Today’s renters have higher expectations than ever before. Pools, gyms, coffee shops, and other community amenities that were once seen as the main attraction for drawing in prospective residents are becoming the status quo. Real estate developers and building owners are now beginning to look at ways to advance their digital realm in order to differentiate themselves from the competition. With the array of benefits from both a management and renters perspective, large-scale developers are adding home automation into their apartments, and in turn, are setting the bar for all future developments in this space.
According to a recent study from Entrata, the allure for renters is becoming less about the traditional space and more about technology add-ons and smart amenities. This includes devices like smart lights, locks, thermostats, music, and TV, along with a central way of controlling them via voice activation or remotely through an app on their smartphone. This is a notable change in the market and will require altering development, marketing, and training efforts from developers and owners as new residents begin to demand to live in a smart, connected environment.
In the United States, approximately 35% of the population lives in rental units, a group which consists of mostly younger individuals living in urban areas. The demographics of renters are unlikely to change, so developers need to consider how they’ll attract Millenials and Gen Z customers moving forward. This is a tech-savvy demographic, where 86% of renters already use a smart device of some kind. Gen Z in particular (those born after 1997) has never known a time without the internet and therefore have always been a part of connected environments. If building owners are looking to be competitive, incorporating smart technology into their developments is key to meeting the demand of these generations.
Renters want their tech to give them control over their whole living space, rather than just having it perform simple tasks, like telling them about the weather or time of day. Of those surveyed, 57% said they would be willing to pay over $240 more per year for customized home automation in their apartment, and roughly 1 in 4 said they would pay more than $370 per year. The smart apartment has had a slower evolution than that of the single-family home, but it appears the market is on the cusp of a major change.
Why Renters Want Automation
Home automation is making its way into apartments, but what are the benefits? Renters tend to be drawn to three main smart devices: locks, thermostats, and lights, all of which can be routed through one central hub, such as Josh, allowing for simple and easy control of the entire apartment.
According to Entrata’s study, 1 in 5 residents report feeling unsafe in their communities. Therefore it makes sense that residents place a lot of value on smart home technologies that provide security, peace of mind, and awareness to the space around them. Smart locks and security systems allow residents to remotely lock and unlock their door, monitor status, and activity, and receive notifications about lock activity.
These devices allow for easy temperature adjustment via voice or app control as the renter goes in and out of their apartment. Smart thermostats can also adjust themselves according to past preferences and the time of day. Using recognition patterns, smart thermostat companies like Nest claim that owners see on average a 10–15% drop in utility cost. Renters, therefore, are starting to see the obvious benefits of managing comfort, while minimizing costs.
Smart Lighting and Outlets:
While lights and outlets may not provide quite the same energy-saving benefits as heating or cooling (although they do save at the margins), they provide a pleasant response to voice commands, such as when going to bed or heading out for the day. With these and many more devices, home automation can make life easier on the renter by learning daily patterns and supporting them to consistently make the space truly feel like their own.
Why Owners and Developers Want Automation
It’s not just the renters who are excited about the advance of automation into the rental space, building owners reap the benefits as well. With many of today’s apartment buildings offering similar amenities, owners are constantly looking for ways to differentiate. By giving residents complete control over their living space, owners both stand out and combat the competition of new developments. Naturally, buildings with automation are particularly attractive to tech-hungry Millennials and Gen Z residents, providing prospect security for the future.
Besides the ability to draw in a larger resident pool with a higher willingness to pay, owners can see significant operational savings and an increased ability to make strategic decisions. With automation, owners gain the ability to control access, vacant spaces, and utilities all from a single remote dashboard. Owners will also have the option to better examine resident patterns and expenditures to make more informed decisions while also finding ways to improve the quality of life for their residents.
Just the Beginning
Major developers have quickly taken notice of the benefits automation can provide to both owners and renters. Many are establishing deals with home automation companies, and as a result, are setting the bar for all future developments. Tishman Speyer, a large NYC developer, recently decided to put smart speakers in all of their 1,871 apartments. For their 120 high-end apartments, called the “Penthouse Collection”, they are bringing in more processing power and installing full automation which allows for all the perks mentioned above, including lighting, outlets, thermostats, security and more.
On Thursday, June 28th, Alliance Residential Company announced the launch of its “Alliance Smart Home” technology package which will be installed in more than 25,000 luxury apartments that range across 19 states and 33 metropolitan markets. This package consists of a smart speaker a thermostat, and a variety of smart locks, light switches, and wall outlets. President of Alliance Resident Company, Jay Hiemenz explained his reasoning for the major development of his $10 billion portfolio, saying, “Home automation in single-family homes has been trending for years now — and our residents desire that same high-tech home system in an apartment. We created Alliance SmartHome to deliver the features our customers want while addressing the unique challenges of multifamily integration to provide a great customer experience and establish a platform for future enhancements in technology”.
The deals from agencies like Speyer and Alliance have set the precedent for apartment developments moving forward. In the coming years, this transformation of the multi-family housing sector to a more automated and controlled environment will become more apparent as owners realize the benefits and respond to rising competition and resident demand. As future generations seek a technological and connected space, the solution for apartments lies in automation.
This post was written by Avery at Josh.ai, where he is spending the summer with the Business Development team. Originally from Boston, Avery moved out to California to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he studies Environmental Science and Chemistry. In Avery’s free time you can find him on the ski slopes or chasing his next backpacking adventure.