Panelists Lucas Haldeman, founder & CEO of SmartRent; Jennifer Staciokas, senior vice president of Marketing, Training & Pricing at Pinnacle Property Management Services; and Gunti Weissenberger, president of the Westover Cos., gathered at the National Apartment Association’s Apartmentalize conference in Denver to discuss 10 innovations that will change the multifamily industry.
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These innovations are “not just innovating technologies, they are disrupting technologies,” according to Ellen Thompson, founder of Results Repeat, who moderated the Thursday morning panel. Mobile devices, cloud computing, social media and blogging have only been incorporated in the multifamily industry within the last 10 years, and now every company needs to utilize these technologies to be successful. The panelists agreed that new technological innovations coming will change the game even more.
So what are these 10 innovations that will change everything?
- Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented and virtual reality are already beginning to be used by some companies to assist with touring prospective renters. 3D tours can be done online, and self-guided tours can be done on-site, eliminating the need for model units and reducing on-site staff time.
- Autonomous Vehicles
When it comes to autonomous vehicles, “it’s not if, but when,” according to Staciokas. Autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for parking at communities and make existing space 62 percent more efficient. Again, it is not if, but when autonomous vehicles will be widely used, so it makes sense to start thinking about how you will use the extra land you will have once the majority of your parking space becomes obsolete.
- Battery Power
As battery power improves and gets more efficient over time, more people will make the transition to electric. According to Haldeman, adding charging stations for electric cars in apartment buildings can increase average rent for those using the stations, make a sustainability statement by providing residents with the latest green amenity, and ultimately set you up for the future when these charging stations are no longer an amenity but a necessity.
- New Money
Cryptocurrency still has a lot of limitations to overcome, but players like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple can, and will, disrupt the industry. According to Weissenberger, cryptocurrencies can eventually be used for an alternative rent payment option as well as peer to peer payments.
- Artificial Intelligence
According to Haldeman, 15 percent of American adults have used a chatbot, even if they weren’t aware. Artificial intelligence will only get smarter, and there are plenty of uses for the multifamily industry, such as managing buildings’ operations or using facial recognition to unlock common areas for residents.
- On Demand/Gig Economy
People expect flexibility and a quick response in our current “there’s an app for that” culture. One effect is more demand from the “home office” residents, and apartment design and amenities will need to respond. “It looks like the den is back in favor,” added Weissenberger.
- Social Media as Customer Service
A company’s social media presence is more important now than ever, and there are some key practices to follow. “Replay as quickly as possible on social media,” said Staciokas, “and be authentic and genuine with your responses.” She also stressed the importance of knowing when to take things offline. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘what needs to live in the virtual world, and what needs to live in the physical world?’”
- Smart Homes
Many people have voice assistants, and the next step is to integrate these into everyday building amenities. Smart homes with predictive maintenance capabilities can catch problems in real time, making it “a great customer service element and huge cost saver,” according to Haldeman.
- Voice Search
In Staciokas’ opinion, voice is the ultimate mobile experience. By 2020, half of the internet searches will be done by voice, so in order to be successful, you need to talk like your customers and ask the questions your customers would.
Thompson predicts that between 25 and 35 percent of all leasing transactions will happen without a leasing agent in 10 years due to automation. Sensor-based systems will eventually request maintenance and order parts. Continued automation will free up a lot of employees’ time, giving them the ability to focus on making connections with people and closing.