Upgrade Multifamily Properties with the Latest Automated Technology

Home automation technologies can make properties more marketable to current and potential residents.

Amanda ParrilliBy Amanda Parrilli, Director of Strategic Business Development

The evolution of technology has helped managers streamline many of their responsibilities and reduce operational costs for properties of all sizes. Items such as utilities, lighting and door locks can now be controlled through smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices.

My family and I are planning a beach vacation, and the house we’re renting is secured with automated door locks. The property management firm gave me the access code ahead of time – it’s only good after 4 p.m. on the day we check in and expires at 10 a.m. the day we check out.

That kind of efficiency is hard to ignore, especially for larger properties where re-keying and other similar expenses require such significant investment.

Home automated technologies can also make properties more marketable to current and potential residents. Not only are they on-trend with younger generations, but they help more efficiently manage energy resources, thus decreasing utility bills.

The home automation market is growing and is expected to be worth more than $21 billion by 2020 according to a recent report by Transparency Market Research. The technology available for commercial properties, such as comprehensive control centers, will eventually be accessible to multi-family communities. But until then, property managers should take advantage of easy-to-install automated technology that can mitigate property maintenance and increase energy-efficiency. Automated amenities are relatively affordable and with some products as low as $50, there’s an array of options to choose from.

Consider Bluetooth-enabled door locks, which can be used to control doors, manage user access and track activity. Smart door locks save time, money and hassle both for property managers and tenants. Renters can grant access for service calls even if they’re not home, and property managers can dramatically reduce the cost of re-keying door locks, replacing lost keys and completely eliminate the need for drop boxes.

A programmable thermostat is another home automation product that can add a layer of convenience and save tenants 20 to 40 percent of their total energy bill. The thermostats allow users to set different temperatures at various times of the day. The easy-to-operate digital interface makes programmable thermostats user-friendly and simple to maintain. Advanced models can switch back and forth between heating and air conditioning during seasonal transitions or learn the unit’s needs and adjust the temperature accordingly. Property managers can modify thermostats when residents aren’t there or when a unit isn’t occupied. Programmable thermostats also can prevent pipe bursts during colder months.

Other smart technology can alert property managers if there is an issue, such as a water leak or smoke detector malfunction. This can help minimize damage and potentially save lives in the event that the tenant is home but is unaware of the issue. The Wink Smart Home Hub allows users to manage products from multiple brands on a single app, including the Rheem EcoNet Wi-Fi module, which can control select electric water heaters from anywhere and the Kidde Wireless-Interconnected Combination Alarm, a product that alerts users about fire, smoke and carbon monoxide issues.

Before installing automated technology, property managers should consider who will have access to which products and accounts, and when. Options include giving management access to all of the in-unit products, or adding the resident as an authorized user upon becoming a property resident. These issues should be addressed in leasing agreements to ensure that both management and the tenant have a clear understanding of the level of access each party has received. Additionally, devices connected through the internet also can pose a threat to security, so be sure to upgrade firewalls and security features, such as pass codes and theft recovery programs to protect the property’s privacy.

Amanda Parrilli is director of strategic business development for The Home Depot. She is responsible for leading Connected Home strategy and strategic partnerships. Parrilli rejoined The Home Depot in July 2014 after holding roles in a Home Depot leadership program from 2002-2006.