The nation’s largest rental search and transaction platform has pushed up the launch of new online tour tools to counter the “coronavirus market.” HUD’s call to delay evictions could have long-standing impact on property market.

Zumper, the nation’s largest digital marketplace for the housing rental business, has launched a number of new products to encourage online tours.

The timing of the new features is serendipitous, as the real estate industry comes to grips with a way to handle the severe limitation of conducting in-person business.

The company — which is based in San Francisco, a city severely impacted by the coronavirus — is making its new web-based property tour tools free to all users, both landlords and prospective tenants.

With many cities and states enacting strict “shelter-in-place” options and a formal Washington recommendation to only leave your home for essentials, it’s likely Zumper’s new tools will get adequately tested. According to a press release, Zumper’s new tools include:

  • Badges and filters representing live, online virtual touring capabilities via FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Badges representing multimedia tour options, like YouTube video tours and 3D images
  • In-product language encouraging renters to ask about remote or virtual tours and notifying them if a property already offers virtual tours

Zumper CEO and co-founder Anthemos Georgiades said in a press release that customer health remains the priority.

“We are encouraging the entire Zumper community to follow federal and local health guidelines and social distancing is critical right now,” he said. “To support both renters and property owners, we quickly rolled out these new features to help replace in-person tours.”

Zumper also facilitates leasing and rent payments, essentially creating an end-to-end workflow for both parties, aiming to make renting as easy as booking a hotel room — something that’s also not very easy to do right now.

In an email to Inman, Kelsey Grady of Zumper said that the rental industry can’t stop entirely because people need housing right away.

“Zumper is trying to do everything possible to help those that still need to find housing (like new grads who have had to move out of the dorms already) and landlords that desperately need to fill vacancies,” she said.

However, in response to the coronavirus’s impact on the economy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Wednesday, Mar. 18, that all evictions and foreclosures will be suspended on a national level. This move, while generally considered positive, could have long-term impact on the housing industry over time.

Evictions — in theory — could rise quickly after the virus is controlled, as not every job lost is guaranteed to return. This could put landlords across the country in very challenging positions as they struggle with the idea of evicting tenants as a result of the virus. Socially, it wouldn’t be a good look, even if ultimately legal.

When asked if Zumper is considering how to work alongside its property owner clients in the face of such a bizarre business climate, Crystal Chen, marketing manager and spokeswoman for Zumper, said in an email that eviction is the one area they specifically don’t address with clients.

“Our support team works with landlords on all levels of the rentals process but currently does not give specific advice on how to handle evictions,” Chen said.

Zumper raised $46 million in a Series C round in September of 2018.

It was announced that a good portion of the funds will go toward hiring up to 50 more people to support its technology development efforts, which the company plans to keep on track.

“While we continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed, we currently still plan to move forward with hiring, focused on our sales and engineering teams, and invest in scaling our unique end-to-end transactional tools,” Chen said. “Both sides of the rental market will need our services now more than ever.”

The new features on the Zumper app are available now.

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

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