Riverside Property Management Blog

Showing Your Rental Property During A Pandemic

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

One thing Covid-19 demonstrated is that businesses could adapt and change quickly when pressured to change. One such area that changed dramatically was the ability of property management companies to show properties in person. Overnight we went from conducting private showings or allowing key checkouts to no longer showing properties. This hiccup called for creative, quick thinking. 

Management One has weathered the pandemic in stellar fashion in so many ways. During this time, we have had to be savvy, inventive, and proactive. We worked hard to make things happen when the average Joe property management company sort of, well, didn't. Management One doesn't give up, and you shouldn't either!

We Adapt for You

For years we had (and still have, in some cases) an in-office key checkout system in place. This system permits potential residents to view a vacant property during business hours to see if the said property would fit them. This system requires the potential resident to come to our office, fill out paperwork, and accept liability should they leave a door or window open. If a potential resident did not return a key that they checked out, we would have the property rekeyed. If the prospective resident fails to return the key by a set time, we issue the rekey immediately once the time passes.  In 36 years of showing properties and renting out over 10,000 houses, we've only had $1100 in damages which the company reimbursed. Simple enough. But how does all of this works with a locked-up office, per state orders?

Empty inventory is a bad thing

Moving inventory off the market and getting it occupied, and making money is critical.  Our obligations begin there and involve more facets than the average person realizes. We live it daily; thus, we can tell you, there is more to property management than collecting rent. The first step in getting the property rented is showing the property. Thus, if you cannot show a property, good luck getting it occupied.

Innovation helps make a leader

We have tried pretty much every automated self-showing system out there to simplify the showing of rental properties. Some had huge upsides, and some had downsides.


 Upsides: Showing a property any time, day or night, to pre-vetted prospective residents. Allowing a prospective resident to view the property according to their schedule, not constrained to "normal" business hours.
 Downsides: no way of monitoring what people did while there. Dealing with the infamous (literally) scammers pretending that they work with property management companies. This scenario is a national-level issue where unsuspecting prospective residents are scammed for thousands of dollars sent by wire to fakers pretending to represent management companies. So, we at Management One came up with a way to show properties securely! More details to come…

Current Systems Available to Show Properties

  • Automated lockboxes
  • Supra Boxes
  • Regular lockboxes
  • Keypad locks
  • Key check Outs
  • Management One Showings

Automated Lock Boxes:

Also called Electronic lockboxes, these served a purpose! Generally, the way it works is the property management company rents the boxes for a monthly fee. When a property is vacant, the property management company installs the lockbox on the property with a key inside.

In most cases, a prospective renter sees the ad for the property online, then is directed to a 3rd party to schedule a viewing.

Before going any further, I need to add this: I'd much rather deal with a human being any time rather than a computer system on something as important as where I will live for the next 2, 5, 7, 10 years. However, seeing a property without feeling pressured to "sign on the dotted line" holds an appeal as well. At the same time, I'm not a massive fan of a 3rd party doing all the checks on someone entering a home I'm responsible for.

Once the prospective resident is "vetted," meaning they have verified their identity and paid a nominal fee to the 3rd party, a code is sent to open the lockbox. And here is where we found issues. 

Let me share with you what I found when testing the system. I tested the system by entering false information on the website of a 3rd party lockbox supplier. They sent me a code; I entered the code, opened the box, and entered the house. It was a full minute later before the 3rd party folks disabled my account. That. Is. Scary.

You see, this is how the fraudsters exploit the automated boxes.

Another thing we noted was "hopper squatters." These folks would visit multiple properties on several days, spend the night, then leave in the early morning, with no one aware of it, except us. Auditing the visitor logs, we caught on to this fairly quickly.

Supra Boxes

An authentic Supra Box, you know, the kind that Realtors use and have no visible interface, is terrific. They keep the bad guys from accessing the keys inside by any means short of taking the box and cutting it open. Most bad guys are far too lazy for that nonsense.
 The challenge is that someone with access has to come to the property to show it, defeating the whole purpose of social distancing. And of having a lockbox on site in the first place.

Regular lockboxes

We use these for contractors only. Even so, we still have to change the codes regularly. You may be asking yourself, "why not use these to show properties?" Because people talk, and info spreads. Property owners deserve to have their property protected better than that. In 15 showings, how many of the 15 people given a particular code will pass that code to someone else? Many. That's why products like automated lockboxes are better because they change the access code after each use.

Keypad Locks

These locks feature a keypad to punch in a code, and the lock opens automatically. We tried these out. On paper, they were a great idea, but in practice, that was another story. Let me explain.

In theory, you can have up to 250 one-time use codes assigned at any given time to a particular keypad door lock on some models, anyway. Others may have as few as 12 codes. This lock is all well and fine if you plan on leaving that door lock on the property forever.  At $200+ per door lock, either the property management company or the property owner pays for an excellent lock.  All to the benefit of the future resident. Now, the future resident gets in there and changes the codes; what now? Can you imagine the time involved in managing 400+ of these locks and keeping up with all the codes? Can we say HEADACHE? Let me explain…

Testing it Out

We tested out the keypad locks. We moved them from property to property as they became vacant. We found an enormous amount of time burnt to install and to uninstall these locks and many parts to lose. Add that to the realization (1st hand experience here, folks) that you have to re-sync the unit each time you move the lock to a new location. Not so bad, right? Except when syncing can take up to an hour due to sync errors. Lastly, these locks can tell you if the lock plunger is deployed, but it cannot sense if the door is closed when the lock is engaged. Super easy to enter, throw the lock, and leave the door open and unsecured.

Key Checkouts

Done in the office is by far the most personal way to show a property. Aside from walking each resident through individually, and far less labor and material intensive than private shows. This system also allows the prospective resident to feel less pressure to rush through viewing the property. However, during Covid, this option was less than optimal. Strictly adhering to Covid-19 protection protocols, we were still able to use this method to good effect.

Management One showings

Ah, the gold standard, and you know what? To find out more about how we utterly defeated Covid to show properties to prospective residents while protecting everyone AND renting properties unbelievably fast, you will need to contact us directly. After all, has Colonel Sanders ever shared his 11 herbs and spices with the world? Nope. And like him, the only ones privy to Management One's process are residents who have used it and property owners who are sign-up with us. We can tell you this much: It eliminated virtually every issue we have ever faced with distance showing and made the process very efficient. Meaning properties rent faster, the renter jumps through fewer hoops, and you get a faster turnaround time on your property. Teaser…our system includes a popular peephole viewing system and an automated lock that isn't permanent. 

You see, Management One lives in the present, in this century. Call us to find out what more we can do for you!

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