Apartment operators can be a cautious group. They often are slow to embrace new technologies and new processes.
But when it comes to smart home solutions, the time has come for multifamily owners and managers to embrace the new era. The reasons for doing so are powerful.
Put simply, residents like them – and they can create valuable ancillary revenue.
A recent report from the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates provides valuable insight into residents’ feelings about smart home technology. According to the study, they seem particularly interested in solutions that will lead to lower utility costs.
For instance, the report says, 70.5 percent of residents say they are “interested” in smart thermostats while an additional 6.6 percent say they wouldn’t rent a home without one. Additionally, residents would expect to pay a monthly rent premium of $30 for the feature.
Similarly, 66.9 percent of residents are interested in smart lighting, and another 5.3 percent indicate they wouldn’t rent an apartment that doesn’t have this technology. The monthly premium they expect to pay for smart lighting is $29.
Still, even though smart home technology presents such a great opportunity for apartment operators, it’s something they should implement only after considerable due diligence and thoughtful planning.
Below are five things any operator should do before installing smart home solutions in their communities. (The successful implementation of smart home features will be the subject of a session at the Multifamily Innovation Conference – Atlanta in early February.)
1) Make sure any potential smart home provider has sufficient cybersecurity. Renters may be enthusiastic about the ease and convenience smart home technologies can bring to their homes – as well as the reduced utility bills – but they’re still nervous about the threat of hackers (stories like this are one reason why).
Aggressively question potential supplier partners about their security practices and make sure any provider has achieved SOC 2 certification from the American Institute of CPAs. This certification means a company has met certain thresholds concerning security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and consumer-data privacy.
2) Ensure centralized control of smart home products. When associates have access to the smart home devices in a unit from a central dashboard, this has multiple benefits. For instance, associates can adjust the temperature remotely in a vacant unit, resulting in lower utility costs. Team members also can easily lock and unlock the doors of homes for residents who may have accidentally locked themselves out or lost their fobs.
3) Get resident buy-in. As enthusiastic as renters generally are about smart home features, operators will need to work to get their complete buy-in before implementation. Proactively address their concerns issues about cybersecurity and privacy through e-mails or town-hall-style meetings, and let residents know you are always available and willing to answer any questions they may have.
4) Use a service model rather than a product model. You don’t want your onsite technicians and leasing associates to be overwhelmed trying to fix malfunctioning smart home equipment. That’s not what you hire them to fix. And you want resident concerns to be addressed as quickly as possible.
Only implement smart home systems that are based on a service model and have technicians available to troubleshoot any problems that arise.
5) Make sure your smart home system is future-proof. We all know how fast technology moves and improves. Given the often-dizzying rate of innovation that's taking place, you want a smart home infrastructure that can make room for future upgrades and improvements and not force you to repack an entire system that's suddenly grown outdated.