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Give These a Try

Forward-thinking apartment developers are including today’s latest tech devices in audio, energy and common areas.

A year or two ago, featuring iPod docking stations for residents in their apartment homes was the trendy, affordable new amenity that many thought would appeal to today’s tech-savvy resident. But like most fashionable technology, docking stations’ popularity has waned.

Trammell Crow Residential (TCR) is among the apartment developers that have moved on, and now instead include USB outlets. 

These outlets are friendlier to a wider range of the latest technology devices, especially the current and most-popular smartphone models. The aforementioned docking stations could be used only with Apple products.

“Our residents are telling us that USB outlets are what they need to charge their devices,” says Sue Vickery, Managing Director, TCR, Austin, Texas. “And they don’t just want them in one central location. They want them in the kitchen, the bedroom and elsewhere. So we only install one jack per apartment. And we’re installing USB outlets where the phone jacks used to be. Most devices can be charged with a USB cable, so we don’t see them as becoming outdated any time soon.”

Another technology-based amenity TCR is installing is wireless (Bluetooth) speakers. Vickery says approximately 20 percent of the residences in some TCR new developments have them.

Generally, at least one is a model unit so that the leasing professionals can highlight them during tours. The speakers cost approximately $750 to $800 to buy and install, Vickery says.

“Bluetooth is recent technology, but we feel that it’s established,” Vickery says. “The response has been positive. We charge a premium of $35 to $100, based on unit type. Residents aren’t resisting this. This is excellent ROI.”

Keeping with innovative technology, TCR has also invested in keyless entry and Web-based resident notification systems, she says.


Programmable Thermostats

AMLI is slowly introducing Nest thermostats into some of their apartment homes. Nest is a sophisticated, programmable thermostat that tracks residents’ temperature preferences and that can be operated remotely via Wi-Fi.

Ken Veltri, Senior Vice President, Asset Management, says AMLI typically spends $50 for a thermostat. In general, Nest thermostats cost about $200 to buy and install. AMLI is testing Nest thermostats at a community in Glendale, Calif. There, he says, the device has been received favorably.

Veltri says AMLI is considering installing Nest at another Southern California development, and that the decision will be based on the cost/benefit that comes with the extra $150 per unit in cost.


Hook-Ups in the Study Lounge

As for providing advanced-technology needs, Virtus Real Estate Capital’s Director of Acquisitions Kevin White says he looks for ways to build innovation into the community, especially its common areas. He says it used to be that every property had to have a computer lab: “The kind you might have seen in grade school, with six or seven computers in work stations with access to a free printer.”

Today, Virtus is creating meeting rooms. “These might include installing one or two computers, in case a student’s computer isn’t working,” White says. “But what we see is that most students have their own computers and tech devices. So instead they prefer larger meeting rooms that include USB outlets, HDMI hook-ups, white boards and projectors so the students can study in groups—not individually.”

White says how a property is wired is critical: “Having a reputation for providing weak Internet is a tough image to shake.”