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© 2019 by JOSHUA TREE CONFERENCE GROUP

The Business of Multifamily

Smart Home Access

“Ultimately, the resident will turn to the staff and say: ‘Just show me.’ Nobody wants to read the box.”

 

So said Gardner Rees, a Senior Managing Director at Greystar, as he explained the drawbacks of offering overly complicated smart home technology in multifamily properties.

Ali Hussain, the Chief Operating Officer at Latch, echoed that sentiment.

Less is more,” he said. “Adding more is often worse than being simple.”

The comments by Mr. Rees and Mr. Hussain reflected a theme that repeated throughout the exciting final panel of MTEC ‘18. An ever-expanding array of smart home technology is available on the market today. But multifamily owners and operators have a duty to be judicious in choosing which companies they will contract with around their properties. The consequences of not doing so? Headaches, lawsuits -- and potentially complete ruin.

I

an Davis, a partner at law firm Davis Craig, emphasized that point strongly. While he admitted to being just as much of a technophile as his fellow panelists, coming from the legal side of things, he said that liability issues relating to IoT devices “keep me up at night.”

“There are no definitive answers,” Mr. Davis said.

“Who’s going to fight these marginal fights? My dream scenario is an agnostic system so people can run whatever they want, but where I’m not making selections for them. I’ve given them the mechanism by which they can operate, however they want.

 

“People keep asking me questions from 60 different scenarios, and they want me to put the answer in writing. I don’t know how to address all these scenarios fully besides telling you to create a written document. It’s business to MDU to consumer. I never feel comfortable handing down a definitive answer to a hypothetical in an email. Because there isn’t one.”

 

Mr. Hussain of Latch and Demetrios Barnes, who is the Chief Operating Officer of SmartRent, observed the similarities between their companies and roles. Both Latch and SmartRent provide automated solutions to help owners and residents track and manage door locks and access points.

Heather Wallace, Senior Vice President at the Sares-Regis Group, moderated the panel. Throughout the hour, she weighed in with her own experiences fielding vendor pitches and navigating smart tech.

“I never want a vendor to go directly to my client base in an attempt to integrate,” she said. “It creates friction that won’t be well-received by the greater project. I make myself unusually accessible for that reason. My mobile number is on LinkedIn, and my email is out there. Those of us who are accessible to the vendor community will give clear, straightforward answers.”

Mr. Rees agreed with Ms. Wallace’s assessment. The panel as a whole acknowledged that smart technology still has a halo around it -- a “wow factor,” as they called it.

“It will be for the next couple years at least before smart home becomes the washing machine,” Mr. Rees said. According to his experience, several years ago, renters got used to seeing in-unit washers and dryers. They decided it was something they couldn’t live without -- even if they had to pay a stiff premium for it.

 

Mr. Rees said he envisioned certain smart home technology items following that trend. He said it was too early to tell which ones -- locks, cameras, thermostats, sensors -- would be the millennials’ highest priority.