With 32 percent of U.S. broadband households owning at least one connected device, smart home technology continues to capture consumer imaginations.
As a property manager interested in using and offering this technology, you will need to consider the resources that will be necessary to support, maintain, and manage various devices — as well as all the information they generate.
The Promise of Technology
Smart home solutions can certainly be a boon for managers and residents alike. For example, smart locks can prevent typical resident access issues and allow managers to reduce the time spent issuing, returning, and replacing keys. These smart locks can provide significantly tighter security and eliminate the need to change locks when renters move out (saving an average of $153 to hire a locksmith per unit).
Automated sensors can perform predictive maintenance and save thousands of dollars in damage. The average water damage claim is about $7,000, so a water sensor that can instantly detect and notify you about a leak or automatically shut off a valve can save thousands of dollars. HVAC analytics can also let you know when individual units start to underperform, which enables you to address performance before it becomes a problem.
Everyday smart devices like thermostats that adjust to predetermined levels and lights that turn on and off according to a schedule can keep unoccupied units comfortable and welcoming. Unattended showings allow allow potential tenants the convenience to view a property on their own time, saving your staff time and mitigating lost productivity.
Existing smart home technologies have augmented the resident experience in countless ways already. But managers who start spending on new technologies without a plan in place will quickly find that the return doesn’t match the hype. Here’s how you can avoid that scenario:
1. Don’t think of a smart home as just a resident amenity.
Yes, residents love a smart thermostat that saves them 15-23 percent on their energy bills or connected locks that let them know when a significant other (or dog walker) came in the house — but those are not the only benefits. Home automation technology also provides asset protection for owners and operational benefits for property managers. Prioritize platforms that have the potential to maximize time and resource savings for you, the property manager.
2. Do your homework.
Be sure to do some upfront research on platforms, services, and hardware before you buy anything — this will save you headaches down the road. Aside from hardware and services offered, be sure to ask about their data security and data privacy practices, property management software integrations, and support capabilities. It's a good idea to test devices and systems first.
3. Consider how you want to connect your smart home tech.
If you’re leaning toward Wi-Fi or broadband internet, keep in mind that it might not be legal for you to require residents to connect a device to their personal router or Wi-Fi. Relying on consumer-grade networking equipment and encryption standards leaves your network security vulnerable while also introducing reliability concerns; according to a recent report from Cisco, 43 percent of households experience at least one internet outage per month. Frequent outages and security gaps mean critical systems can be offline frequently, which could put you and your residents in an inconvenient or even dangerous situation.
Smart home technology isn’t on the way — it’s already here. To avoid potential problems, take your time to consider why you want smart technology and how it fits into your business plan.
Sean Miller is president of PointCentral, a subsidiary of Alarm.com and the leader in enterprise property automation solutions for long-term and short-term managers of single-family and multifamily rental properties. Outside of having a lifelong passion for technology, Mr. Miller has almost 10 years of professional experience with B2B and B2C IoT/home automation technology, having previously led global sales and business development for Wemo, Belkin’s home automation business unit, and launched Mobile Link, a cellular-based internet connectivity service for generators, at Generac Power Systems.