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Are Virtual Reality Tours The Next Big Thing In Student Housing?

Are Virtual Reality Tours The Next Big Thing In Student Housing?

Since 2003, one of our key recommendations for landlords looking to enhance their online rental listing has been great photography. Photography has been a staple in the multifamily rental industry for well over a decade now; but it may find itself eventually replaced by virtual reality tours and 3D floor plans.

Student housing is a prime market segment that is likely to be at the frontier of virtual reality tours, especially as they become increasingly more affordable, accessible and easy to facilitate. Virtual reality tours go a step beyond photos and video, whereas they allow for an immersive and interactive experience for student renters, without leaving the comfort of their current home. Out-of-state or out-of-country students typically cannot arrange for in-person tours of accommodations, which is where virtual reality triumphs.

So will virtual reality tours be the next big thing for marketing in student housing? The current market environment would lead us to believe so.

There are already a handful of major student housing players that have adopted and started to implement virtual reality tours including:

 

 

UForis VR that works with Domus Student Housing conducted a case study on the units they equipped with VR tours and saw a 20% increase in year-over-year monthly number of units rented. In addition, Domus Student Housing saw a significant decrease in workload for their leasing agents and estimated that it resulted in 40-50% less work.

Even on-campus housing properties are taking an interest in VR, as MacEwan University Residence has made VR tours available to students anywhere in the world. Virtual reality isn’t exactly new for many college or university campuses either, as many across North America now have full VR campus tours accessible directly online. The move towards including residence buildings only makes sense.

While there are obvious benefits to student renters and their parents for virtual reality tours, there are also benefits to student housing owners and operators.
 

1. Cuts down staff time for in-person tours:

During peak student housing seasons, the demand for in-person tours can be hard to manage. Virtual reality tours will help cut down on the number of in-person tours, freeing up more staff time.
 

2. Provides an extremely valuable marketing tool:

In the past, photos and videos were dominant, but VR tours will slowly make them obsolete. Properties that have VR tours will have a leg-up on any competition that hasn’t yet adopted this technology; especially with tech-savvy student renters.
 

3. Never have to worry about being unable to show an occupied unit: 

If an occupied unit is unavailable for an in-person tour, the leasing manager will be able to provide the VR tour as an alternative.
 

4. Eliminates the need for display/showcase apartments: 

Some communities have dedicated showcase apartments that are used solely for tours. This is primarily to avoid disturbing residents at properties that have very low vacancy rates, when a unit needs to be shown to a prospective renter. VR enables on-demand tours, without the need for a showcase unit.
 

5. VR tours can be used for preleasing or buildings under construction:
 

In the case of student housing, preleasing is quite common for new purpose-built properties. VR tours allow these communities to showcase their rental units far before the building is actually completed.
 

6. Decreased leasing cycle times: 

VR tours can expedite the leasing process significantly.

 

It is worth noting that it has taken some time for virtual reality tours to catch on in student housing; and it may still take a few more years for most apartment communities and student housing providers to introduce them. Virtual reality tours started making waves in student housing as early as 2012/13, but the adoption rate has been somewhat slow up until the last year or so.

 

As the shift from marketing to Gen Z versus millennials happens, it’s reasonable to predict that virtual reality tours and immersive experiences will become more prevalent in student housing. Ten years from now, we may very well be seeing that virtual reality tours are a must, and photos are no longer the preference. 

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