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Disruptive Technology Is Shaping A New Future For Multifamily

Technology is having a profound impact on nearly every industry, including the multifamily market, where developers and operators are experimenting with what technology can bring to their properties.

The Strategic Solution's Kendall Pretzer speaks with Gables Residential CEO Sue Ansel

“There have been lots of conversations about Airbnb, autonomous cars, disruptive technology, the Internet of Things [and] delivery drones,” said Gables Residential President and CEO Sue Ansel, who recalled when the Atlanta-based multifamily developer, which has 31,000 apartment units in the U.S., began putting iPod docking stations into its properties.

“It was really cool for about three years until Apple changed the configuration of the iPod docking station,” she told the crowd at Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference South in Dallas last week.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to future-proof a community against fast-changing technology. The goal is to provide services and technology that allow employees and residents to improve the quality of their lives, Ansel said.

Today, Gables is installing electric car charging stations at its properties.

“If you are building today, the biggest mistake would be not building a space for ride-share pickups and drop-offs,” Ansel said.

The full-day event covered a variety of topics affecting multifamily, including affordable and workforce housing development and financing, value-add plays, construction and development trends and an in-depth look at the multifamily market in Texas. Among the topics was disruptive technology in property management.

Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference South

IOTAS Vice President of Marketing Matt Greene said the company’s smart-home technology platform is designed specifically for the rental market. It is in about 40 U.S. and Canadian markets — both new construction and retrofits.

Smart apartments go beyond thermostats and door locks, reaching into many other areas, such as leasing, Greene said.

Automated, online leasing options likely will increase in the future, he said.

“A lot of people want to look at apartments … after they get off work and their kids are asleep,” he said.

Technology can allow for ID screening and building access without the need for a leasing agent on-site. Interested renters can make a deposit immediately via a smartphone app.

“You are going to see efficiency coming along [in leasing] because you can now streamline what’s being said, how it’s being said, who it’s being said to and customize that experience strategically across all your properties,” Greene said.

Augmented reality and 3D tours will redefine how properties are shown and more people may decide to rent without physically visiting a property.

IOTAS Vice President of Sales and Marketing Matt Greene

Property managers and owners are also exploring how they can use technology to capture data that explains lifestyle patterns.

IOTAS is beta-testing ways to monetize data via the supply of household goods. It is testing a program that will tell a manager how often a resident is running the dishwasher or washing machine. An app will automatically fulfill an order for more dishwasher or laundry pods when the resident starts to run low with retailers that will pay for access to the residents.

Data such as how often residents are using their own cars, ride-sharing services such as Uber or are riding scooters could ultimately drive broader discussions and even city regulations, he said.

“You could start leveraging your local city ordinances on how many parking spots you really need in your property as opposed to what they are mandating. Those are aspects we are working on.”

There is still much to be learned, but the multifamily technology field is exciting, said Ben Waltzer, head of real estate partnerships and strategy for Google Fiber.

“[Technological] disruption is happening today, and it is often happening a lot quicker than we all recognize or realize,” he said. “It seems to be weaving into a lot more of the multifamily industry.”