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Touring Multifamily Apartments in the Age of COVID

A couple of my friends have moved during this pandemic. Seeing them struggle to tour apartments, rent moving trucks, and keep themselves safe has made me incredibly grateful I didn’t have to move this year. Many multifamily apartment buildings have switched to virtual tours. But how much can you get out of a virtual tour? It’s hard to get a sense of the ins and outs of a multifamily building, its amenities, and its access control systems through a screen—even though these are major features that will define your next home.

Think about it. What are the main things you expect to get out of an apartment tour?

  • A sense of the people who live there
  • A sense of how secure the area is
  • A sense of how secure the building is
  • How mail is delivered and stored
  • How well kept the amenities are
  • The general maintenance and state of your unit

When we tour apartments, we pay close attention to the general layout and space both in and out of the unit. Landlords and agents may give you a sense of these things through a virtual tour, but it’s unlikely you will get the same experience as that of a physical tour. Drawer space, closet space, all of these things are the reason why you don’t just look at an apartment on Zillow and rent it without going to see it in person. Touring an apartment is all about inhabiting a space, walking around it, seeing if you can picture yourself living in it.

On top of that, is it possible to get a sense of a building’s access control systems without visiting it in person? The answer is probably no. Most landlords will probably only show you the inside of the unit. They might highlight some of the security features they offer, but there’s no way to know for sure.

The best solution to this is to have a list of questions ready for your next virtual apartment tour. To feel confident about your decision to rent your next apartment, it’s important to make sure all your questions and concerns are answered. I’ve compiled a list that might come in handy in your search.

Questions to ask a landlord or agent when touring apartments virtually:

  1. What kind of security systems do you have throughout the building?
  2. How does the building keep track of visitors?
  3. How many sets of keys does each new tenant receive?
  4. What is the building’s mail tracking system? Have there been problems with stolen packages?
  5. If a package is stolen, what is the building’s policy? Is there one?
  6. Is maintenance allowed to go into units without the residents present?
  7. What policies have been put in place right now to keep residents safe during COVID?

This year has made us rethink how we do a lot of things. Apartment tours going virtual is something we probably never saw coming. What do you think of this list? Have you toured apartments virtually during the pandemic? If you have, we’d love for you to share your experience with us in the comments.

Ivana Gatica graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a degree in Fine Arts and Writing. For the past year, she has been working as a copywriter in the marketing and fintech spaces helping businesses find their unique voice. She also likes to take on freelance writing opportunities in her free time and loves to write fiction and poetry.