Apartment renter preferences have shifted in the past several years, driven by lifestyle changes brought on by millions rethinking where they work and live due to the pandemic as well as non-stop technological innovation.
A new study indicates that tech-enabled home and community amenities now top the list among features renters can’t live without. One big driver: 45% of renters surveyed say they work from their apartment homes several times a week in 2021, up from only 19% in a 2019 survey. For many apartment residents, smart technology isn’t just nice to have—it’s a requirement to do their job.
Here are ten tech-enabled innovations transforming real estate technology, making renters’ lives easier, and adding efficiency for property management teams in 2022—and beyond.
1. Leasing Chatbots
The rental housing industry has widely embraced the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of chatbots to assist in the leasing process. Chatbots are software applications that reside on a rental community’s website and act as an interactive tour guide, answering visitors’ questions, providing information on the community, and scheduling tours. Chatbots bring an “always on” level of service to a community’s website, so prospective renters can get the leasing information they seek even when the office is closed, or team members are busy with other customers. Additionally, the use of a chatbot can reduce the administrative burden of answering repetitive inbound inquiries from prospects and free up the leasing team’s time for higher-value activities.
2. Maintenance Chatbots
Chatbots are also being deployed to add efficiency and improve service delivery surrounding resident maintenance requests. Using a chatbot, residents can easily notify the community staff of their maintenance need—no matter the time of day or night. A service-specific chatbot can also provide information and instructions to help residents troubleshoot their maintenance issue, and possibly eliminate the need for a service technician or vendor to respond.
3. Tech-Enabled Self-Touring
While some communities were utilizing a self-guided tours in their leasing process pre-pandemic, in 2020 the practice became widespread out of necessity. “Practically all companies began low-tech, adopting a ‘key on a stick’ approach (with automated door codes replacing the physical key where available,)” according to technology researchers Dom Beveridge and Donald Davidoff. But in time, self-guided tours have become more sophisticated for many, with a focus on the full ‘leasing journey’ to include initial engagement, lead tracking, and touring options. Expect to see continuing innovation in this area.
4. Smart Access
Today’s renters may never know the misery of arriving home in the middle of the night after an exhausting business trip only to discover they lost their keys somewhere along the way. Keyless access eliminates the headaches and frustrations of key management. Residents can unlock their building, apartment home, amenities, and common areas with a mobile key right from their mobile device. Good riddance to the days of the midnight lock-out call to maintenance.
5. Smart Guest Access
Similarly, keyless access solutions make it possible for residents to let in their guests, whether it’s their dog walker or dinner delivery, when they’re not home. Communities using smart access control can also empower residents to give remote access to staff for maintenance repairs. Residents are alerted when visitors come and go, providing both convenience and peace of mind. The use of smart locks both satisfies residents and improves efficiency for maintenance technicians and property management teams.
6. Smart Thermostats
Renters are as enamored with the Internet of Things as homeowners are and many desire the use of smart devices in their apartment homes. One especially popular tool is the smart thermostat. In fact, 70% of respondents in a recent survey said they were interested in or wouldn’t rent without this feature. Thanks to rising inflation, cost-savings is top-of-mind for today’s apartment resident. Internet-enabled thermostats allow renters to control their living environment easily, conveniently, and remotely. Better regulation of a home’s temperature can drive down residents’ utility costs, making the smart thermostat and extremely attractive feature for renters. For community owners and operators, the addition of smart thermostats to public areas also allows for precise temperature control, reduction in energy usage, and cost savings.
7. Smart Amenities
Property technology, or proptech, innovation isn’t just for market rate communities. Student housing residents also desire high-tech solutions to make their lives convenient and connected. Student housing providers are adding various community and in-unit amenities to meet the changing needs of their resident population. Popular in-unit amenities include Bluetooth speaker shower heads, smart TVs, and digital washers and dryers. Community amenities such as digital fitness centers and tech-enabled study rooms featuring connected printers and smartboards can be found in many college town rental communities that cater to the student population.
8. Package Management
Managing the volume of packages that arrive for apartment community residents has long been a challenge for rental housing operators. It’s become more difficult with the increased use of e-commerce, and the COVID-19 pandemic has driven the volume of packages arriving to apartment buildings even higher. Accepting and storing packages in the leasing office is no longer a viable option. Property management companies turn to a variety of technologies to help manage what the National Apartment Association calls “every day…Parcel Armageddon.” Solutions include package lockers, dedicated package rooms, and third-party drop-off services—all powered by a smart resident app.
9. On-Demand Access to Essentials
What if residents could find whatever they want or need without having to leave the apartment community? On-demand access to home essentials, for sale or for rent, is now a reality for some communities. Miniature, tech-enabled storefronts are popping up in leasing center common areas to offer residents the opportunity to buy or rent, via a smart app on their phone, items ranging from snack foods to vacuum cleaners to video game consoles. Rental housing providers can curate the offerings to meet the precise needs of their renter profile.
10. Rental Payments via Cryptocurrency
According to a recent article in the Rental Housing Journal, “Millennials, the bread-and-butter tenants of multifamily property owners, are embracing crypto en masse. Multifamily owners and operators need to take note and think about accepting cryptocurrencies.” Some rental housing operators are doing exactly that by accepting cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) for payment of rent and other fees. For forward-thinking operators, accepting crypto is a way to meet residents’ desires for more flexibility and choice when it comes to payments. Furthermore, embracing payments via crypto offers one more option to encourage on-time payment from renters.
Sparkling swimming pools are nice. Fabulous fitness centers are expected. Dog wash stations are beloved by pet owners. And pickleball courts are sure to win over certain prospective renters. All of these apartment community amenities have appeal, but the data shows that today’s renters are more motivated by practicality. They’re in search of a living experience that makes their personal and work lives simpler, more comfortable, and easier to manage. Innovative proptech checks all of the boxes, while also adding efficiency and added revenue opportunities for owners.
This article was originally shared on Multifamily Insiders, authored by Livly's Founder and Co-CEO Alex Samoylovich. Subscribe to stay connected to all our latest multifamily insights!
2022 NMHC/Grace Hill Renter Preferences Survey Report, https://www.nmhc.org/research-insight/research-report/nmhc-grace-hill-renter-preferences-survey-report/ and https://gracehill.com/blog/remote-work-driving-resident-preferences/
What Is the Internet of Things, Amazon: https://aws.amazon.com/what-is/iot/
Pandemic Pain: Dealing with Packages, NAA: https://www.naahq.org/pandemic-pain-dealing-packages
Paying Rent in Bitcoin? Why Forward-Thinking Multifamily Operators Should Consider Cryptocurrency; Rental Housing Journal: https://rentalhousingjournal.com/paying-rent-in-bitcoin-why-forward-thinking-multifamily-operators-should-consider-cryptocurrency/