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How your multifamily community can implement the smart home benefits renters crave

The benefits of smart home technology for renters and considerations for multifamily operators installing smart devices at their properties, including:

Smart home benefits have steadily appealed to renters. And now, in the midst of a pandemic, the benefits of smart apartments are even more apparent. Communities with smart locks can easily accommodate the onslaught of grocery deliveries and Amazon packages. Residents using smart thermostats and smart lights can minimize energy consumption to keep utility bills in check.

Even throughout the leasing cycle, smart home benefits are valuable. A recent survey found that 59% of apartment hunters do not want a leasing agent present for a tour. Instead, they would rather have a self-guided tour so they can practice social distancing. And in order for self-guided tours to happen, your communities need smart technology in place.

Since renters want smart home technology, you might be considering adding it to your communities. If so, you’ll want to understand some best practices that will benefit you and your residents.

What renters will pay to have smart home benefits

There’s widespread interest in smart home technology for apartments. And many multifamily companies are using it to garner higher rent premiums. Even just a basic package provides enough smart home benefits that, depending on the market, renters are willing to pay for.

Zego conducted a market research study on this topic in 2019. We found that renters are willing to pay anywhere from $25 – $45 per month for smart apartment packages.

If you’re considering charging residents for smart technology, now is the best time. Smart home benefits are still considered a perk in many areas. But once more multifamily communities adopt the technology, it will be an expected amenity. At that point, the majority of renters will be reluctant to pay for it. Especially if a competing community is offering it for free.

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.

Installing smart devices without disrupting residents

Renters may be eager to have smart apartment technology in their homes. But for some, smart home benefits can be diminished if the installation process is too complex. Here are the different methods you can use to install smart apartment devices and how they may impact your residents.

Install devices on the turn

Not all communities who use smart technology have devices installed in each unit. That’s because they choose to install the devices on the turn. Once a resident moves out of a unit, maintenance teams then install smart devices before a new resident is ready to move in.

This provides minimal disruption to residents. They are never inconvenienced by any of the installation logistics. However, from a management perspective, this approach can be difficult. That’s because going little by little drags out the time it takes for you to gain the operational benefits.

Property-wide installation

Maybe you want to get the installation process done all at once. This is what many companies do. It gives you faster ROI (if you’re charging residents) and you can see the operational benefits right away.

If you are going to equip your units all at once, make sure you clearly communicate the details to residents. We’ll cover how to do that more in a little bit. But ideally, your residents will know exactly what to expect and when. Plus, a heads up is a great way to get them excited about their new amenities.

Residents opt-in or opt-out of smart home benefits

You can also provide smart home benefits only to residents who want it. Many companies like this strategy because residents get a choice about what works best for them. In this scenario, communities usually charge a monthly fee for units that have smart technology.

If you let residents opt-in or out, you can approach installation in one of two ways. One, you can install smart devices across the entire property. Then, you only activate the devices for the residents who want them. There are plenty of smart devices that can still be operated manually. For instance, many smart locks also come with a physical key.

Your other option is to only install smart devices only for residents who want them. However, that means not all of your units will have smart technology. So you will not be able to fully automate your community.

If you give your residents a free trial period, you can usually see higher opt-in rates. That’s because 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.

Resident apps that deliver the best smart home benefits

To control their smart devices, you’ll need a resident engagement app. This will let residents control their smart devices and perform other home-related tasks. But not every app intended for multifamily use provides a good user experience. And if it’s a pain to use their app, the appeal of smart home technology for apartments might fizzle out.

If you want to ensure your app is one residents won’t mind using over and over, make sure you pick one with the following features.

Resident app must-haves:

  1. One app that controls all devices: Residents don’t want to toggle back and forth between apps. Nor are many willing to download multiple apps on their phone. Make it easier by choosing an app that can control every smart device within the unit.
  2. Lets residents control other aspects of apartment living: You can get an app that includes other important community tasks. For instance, paying rent, paying utilities, package notifications, work orders, guest registration, communication etc. The more features it has, the more likely your residents will use it.
  3. Fast loading time and responsiveness: Make sure it doesn’t take a long time for the app to load. Residents can grow impatient with slow apps. You also want to make sure there isn’t a long lag time after a command has been submitted.
  4. Easy to use and navigate: Ideally, you want something intuitive enough that a resident could download on their own and use without assistance from your community staff.

How to communicate smart home benefits to residents

Modernizing an existing community is an exciting project. But before you share the good news with your residents, it’s wise to have a communication plan. Your plan should outline how you communicate the logistics, the installation timing, and talk tracks you want to convey. This will minimize the number of questions your on-site staff will receive.

Be prepared for mixed reactions and questions from your residents. Many residents will be excited and want to be the first in line for a smart unit. Others might not understand smart home benefits. Because of this, they may be hesitant about a change.

Before you start spreading the word, on-site team members should have talk tracks prepared about smart devices. The most important points to emphasize will be the benefits of the new amenity. You also need to give a clear sense of timing. Here are the points you might want to share about the value of their smart apartment solution.

The benefits of smart home devices for renters:

  • It’s adding convenience to their lives: Smart apartments remove some annoyances of day-to-day living. Now they’ll be able to open the door without fishing for keys, grant guests temporary access, or turn the thermostat on while lying in bed.
  • Smart home benefits help with conservation: Smart schedules, lights, and thermostats help minimize wasted energy consumption. Not only does this reduce the impact to the environment, but it’s also helpful for saving energy costs.
  • It improves community safety: With expiring lock codes, approved guests or service workers can enter their unit easier. However, they won’t be able to overstay their welcome. It also provides an audit trail so residents can see who comes and goes from their unit and when.
  • They can easily add more smart devices to their unit: With the infrastructure already in place, residents who want to add more smart elements can easily do so. The hub will allow residents to pair their own devices, like Alexa.

Addressing residents’ privacy concerns about smart home technology

There are a lot of misconceptions about smart apartments and privacy. Because of this, some residents may question if having smart devices will create any privacy or security vulnerabilities. Ultimately, if your company has implemented a sophisticated smart apartment solution that’s designed for multifamily, then there should not be any risks. Here’s the reality behind questions you might be asked about smart apartment safety.

Can my devices be hacked?

Assuming you’re providing residents with a commercial-grade hub that runs on ZWave, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to hack your devices. ZWave hubs offer the highest security certifications. To date, they’ve only been compromised in a test environment. Criminals would have an easier time physically breaking down the door than hacking the smart system.

Is my community manager trying to spy on me?

With a base smart apartment package (a hub, locks, and thermostat) those devices don’t enable community managers to gain any vulnerable information about a resident. There are no voice-activated assistants that pick up conversations. Though if a resident wants to add one of their own, they have the ability to do so. Community managers are unable to access resident-installed voice assistants through their platform.

Are you selling my data?

This is something you as a management company will have to verify before you work with a smart apartment vendor. There are some companies that sell resident data for marketing purposes. This is not a universal practice among providers. So If you think your residents will be sensitive to this, make sure you clarify a vendor’s privacy policy before you begin working with them.

Resident support for smart apartment devices

For many of your residents, it might be the first time they’ve ever used smart apartment technology. So it’s important to offer plenty of direction and support in case they need it. Residents who feel confident in their ability to use their smart devices, will not only be happier with the change, they’ll be more inclined to use them. There are several ways to help residents get up to speed with their new devices.

On-hand support options for residents

  • Step-by-step tutorials: these can be recorded and posted online, or conducted in-person
  • Printed materials: older generations tend to prefer printed materials that they can keep in their home
  • Knowledge bank with articles to answer questions or educate: post the answers to FAQs somewhere on your resident portal. This usually solves the routine problems before they turn to your maintenance staff.
  • Your smart apartment vendor’s support team: some vendors offer dedicated resident support, which is helpful to keep the on-site staff from being overwhelmed

More Smart Home Benefits for Your Multifamily Communities

You want your residents to be happy with their smart home. But there are plenty of other moving parts to getting the devices successfully installed across your community. For more guidance about how to implement smart home technology for apartments, be sure to download our free guide: “How to Implement Smart Apartment Technology in your Multifamily Community.”

Not sure if smart tech is worth the investment for your property or portfolio? Use our Smart ROI Calculator to learn how long it will take to see a return on your investment in smart apartment technology.

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