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How to roll out smart apartment solutions in your multifamily community

Here’s how to coordinate the logistics of implementing a smart apartment solution

As a multifamily operator, you’re probably getting a lot of requests to bring smart apartment solutions to your community. Residents love the modernized living experience that smart apartments bring. And on-site teams value the automation that makes their job easier.

But before you invest in multifamily smart home devices, you need a game plan for rolling it out across your communities. Who will handle the installation? When will the devices be installed? What will you tell residents about their new technology?

We’re going to break down what you need to know about rolling out smart apartment solutions.

Can I DIY this? Or do I need a smart apartment solution?

Many components of smart apartment implementation are simple enough to DIY. For instance, most smart devices can be easily installed by your maintenance staff.

Where things get complex is with the software you need to control the devices. You need to have an ecosystem where all of the devices in your community connect to a platform. This is also doable. In fact, some companies with extensive in-house tech resources build their own customized IoT platform. Regardless of the resources, you have on hand, there are some challenges to take into account if you want to DIY.

How to Implement Smart Apartment Technology in your Multifamily Community

From picking the right smart devices, to installation and beyond, we’ll give you step-by-step guidance for going smart.

Limitations of DIY smart apartments

  • Residents need multiple apps to control their devices: Ideally, you want a singular resident app that controls your smart apartment solution. If you DIY, residents will need an app for each device. That is unless you also have the resources to develop your own app that centralizes control.
  • Limited control for on-site teams: Your on-site teams should be able to remotely perform functions for every unit. For instance, reprogramming locks, turning off lights, and temperature control. This isn’t possible without some kind of managed IoT platform.
  • Pressure for on-site teams to provide IT support: When you DIY, residents turn to your on-site teams when problems arise. This gets overwhelming for community managers. And when there’s staff turnover, you will have to retrain staff on how to troubleshoot each device.
  • Limited support for staff: if a problem arises that stumps your onsite team, it may turn into a dead end.
  • No cellular connectivity: Legacy solutions require Wi-Fi connectivity, vs. smart apartment solutions that use cellular connection to ensure reliability. Having cellular connectivity helps with performance and reliability.
  • Hassles at move out: When residents move out, there isn’t an easy way to reset the devices. Community staff must enter the unit and manually reset the devices to their factory settings on each turn.

Smart apartment solutions

Many of the limitations of DIY smart apartments are deal breakers for the majority of multifamily companies. Instead, most choose the ease of working with a smart apartment provider.

Aside from removing many of the technical obstacles that are involved in a DIY environment, using a smart apartment solution brings additional time and money savings. Because of this, it’s the route many multifamily firms go with. Here’s why.

  • Cost savings on devices: Smart apartment vendors buy their devices in bulk from the manufacturer. Because of the sheer volume of devices they buy, the per-item cost is significantly lower than what you’d pay buying directly from the same manufacturer. Or on Amazon. Considering you’ll need hundreds – maybe thousands – of these devices, the savings on hardware will be substantial.
  • Property management software integration: Community staff can control devices or receive alerts from water or HVAC systems through their management software
  • Configuring devices to work together: With a managed IoT platform, you can ensure all of the smart devices in each unit interconnect
  • Guidance on smart device choices: They’ll help you narrow down which devices are best suited to your budget, your property type, and community demographics.
  • Installation and ongoing support: Most vendors will take on the seemingly scary task of getting devices up and running. And, you’ll have someone to turn to if there’s a technical problem.

Deciding on the Right Rollout Strategy for your Smart Apartment Solution

Timing is everything. That’s especially true when you’re ready to install smart home technology for apartments. Should you take a staggered approach to getting your hardware installed? Or do you rip off the band-aid and get each unit equipped at the same time? Our Smart ROI Calculator can give you an idea of how each strategy can impact your financially. Let’s also look at the considerations of each rollout strategy.

On-the-turn installation of smart apartment solutions

It’s not necessary to put all of your smart devices in the community at once. Some management companies prefer adding smart home benefits little by little. When a resident moves out, you can take that opportunity to install the devices. Then they’re ready for use when the unit has a new occupant.

This approach takes the pressure off your maintenance staff. They won’t worry about installing hundreds of devices by a certain deadline.

However, it creates challenges when only some of your units have smart home for apartments. Your community staff will have different instructions on how to manage each unit depending on its smart status. That can cause confusion. Plus, it takes a long time to see the operational benefits that smart devices bring.

Considerations for on-the-turn installation

Pros:

  • Less pressure on maintenance staff to install devices
  • You can buy devices incrementally so there are not as much upfront costs
  • No disruption for residents from installation

Cons:

  • It takes a long time to gain the operational efficiencies
  • Harder for community staff to become acquainted with how the devices work
  • It takes longer to see ROI from the new technology
  • Inconsistent methods for monitoring/managing units
  • If you buy all the hardware upfront, you’ll have to safely store the unused devices somewhere

Property-wide at the same time

Deploying your smart devices across all units at once might sound ambitious. But there are strong advantages to doing it this way. You can completely change how your units are accessed and controlled in a short period of time versus dragging the process out. And, if you decide to charge a premium for smart units, you’ll see ROI much quicker than with on-the-turn installation.

Considerations for all-at-once installation

Pros:

  • You gain all the operational advantages immediately
    Faster ROI
  • Consistent community-wide procedures for managing your units

Cons:

  • More time-sensitive demands on maintenance staff
  • More upfront costs as you need to buy all hardware upfront

Allow existing residents to opt-in or out

Another deployment tactic is to provide smart technology only to residents who want it. In this scenario, you’ll charge a monthly fee to those who are using the devices. You can take two approaches to the installation.

  1. Install smart devices across the entire property and only activate them for those who want them.
  2. Install smart devices only for residents that want them. This means only some of your units will be equipped with smart devices.

If you want to install hardware property-wide, there are plenty of devices that can be operated manually. For instance, many smart locks also come with physical keys. This way, residents who are hesitant about making the switch to smart apartment technology can continue to use their doors and lights in the same way they always have. Ascent 430, a large, Class A property, has devices installed property-wide, but some residents still opt to use them manually.

Some communities get higher opt-in rates by installing the devices property-wide and giving residents a free trial period. Many people have never used smart home technology and don’t truly grasp the benefits. Once they’ve experienced firsthand what a smart apartment is like, it’s harder to give up. For residents who opt out of a smart package, the devices can be disabled from the management app and will function manually.

Considerations for opt-in/out installation

Pros

  • Gives flexibility to renters about their living experience and their monthly costs
  • Less demand on maintenance staff
  • Allows for partial ROI

Cons

  • It takes a long time to gain the operational efficiencies
  • Harder for community staff to become acquainted with how the devices work
  • Inconsistent methods for monitoring/managing units

Smart apartment solution installation timeline

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to installing smart home devices for multifamily. But generally speaking, you can expect to have your units up and running approximately 6 weeks. There will still be ongoing trainings and support needed beyond the final launch. Here’s what a standard implementation timeline looks like.smart apartment roll out timeline for multifamily properties

More Smart Apartment Solution Rollout Advice

Getting off on the right foot with your smart apartment solution is incredibly important. If residents are excited about their new devices they’ll be eager to use them. The same goes for your on-site teams. For more guidance about getting a smart apartment solution in your community, be sure to download our free guide. Get your copy of “How to Implement Smart Apartment Technology in your Multifamily Community.”

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