Renters Demand Smart Devices, Wi-Fi as a Requirement, not an Amenity

When it comes to what renters want in their homes, it doesn’t differ much from what homeowners want: lots of technology.

Smart, connected devices and fast Wi-Fi are options many renters want when they decide which condo, townhome or apartment to rent in the Phoenix area, according to those attending a multifamily roundtable June 26 at the Phoenix Business Journal, as well as others in the industry.

Phoenix-based Christopher Todd Communities is developing single-family, single-story rental communities that include smart-home technology in every Phoenix-area unit.

Phoenix-based Alliance Residential Co., in collaboration with Dwelo and GoogleInc., recently announced its largest smart apartment rollout and the Alliance SmartHome technology package planned across more than 25,000 luxury apartments nationwide.

Todd Wood, CEO of Christopher Todd Communities, said attracting millennials is all about providing the newest in-home gadgets.

“If we don’t provide that technology, we’re missing that group,” Wood said at the roundtable. “They want an improved living experience that includes the fastest Wi-Fi, voice activation and connected thermostats and locks.”

Christopher Todd Communities provides free Wi-Fi, internet speeds up to 1 gigabit, 24-hour technical support, keyless door and gate entry, doorbell cameras, smart lighting controls, motion sensors and smart thermostats.

The company has five communities in the Phoenix area, one of which is fully leased and four under construction, with many more in the pipeline.

Alliance offers a package with Nest thermostats, Google Home Mini, smart locks, light switches and wall outlets, and centralized Dwelo device controls.

A recent Alliance survey showed residents are looking for more automated and high-tech ways to gain entry to their communities and apartments outside of the traditional key and/or fob, said Scott Pechersky, senior vice president of technology for Alliance.

“The focus has been on introducing exterior access, which can be granted via smart applications as well as smart door locks, that can also be controlled remotely to allow easy access to guests of our residents,” Pechersky said by email.

Common area Wi-Fi, high-speed bandwidth and online resident portals once considered an extra amenity, are now required by residents to pay their rent or submit maintenance requests without a need to interact with leasing staff, Pechersky said.

“Alliance sees the future apartment home being a smart home that consists of a variety of best-in-breed products to give our residents that best possible experience,” Pechersky said.

Working with Google and Bluffdale, Utah-based Dwelo allows the developers to not just build a tech-savvy home, but one that won’t quickly become outdated, Pechersky said.

“This will help us future proof our technology by constantly having a revolving list of home automation appliances that meet our current resident needs,” he said.

Renters also want privacy and security technology to feel safer and check up on pets and kids when they are away, said Josh Hartmann, president and COO of Phoenix-based NexMetro Communities.

“Renters want to save on energy costs and they want Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats,” Hartmann said at the roundtable. “However, we’re always conscientious of the types of technology we’re putting in because technology changes often and needs to be updated.”

For Scottsdale-based Statesman Group of Cos., owners and renters in multifamily living are demanding two major components, said Alana Mann, president of Statesman’s USA division.

High-speed internet and community Wi-Fi and security tech packages are the two highest demands for Statesman, she said. The security technology includes entry door cameras, keyless door locks, two-way viewing, voice main entry callbox and electronic package concierge.

“Other components that may not be necessary, but viewed as an enhancement are bulk TV programming packages at a reduced rate and electronic thermostats and lighting control,” Mann said.

To view the article, check out the Phoenix Business Journal.