As amenities and services have risen in scale and sophistication in recent years, the apartment industry has increasingly prided itself upon the “high touch” personal service it offers residents. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 and resulting necessity for social distance has highlighted the many risks associated with this approach.
A focus on safety
As the pandemic has progressed, owners and operators across the country have made resident safety their top priority. However, business imperatives have meant that package management, tours, move-ins, and other processes have needed to move ahead as well. Different technologies, products, and services have been key to allowing apartment firms to continue to provide support to their residents and maintain safe and secure communities.
Before COVID-19, self-service products and other smart tech devices were already playing an increasingly important role, but the pandemic accelerated their use. Self-service package pickup, smart locks, transit screens to monitor transportation options, and software applications residents use to schedule services and amenities are only a handful of features that are being more broadly integrated into communities across the industry.
Updating basic functions
Just as important as resident services, apartment firms found they needed new ways of working through basic functions such as payment collection and leasing. Many communities finally moved fully to online payments, which residents have long requested. In fact, according to the 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Associates Apartment Resident Preferences Report released in November 2019, just 7.3 percent of respondents said they preferred to pay their rent by paper check; the rest preferred payment apps such as PayPal or Venmo, debit cards, and credit cards.
A large number of firms have quickly leaned into automated leasing experiences with self-guided and virtual tours as their centerpiece. Apartment firms rushed to shore up their online 3D photography and video tours, even investing in virtual touring technologies such as Matterport. Still others armed leasing teams with iPhones and iPads, encouraging them to record their own walk-throughs.
It’s far too early to predict the final impacts of COVID-19 on the apartment industry, but it is clear that it has accelerated the use of new technologies and services that will likely go on to play more significant roles in the lives of multifamily communities across the country.