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How To Manage A Multifamily Building — And Residents’ Expectations — With An IoT Solution


Rents aren’t the only thing rising in 2022: Renters’ expectations are growing, too.

In an April report, projected that the national median monthly rent could exceed $2K by August. When residents are asked to pay so much for an apartment, they expect something more in return than just four walls and a key, said Lee Miller, vice president of sales for the STRATIS Smart Building Suite for RealPage.

“They expect complete and seamless connectivity,” Miller said. “They expect their internet to work everywhere in the building, whether they are in their unit or at the pool.”

Tenants have always demanded many other things of their landlords, including secure building access and reliable elevator service. But increasingly, they want to have some measure of control over all of those things through a single app.

This means reliable and seamless wireless connections are more important than ever. Miller said landlords heard more complaints than ever about slow WiFi service over the past two years after many people started working from home. 

“WiFi is becoming almost the most important amenity, and even in some cases people feel like it's a utility,” he said. “If the water goes off, that's one thing. But if you take somebody's internet away from them, it's the end of the world.”

Miller might be exaggerating — slightly — but building owners and managers are getting the message. Consumer technologies market research firm Parks Associates reported that more landlords are offering their tenants smart amenities that allow them to seamlessly control their HVAC, lighting and more from their devices, in addition to streaming Netflix with 4K resolution. 

Parks Associates said that 34% of multifamily property managers it surveyed offered internet-connected or smart home devices in at least one of their properties. At the same time, more than one-third of tenants reported they were willing to pay an additional 15% in rent to cover the cost of smart amenities.

“Property managers and owners who have installed smart home solutions report significant benefits from these solutions,” Parks Associates said in a white paper. “The top benefits include increased rental revenues, improvements in operating efficiencies and an increased ability to attract and retain residents.”

Miller predicted more owners will get on board with smart home solutions, such as by offering their residents property-wide Internet of Things connectivity operated with a single app like STRATIS. He said this approach provides a seamless experience for users, whether they are on their phone, ordering dinner through their virtual assistant or granting access to a visitor. 

“We coined the phrase ‘from sidewalk to sofa’ to mean that I can carry on an uninterrupted phone conversation all the way from the street to my unit with a mobile device and it doesn't matter where on the property I am,” he said. “Having WiFi throughout the entire property also means that if there's an incident or an emergency, there is no dead spot in the building and you are always connected.”

The RealPage Smart Building Suite was built through the acquisition of multiple best-in-class companies, Miller said. They include STRATIS for building-wide control and Whitesky for managed WiFi.

Property-wide IoT is freeing for building managers, too. Unlike the days when an internet service provider ran cables through the building and then enjoyed a monopoly on their use for the next 10 years, STRATIS’ building-wide network infrastructure, which includes the smart WiFi solution enabled by Whitesky, allows landlords to connect to multiple platforms such as Amazon Echo or Google Home.   

“The WiFi backbone gives you the infrastructure for everything else you need to manage the building,” Miller said. “Rather than having to add a new resident into multiple systems, it's a seamless move-in. As soon as they walk into their new apartment, their internet is on. The mobile app is already up and running so they can access all the doors and their thermostat with their device.”

IoT-connected devices also allow building managers to more fully embrace trends such as hoteling and sustainability. For hoteling in particular, landlords can easily take control of things like a newly vacated apartment’s thermostat so that energy isn’t wasted. Then, they can easily transfer control of that thermostat and other features to the new resident.  

“You can essentially move people in and out like in a hotel because there's a seamless process,” Miller said. “All you're doing is resetting everything in the property to be ready for the next resident.”

An IoT-based system also enables buildings to better manage utility usage to avoid waste. For instance, he said, building managers can identify and quickly take action if the AC is left running when the fitness room has been unused for hours. Water leaks can also be identified and fixed sooner.

Miller said that while a seamless IoT connection can help landlords operate more efficiently, the main beneficiary of smart multifamily technology is the tenant.

“It's about the experience of residents, who now can pay rent or book an amenity such as a shared event room from a single app,” he said. “We don't want a resident to have to jump around to multiple apps to be able to navigate the property. A big piece of this technology is really just improving that resident’s experience.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and STRATIS. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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