In the last decade, the multi-family housing market has experienced prolific growth fueled in part by the economic downturn in 2008 and by subsequent changes to lending policies. Many people lost homes to foreclosure in the mid-2000s forcing them to rent. While job growth is improving, there are still a large percentage of people who lack required income and credit ratings to qualify for mortgages. In particular, young adults who would have purchased a home in past decades are now remaining in the rental pool for longer than ever before.
Demand for rental properties has been so incredible that in 2013, close to one in three new residential construction projects was a rental in a multifamily building according to census data. This is the highest new construction has been in multifamily since tracking began in the mid-1970s. The Census Bureau reports rental vacancies dropped to 7.3% in the third quarter of 2015 from a high of 11.1% in Q3 2009.
As the rental market continues to heat up and sustain growth, the responsibilities of apartment and property managers are multiplied. More tenants equate to more demands, increases in required maintenance, and an ever growing number of keys to manage. Traditional key management systems range from tools as archaic as a pegboard in the front office to more sophisticated bar code and computer-regulated checkout systems. But all control systems are flawed due to the fact that they are based on tracking physical keys. Even multifamily developments that utilize a physical master key system face shortcomings including higher costs and potential security risks.
The solution – throw away all the keys. Residential locks in apartment buildings and condominium complexes can be upgraded to smart lock technology, eliminating the need for property managers, maintenance staff, guests and even residents to have a physical key. While smart locks often look like traditional locks, they are controlled by smartphones providing greater flexibility for the tenant and property owner.
There are many benefits for the renter and the property owner relating to smart lock technology. A unit with hi-tech features like smart locks will impress potential renters the minute they approach the door for a walkthrough. Today’s most coveted renters are seeking properties with this type of modern convenience. Apartments looking to set themselves apart from the competition can also take advantage of the environmental benefits of smart locks and the responsible energy savings of smart heating and cooling systems. Smart locks can become the mechanism for managing temperature control in units rather than relying on manual adjustments or timed settings.
Throughout the term of a lease, renters will be able to experience many benefits of having a smart lock on their home including no longer having to dig in purses or pants pockets to get in the front door. Instead, once they are within Bluetooth range of their unit with their smartphone, they will be able to unlock the door with one touch to the lock. This unique convenience could be the difference-maker for a renter choosing between similar complexes.
Smart lock technology provides additional value in multifamily when leases are terminated. When a tenant moves out, property owners or managers no longer have to worry about getting the key back or having to re-key the lock. Property owners and managers can simply log in and deactivate a previous tenant’s smartphone access to the unit.
Just as technology is replacing physical wallets with digital versions of credit cards stored on phones, smart lock technologies can have the same impact on physical keys.
Phil Dumas is the founder and president of UniKey. For more information, please visit www.unikey.com.
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