Emerging technologies can do more than dress up an apartment community and make it more eye-catching for prospective residents. Things like smart-home devices and artificial intelligence (AI) can improve operations and boost net operating incomes, said a panel of industry experts during the Get Smart: Top Tech Trends for Better NOI session at Apartmentalize 2019.
Taylor Wiederkehr, Director of Innovation Services for BH Management Services, said his company's communities have seen a $25 to $45 lift in monthly rents when apartment homes are equipped with smart-home features.
Garin Hamburger, Senior Director of National Property Marketing for Pinnacle, noted a similar impact, saying units in his portfolio have experienced rent increases of up to $35 per month when they feature a basic smart-home package that includes a thermostat, a hub and some outlets.
Both emphasized the importance of performing due diligence on smart-home providers.
"We need to know the provider is going to be around [for the long term]," Wiederkehr said. "Also, what is their support like? Is it overseas? Is it U.S.-based?"
AI is another technological tool with a powerful potential to improve operations, according to Wiederkehr and Hamburger.
Pinnacle is using AI to respond to and nurture email leads, Hamburger noted. This ensures prospects get a quick and thorough response to their messages while allowing associates more time for other important responsibilities.
"Email leads are one of the most time-consuming leads that agents have to nurture," Hamburger said.
The use of AI has increased Pinnacle's email lead conversion rate from 2 percent to 7 percent, according to Hamburger.
Speaking about the impact of solutions like AI and self-guided tours on staffing levels, Wiederkehr said, "We're not implementing to get rid of jobs. We're doing it to empower our associates and allow them to concentrate on what they should be doing. This is not something to replace people but to empower them."
Electric cars and autonomous vehicles are two growing technologies that also will impact apartment operators in the coming years, the panelists pointed out. The former will require the installation of more charging stations while the latter will enable communities to have fewer parking spaces. When asked to pinpoint the technology that owners and operators should dig into in the coming year, both Wiederkehr and Hamburger pointed to the internet of things (IoT).
"I think it's the general umbrella of IoT and creating efficiencies for our owners and our residents," Hamburger said.
Wiederkehr added: "IoT will be the foundation for the future of multifamily."