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Future of Living podcast recap: Future of access control in multifamily

 

Over the last decade, access control has progressed from card access at perimeter openings to a convenient solution for interior doors. From commercial buildings to K-12 schools, we’ve even seen this in multifamily properties, where the needs of commercial and residential blend to create a truly unique market for access control. The next natural progression is from brass keys and plastic cards to our smartphones.

 

Robert Gaulden, director of Allegion multifamily channel strategy, joined the Future of Living Podcast to discuss mobile credentials and the future of access control in multifamily. Here’s a glimpse at their discussion, and you can listen to the entire episode

 

"Everyone’s solving a different portion of the pie. And I think if we can pull that all together, then you can create that seamless access."

-Robert Gaulden, director of Allegion multifamily channel strategy

The multifamily experience: Mobile credentials and strategic integrations

We live on our phones these days. It’s understandable…we can do almost anything and in a more convenient way. Why pull out your day planner if you can add a meeting to your phone’s calendar, which will remind you 15 minutes before? Smart phones are already starting to replace our wallets with various payment applications. Day planners, MP3 players and CDs, alarm clocks and more have been replaced by mobile devices. Next they will replace our keyrings.

 

Mobile credentials fit nicely into smart apartments and smart buildings, which have grown in popularity in recent years. In reality, they are capable of much more than a standard credential. The way the mobile device interacts with various integrations makes it a powerful tool. It allows users to gain access to buildings seamlessly while property managers can efficiently dispense virtual visitor management credentials. These can be used for a temporary visitor like a delivery person or a vetted service like a dog walker. Beyond that, mobile credentials can produce more data about how you’re running your facilities.

 

“I’m a big believer of building ecosystems of technology partnerships,” Gaulden said in the podcast. “Everyone’s solving a different portion of the pie. And I think if we can pull that all together, then you can create that seamless access.”

 

Multifamily properties need a perimeter access control system with perimeter locks as well as locks for resident unit entries. Beyond that, properties need to consider the entire journey from that perimeter opening to the residence unit—and how that journey differs for a resident, staff and guest. This could involve multiple doors, an elevator, stairs and common spaces. Then of course, all of this needs to meet building code requirements

 

Once properties start pulling in different partners to create a better, holistic experience, then we will really see where the industry can go, according to Gaulden. To get the experiences that the property and residents really want, it’s going to take an ecosystem.

 

Today, Gaulden says we’re seeing two different buckets in the multifamily market. On one side there is the group that are testing the basics, simply moving from mechanical to electronic deadbolts. Then there are properties using technology for an experience. It’s a more complex integration pathway, but it will achieve the experiences both properties and residents desire. Overtime, as the first group becomes more comfortable with the technology, the hope is that they will move up the food chain and become one of the advanced adopters.

 

Closing advice

 

Robert closed the podcast with advice to property managers. He said when it comes to investment, the first step is often moving from mechanical to electronic. The benefits are clear: key management, rekeying, greater security and risk mitigation. Plus there are ROI benefits.

 

The next thing is to develop a credential strategy. After that’s in place, the next thing to consider are partners and technology that can enhance your access control experience across the property. Then finally, look at what new experiences and services you can offer residents to stand out. How can you provide more through the technologies you’ve integrated?

 

This is a brief recap of the conversation. Check out all of Robert’s advice in the Future of Living Podcast: The Future of Access Control. Or learn more about Allegion’s multifamily solutions.
 

Looking ahead

NAA’s findings showed that 54 percent of owners and operators planned to ramp up smart-home initiatives in 2020. As more residents become comfortable with smart technology in their units, it will become the new norm. They are going to expect the same efficiency and convenience when they look for future apartments. Properties that aren’t evolving with the market now will already be behind for these tech-savvy renters.

 

Mobile transformation

Multifamily properties will soon be positioned to boost the experience for their residents through mobile adoption. In addition to accessing their own apartment, residents will be able to grant temporary access to visitors. This sets the stage for services to occur in a convenient, safe and secure way.

 

The rise of the gig economy proves that residents want services like house cleaning, pet services, food delivery and more. Multifamily properties that make it easy for these to take place will catch the eye of potential renters.

 

In the current state, mechanical access leaves residents uncomfortable letting these services into their apartments. If smart technology is applied, these hesitations can be overcome. Residents want these services, but they need the resources to make them accessible. Mobile makes services more attainable and secure because temporary access can be easily granted, monitored and revoked.

 

Smart locks with mobile credentials form a new multifamily experience, ultimately generating more revenue. Your property might be able to charge more for that essential piece of in-unit service and package delivery.

 

Overcoming hesitations: The impact on NOI

Adding smart features arbitrarily won’t have a dramatic impact on your net operating income. But it can when done strategically, with operating costs and tenant retention in mind. Two questions to consider when evaluating smart technology:

1. How can smart technology lower my operating costs?

2. Can I add new features and amenities so I can attract new renters to my building?

 

Here are some of the ways smart apartment features can positively impact your income.

 

Operating costs
 

Leak detection
 

Smart sensors can detect leaks early, which can significantly mitigate risk and reduce the costs of ripping out damaged materials. Additionally, leaks often introduce mold, which any property manager knows presents major risks.

 

From water heaters to bathroom fixtures, leaks can be costly if undetected. Take a look at some stats from the Water Defense Fund.

 

Energy savings

Using smart thermostats to remotely control temperature unit-by-unit is more efficient than sending someone around to check each one manually. Apartments that aren’t being used can remain at 62 degrees, then adjust to 70 degrees during showings.

 

Similarly, you can adjust lights and use sensors throughout the property to reduce costs. Like hotels, smart features in the apartment are designed for energy savings when the space isn’t occupied.

 

Tenant retention

The experience residents receive plays a big role in keeping your properties operating efficiently. You know that it’s best to keep a resident versus finding a new one. Can a smart apartment package encourage residents to stay in the unit another year or two? It might if the resident finds that the smart devices improve the living experience. Many in the industry are betting that better experiences will allow them to retain a customer longer. It’s up to you to figure out what features you can add to make the experience valuable to your residents.

 

Role of smart locks

Locks have traditionally allowed properties to lower operating costs by mitigating risks. Every time someone moves in or out, that’s a cost to the property. On average, a locksmith visit costs $153 and rekeying typically runs between $50-100 per hour. During busy months when people are moving in and out around the same time, these costs add up. With a smart lock, this can all be done electronically.

 

Smart locks can show if someone was in the apartment besides the tenant. For example, if a watch goes missing from a tenant’s unit, sometimes properties have to offset the risk of being accused by offering a replacement, free amenities or rent. An audit report from the connected smart lock can show if anyone from the property management team entered the unit.

 

This is true beyond unit entry, as seen in this Multifamily Executive article, The Benefits of Combining Smart Locks and Cameras at Apartments. It discusses how, together, smart locks and cameras help improve security at a property and give operators more visibility into amenity use, access logs in case incidents do occur and the occurrence of unsanctioned sublets.

 

Mobile credentials take this a step further. Instead of residents loaning out physical keys or fobs, they can easily request temporary access for guests through an application. Through that, you have visibility and control over who is entering the property.

 

Unattended showings

As mobile adoption ramps up in multifamily, unattended showings will likely gain traction. We saw this in single family as well. Using smart locks, potential residents can tour a property and unit without having a property manager there. It’s easier to schedule and doesn’t require the same staffing. You can repurpose staff to work on more important things instead of waiting for someone to show up for a showing.

 

While this could be done with a lockbox and mechanical keys, it is possible that visitors might share the punch code or copy the key; there is no audit control. Similarly, it’s possible with a keypad lock, but this requires the code to be changed frequently to ensure security. If the visitor shares that code, your property loses audit control again. There are flaws that can be designed around, but a smart lock that uses a mobile credential that is texted to the induvial and only activated during specific hours is ideal.

 

Mobile access is just the beginning of the story. If the lock is integrated with a smart apartment, the entire experience becomes more efficient and personable. The renter is expected at 2 p.m., so 30 minutes prior the apartment “wakes up,” meaning it adjusts the lights, cools or heats the apartment, plays soft music to set the mood. This experience is going to feel vastly different than walking into a chilly, dark apartment.

 

New revenue opportunities

Will adding smart features allow your properties to charge more in rent? Similar to improving tenant retention, the idea is a more attractive offering will improve profitability. It comes down to the experience these devices bring to life.

 

NAA’s “Technology in Apartment Living: Are We as Smart as We Think?” report also found that 58 percent of residents found smart home technology to be beneficial. The top reason reported was it makes their lives more efficient. Convenience and control were also highly noted by participants, “with residents in some metro areas willing to pay up to $35 more per month in rent for amenities that offered some sort of convenience factor.” A 2018 Entrata study claims this figure is closer to $20 for a smart-apartment package, while another found that resident might be comfortable paying $30 for devices like smart locks. Regardless of the report, it’s clear that residents are interested in properties that have smart devices in the offering, and they are willing to pay for those.

 

Smart locks ranked in the top five features residents are willing to pay more for, along with security cameras and smart thermostats and lighting, according to the NAA findings. Keyless entry has grown in popularity from higher ed campuses to multifamily buildings. Smart locks improve security, encouraging peace of mind for the resident because they know they can monitor the status of their entry door. It also improves convenience, which, as stated above, is important to residents today.

 

As smart-apartment devices integrate into more systems and third-party services, the living experience becomes more seamless and efficient, which allows properties to charge a premium.

 

Summary

Smart locks and smart apartment technologies allow properties to offer enhanced experiences and take advantage of new ways of working, like unattended showing and remote monitoring. These things can contribute to leases increasing, which means more revenue from operating at a higher efficiency. It also contributes to lower operating costs because staff can be used in new, more efficient ways.

 

To learn more, visit multifamily.allegion.com. I’d like to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts on smart apartments and smart locks on LinkedIn.