Zenplace is a Silicon Valley-based property management company that developed an automated apartment tour service allowing prospective tenants to see units without an agent physically present.

  • Zenplace is deploying live agents on iPads via GPS-enabled video tours.
  • Company is based in Silicon Valley and known for its technology-based solutions to property management.

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One day, the robots actually will replace us. Until then, GPS-enabled roving iPad kiosks will have to do.

Zenplace is a Silicon Valley-based property management company that developed an automated apartment tour service allowing prospective tenants to see units without an agent physically present.

That doesn’t mean an agent isn’t there, however.

Prospective tenants are prompted by a yard sign to text for access to a property they would like to see. The company then requests the individual upload photo identification.

Agent remotely shows potential renters kitchen using Zenplace technology / Zenplace ad

Zenplace’s advanced record-checking system ensures the person’s identity and runs a background check. If it all checks out, a time-bound code is sent to access the smart inbox.

Back at the office, on-duty agents are alerted, and the on-site digital assistant takes over, greeting folks at the door.

On the screen is a live agent ready to narrate the visit and answer questions about the unit.

The conferencing technology is similar to FaceTime in concept, but was developed by the Zenplace. The robots are manufactured overseas.

The device uses GPS technology that’s superior to common consumer versions to carefully maneuver about the floor plan, and it’s even equipped to handle small flights of stairs when needed.

The screen-agent describes features and community amenities, explains the neighborhood, and helps with a rental application that can be completed on, well, the robot’s face.

The connection to the agent is done via a cellular LTE network.

Along with cruising around the property, the software can display images and video, up-to-the minute market reports, and information about other regional amenities.

In 2015, the industry reacted somewhat negatively to a company developing similar technology called Zip Tours. Zenplace replaces the handheld video call used by Zip Tours with a taller, slimmer Roomba.

This is easily brushed off as a gimmick because — first of all — it’s not actually a robot.

However, cynics should know there’s more here than a pretty face.

The software allows rental agents to show people up to triple or more the number of available units they used to when bound to a car seat and the hassles of phone tag, from four to five to up to 15. They could probably show more with a chatbot handling the initial screening.

Zenplace CEO Rahul Mewawalla told me that his technology cuts turns, or periods of vacancy between leases, by about one-third.

The device feeds insights back to property owners, such as a heat map of room-by-room activity. Are people more interested in a unit’s kitchen or its balcony? What’s turning them away and what’s getting them to sign?

Zenplace’s smart home showing tool also receives feedback on the showing experience from 78 percent of users, giving landlords an idea of how to better serve the market.

“Our intent is to make property management easier,” Mewalwalla said. “It’s part of a bigger solution to reduce vacancy periods and improve the rental experience.”

Rest assured, if I happen to come across one of Zenplace’s several hundred active property-showing droids, I’m going to ask it to call me Dave.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

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