Smart home tech isn’t just for the single-family home. These systems and devices can improve property management, reduce cost and emissions and enhance the tenant experience.
Smart tech is quickly becoming a must-have for today’s discerning renter, and with good reason. The right technology can play a significant role in improving residents’ experiences and enhancing the ease of operations for onsite staff. But where to start? As apartment owners and operators consider which amenities to include—either for new builds or when retrofitting existing structures—they must consider what is going to enhance a resident’s experience the most and offer the most ROI.
Many of today’s easy-to-use tools improve the efficiency of property management. These modern conveniences also lend to a positive experience for tenants, providing them with more comfort and control. Smart home technology not only provides improvements that residents crave, but many tech solutions also come with the added benefit of reducing costs for the building owner and property manager.
Smart access begins with smart locks, which can be used in many ways and are appealing to owners, on-site staff and residents alike. These smart features provide a wealth of benefits for all:
Save Property Owners Money
Owners don’t have to worry about paying a locksmith to change out locks or keys between residents. Leasing agents no longer have the frustration that comes with finding the right key or fumbling with a pesky lockbox. And, in addition to saving significant time and money on key tracking systems that cost thousands of dollars, this eliminates physical keys getting lost, being replaced and keeping track of them as residents move in and out. Another benefit is that maintenance teams can work more efficiently and respond to maintenance requests faster.
Save On-Site Staff Time
At one point or another, on-site staff has had to help a resident who is locked out after hours. Smart locks eliminate this issue because residents can simply use their smartphones or enter their access code to unlock their units. For important safety tasks like annual fire inspections smart locks allow on-site to quickly access units with one-time codes. Management can also allow vendors like painters or carpet layers access to vacant units with these temporary codes, which is more secure.
Keyless locks are also what make self-guided tours possible, freeing on-site staff to work smarter, not harder. Prospective renters can tour the unit whenever it’s convenient for them and property managers don’t have to plan their day around tours. Renters simply sign up, provide a copy of their IDs, then select the units they want to visit. Before the scheduled viewing, the prospect receives a unique access code to tour the property.
Residents love how easy it is to use a smart lock and they have the added benefit of increased security. They can set their own passcodes and typically have access to their homes right from their smart phone. They no longer have to worry about whether they remembered to lock the door, because they can make sure they did—or lock their home—right from an app on their phones.
Many folks often need to share access with others when they are away such as dog walkers and house cleaners. The right smart lock can provide a special guest code for a secure way of offering resident unit access. Only persons with the right credentials get access to the unit.
Smart Locks are in-demand, which means renters will pay more for this amenity, making your property more competitive in the market. The increased retention rates and NOI drive up the value of your assets.
One of the most overlooked benefits of added tech in a multifamily unit is the provided asset preservation. Much of the technology offered helps keep your buildings and units in tip-top shape whether they’re occupied or not. Today’s smart home technology allows for things like water sensors that immediately detect leaks and excessive humidity that can be damaging to a property if not fixed quickly.
Leak sensors can be placed throughout an apartment where the most common leaks occur – like under the refrigerator, sinks, and water heater – and send out an alert if excess moisture is detected. You can also view how your building’s entire HVAC system, unit-by-unit, is working in a few swipes of a screen. A humidity detection feature on smart thermostats alerts management to situations like if a vendor accidentally leaves a window open in a vacant unit.
And this doesn’t just work with new buildings. Smart sensors can keep issues at bay in the ever popular and charming vintage buildings as well. Issues are reported directly to your on-site team so that something like a burst pipe in a unit where a tenant is out of town doesn’t become a major problem.
Sustainability is a big topic for many companies, and smart home tech can help properties reduce their carbon footprint in several ways.
The smart sensors allow properties to collect energy consumption data for the full building— both vacant and occupied units— and track that data over time to determine carbon footprint impact. That data can then be used to adjust to lower impact. Smart thermostats not only provide residents with the ability to directly control the climate in their unit from virtually everywhere, but they are also extremely energy efficient, saving a ton of money and wasted energy.
Smart plugs and smart switches allow residents to automate control of their lighting or other wired appliances. Forget to shut the lights off before you leave? No problem. You can do it from your phone. These options mean less energy is wasted and electric bills are lowered.
Choosing the Right Tech
Though it’s gaining in popularity, smart home technology for multifamily units is not a new concept. Nest debuted over a decade ago Siri has been around for almost as long. Although the market has improved, it’s also become more crowded, making decisions about which systems to invest in a little more convoluted.
Ultimately, the best approach when implementing technology is to select an enterprise-level solution, because piecemeal solutions only add to the complexity of managing a property and require juggling multiple apps. Ideally, the provider would also use a single smart technology platform that allows users to control all smart devices through a single app and dashboard. The provider should also have on-site training for staff and residents months before installation, and offer 24/7 live support.
Property owners should look for a platform that offers robust integration capabilities, including multiple property management systems that can be implemented throughout a portfolio. It’s a good idea to start with a product platform demo and do some research, including gathering feedback or testimonials from the provider’s leading clients.
When selecting a smart technology partner or product brand, important things to consider are:
- How’s the customer service?
- Do they offer on-site training and 24/7 support?
- How easy is it to implement, maintain and use daily?
- Will it integrate seamlessly with existing software, and who will handle those integrations?
- Will this generate income and/or reduce expenses? How will it affect the NOI?
Keeping in mind what matters most to your residents and to your bottom line—access, preservation and sustainability—will set you on a course for success.
Article as appeared in Realtor Magazine: December 13, 2022