Resident Technology in Multifamily: Look Before You Leap

Home Automation Multifamily

They’re shiny and they’re bright and you want them. They’re the latest devices and home automation systems that will appeal to prospective renters and bring greater operational efficiencies to your properties.

Or will they?

Utilizing New Technology in Multifamily

There is no doubt that emerging technologies are having an impact on apartment communities. Advancements in resident services, including video, broadband, telephony, access control, and security are causing many property management owners to rethink their technology strategies. But knowing when to buy and how to best utilize these new technologies to maximize their value for both renters and the property is crucial to future planning.

At the upcoming 2016 Broadband Communities Conference, experts from RealPage’s Resident Technology Services group will be among the presenters who will offer insights on residential services and how properties can build cost-effective programs to meet their business needs.

The Rapid Pace of Change

“Technology is evolving at a pace that multifamily has never even remotely experienced,” says Henry Pye, Vice President of Resident Technology Services at RealPage. “The pace of change has increased dramatically and the period between the leading industries and ours has shortened dramatically.”

Historically, multifamily has been an industry where technological changes have come slowly—at times five to eight years behind other industries. But, according to Pye, that may not necessarily be a bad thing today given the rapid pace of change and the challenges multifamily faces, such as resident demographics, move-in and move-out patterns, security issues, shared networks, and generational cohorts with varying levels of patience when it comes to technology.

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While the single-family market is enjoying advances in home automation systems that connect all areas of a homeowner’s life—such as Apple Home Kit and Google Brillo—developing such systems for multifamily is more difficult.

“Multifamily in many ways is going to trail [the single-family market] in the implementation of new technology because there is someone else in multifamily who is deeply interested in controlling the systems in an apartment unit, mainly the multifamily manager,” says Pye. “From a comprehensive perspective, implementing systems is not cost-effective or doable in the vast majority of multifamily properties right now. But we are progressing in that direction. Once we get there we will have something that is unique—not just automating manual tasks but actually making life simpler and better.”

Understanding Technology

It’s easy to get sold on the coolness of things. Let’s face it: people love new gadgets and gizmos. And the idea of making life simpler for residents and property staff is hard to resist.

Case in point: An apartment community recently spent thousands of dollars on keyless locks for their 250 units. The locks can be opened with a fob or smartphone. Pretty neat, right? Yes, but what the property owner failed to understand in this instance was that each of those 250 locks must be reformatted individually when residents move out. The leasing office does not have a centralized database that would allow the locks to be controlled from the leasing office. So instead of reaping the benefits of streamlined operations, the property has actually ended up creating more work for the maintenance staff.

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Many property management owners are jumping on the latest technology bandwagon not fully understanding the full impact of their purchases. Yes, there are new devices that allow management staff to automate manual tasks, such as thermostats that can be connected to the leasing office so property managers can control the temperature in vacant units and new electronic locks that can be remotely opened by staff in after-hours lockout events. But automating tasks may not necessarily be simplifying multifamily processes. In fact, they may be adding additional workloads to staff—and costing you more money in the long run.

What do residents really want? In part two of our series on technology in multifamily, we dive into how this relates to student housing communities.



Freelance Writer, Multifamily and Rental Housing

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J.M. Emmert is a freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in writing about the multifamily industry and contributes regularly to industry publications and news outlets.

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