To Fear or Not to Fear? Smart Homes are the Question

Elizabeth Francisco

The global smart home market exceeded $14.7 billion in 2017 and by 2025, 10 percent of all homes are expected to be smart ones. However, in today’s multifamily market, home automation (a.k.a. smart home) is a luxury technology. It is clear the Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly, and smart home amenities will become expected to be integrated into residents’ homes.

Pros and Cons of Home Automation in Multifamily Communities

There are many benefits to incorporating smart technology into multifamily communities, but it also poses many challenges. IoT for smart homes is definitely becoming more commonplace, and multifamily communities are becoming more technology literate everyday. However, multifamily communities need to be aware of the mounting challenges of fully incorporating smart home technology for everyone.

Here are the top factors multifamily companies should consider when creating a smart community:

Device Giveaway v. Technology Integration

Purchasing personal home assistant devices like a Google Home or Amazon Echo for your community may sound enticing as a loyalty perk for new and renewing residents. However, communities should consider the technology lifecycle for these devices is relatively short as compared to the investment. Furthermore, as more and more people are purchasing smart home devices, it is likely your residents will already own something that works for them – and would not welcome a new device.

As compared to purchasing devices for residents, communities should consider integrating technology into the regular course of business. For example, a technology investment into integration with a smart lockbox or smart thermostat would last through resident turnover and provide a unique way to show progression toward becoming a “smart home” property.

There are several positives to integrating smart technology as opposed to giving away a new device. Research shows that smart units are averaging higher rental rates and residents are seeing a decrease in utility costs with the use of smart thermometers installed and maintained by the property.

Quality Time v. Wasted Time

In the creation of smart multifamily community, property managers must consider the time investment it will take to keep the smart devices and/or other smart technology running smoothly and safely. While it is a positive that residents will be able to interact with property managers more frequently to update technology, it also quickly becomes clear that too much of a good thing can go wrong.

Before you start down the smart multifamily path, it is recommended to develop a plan to update, manage and provide proactive outreach on the technology you are integrating with the property. You have property maintenance professionals on staff – consider also weighing the benefits of having an IT maintenance professional added to your team or portfolio. With the positive addition of a professional who can assist with all things smart home, you will not only please residents, you will also equip property managers with efficient solutions as needed.

Tech Gurus v. The Rest of Us

Early adopters to smart home devices might be called tech gurus in this case. When it comes to tech gurus and smart homes, they crave the new technology and new devices, and they just “get it.” While more people are becoming comfortable with the smart home idea, many Americans are still concerned with someone or something watching over them. Another concern is that smart devices will open residents up to a privacy intrusion.

The “rest of us” are definitely intrigued with new smart home technology, and evidence shows we are buying the devices that promise to make our lives easier. However, we need some additional time and talent to get us over the technology hump. If a multifamily property can help with both of these elements, it would build a special bond between the property manager and the resident where trust and gratitude become the foundation.

A New Day

Smart units definitely add excitement and the hope of a new element in the equation. Once you’ve upgraded your units with smart technology, you will be able to do many more things efficiently:

  • Help residents manage their utilities remotely if they need a helping hand
  • Send a freeze warning and manage thermostats remotely
  • Keep track of contractors coming and going from units with a managed smart lockbox
  • Creating a soothing environment with music by adding bluetooth speakers in units
  • Manage funds and deposits for renewals and other services

More technology to promote efficiency is being unveiled every year. Property managers and owners can start the process of integrating smart technology into their multifamily portfolio to maximize efficient management. Consider easing in cautiously as you get acclimated to new processes, but with the rapidly growing Internet of Things, it will become unavoidable.

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