Remote Access, Meet Multi-family

Today’s technology and electronic access control are changing the way residents enter their apartments. Renters are just as likely to come and go using an electronic fob or app on their smartphone as they are a traditional key.

But these access systems are also changing the way apartment companies do business. For example, while a traditional apartment tour might have meant a leasing agent accompanying a prospective renter to the unit, today, that same tour may be self-guided, with access provided through a temporary electronic fob. And while a dedicated concierge may have been the sign of an upscale luxury apartment community five years ago, a virtual concierge today, working from a central location and tied in through a live video feed, may serve multiple properties.

At a recent National Multi Housing Council Optech Conference and Expo, self-guided tours and smart locks were two of the top rated new technologies. Apartment pros said they’ve seen a lot of success with self-guided tours, with traffic converting at approximately the same ratio as with in-person tours. Smart locks, of course, help apartment owners and operators save money by eliminating the need to rekey a lock once a resident moves out, too. They also allow residents, once they move in, to grant remote access to their apartments for service calls.

“Residents can use an app from their smartphone that allows their home to be unlocked at a specific time, on a specific day, to get their online groceries delivered,” says John Krumme, president at Kansas City-based Cam-Dex Security. “That could extend to the dog walker, too.”

But the advantages of these technologies go beyond benefits to residents. For example, issuing a temporary access credential to prospects so they can take self-guided tours of an apartment not only frees up staff time, it actually can give apartment companies insight into which amenities and features of a community interest that prospect the most.

“Once you issue that credential, whether it’s through a fob or a smartphone, you can see any of the places they accessed along the way,” says Brad Aiken, portfolio leader, commercial electronics at Allegion. “You can see whether they actually entered the gym and walked around to view all the equipment, or whether they just glanced in for a moment.”

Outfitting a property with an electronic access control system gives similar insights once prospects become residents, too. For instance, operators using these systems say they can gauge resident use of common area amenities, such as a common room theater or a pet grooming station, by looking at the access logs that are automatically generated for these systems.

Another advantage is the ability for firms to service several properties within a given geographic region with fewer staff. For instance, a single individual may be able to serve residents at multiple communities after hours within a given geography for lock outs and access to other areas, such as package rooms.

“That could be one person managing a collection of properties,” Aikin says. “It might take the form of an off-site concierge, where the front desk is actually five states away. By combining that with a video feed so that individual can see the resident is who they say they are, they can admit them into the property or mail room to pick up a package after hours.” Aikin notes that type of centralized service also ensures quality control and uniformity in the level of service residents receive.

By leveraging remote and electronic access control using today’s technology, apartment operators can get more out of the staff they have, while utilizing the finite amount of time they have to serve apartment residents in today’s competitive multi-family landscape.

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