How smart home technology elevates marketing and streamlines leasing

Last modified on September 7th, 2022
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It has been said that marketing and leasing are the lifeblood of property management. After all, effective marketing is what brings prospective renters to a showing, and signed leases are what pay the bills: taxes, utilities, and management. So how can you optimize these critical property management operations? 

Interactive site maps

Today, the search for a new home begins online. Whether a renter winds up looking at a rental unit on an internet listing service, a property management company’s website, or a property website, chances are they’ll be shown a basic floor plan that makes it difficult to visualize their new home. To really set your property and available units apart, you’ll need to elevate the way these are showcased. Interactive site maps, like those offered by Engrain, do just that.

According to Engrain Founder and CEO Brent Steiner:

“Prospects want to look at specific apartments rather than just floor plans. They want to look at apartments the same way they look at [single family] homes, versus hotel rooms. It’s about content and context.” 

What does Brent mean by content and context? When he mentions content, he’s talking about giving the prospective renter everything they need to know about the unit and then putting it into context, all before seeing it in person. This context includes the location of the apartment in relation to amenities, green spaces, highways, etc. — helpful for high-rise, urban towers but critical for suburban, sprawling garden apartments.

Smart home technology

Prospects will naturally want to know what amenities the property offers. A dog park is great. So is a fitness club. But if you really want your property to stand out, consider turning your apartments into smart homes.

What’s a smart home, you ask?

Who better to provide a definition than Mitch Karren, co-founder and Chief Product Officer at SmartRent, a home automation and smart building platform. According to Mitch, a smart home is “a home that’s equipped with several components, smart devices, such as locks, thermostats, lighting controls and sensors that are all connected to the internet, online and can be remotely controlled by a phone, a computer, as well as voice controls.”

Think thermostats that can be turned up or down remotely, refrigerators that can compile real-time shopping lists, parking sensors that provide occupancy data and violation alerts in real-time, and door locks that enable remote-controlled building and unit access. It sounds futuristic, but the future is now, and this is the very technology that companies like SmartRent are putting into multifamily communities.

Smart home technology is typically viewed as a way to optimize maintenance and the overall resident experience, which is exactly why it’s an asset for marketing teams. A listing that touts smart home technology is sure to bring people to showings, because according to Cyrus Claffey, founder of remote video access control provider ButterflyMX, it’s what the modern renter expects: 

“We have a computer in our pocket that’s connected to the internet. That really opens up a whole world of possibilities. You can basically do everything from this: listen to music, do your banking, buy a plane ticket, date, as well as control doors in a building. We live this on-demand lifestyle. We want everything now.”

So, armed with everything a renter needs to know about the unit in question, they’ve then taken a virtual tour of the building and unit (Engrain consolidates virtual tours onto their interactive site maps for a truly seamless experience) and are now ready to see the property in person.

Let’s pretend the prospective renter opted for a self-guided tour. After all, modern renters are opting more and more for self guided tours (Apartments.com’s Q2 2022 Renter Survey found a 63% increase in renters who prefer self-guided tours of properties). There are tools that significantly streamline the self guided tour experience.

Remote access control

Entering a building or unit should be simple, but “traditional” hardware can sometimes complicate matters when embarking on a self-guided tour in an unfamiliar property. Have you ever been unable to open a lockbox to retrieve a brass key? Human error and cold temperatures make this more common than it should be. Sometimes, even if the key is retrieved and inserted into the lock, a special “jiggle” is required to secure it in place and allow the door to be opened. Either way, it’s not a good way to start a tour. For Mitch Karren, a former realtor, similar situations were all too common. He remembers the days of running through 500-unit buildings just to make sure keys were in lockboxes so he could show apartments: 

“If I’m trying to show five units, just getting those keys alone, not only took me upwards of 15 minutes to a half an hour to try to find the right lock boxes, but it was a 50% chance that the key would actually be in there. It was around then when I started just thinking, ‘how can I make this better?’”

This is where companies like SmartRent and ButterflyMX enter the picture. When entry is seamless and cloud-based, prospects can begin to imagine the time-saving, stress-reducing possibilities. According to Mitch: 

“If your friends or family, your dog walker, or a cleaning service need to get access, you don’t have to leave a key outside your apartment unit or home anymore. And lastly, being able to monitor remotely. So if you left your door unlocked and you went to work, or you went to the grocery store, you can have peace of mind because you can lock it remotely and know at any given time the status of your door lock.”

Being able to remotely “control every aspect of the doors in a building,” as ButterflyMX’s Claffey puts it, offers a major competitive advantage in converting leads to residents.

If all the technology tools we’ve just spoken about pique your interest, you’ll be pleased to know that each platform is available to AppFolio users as part of AppFolio Stack™. But these aren’t your typical point solutions. Each integration included in AppFolio Stack is the result of a close collaboration between AppFolio developers and carefully vetted partners. Essentially, integrations compatible with AppFolio Property Manager are tailor-made to work on our platform. Compare this with a truly “open platform” where anyone and everyone can build an integration. The user experience with these types of point solutions is often glitchy, error-prone, and inefficient. 

You can discover more about our approach to integrations with AppFolio Stack here, and check out the episode of The Top Floor where we sat down with Cyrus Claffey and Mitch Karren for an insightful exploration of smart home technologies.

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