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Renters in America

A Survey Suggests Renters Are Ready for More Smart-Home Tech

Paula Munger, AVP

Industry Research and Analysis, National Apartment Association

Renters want more smart-home technology and owners had better take note in order to keep up with a changing industry.

Technology affects rental housing now more than ever, and the industry is moving toward smart homes according to a recent survey from the National Apartment Association (NAA) on behalf of Maintenance Supply Headquarters.

NAA conducted a nationwide survey in the latter half of 2016 asking participants to identify which of 43 listed amenities had been upgraded or added in the past two years.

Five of the amenities listed could be loosely defined as “smart,” including high-speed internet, community-wide Wi-Fi, alarm systems, energy efficient appliances, and, broadly, smart-home devices.

Only energy-efficient appliances scored in the top 10 for most popular unit amenities, and smart-home devices placed 18 out of 22 for unit-specific amenities.

Advances in technology are challenging to keep pace with, but they do make operations and residents’ lives easier and more efficient. As the technology becomes more common, owners and operators will increasingly embrace it as a way to attract, retain, and better serve residents.

Presently, owners aren’t using smart-home technology to drive revenue or optimize operations. Three out of five owners and operators surveyed classified their smart-home initiatives as “basic,” with 62 percent of those focused on technology that benefits individual units such as smart thermostats, smart locks, lighting, and online rent payment.

When asked to rank seven factors that had the greatest impact on their smart-home tech initiatives, costs to implement were viewed as a major hurdle, followed by incompatible technology and choosing the right technology that won’t become outdated in the near future. Forty-one percent ranked “future-proofing” in the top two challenges of smart-home tech.

Findings from the resident side of the survey mirrored those of the owner and operator group, showing they were more likely to have used basic smart-home features, most commonly security cameras, voice-command assistants, and online lease renewal.

Approximately 58 percent of residents found smart-home technology to be beneficial and an overwhelming majority — 84 percent — who don’t have smart-home tech said they would like to see such features implemented in their communities.

Resident respondents named efficiency, convenience, and control as the greatest benefits of smart-home tech. They were most interested in thermostats and security cameras while smart lighting and door locks ranked high, too.

Interestingly, more than 30 percent of residents indicated interest in robot vacuums, for which some were willing to pay up to $10 a month more, and smart appliances and doorbells.

Some residents weren’t comfortable with smart-home features, citing privacy as the number one concern, followed by cost and an intimidating learning curve.

Owners and operators who have not added smart-home features will find themselves falling behind. Waiting for a future-proof technology is fruitless if the industry continues evolving as it has during the past several years. Adding basic features like smart thermostats and resident portals goes a long way toward attracting and retaining residents.

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