Internet connectivity has never been more vital for multifamily properties amid the surging needs of renters. “Multifamily Builders and Property Managers need to be thinking about what the next generation of renters are going to expect”, says Dish Network’s GM of Business Development, Nate Block. Gen Z, who has been the generation to grow up not knowing what a world without iPhones look like, has the expectation of seamless connectivity wherever they are. Block points to a fun stat that says 40% of Gen Z say working Wi-Fi is more important than working bathrooms. “Joking aside, it really does show how important technology is to them– it’s what they are used to and comfortable with”.
Gen Z is not the only demographic that sees connectivity as an important asset in the rental community. According to recent surveys, 92% of residence want highspeed internet. 75% want that preinstalled and 69% want community Wi-Fi. Understanding the growing needs of renters in the next 2-5 years and planning to meet or exceed those needs will be the key to attracting and retaining residents, but what trends will stay and therefore be worth the investment in connectivity upgrades?
Cutting-the-cord on cable seemed like it was not completely possible only a few years ago but with new options in streaming services, people are reducing services from companies like Comcast who reported 480,000 customers dropping video service in the 2nd quarter. “It’s a trend that I don’t think we’re going to see changing”, Says Amy Westwood, president of Celebration Community. “It used to be the triple play we talked about with voice, video and data and now we are talking about a big consistent ubiquitous pipe of internet service that people need to enjoy their video content as opposed to the traditional linear cable TV.”
Wi-fi connected devices are becoming increasingly popular with everything from a tablet to a coffeemaker. Residents are reporting owning several connected devices with over half owning 1-4 connected devices and another third owning between 5-9. “When you’re thinking about a network, it really is more than just this wired port in the wall– it’s about that seamless property-wide connectivity to really delivers on that experience”, says Block.
There’s more than just what people bring with them but increasing demand for connected thermostats and smart lighting. This has been top-of-mind for a lot of owners and developers as a larger percentage of residents are saying they won’t rent without these smart options.
Working from Home
In a recent survey from apartmentrent.com, the top three issues that consumers had in working from home were dedicated workspace, having a normal schedule, and bandwidth. Developers need to look at those needs when planning their next generation of new builds, adding things like zoom rooms and dedicated workspaces as available amenities. “A lot more companies are thinking more about doing more work-from-home permanently, so I think that will definitely be something that is going to be around,” says Block.
A New York Times survey reported 86% of people were satisfied working from home and only 5% said they wanted to go back to the office full-time. “If we can crack the code on making sure there’s great internet service and folks can get a dedicated workspace–it doesn’t sound like people are chomping at the bit to get back to an office,” notes Westwood.
With many gyms being closed or at limited capacity over the past several months, many people opted for streamed fitness services with classes offered as an alternative by their fitness centers or connected equipment. Healthcare and mental telehealth appointments have become increasingly popular and more accepted by insurance. “Consumers are going to keep uploading their health information health records from their tethered wristbands like apple watch or fitbit… all of these require high speed, reliable, ubiquitous internet connections and i don’t think we’re going to see anything slowdown in that area,” explains Westwood. “A lot of that has been accelerated due to the 19 impact but will continue to grow due to convenience.”
Smart Apartment Property Management:
Communities themselves are using smarter tech, too. Touchless has been increasingly popular for obvious reasons and integrating those technologies into multifamily environments will become more prominent. There’s a world of remotely accessible smart voice-activated technologies or touchless deliveries along with increasing conveniences of remote access and walkthroughs to allow for selective access control. “It’s not, I just need to get the Internet connection,” warns Westwood, “That Internet connection just became a lot more important than providing casual connectivity for whatever that the uses were prior”
What should Property Owners and Managers do for their community to offer reliable internet connection to meet the demand of residence post-pandemic?
“I think what COVID-19 has done from a technology standpoint is proved that this data tsunami that has happened and the acceleration of digital trends. It should really be a wakeup call to any developer builder operator who is not really put their shoulder behind developing a technology strategy that really speaks to this acceleration of digital trends.
Get help. This is a huge decision and I think for developers, it’s not necessarily in their power alley. Have either consultant advisor or asset management–someone that has expertise within your company– and really spend some time focusing on the strategy. It’s as important as so much of the other things that developers puts time and effort into so just make it a priority and make a plan.”
President & Co-Founder
“All the massive amounts of data there out there is that Internet is essential. It really is becoming or has become a fourth utility; It’s water, gas, power and Internet. When people walk into their apartment, they’re expecting to flip the switch and have the lights come on, open the tap the water comes out, and they want to be immediately and seamlessly connected to the Internet. COVID-19 has really accelerated a lot of the trends, but they were happening before. It is pushing all of those things forward and changing that level of expectation and demand. Properties managers need to understand what it takes to really meet and hopefully exceed those expectations. That also includes seamless connectivity right not bouncing between networks as you sort of go throughout the property and communities are also becoming smarter.
A couple of the considerations to keep in mind, especially with these managed networks where you’re thinking about consolidating, is make sure that you’ve got somebody you trust and you know is going to be able to deliver. Someone who is being thoughtful about about your communities future needs and networks.”
General Manager of Business Development
For more discussion on this topic including thoughts on choice internet vs managed/bulk options watch: “Connectivity Imperatives” Session from our Online Summit!