As the development pipeline continues to deliver wave upon wave of high-end luxury units, many older communities may find themselves in need of a tech upgrade to remain competitive. The following capabilities, or lack thereof, could make or break your prospective tenant’s decision to sign the lease.
Tenants expect a strong internet connection to support all of their devices and streaming activities. So, If your property doesn’t provide a seamless connection and phone signal, your tenants will be running for the door.
Internet is the No. 1 desired technology-based amenity, says Richard Holtz, CEO of Infinisys Electronic Architects.
Investing in fiber optics can be expensive and an installation headache, but it often provides the best signal. Another option is using routers throughout the building to provide a Wi-Fi signal, but cost will depend on the size of the building.
By installing routers throughout the building and providing Wi-Fi in all common areas, it makes residents’ living experience better, says Cindy Clare, president of Kettler Management. Kettler has not only focused on providing Wi-Fi in all common areas, but retrofitting spaces for a cyber-lounge.
“You don’t want to sit in your apartment all day,” says Clare, regarding the increasing number of teleworkers. By creating a separate space residents can use outside of their apartment to complete work, it saves them the trip to Wi-Fi-free cafes.
While a good internet connection may not be a reason someone moves to a property, a bad connection will definitely be the reason someone moves out.
Online Leasing, Payments, and Maintenance
Everybody wants things to be convenient, says Elaine De Lude, CMO at ROSS Management, and that includes all of the paperwork and financials for renting an apartment.
Online leasing is one of the best ways to get more tenants to sign on the dotted line. People may be moving in from out-of-town or bogged down at work, and making an extra trip to the leasing office to sign all the paperwork takes up valuable time. By simplifying the process, and making it mobile, everyone’s happier.
That’s also the case for online payments. Though the industry has been warming up to accepting online payments over the last few years, most apartments still don’t, which will turn away almost every tenant under 35. With the advent of online banking, young people likely don’t even own a checkbook. Not accepting online payments causes a bigger hassle in residents’ day-to-day lives, particularly for those who travel frequently and can’t get a check in the mail or to the leasing office on time.
“In this day and age, it’s kind of expected,” says Valerie Haselden, director of operations at Dominion Management Group, regarding online payments. The largest benefits, she says, are more on-time payments and a digital payment history that residents can access. While older residents may not care as much about online payments, millennials will likely give leasing agents a funny look if they ask for a check.
Maintenance requests are no exception, either. Digital maintenance orders make residents’ lives easier, while increasing communication between residents and the on-site staff. Problems are often fixed more promptly and can be ordered by importance. Most online software handling maintenance requests also gives property managers an easily searchable history of submitted requests to keep track of property upkeep, which comes in handy for keeping track of consistent problems that could be a sign of a larger issue.
These tech upgrades, while not flashy, will make a difference in residents’ experience. As Haselden says, “We’re not in the business of making it hard for people to live in our apartments.”
New smart-home technologies are attracting the millennial and tech savvy renters across the U.S. and including a few products in units will get prospective renters excited about your property.
It may not be on residents’ ‘must-have’ lists, but smart-home products can definitely tip the scales in your favor as renters look at similar properties; it shows them which properties are one step ahead of the competition.
Smart thermostats and lightbulbs are the main technologies entering the market space right now, but most options are cost-prohibitive. It may be another year or two before these products make a dent in the multifamily world, but it’s easy to start with minor items. Low-cost items like outlet covers with USB ports included are a great place to start.