time. The person recording the video has complete control over the pace of the tour and what is (and isn’t) shown.
  3.     3D virtual apartment tour: A 360° camera and specialized software create a premade 3D rendering of the apartment. Renters “navigate” through the unit by clicking around in different parts of the unit, similar to the 3D home tour many people use when they consider buying a house on Redfin.

Any virtual tour can provide a handy way to view an apartment without being there in person. However, many people find live tours the most helpful since they can ask live questions and make requests on the spot. Here’s how to prepare ahead of time:

empty unit during a virtual apartment tour

6 things to look for during a live virtual apartment tour

A live tour gives you the power to ask questions on the spot. Researching the apartment and complex beforehand gives you a leg up during the tour.

1. Floor plan and layout

The floor plan could determine how well the space functions for your needs and how comfortable you’ll feel living inside. Do a little homework ahead of time to understand how the space is laid out before you see it virtually. If you have to focus too much on the layout during the tour, you could miss other details like worn fixtures or poor lighting. If you have any questions or concerns, write them down and look (or ask) for answers during the tour.“Embrace an immersive perspective,” says Alex Narvaez of Superior Property Management. “Tenants should ask about the morning sun’s trajectory, whether the kitchen is spacious enough for their gourmet cooking sessions, or if the balcony can accommodate their favorite hammock. It’s vital to understand amenities, parking policies, and rent payment logistics. Unleash your lifestyle onto the apartment to ensure it suits you, not just on paper, but in practice. Truly “living” the space through a virtual lens is paramount.”Jaime Sanford from Prime Property Group adds, “When embarking on virtual apartment tours, it’s crucial to gather vital information to make an informed decision. Start by finding out about the apartment’s layout, dimensions, and storage options to assess if it suits your needs and belongings.”

2. Spaciousness of rooms and total size of the unit

Knowing the layout, you can ask your virtual tour guide questions that help determine the furniture placement if the unit isn’t a furnished apartment. Use the tour to decide whether certain areas might feel cramped. This could help you determine if you want to pursue this unit or look into a bigger one or a different complex altogether.“Be sure to ask for a floor plan or blueprint or at least room dimensions after you conduct your virtual tour,” says Nate Morris of Laker Real Estate. Also, ask the person giving the tour for the ceiling height, which is normally not included in standard blueprints. When you’re doing a virtual showing, the camera can tend to make spaces feel bigger than they really are. You’ll want to make sure you understand the actual square footage of the space and the measurements of things such as wall space in relation to things such as windows and doors. This allows you to better plan for furniture layouts and interior decorations.”

3. Storage options

It always helps to know how much space you’ll have for storage, especially if you have a lot of stuff. Ask your tour guide to open cabinets and closets to see whether they’re big enough for your clothes and other belongings. If you like the unit but storage is lacking, you might consider buying storage furniture ahead of time to bump up your storage space. For example, opting for a storage ottoman instead of a traditional ottoman adds precious cubic feet of storage space to your home.

4. Natural lighting and views

A camera doesn’t always display light accurately, so schedule your virtual tour during a time of day with ample natural light. Ask your virtual tour guide to stand in the middle of each room and pause in each direction to see how light fills the space. Spend more time in the main living areas and rooms with outdoor views. Ask the guide to place the camera next to the window to preview your view from each room.

5. Functionality and signs of wear and tear

If you were there in person, you’d probably open cabinets, look closely at finishes, explore appliances for wear and tear, and get a general feel for the apartment’s cleanliness.Ask your tour guide to slow down while they show the kitchen or kitchenette to get an up-close look at cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, and appliances. Do the same for the flooring, ceiling, and walls.Ask your tour guide to test water pressure in the kitchen and bathroom, then turn appliances on and off to verify that they function. Look closely at windows, doors, and locks to ensure they’re in good working order. Keep a watchful eye out for any signs of moisture or water damage, which can lead to harmful mold in the apartment.

6. Outside condition and curb appeal

Take your time in the entry area and lobby, noting the number of people coming and going. Note the condition of each area. Look at the staircases and elevators and see what kind of shape they’re in. How well property management maintains the interior and exterior can tell you a lot about how the complex is maintained overall.

multi-story apartment building exterior

10 questions to ask during your virtual apartment tour

1. Which changes can I make to the apartment?

Adding personal touches to a new apartment truly turns it into your space, but not all changes will be allowed. Find out which types of changes they’ll allow, and whether you’ll need to reverse your changes when you move out. For example, if you can’t paint or put up shelves, you’ll need a backup plan for decor.

2. Which amenities does my lease include?

Utilities may or may not be included in your lease. If tenants are responsible, find out about typical monthly utility costs to help determine how much you’ll need to budget. If the landlord does pay for the utilities, are cable or internet included? Apartment amenities might also include fitness centers, pools, on-location laundry, and community rooms.

3. Where will I park?

Find out how on-site parking is handled, whether in an open lot, a covered parking spot, or a garage. Ask about any costs involved and how spaces are situated, including potential inconveniences like tandem parking. A unit with assigned spots is highly regarded since it means you’ll never have a problem finding a place to park.

4. What’s the guest policy?

Knowing the building’s guest policy can save you a lot of trouble, especially if you plan to host parties or have groups of people over for dinner. Ask about any limits to the number of guests, including how long they can stay. That way, you’ll stay in your property manager’s good graces.

5. What’s the pet policy?

If you want to bring a pet into your apartment, find out if the building allows them. Ask about any size and breed restrictions. Some facilities charge tenants a pet deposit and an additional monthly fee and may even require your pet’s vaccination records. A landlord has the power to turn down specific breeds if their insurance policy prohibits them.

6. Are there any plans to update the building?

Construction is messy, noisy, and generally inconvenient. If there are plans to renovate, you’ll want to know how long the project will take ahead of time. Completed renovations will reward you with an up-to-date living environment or new amenities if you can live with the inconvenience during construction.

7. How do I pay my rent?

You want to be able to pay your rent quickly and easily. Ask if the property manager accepts bank transfers or provides an online payment portal. Some landlords and property managers still require a physical check.If you plan to start your lease in the middle of a pay period, ask if they prorate the rent. If so, you’ll only pay for the portion of the month you’re living in the unit.

8. How are emergency repairs handled?

Ask your tour guide if there’s an emergency repair number to call and how quickly you can expect a response. Ask for information about how to submit apartment maintenance requests for non-emergency repairs.

9. Which security features does the complex have?

Feeling safe and secure is an important part of any rental home. Ask whether there’s a door or gate buzzer for access and if a security guard monitors the area. Is there a fire escape on your floor? What’s the nearest exit in case of an emergency?

10. Which shops and services are nearby?

Learn what’s in the neighborhood. Ask your guide about any notable shops, services, and restaurants within short walking or driving distance. It never hurts to come prepared with some research of your own too. Get a head start by skimming any online resources geared toward that area, like this Atlanta city guide, for example.

Laker Real Estate Services Minneapolis Realtors and Property Management Redfin article

4 tips for 3D apartment tours

1. Know how a 3D tour works

A 3D virtual tour offers 24/7 access to images of the apartment unit, with interactive views from every angle inside the apartment. A 3D tour allows potential tenants to change views while viewing each room. They can then decide whether or not to schedule an in-person walkthrough.

2. Understand how to navigate inside a 3D tour

A 3D virtual tour will feature one or more of these views:

  1.     Inside view: This view lets you virtually walk through any room in the unit and zoom in wherever you want. It helps you get an idea of what you’ll see walking through the actual apartment.
  2.     Dollhouse view: This is an outside perspective like you’re looking at a doll house. You’ll see the whole room and rotate around to view it from different angles.
  3.     Floor plan view: This shows you the room layout, just like an architectural drawing or blueprint. It’s usually a bird’s eye view looking down.
  4.     Measurement view: This displays measurements for wall lengths and ceiling heights for each room and the unit overall. It provides the specific size and layout for the kitchen, bathroom, living area, bedroom, and all other rooms in the unit.

3. Verify that all the appliances work

Another key component to verify during a virtual tour is whether all the appliances are in working order. This can be difficult to verify virtually if you don’t specifically ask. “Ask for a video of all the working appliances in the property to ensure that everything is fully functional,” says Lena Stevens of Dwellsy. “This should include faucets, lights, fans, garbage disposals, and more. The same applies to water pressure – ask for a video showing the shower running so you know that you’re going to get the shower you want.”

4. Know when a 3D tour is most useful

A 3D virtual tour is best served before you schedule a live virtual tour or in-person walkthrough. After you explore the apartment on your own time, you can decide if you want to take the time to get a more in-depth look.

Why should you tour an apartment virtually? 

A virtual apartment tour can help you pre-qualify an apartment before visiting in person. They’re a convenient, time-saving way to eliminate the properties you don’t like before you invest more time into your search. If a virtual tour checks all your boxes, you can check it out in person, address any concerns, and fill out an application.

Virtual tour tips if you’re renting out an apartment

Virtual tours are great for renters, but they can be a great tool for landlords. Here are a couple of things to consider if you’re a landlord planning on offering virtual tours.

Virtual tours can benefit landlords as well as tenants

“While most tenants would still prefer to see the rental unit in person before signing a lease, incorporating a virtual apartment tour offers some benefits to both landlords and tenants,” says  Meng Chen, founder of PortfolioBay. “For landlords, sharing a pre-recorded tour video with multiple prospects can reduce the number of physical showings required.”

Keep security in mind

“Virtual apartment tours provide a convenient and flexible method for potential tenants to explore properties at their own pace, it also opens the door for on-demand touring while potential tenants drive past your property,”  says Roel van de Ven of Keyrenter Property Management Miami West. “To safeguard against scams, it is crucial to prioritize safety. Always request identification before sharing the lockbox code, and regularly change the code to prevent unauthorized access. Moreover, in today’s digitally driven society, renters often prefer receiving information about rent payments, parking policies, and amenities digitally, allowing them to review the details at their convenience.”If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.

Chibuzo Ezeokeke

Chibuzo Ezeokeke

Chibuzo is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about local insights and home improvement. His dream home is a Mediterranean-style house with a large kitchen and plenty of windows. Connect with Chibuzo

Minneapolis April 2022 Housing Report

Inventory is down while home prices are up. Laker Real Estate Services is calling a double top in the housing market as noted in our recent blog post “Minneapolis St. Paul Housing Market Explained in 8 Charts… Where Do We Go From Here”.

Although prices are up compared to April of last year, they are roughly in line with the top of the market we saw in Q2/Q3 of 2021. The latest trend in the Minneapolis St. Paul Twin Cities market over the past several weeks are new price reductions and a noticeable slowdown in buyer activity. This latest activity is not reflected in the newest housing report yet.

See the full Minnesota Housing Report in the link HERE.

The stock market/ debt market sell off is frightening buyers as they are seeing reduced buying power via the higher interest rates and reduced retirement savings as 401ks and IRAs begin to tank. Signals point to a liquidity crisis forming on the near horizon.

We know, many homes that would have only taken a weekend to sell a few months ago are now on the market for 2 or 3 weeks already. Many of those homes have had price decreases within the last month. If you go to any homes currently for sale you will notice, there are not 10 other buyers there looking at the home for sale like there were only a few months ago. This past weekend we looked at 3 homes with buyers and there were no other buyers at any of the 3 homes we looked at. It was a bit shocking to see no other buyers at these homes where literally just months ago there would have been at least, several other buyers at the homes. This sudden drop off in buyer activity is a result of interest rates continuing to climb rapidly.

This is not a good leading indicator for sellers being that the spring and summer are the best time by far in terms of normal buying/ selling activity in the Minneapolis St. Paul Twin Cities metro housing market. A buyer slow down this time of the year does not forecast well for Q3 Q4 of 2022. Many experts are also predicting we will not even reach a recession until sometime in 2023. Sellers thinking about selling should not procrastinate or get too comfortable with the idea that the Minneapolis St. Paul Twin Cities housing market is at all-time highs again.

In a recent Bloomberg interview Black Rock CIO Rick Rieder said, “We are holding our cash with both hands” and preached the importance of patience in this market. View his full Bloomberg interview is HERE. Rick expressed his thought that investors should continue to hold cash and sit on the sideline until the federal reserve was done with their current tightening cycle.

The only caveat is that no one knows when this will end or how badly markets may react in the meantime. When markets are at all-time highs opportunities for buyers and investors are minimal while opportunities for sellers are at a maximum.

The only problem with selling now is sellers will have to find somewhere else to go. This means selling makes the most sense for those who 1. Have more than one home 2. Wanting to move out of state or at least 15 – 20 minutes outside of the Twin Cities metro area or 3. Looking to downsize from a larger home to a smaller home or move from their home into a townhome, condo or senior community.

If you have more than one home and are thinking of selling or looking to downsize or move out of town a bit to take advantage of the all-time high real estate market, be sure to contact Laker Real Estate Services. We will help you with a smooth sales transition and ensure a seamless real estate transaction experience. Many other sellers are deciding to keep the equity in their home and rent their homes using the cashflow to help fund their purchase of a new home. Different sellers will have different needs and we can tailor a plan to help maximize the value created in your individual situation.

As far as being a buyer, other larger local well-known firms are encouraging buyers to not wait and still go out and buy a home. They are encouraging buyers to reduce items on their wish list or settle for a smaller home or settle for an area they may not want to be. We view this advice to be a bit overzealous.

Buyers with strong balance sheets or ability to put down a sizeable down payment or cash buyers or buyers with a lot of equity in their home shouldn’t be deterred from buying in this market but should be very cautious. Buyers should be writing several offers to find motivated sellers thus ensuring they are getting a deal and not overpaying in an all-time high market environment.

First time home buyers or buyers with a minimal down payment or buyers who do not have an extra savings cushion will need to be extra cautious in this housing market. They should be looking to work with experienced agents who are keeping their individual situations in mind, not pushing them into homes that don’t meet their needs or pushing them into much smaller homes or pushing them to buy in areas way outside of their desired locations.

If the buyer’s home of choice is just out of reach, they should be patient for now and follow the advice of experts like Rick Rieder and others who lead and closely monitor financial markets which will have a grave impact the Minneapolis housing market.

Be sure to follow this blog for the latest in the Minneapolis housing market news.

Top 10 Questions You Should Ask a Property Manager




  1. What are your credentials?

The truth is anyone can call themselves a property manager or a Minneapolis property management company. You should make sure your property manager or company have either a real estate license, a real estate brokers license or another certification such as a CPM, RPM or one of other various industry designations. You’ll want to ensure they hold some sort of real estate designation or license at minimum. This is because there is an industry organization board that is there to hold the property manager accountable. You want your property manager or company held to a higher standard of professionalism.

Ideally you want your Minneapolis property management company to have a fiduciary obligation to you. This means the property manager is legally and ethically obligated to act in your best interest at all times. Secondary education is not required to be a property manager, but you might want to look and see if your manager or management company has any post-secondary education. This is because in the state of Minnesota realtors nor brokers are even required to have a high school degree. Even a brokerage license only requires the applicant be at least 18 years of age, have 3 years of licensed realtor experience and pass a proctored test, that’s it.

You might want to make sure the manager or management company has some sort of college degree also, if not also an advanced degree. This is because the overall knowledge and awareness of a property manager or management company is likely to be deeper and broader the more familiar, they are with concepts such as finance, investment concepts and strategies, the economy and economic cycles, resource procurement, budget forecasting techniques, project and product management, marketing, customer service, etc. These are all very important fundamental business concepts that are not taught in most real estate licensing or designation schools or courses.

2. Who is actively engaged in the process of managing my property?

Often times real estate investors meet with a property manager or a Minneapolis property management company, they feel good about their credentials and ability to manage their investment property but don’t understand that person will not be the one actively engaged in the daily management process of their property. Is the qualified representative that you’re meeting with the one who will be answering the phone themselves when there is a problem or decision to be made? Or are they handing these duties off to an “office manager” or another “property manager” or an “assistant”.

Who exactly are the residents of the building contacting when they have a question or request or emergency? Who is the person that is responding to emails and marketing your property? Who is handling documentation? Who is handling communication or requirements for the local municipality? How easy is it to get in touch with the person you’re meeting with initially? Who is the person showing my property to prospective tenants?

Make sure the Minneapolis property management company you’re hiring is actively engaged and responsible for all of these areas regarding the daily operation and management of your investment property. Make sure they are easy to get ahold of and responsive to your communication needs.

3. What is your vacancy rate currently?

Often times property managers or Minneapolis property management companies may attempt to swoon would be clients by boasting about the number of properties they currently manage. This is often a smoke and mirror tactic employed to hide the real key performance indicator that matters most… What is the vacancy to occupancy ratio or vacancy percentage? This number is found by taking the number of units multiplied by 100 divided by the total number of units. Therefore, if a 50-unit building has 10 apartments open this would be a 20% vacancy rate.

Simply managing a lot of units says nothing about the manager or management companies’ ability to effectively manage those units or effectively maximize revenue the building is capable of producing. Obviously, the fewer units an investor has, the greater of importance this KPI becomes because every vacant unit cuts further into profit and cash flow potential. Every real estate investor knows the importance of cash flow. Also, it’s easy for a company to lie or falsify information regarding the number of units they actually manage making this number even less dependable. The closer to zero the vacancy rate, the better.

4. Was the management company established with the purpose of taking care of their own personal real estate investments or other people’s real estate investments?

Here’s a secret regarding many property management companies… they were never set up to manage other people’s real estate investments, only their own. Often times real estate investors invest in their own real estate, then establish their own property management companies around them because they are actively involved with their own investments and figure they can save the money associated with third party management companies by managing their properties themselves. They would be right, that makes management a good idea for them, but not necessarily for you. Plus it allows the investor who starts the management company to realize tax write offs they would not be able to otherwise.

Establishing a Minneapolis property management company with this purpose is very different than establishing a property management company to actively and effectively manage other people’s investments. This is because management companies set up initially to just manage their investments are far more likely to remain actively engaged in the management of their investments while not showing the same level of care and attentiveness to someone else’s real estate investments.

This may not be the case if the manager or management company has far fewer of their properties under management compared to other investors properties. If anything, a conflict of interest may be created the more of their buildings they manage because they may select the best residents for themselves while pawning off less qualified residents into your investment property. They may be more responsive to dealing with needs at their property than yours.

A company setup to specifically handle other investors real estate portfolios means they were established with a clear purpose of brining value to someone else other than themselves. You want someone who brings value to you first, not themselves.

5. How is rent collection conducted and enforced?

This is an important question to ask because the answer is going to be different with a lot of property managers and management companies. How they collect rent could affect when you receive your rent money. You will want to know how payments are collected and how this money makes it into your bank account. Smart companies will remain as flexible as possible and tailor the collection process to their client’s needs. You will want to make sure you’re not being subject to transaction charges for electronic payments.

You’ll want to make sure when exactly you are expecting to receive your money if your rents are going through an escrow account. Sometimes companies that filter your money through an escrow account first may not even disperse your money until the 10th or 15th of the month. Most investors know they have bills to pay earlier in the month and this could create a problem.

You’ll want to know when does the property manager or company do things like review the rent roll with you, how often can you expect updates, what times during the month do they hand out late notices, or when do they escalate to other notices in the event late notices go unanswered and deadlines are missed? What should you expect in case of an eviction and how would that work? These are all important aspects of rent collection and enforcement you should know.

6. What is the management fee structure?

Have you ever noticed how few property managers or property management companies tell you what they are actually charging for their services? They employ a “help you now, ask questions later” approach that generally doesn’t translate well into transparency.

Many managers believe they would be best off by negotiating with each client individually so that way they can get a maximum amount of fees/ commissions depending on their feel and the negotiation ability or inability of the client. Just like in a real estate sale or purchase scenario, commissions and fees are negotiable. In our eyes a client should not have to become an expert negotiator to find someone to take care of their investments for a clear, understandable price.

While providing solutions is of the utmost importance, so is honesty and transparency, at least to any company who operates in a highly ethical manner. Charging one client one fee and charging another client another fee for the same or very similar service is unethical in our eyes. If it takes someone longer than 30 seconds to explain their fees or fee structure or you feel like you’re having to draw straws to get pricing figured out, you should be on high alert.

If a fee structure seems complicated or needs any advanced explanation, it’s probably because they are hiding something, otherwise it wouldn’t be so complicated. This would especially be the case if you feel any pressure at all to sign a long-term contract.

Many managers or property management companies entice would be clients with affordable looking up front rates but then hide a myriad of other fees they impose against not only the investor, but also the building residents. Does it really bode well for the reputation of your business to nickel and dime your residents with administrational charges that you think would be included in the management of your building? Does it help your bottom line to have someone managing your investment that is more concerned with finding ways to bill you for extra fees instead of create value for you and look for ways to save you money instead of spending it?

Most property managers and property management companies tend to charge anywhere from 5% to 12% of the monthly rent collected. You’d obviously like to be on the lower end of that range with someone who is highly qualified and directly responsible for the management of your property.

Other questions regarding fees would be, what is the fee per unit? Are there “onboarding” fees or “account setup” fees? What is the fee for renting a unit? Would these fees be waived within a certain amount of time if that resident needed to be replaced?  Are there any lease signing fees or lease renewal fees? Are there any administration fees that the management company charges to the residents or myself? Are there any fees if you decided to move on and no longer want their services? Are you still having to pay management fees on a vacant unit or when a current resident doesn’t pay their rent? How are repairs handled and what should you expect regarding costs of repairs or maintenance? Pay should match performance.

You shouldn’t be getting hit with extra fees or paying fees on vacant apartments or paying when a resident has stopped paying rent. There shouldn’t be large contract cancellation fees or administrative fees for doing things that are a regular part of managing your or anyone else’s real estate investments.  

7. How are you determining rental pricing and strategy?

You will want to ensure your manager or property management company is highly familiar with the local market and not only know what going rents are but also what ideas they have to possibly increase your rents, or decrease your vacancy rate, or perhaps increase your resident retention levels. You need someone who is going to get the rental price right from the start. You want things aggressively priced without being overly aggressive.

The property manager or company should be able to refer to other things they currently have for rent in the area. This is also why you want to ask about the percentage of their units vacant as this can give you a glimpse into how effective they may or may not be at marketing and renting out the other units they manage.

You’ll notice many Minneapolis St. Paul property management companies have a seemingly never-ending stream of apartment availabilities year-round, why is this? If you take the would-be manager into, say a vacant apartment you have, and they are not giving your feedback on the things you know could be fixed or improved, be careful. You’ll need someone with an eye for detail who can put themselves in the shoes of a would-be renter.

You’ll want someone who can find the main things to fix or improve that will create value and offer a good return on investment while not being so detailed they’re wasting your money on small things that a would-be renter could care less about. There has to be a balance. Once you have a good renter in a unit what can be done to keep them there? Are they going to be overly aggressive and raise the rents too high once the lease is up and push good people out of the door just so they can make a commission on re-renting the unit to someone else?

Or are they totally on the other end of the spectrum and content with never raising the rents in order to retain residents at the cost of you forgoing future higher rental prices because it makes their job easier? Find out their methodology regarding pricing and increases up front to avoid problems later down the road.

8. Will you ever rent an apartment to someone sight unseen?

This is a practice that is becoming more acceptable within the real estate industry, especially after the introduction of Covid-19 pandemic/ endemic. We would highly recommend investors not fall into the trap of what we call the “appearance of ease” and working with manager or management companies who will allow someone to sign a lease without seeing what they are renting it in person.

Most Minneapolis St. Paul property management companies do not enjoy the showing process. This is why often times they farm out the work to leasing agents who are paid a low hourly wage. Do you really want someone who’s only getting paid minimum wage or slightly higher to be the person who is representing your property to prospective renters? This is why question #2 is highly important. This is an unnecessary risk that occurs far too often.

A video tour is not the same as seeing something in person. While it may make for a good marketing tactic to get attention upfront to your property, it is not an end all be all solution by any means. Even with a 3-D tour, you simply are not having the same experience as seeing it yourself. This approach does seem to work better with a sale where you are selling something to someone and once a purchase agreement is completed and the purchase is complete, you (hopefully) never have to deal with that buyer on that transaction again. The rental process is different. Once you sign a lease you have to continue to deal with that resident for the term of the lease or beyond.

You want people to see an apartment they are renting in person so you can be fully confident they are happy with the unit and want to sign the lease agreement. You don’t want them to have the excuse that they felt lied to or manipulated into doing something or felt under duress to do something. This eliminates the excuse of how they didn’t see something or they didn’t realize something or this or that looks different than it did in the virtual tour. Now you are suddenly engaged in a tricky situation where you have someone who is looking for ways to back out of a deal, or even worse, painting you in a bad light by claiming you misrepresented something.

Meeting with the prospective resident in person is also beneficial for the manager themselves because they need to make sure they feel comfortable with the resident also since they will be the ones dealing with them on a daily basis. The best way to ensure a good fit for all parties is to have the resident look at the place in person to eliminate sources of confusion and ensure the residency is starting off on the right foot.

9. Will you allow residents to sub-lease?

As with virtual tours, it is easy to assume sub-leasing would be a suitable practice when someone wants to cut out of a lease early because again, the process would appear to be the easiest option. This appears to be the case especially when dealing with apartments more than one bedroom in size. The thought would be, this should work out great because now I won’t have to pay the manager or management company another fee to find a new renter.

Unfortunately, the easiest option is normally not the best option. With a sub-lease you are now relying on the resident to find you a good renter instead of a qualified professional. Renters are thinking about how they can quickly get their foot out of the door and escape the monetary requirements associated with the contract they signed, not with procuring the best resident for the property owner. This is not to say that a resident is not capable of finding another good resident. Some residents are capable of doing this well, but most are not. Most are employing a strategy of sending you whoever comes along first and the first option may not always be the best option.

Minneapolis St. Paul property management companies who make sub-leasing a regular part of their business model are often times not placing the interest of the client first and doing what is best for the client. They often are doing what is best or what is easiest for them. After all, now they don’t have to come out to show the property again or they don’t have to pay the leasing associate as they normally would to come out and show the property.

Make sure the lease being used has specific language regarding sub-leasing and that it is either specifically not allowed or only allowed when the property owner, not the manager, provides an exception to the agreement in writing that they are willing to allow a sub-lease to occur.

10. How often do you provide updates and how are they documented?

Often times property manager or management companies’ idea of updating you is simply sending you a print out of your escrow account activity. They literally print off the transactions for the month and call it a day. This does not provide any insight as to what has occurred at your property.

You want a Minneapolis property management company that not only makes you aware of the transactions that occurred within a given amount of time, but also why those transactions occurred. Why was a plumber called and you now have a bill for thousands of dollars? Why was a new landscaping company called and now you have a bill for hundreds of dollars extra when maybe you weren’t willing to pay that much for certain services? Why are they using a commercial cleaning company that charges more than say someone you should hire at an hourly rate yourself?

Things need to be clearly explained so you understand where your money is going and why. Often times these things are not explained because it allows the manager or company more room for up charging you for basic services or implementing unexplained charges. Now they might be adding on surcharges every time they buy materials for you or call someone to fix something for you.

You should be receiving updates and a rent roll on a monthly basis from your Minneapolis property management company. Updates that not only include a ledger of your escrow account bank statement but updates on things such as who has not paid their rent and why and how is this being handled. How is progress being made on your vacant units with some sort of metrics showing if their marketing is being run effectively or not, a highlight of maintenance services that were needed and why, and a highlight of other factors inside the local business environment that could possibly effect the operation of your business.  

This information allows you to determine negative risks that might need to be offset or avoided, transferred or mitigated while also allowing you the opportunity to identify and exploit positive risks that may present themselves as opportunities that you might miss otherwise.