With the COVID-19 situation spurring states, counties and municipalities to issue stay-at-home orders, property tours have abruptly grinded to a halt, disrupting business for commercial real estate brokers and companies in the midst of making space decisions.
At AQUILA, we’ve been fielding questions from our landlord and corporate clients alike wondering when – and how – it will be safe to return to leasing activities that require in-person contact, such as property tours.
As more localities begin to slowly ease stay-at-home orders, AQUILA has devised a list of best practices for tour participants to ensure a safe-as-possible and courteous “touchless” tour experience.
In this article, we will outline six key components to hosting a socially responsible property tour and outline a few ideas for steps all parties can take to promote confidence in tour participation.
Note: AQUILA does not claim that any of these measures will fully prevent the spread of COVID-19. These ideas are based on recommendations from the CDC and The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America as well as from input from our brokers and clients on what would make them feel confident in accepting a property tour.
1. Wear masks or facial coverings
The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially in public settings.
Wearing masks is an easy, visible way for everyone involved in the tour to protect each other. Masks can be as simple as a scarf or bandana tied around the nose and mouth.
Landlord brokers who are looking for creative promotional items could also have their property logo screen printed on masks as a gift for tour-goers.
2. Maintain social distancing; stay six feet apart
All tour participants should practice social distancing, ensuring six feet of space between each person. While it may feel unnatural, maintaining a safe distance and considering other people’s space will give everyone involved a piece of mind. If necessary, take multiple elevators and limit the people in one elevator at a time or, preferably, take the stairs.
Remember, you never know who has elderly or immunocompromised family members living with them.
It may go without saying, but be sure to avoid handshakes; opt for a wave or a head nod instead.
3. Limit tour participants to only necessary personnel
When possible, limit the amount of personnel needed for property tours as much as possible. Try to limit representing brokers and only include key decision-makers from the prospective tenant.
Additionally, the landlord broker should do their due diligence ahead of the tour to see how many people are currently in the space if it is occupied. If possible, brokers should schedule tours during downtimes when the office is less crowded like lunch, first thing in the morning or even after hours.
Lastly, be aware of any gathering limits your jurisdiction has in place and try to keep tours to less than 10 people, at the very most.
If a decision-maker is a person with a serious underlying health condition, consider having another tour participant use their phone to “bring” them on the tour via video call, or ask the landlord broker if they offer other virtual tour options.
4. Distribute tour materials digitally in advance
While it’s customary for landlord brokers to bring marketing materials such as brochures, flyers or floor plans to face-to-face tours, instead consider emailing these files digitally in advance so tour participants can view on their own devices in order to limit contact points.
If you must provide printed materials, consider mailing them in advance or placing them on a neutral table outside the property so that a safe distance can be maintained at all points during the tour.
5. Designate a “touch” person
It is helpful if the landlord designates one person (often themselves) in advance as the “touch” person. This person is the one responsible for opening doors, touching light switches and elevator buttons, or doing anything else that requires a touch.
It is helpful for this person to take a doorstop with them to prop open doors. This allows others to come through while they back away in order to maintain a six-foot distance.
If this is not practical for your space or setup, landlords may consider setting up hand sanitizer stations or offering disinfectant wipes.
Additionally, offering mini branded hand sanitizer may be another fun promotion item, but these may be harder to find in stock at the moment.
6. If you’re not feeling well or someone in your household has tested positive, cancel
As a courtesy to your fellow tour-goers, it is important that if anyone isn’t feeling well, is running even a slight fever, or has been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for the test, to speak up. Rescheduling accommodations should be made once necessary tour participants feel confident in their ability to attend, or digital tour options can be arranged.
While in-person tours are difficult to forgo when making major office decisions, for the time being, landlords should consider offering video tours of their properties and spaces. Putting money into digital tour options will be valuable now and in the future if markets experience intermittent periods of social distancing as some think may be the case.
As with any tour, it’s important to communicate upfront about these expectations for all parties so everyone understands how the tour will operate. To help communicate with our tenants AQUILA has created a Safe Property Tour Pledge you can download here.
For more information for landlords and tenants surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the AQUILA COVID-19 Resource Center.
To get more information on building consumer confidence in the wake of the pandemic or what this situation means for your property, schedule a consultation with our project leasing experts.