A deep dive into why tech-enabled amenities are an absolute necessity - and which three areas you need to focus on.

In the fast-paced world of multifamily living, a paradigm shift is underway. According to Lincoln Property Company’s Multifamily Outlook 2023, “renter lifespan” is on the rise. But so is the level of scrutiny from prospective renters. Renters are dedicating 18% more time and taking nearly 40 steps to meticulously research multifamily homes before they even pick up the phone.

Meanwhile, apartment operating expenses continue to linger at more than 2x their pre-COVID norms. Approximately 20% of this increase in expenses can be attributed to turnover rates – despite historical lows.

So, how do property managers overcome the challenging task of cutting costs while simultaneously captivating and retaining discerning residents?

Technology-enabled amenities are taking center stage in response to these growing trends. And it’s no secret that residents now prioritize smart amenities over traditional offerings, like pools and covered parking lots. In fact, 75% of residents are willing to pay more rent, as much as an additional 15%, for smart homes.

Not only do residents want smart amenities, but so do staff members. They empower on-site teams to automate or even eliminate routine tasks. Thus, tech-enabled amenities have become invaluable allies in cutting costs and delivering impeccable services. But the question remains - which amenities move the needle and spark meaningful change in multifamily living?

Graphic illustrating the connectivity of devices within a smart apartment building and the greater city

Smart Apartment Buildings and Smart Home Amenities

Smart amenities are a widely discussed topic in the multifamily industry. You’ve probably seen a few headlines or heard chatter about them at networking events, but do you really know what it all means?

The official definition of a smart home, according to Coldwell Banker:

“A home that is equipped with network-connected products (aka “smart products,” connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself.”

Applying the same concept to a larger scale, smart apartment buildings are housing complexes that seamlessly integrate tech-enabled amenities, building automation systems, and property management into a cloud-based software system. This integration allows these components to communicate with one another and be controlled remotely via the Internet, resulting in a cohesive and efficient living environment for residents.

The three primary components of a smart apartment building are connectivity, community management, and tech-enabled amenities.

  1. Connectivity refers to the synchronization of devices and systems within the building. A 2020 survey of over 350,000 apartments revealed that more than one-third of residents reported having 5-9 internet-connected devices in their homes. This highlights the increasing importance of reliable connectivity in today’s technologically driven world.
  2. Community management plays a vital role, both from a data perspective and in fostering a sense of belonging among residents. By leveraging smart apartment technology, property management teams can gain insight into resident preferences and behavior.
  3. Smart, or tech-enabled, amenities are the heart of a smart apartment building, empowering residents with the resources they need to thrive—all at their fingertips through a smartphone and other personal devices. Modern amenities enhance the convenience and elevate the overall living experience for residents, whether it’s being able to print time-sensitive documents from anywhere or lower in-unit temperatures on the way home from work.

Now that we know what goes into a smart apartment building, let's delve into some examples of tech-enabled amenities that are reshaping the multifamily living landscape:

  • Keypad entry. Not only do they enhance security and convenience for residents, but keypad entryways also offer property management teams valuable data on access patterns.
  • Online rent payment. The days of paper checks and manual payment processing are becoming a thing of the past. Online rent payment systems streamline the rent collection process, benefiting both residents and property managers.
  • Wireless community printer. Your residents can have all of the perks of a printer with none of the hassle – staff, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, self-serve wireless printers are the most coveted amenity of 2023. With more remote workers, everyone wants access to a printer, but no one wants to own one, which means it’s an easy win for property managers.
  • Automated package management. With the rise of e-commerce, managing package deliveries efficiently has become a significant challenge for multifamily properties. Automated package management systems simplify the process and enhance resident satisfaction by sending notifications to residents as soon as their package arrives.
  • Smart lights. Residents can control lighting levels and ambiance with ease, optimizing energy usage and customizing their living spaces to suit their preferences.
  • Voice-controlled appliances. The integration of voice-controlled appliances adds an element of futuristic sophistication to residents' daily routines, making everyday tasks more enjoyable and efficient.
  • Smart thermostats. Energy consumption is a key concern for both residents and property management. Smart thermostats allow residents to regulate temperature settings remotely, promoting energy efficiency and cost savings.

By embracing these tech-enabled amenities, multifamily properties can position themselves at the forefront of modern living, catering to residents' evolving needs and preferences while streamlining property management operations.

There are other technological upgrades, like chatbots to ease the leasing and renting process or even the maintenance process, smart guest access, and more. In fact, chatbots and smart guest access are two very impactful and important additions that also represent the direction that the multifamily properties are going in. Let’s take a deeper dive into both of these amenities below.

Smartphone showing connection to smart devices like smart lights, smart thermostat, and more.

Chatbots for Maintenance and Leasing

AI is leading the way in many fields, and it is slowly expanding into multifamily property ownership. AI-driven assistants are revolutionizing the way multifamily property owners interact with residents, providing an always-available point of contact. For residents, this means being able to report maintenance issues or inquire about lease details at any time of the day, without waiting for office hours. The chatbots instantly acknowledge these requests and can initiate a process to resolve them, all by following your voice commands.

For property owners, the benefits are immense. Automation of routine inquiries and maintenance requests through chatbots reduces the workload on human staff, allowing them to focus on more complex and value-added activities. Property owners can focus on things that matter the most, allowing for an efficient allocation of resources while knowing that their residents' needs are still being heard and cared for. It's the perfect blend that leads to a more satisfied and loyal community.

Smart Guest Access

Safety and security are important for any community, and smart guest access systems are at the forefront of addressing these concerns in the digital age. This technology offers a sophisticated solution to the age-old challenge of managing who enters a property, meaning only approved visitors can gain access. Residents can remotely manage guest permissions, granting temporary access codes or digital keys via their smartphones. This eliminates the need for physical key exchanges and reduces the risk of unauthorized entry, as access rights can be easily revoked or adjusted at any time.

For visitors, smart guest access simplifies the process of entering a building or apartment, providing a simple and easy experience. A tool like a video intercom system can provide clear voice and video access, so someone can let you into the property. Connected to the doorway, this unique safety feature can help prevent stolen packages and keep residents safe at night. Property owners also benefit from a robust audit trail of entries and exits. Smart video intercoms are a major upgrade in terms of convenience, security, and efficiency for all parties involved.

Why Do Residents Want Tech-Enabled Amenities?

Residents crave more than just a place to call home—they desire an elevated living experience enriched with modern amenities. Just as a smartphone has become an indispensable tool in our daily lives, smart amenities are transforming the multifamily living experience by making it easier and more convenient. Moreover, with nearly 50% of residents spending 30% or more of their income on rent and utilities, they’re looking for ways to get more out of it.

The appeal of tech-enabled amenities to both residents and property management staff is multifaceted:

  • Convenience. Smart amenities, such as instant messaging for maintenance requests, align with these expectations. By streamlining everyday tasks and simplifying resident-staff interactions, everyone benefits.
  • Better Security. Safety and security are paramount concerns for residents. Security cameras, doorbell cameras, keyless entry systems, and advanced security protocols help residents feel reassured that they are well-protected. But what about cybersecurity? It’s important to shift thinking about security being strictly for the physical realm and consider digital vulnerabilities as well.
  • Greener Lifestyle. Residents are drawn to smart amenities that promote energy efficiency and eco-friendly practices. By leveraging smart technologies, residents can reduce energy consumption and waste, thereby contributing to lower utility costs and a greener lifestyle.
  • Empowerment. Smart amenities grant residents an unparalleled level of control over their living environment. By using their smartphones or personal devices, they can effortlessly manage lighting, temperature, and other aspects of their homes, creating a truly personalized living space. This empowerment extends to property management staff, who enjoy the ease and efficiency of using smart amenities to streamline their operations.

With roughly 85% of Americans owning a smartphone, smart amenities present an easy and effective way to delight residents. The integration of smart amenities is a natural progression in meeting residents' preferences and enhancing their living experience.

Not only do residents want modern amenities, but they report wanting ones focused on security and convenience. By offering sought-after features, multifamily communities can elevate their appeal and cater to the preferences of their tech-savvy residents.

One example would be a multifamily property coffee amenity, which serves as more than just a convenient spot to grab a morning espresso; it embodies a hub of daily simplicity and community building that significantly enriches the living experience. This small addition can transform the start of each day, eliminating the need to venture off-property in search of a caffeine fix, saving time and adding convenience to busy mornings.

Beyond the practical benefits, a communal coffee space fosters a sense of belonging and interaction among residents, encouraging spontaneous conversations and connections that might not occur otherwise. In today's fast-paced world, the value of community cannot be overstated, and spaces that facilitate genuine interactions greatly contribute to the overall resident satisfaction. This sense of belonging and ease of daily routines are key factors that can influence residents to extend their leases, making the coffee amenity a strategic investment for property owners aiming to boost retention rates.

The demand for tech-enabled amenities is a reflection of the changing needs and expectations of modern residents. As they seek a seamless, secure, and connected living experience, property managers have a unique opportunity to leverage smart technologies and delight residents with a living environment that is truly ahead of its time.

PrintWithMe being used by a resident with their smartphone

Advantages of Tech-Enabled Amenities for Property Managers and Owners

The integration of smart amenities in apartment buildings goes beyond enhancing residents' living experiences—it also brings substantial benefits to property managers and owners. One of the most significant advantages lies in the automation of various tasks, which streamlines operating efficiency and results in notable time and cost savings. In some cases, multifamily housing managers have reported saving over 7 hours of labor per week due to the implementation of smart amenities.

Smart amenities come with sensors that detect and report issues -- sparing property managers from the burden of manual checks. Whether it's a simple notification when a package has arrived or an urgent alert about a leak in a bathroom on the eighth floor, these smart sensors provide invaluable real-time information, enabling swift action and proactive maintenance.

Energy management is another area where smart amenities excel. Property managers can achieve significant energy savings by setting schedules for building lights, thermostats, and other smart features. Plus, staff members won't have to traverse the entire property to make changes. Smart thermostats and lights can also contribute to reducing utility costs for vacant apartments by an impressive 18% or more. Such savings can translate to tens of thousands of dollars per year, impacting a property's bottom line.

Furthermore, resident retention is a vital factor in increasing net operating income (NOI). The implementation of modern, tech-enabled amenities has proven to be a game-changer. Apartments that have embraced smart amenities have reported a remarkable 59% increase in renewal rates. This impressive statistic underscores the profound impact of smart amenities in creating a captivating and satisfactory living environment, encouraging residents to stay and prolong their lease terms.

As property managers and owners strive to optimize operational efficiency and enhance the overall financial performance of their properties, the integration of tech-enabled amenities proves to be a strategic and innovative approach. The seamless automation, real-time monitoring, and energy-saving capabilities of smart amenities not only elevate the living experience for residents but also pave the way for sustainable growth and increased profitability.

Happy renters excited to sign their lease for a smart apartment

Smart Tech and Amenities Don't Just Benefit Younger Renters or Property Owners, Either

It's a common misconception that the latest advancements in tech-enabled multifamily amenities primarily benefit a younger audience. However, mature renters and property owners stand to significantly benefit from the integration of smart amenities and tech tools, debunking the myth that these innovations are exclusive to the younger generation.

Smart home technologies, for instance, offer convenience and safety features that are universally appealing but particularly advantageous for older residents. Automated lighting systems can help prevent falls by ensuring that pathways are always well-lit. At the same time, smart thermostats make it easier to control the environment without the need to physically adjust settings, which is ideal for the comfort and ease of use for individuals with mobility issues. Voice-activated devices can assist those with visual impairments, allowing them to control various aspects of their home through simple voice commands.

For mature property owners, smart technology offers a streamlined approach to property management that transcends traditional barriers. Remote monitoring systems can provide real-time updates on property conditions, alerting owners to potential maintenance issues before they escalate into costly repairs. This level of oversight can significantly reduce the time and effort required to manage properties, making it an attractive option for older owners who may be looking for ways to minimize physical involvement and extend their property ownership.

You might be wondering, “How can property managers strategically select and implement the right tech amenities?” By understanding the specific needs of their residents and aligning them with the advantages offered by smart amenities, property managers can differentiate their properties in the competitive multifamily market.

secure lock in digital space to represent secured data practices

How to Choose the Right Amenities for Your Property

As the multifamily industry continues to evolve, the demand for tech-enabled amenities is at an all-time high. According to the National Apartment Association (NAA), 54% of owners and operators reported plans to ramp up smart-home initiatives back in 2020. Now, four years into this trend, it's essential for property managers to evaluate their progress in truly moving the needle.

The reality is that simply adding smart gadgets arbitrarily won't lead to a significant impact on your net operating income (NOI). However, if you keep your residents and staff in mind, you can strategically implement the right smart technology.

To optimize the advantages offered by tech-enabled amenities, focus on the following areas:

  1. Automation Tools. Smart technologies that offer automation can significantly streamline operations, freeing up staff time and reducing labor costs. Automated systems for reporting usage rates for community amenities, rent collection, and even maintenance requests can dramatically enhance the efficiency of property management processes.
  2. Smart Utilities with Sensors. Investing in smart utilities with sensors can significantly reduce expenses. As mentioned, smart lights and thermostats allow for notable cost reductions in electricity bills. Meanwhile, sensors that detect leaks can protect against pricey repairs or long-term property damage.
  3. AI-Powered Software. Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the world, and AI-powered software can be instrumental in improving the overall resident experience. Whether it's leveraging AI for predictive maintenance or optimizing resource allocation, these technologies can create a better living environment for residents.

To get the most out of your amenities, consider your property's specific expenses. Look for low-hanging fruit that can yield the biggest returns. For instance, if electricity and labor costs are a concern, consider implementing smart lights and thermostats throughout the building. If residents are interrupting staff on a daily basis over community amenities that are out of order, then consider tech-enabled devices, like PrintWithMe, that calculate when supplies are running low or out of stock, automatically order more, and offer easily accessible live support for residents.

Data Privacy: A Must when Vetting Smart Amenities

As technology continues to evolve, it's crucial to consider data privacy laws and the vulnerabilities associated with smart tech. Data breaches and privacy violations can have severe consequences, leading to financial losses and reputational damage for property management companies. Property managers and owners should be proactive in implementing robust data protection measures.

One key consideration is the type of data collected by amenities and how it is stored and utilized. Property managers should seek transparency from amenity providers regarding data collection practices, ensuring that residents' information is handled with the utmost care and only used for its intended purpose. Additionally, data encryption and secure storage protocols must be in place to safeguard against unauthorized access.

2 workers collaborating in a coworking space

Resident Retention

High-tech amenities can have a profound impact on resident retention. Although not all smart amenities directly drive resident retention, they contribute to creating a superior living experience, fostering resident satisfaction and increasing the likelihood of lease renewals. Consider your resident demographics and common areas used, like coworking spaces.

Although younger residents often have higher expectations for smart amenities, a surprising study found that 65% of residents in their 60s and 70s are also willing to pay more for modern amenities. This highlights the universal appeal of smart amenities, making it essential for property managers to cater to a diverse range of preferences.

To discern which technology-enabled amenities will have the most significant impact on your residents, try surveying them. You can get insights on which amenities are most likely to influence lease renewals by sending out a free Google Form. Provide residents with a curated list of potential amenities and ask residents to rate them.

The multifamily industry is witnessing a transformative shift as residents increasingly seek the convenience and security offered by smart amenities. As they spend a lot of income on rent and utilities, residents want to get the most value out of their living experience. Smart amenities present a gateway to a more connected, efficient, and elevated living experience.

Tech-enabled amenities encompass an array of features designed to cater to the diverse needs and preferences of residents. From keypad entry systems to encrypted wireless printers, these amenities remove mundane tasks, bolster productivity, promote sustainability, and empower residents to take more control over their homes. Moreover, the integration of smart amenities is instrumental in driving down vacancy rates, fostering resident retention, and ultimately boosting net operating income (NOI).

Smart amenities represent more than just a trend—they are the gateway to a modern, connected living experience that delights residents while optimizing operational efficiency. By embracing the transformative power of smart amenities, property managers can forge a path to long-term success, offering a living environment that is truly ahead of its time. By keeping residents and staff at the heart of decision-making, property managers can differentiate their properties and cultivate an identity committed to excellence in the competitive multifamily market.