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Getting Past Your Smart-Home Fears

If owners can get past their reservations and do their due diligence, smart-home technology offers real benefits.

Smart-home technology is easily available for apartment owners, but Josh Erosky, Director of IT Security and Building Technology at UDR, says many are still timid about investing in smart home features.

“Most apartment owners are waiting for everyone else to make smart-home investments,” Erosky on the panel at NAA’s Maximize Conference earlier this month in Austin, Texas. “They are looking at the technology’s basics, such as a smart thermostat and a hub.”

Security concerns and gaps in training must be addressed, however real retention and revenue benefits can come to those who invest in smart homes.

“I’m trying to provide the infrastructure that will be there for 10 years,” Erosky says. “And that lets the apartment home morph with the trends and resident’s preferences,” Erosky says.

Knowing what will stand the test of time is not easy.

Jay Minchilli, Executive Director at JP Morgan Asset Management, says the biggest hurdle is future proofing.

It is not just Millennials who want these smart-home touches, according to Minchilli. Empty-nesters are also adopting technology.

One thing that gives apartment operators pause about smart-home products is security. Erosky says that those concerns can be allayed by finding the right vendor. He says the due diligence process can take a long time, but there are reliable suppliers.

"You have to think about that when you choose a vendor for any type of IoT devices for your building,” Erosky says. “If they are not taking security seriously, don’t talk to them.”

Concerns about security and privacy, have prevented UDR and Hunt Investment Management from monitoring the resident usage data that their smart-home products provide.

“Some smart locks have imbedded cameras, which give the impression your that the landlord has a video recording of you when you leave and enter your home,” Erosky says. “I personally don’t want the leasing office knowing that information.”

Apartment owners that do decide to invest in smart-technology often are paid back within 12 and 24 months, Erosky says. “Most residents love this [technology] and are willing to spend more money than you would expect on smart homes,” he says. “There are a lot of residents, especially in A class assets, that are willing to spend money to have the right smart home experience.”

In markets with a lot of new development, Jim Dobbie, Executive Vice President for Hunt Investment Management says smart-home products can help older communities compete. He mentioned a 1990s-era property in Portland, Ore., where Hunt installed vinyl plank floor and smart-home products and had success. “The residents seemed to like it,” he says.