Digital Services, Systems Attract Renters, Buyers in Ailing Economy

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorDallas–High-tech amenities like broadband, security and energy controls positively influence the sale and rental of multifamily properties, new research from Parks Associates indicates. Multifamily Residences: Opportunities for Digital Systems and Services, a new primary research project of executives managing multifamily properties in the U.S., found nearly 50 percent are seeking new electronic products and services that will differentiate their properties in an increasingly competitive market.”The multifamily market is a huge opportunity for service providers and electronic systems manufacturers, especially as the industry faces a troubled economy and restricted spending,” Bill Ablondi, director, Home Systems Research, Parks Associates, tells MHN. “New multifamily construction will account for more than one-third of all new housing starts in 2009, up from less than 20 percent in 2005. Managers are competing to attract tech-savvy Gen Y renters, and technological amenities are proven assets in differentiating properties.”In particular, in-unit broadband service is becoming a “must-have” feature, with 60 percent of multifamily units offering some form of high-speed Internet. Security systems and monitoring services, electronic locks, and energy/utility management systems are also becoming more common in order to increase the speed of sale or rental of an MDU property.“The goal in doing so for developers and property owners and managers is to save money, charge more rent or find renters for their units fast,” says Ablondi. “We see this trend in the Western and Southern regions of the U.S. as well as predominantly in new communities. The main concern for an owner/manager with an old property is the turnover which is also the reason old communities will often not have these facilities.”Parks Associates surveyed 500 multifamily executives, representing an estimated 145,000 new starts and over 2.6 million units across all major markets in the U.S. The research firm also conducted in-depth interviews with 25 leading MDU executives on opportunities for service providers and manufacturers.