The Connected Building and Smart Apartment: Where do Landlords Start?

By now, most multifamily owners have been pitched, or seen, just about every connected device that can go inside and outside apartments and buildings. There’s a long list of hardware and software to choose from, all with varying price points, promises, and integrations. The question multifamily owners are faced with is: where do we start? There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer, but depending on what you’re looking for, the answer could be simpler than you think.

If you’re looking for the most utility: Start with smart locks.
Owners save on re-keying costs (by removing physical keys) and increased security with locks that create an auditable record of access. Residents, owners, and leasing agents (when units are vacant) can provide and use codes that limit access for specific times, people, and vendors. No more lock-outs for residents, key management issues for managers, and increased security implies locks have the most day-to-day utility. Be careful of paying ongoing monthly fees for the software, though.

If you’re looking to reduce operating costs: Start with smart thermostats.
Smart thermostats make HVAC and energy consumption more efficient based on the weather and physical presence. Reduced energy use = reduced energy bills for residents and/or owners. Energy hits the bottom line in ways that increased operational efficiencies don’t, so a clear ROI is easy to calculate here.

If you’re looking for a “wow” factor: Start with a comprehensive smart apartment platform such as Zego
(Note that we are not investors in Zego but Laramar is piloting the technology). These platforms enable most devices to integrate with a user-friendly, single customizable interface. Smart blinds, adaptive music and lighting, locks, thermostats, and pretty much anything that uses Z-wave technology can be added to the platform and unlock the full potential of a smart apartment and connected building.

Most owners like to “try before they buy”, and an upfront investment in a comprehensive smart apartment/connected building package may be prohibitively expensive. Starting small allows owners and managers to acclimate to the new technology, but it must be done with the future in mind: if an owner decides to expand devices and service offerings, anything added must integrate with existing selections. This requires an understanding of hardware-software compatibility and pricing options. We see a lot of hardware companies that charge recurring software fees, and those fees add up quickly – often to the point where break-even is longer than an owner is planning on owning an asset. With so many variables it’s important to start smart and price accordingly!

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