LittleBird

Get smart about smart technology. Is it right for your property

A recent study conducted by Entrata found that smart amenities like electronic payment systems and secure/smart community features were more important to modern apartment residents than classic high-value amenities such as pools and covered parking.

Further, over 75% of residents are willing to pay more in monthly rent for a “package” including the top smart home capabilities-- security cameras, keyless entry, and smart thermostats.

Clearly, smart technology is quickly gaining traction in the multifamily residence sector. But, not only are residents clamoring for it; automated tech also brings huge benefits to property management and apartment investors. It can bring modern upgrades to preexisting amenities and common area features, as well as streamline administrative and messaging tasks that traditionally eat up managers’ time.

Home/property automation is a valuable and increasingly necessary boon to your community. With such a wide array of options currently on the market, here are some things to consider when going “smart.”

1. Examine your Current and Target Populations

The first step should be a demand and market analysis. Take some time to consider the defining characteristics of your current/desired residents.

How can you improve resident experience?

Age is one important aspect. Chances are, your property consists at least partly of millennials, as they make up a majority (68%) of today’s renters. According to a Schlage and Wakefield survey, almost 90% of renters in this age group are willing to pay 20% more in rent for a smart apartment. The most highly valued features for this population are smart locks and smart thermostats, and they are accustomed to using smart technology hubs like Alexa and Nest. Driving factors for these populations are convenience and a “cool factor.”

If your property caters more towards the elderly and/or offers assisted living, other smart technology features can improve caregiving and support of independence. For example, motion sensors and alerts can help let family members and medical authorities known when something may be amiss with an elderly resident. Likewise, features like smart thermostats and mobile reminders can help with maintenance of the home.

Resident lifestyle choices and values are also clues into appropriate smart technology. One salient example is the growing popularity of “green” options. Pew Research Center surveys state that 75% of US adults are particularly concerned about helping the environment in their daily lives. Capitalizing on this growing environmental awareness is a great way to differentiate your property and save on energy costs. Smart thermostats can control and cut back on energy expenditure for heating and cooling, which accounts for almost half of the energy use in the American household.

2. Take stock of your Property

The explosion of home automation technology has created installation options for both retrofit and new build properties within the market. Take a look at the mechanical infrastructure of your existing/proposed property to get an idea of what technology might be most feasible to install. Many tech integrators offer customized packages utilizing a variety of brands and features.

Think beyond the unit… Smart Community Tech

Residents are looking to have the benefits of this technology extend further than their units. Some of the most successful properties are also installing smart amenities in common and administrative areas. This could include automated systems to handle the millions of packages received at multifamily properties every day. Likewise, managers are gathering valuable data analytics on usage and satisfaction of property features, resident schedules, and much more. Even scheduling and tracking of logistical processes are becoming a breeze. Smart tech can even eliminate or greatly reduce the costs of re-keying after resident turnover.

3. Centralize and Integrate

Once smart devices are installed, it is equally as important to develop centralized controls. The ability to control and monitor the devices and environment of vacant unites saves utility expenses and maintenance time. Centralized systems also enhance customer service capabilities, allowing management to see if a resident’s air conditioner is malfunctioning even if they are on vacation, for instance.

Another important consideration is the ability to incorporate new technology with your existing property management or payment software. Avoid the hassle of your on-site team navigating multiple websites and user accounts by investing in a technology package that integrates all software platforms and devices into one system. Managers can view, gain access to, and control multiple common areas and units without having to learn multiple different software programs or juggle various fobs.

4. Plan for the future

Current trends suggest that evolving technology will remain an important differentiator in managing multifamily assets. In smart home automation alone, the worldwide market is estimated to grow at a 14.5% rate between 2017 and 2022, according to Zion Market Research data. Especially for luxury apartment properties, it is essential to invest now.

While smart home amenities like thermostats and lights will quickly become commonplace, they are still excellent differentiators in today’s competitive market. Additionally, there are many opportunities to stay on the edge of innovation in this industry. Many appliances, security coverings/sensors and entertainment features are being developed that could be leveraged successfully in the multifamily realm. Setting your property up with basic cabling and integration now will make transitioning to these value-adding amenities much easier in the future.

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