South Florida residential leasing teams have replaced in-person tours with virtual ones as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. Still, the number of leases signed is drying up.
The Coconut Grove-based real estate development firm Alta Developers and the Doral-based property management and residential leasing company RKW Residential saw an uptick in virtual tours but a drop of about 50% in recent weeks in leasing activity.
“Leasing activity has slowed. We might have to start offering concessions, such as [building out] closets,” said Raimundo Onetto, principal and chief executive officer of Alta Developers. The firm oversees leasing for three rental buildings in Miami-Dade County.
The 12-story apartment building for rent Quadro at 3900 Biscayne Blvd. is about 23% leased after receiving its temporary certificate of occupancy in October 2019 and signing leases in November 2019, said Solange Camet, asset manager for Alta Developers. Thirty units from the total 127 are leased. Units range from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom 762-square-foot unit to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom with a den unit spanning 1,230 square feet. Leases range from $2,200 to $4,800 per month.
Quadro had about five leases signed per week. It had two leases last week, Camet said.
“Our main challenge is that people can’t travel,” Camet said.
Thus far, the leasing team has scheduled tours through video hangout portals and a site map, Camet said. In two weeks, the firm will debut a 3D virtual tour of the entire building, including of amenities and available units.
“We are trying to keep the public engaged because people need to move,” she said.
RKW Residential has provided virtual tours, including through FaceTime, for its 12 rental buildings in Miami-Dade County and Broward, according to John Zalkin, the company’s senior vice president and partner. The company has leased units for its ArtSquare Apartment Homes at 401 N. Federal Hwy. in Hallandale Beach and at Soleste Twenty2 at 2201 Ludlam Road in West Miami using virtual tours, he wrote via email.
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“Leasing numbers have remained steady at this point, but we expect a decline as the virus continues to spread and more people are impacted personally and professionally due to layoffs, new jobs postponed or individuals caring for loved ones or being quarantined themselves,” Zalkin wrote.
Another challenge, Onetto said, is the possibility that as the economy deteriorates, some leasees might not be able to continue paying rent.
“We need to be careful of opportunists. People may stop paying rent. We don’t know what is going to happen,” Onetto said.
Background checks are equally as important as finding tenants, Onetto said. The firm is particularly wary after dealing with fraudulent activity with some of the other apartment buildings it manages, he said.
This story was originally published March 24, 2020 7:00 AM.