Snap Session: Prioritizing Tech Choices—Which Tech Options Do Residents Value Most?

How to select technology that attracts and retains residents. Expert insights from Chelsey Schlaub, Lincoln Property Co.; Brian Brantley, RangeWater Real Estate; and Vivian Metzer, Vivint Smart Home.

From thermostats and remote entrance controls to access control, smart home technology options are a way of life for multifamily residents. But as with all technology, residents’ preferences are constantly evolving. That presents major challenges for the operator: assessing the true value of that technology in recruiting and retaining residents, and then choosing the right technology to offer at each community. This year, operators and managers must also address the new issues related to the COVID-19 crisis.

Chelsey Schlarb

Chelsey Schlarb
Business Manager
Lincoln Property Company

A panel of experts addressed the topic during a recent MHN Snap Session, “Prioritizing Tech Choices—Which Tech Options Do Residents Value Most?” Joining MHN for the 30-minute webinar were Chelsey Schlarb, business manager at Lincoln Property Co.; Brian Brantley, director of information technology at RangeWater Real Estate; and Vivian Metzer, regional vice president of sales for Vivint Smart Home.

The capacity to offer self-guided tours during epidemic-related lockdown periods has turned out to be a lifesaver, Schlarb told the audience. Tying directly into a system provided by Vivint Smart Home provided much-needed flexibility. Lincoln agents were able to unlock and lock units homes remotely, track prospects’ entrances and exits, and answer visitors’ questions in real time.

“(Self-guided tours) have allowed us to have a lot more flexibility with our scheduling,” Schlarb said. “It really became a tool during the whole COVID-19 situation but it’s definitely something we are not going to stop doing.

Smart and Safe

Vivian Corley Metzer

Vivian Metzer
Regional VP of Sales
Vivint Smart Home

Property managers find smart thermostats help save on utility costs, particularly when it comes to managing vacant units, observed Vivint’s Metzer. Moreover, it is an affordable amenity, since owners can offer a few base applications and generate ancillary income through add-ons. For example, Vivint’s Element Thermostat employs advanced occupancy detection to automatically adjust temperature. The thermostat also features an integration with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant for voice-activated controls.

Security-enhancing devices are another category with plenty of resident appeal. “I am able to show them the features and what it can do and how it can keep an eye on the home for them and alert them if there is unauthorized access,” said Schlarb. “People want to feel safe in their home. If you feel like your home is of value, if you feel like your home is safe, then it is somewhere you feel secure and you’re going to stay there longer.”

Brian Brantley

Brian Brantley
Director of Information Technology
RangeWater Real Estate

Keypad locks and video doorbells are popular with residents, reported RangeWater’s Brantley, whose Atlanta-based firm is a diversified investor, developer and real estate manager. Also in high demand: smart lighting and the capacity to connect with voice-activated devices from Amazon and Google.

In March, Vivint introduced Doorbell Camera Pro, which uses artificial intelligence to detect packages and discourage theft. When the camera detects suspicious activity, the camera triggers a flashing light and a warning tone to ward off a possible thief, and sends a  smartphone notification. Other Vivint products include smoke detectors and a remote-control app.

In selecting smart home technology, the ability to integrate with property management systems and the system’s potential to remain relevant five years into the future should be a top priority, Brantley said.

“The key is flexibility, and a lot of these first systems that came out were very locked into the (suite) of products that they would support,” he said. “Luckily, Vivint and some of the other ones are very good at keeping an eye on what is coming down the pipeline and making sure they integrate well.”

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