The Multifamily Resident-Centric Revolution

Enhancing the Resident Experience Through Technology


A revolution is taking place in the multifamily industry — a shift from "place to live" to "living experience." As renters increasingly seek communities that deliver technology-driven convenience, property managers are responding by prioritizing the resident experience as the heart of property management and competitive strategies. By leveraging technology to its fullest potential, property managers are transforming their communities from mere living spaces to vibrant, dynamic hubs of modern multifamily living. It's reaping big rewards for them and their residents.

The shift toward resident-centric property management

In a renter study conducted for RealPage® by Zconomy author Jason Dorsey, 79% of American renters said they should be able to get everything they need from property managers via direct message, text or chat. They don't want phone calls or emails. And 46% say they aren't concerned with onsite staffing as long as communication with property managers can be handled remotely. Gen Z is most open to that, with 50% saying an onsite property manager is not needed at all if they're afforded quick, open, transparent communications with that individual.

In other words, younger renters want to know there is a property manager who can easily be reached when necessary. Still, they don't need that individual to be present in the community daily. For property managers, delivering on that expectation depends on technology-driven communication via the device that is almost always in the palm of the renter's hand — their smartphone.

Today's renters expect easy, anytime-of-day, responsive, digital access to all aspects of apartment life, including access to property managers. That's unsurprising, considering that the average American touches their phone 2,617 times per day.

Renters' apartment amenity preferences

While traditional amenities like onsite parking are still important, today's renters also expect some degree of technological convenience. Technology that delivers an exceptional living experience is a major driver of resident satisfaction, beginning in the prospect stage when renters are evaluating apartment and community options. Self-guided virtual tours, online applications and lease signings, applicant screening, floor plans, unit self-selection, and online deposit payments cater to renters’ convenience-driven apartment search preferences.

Beyond search, technology drives rental decisions, especially for renters <35, with 56% of Gen Z renters willing to pay higher rent for sustainability and digital conveniences like smart locks, doorbells and cameras, says Dorsey. They also expect their community’s technology offerings to include mobile maintenance requests and resident portals.

Renters 35+ differ slightly in their expectations, with priorities that include advanced digital safety features, such as smart outdoor sensors and lighting and smart locks and cameras.

The preference for personalized experiences

But there is even more to the resident-preferences story. Dorsey's study shows that younger generations of renters want not only technology-enhanced experiences but also personalized ones. Its importance is amplified by a McKinsey & Company® revelation that 76% of people become frustrated when personalization doesn't happen.

That's because modern life is all about convenience and personalization. Today's younger renters are accustomed to registering for classes via their college's phone app, paying bills via the PayPal® app, buying and selling vehicles via car "vending machines" like Carvana® (from an app on their smartphone, of course), booking vacations through apps like Expedia®, Priceline® and Kayak®, and storing photos, documents and data in Apple® iCloud®.

Even a growing number of traffic lights are now "smart," enabled by IoT (Internet of Things) technology that adjusts to accommodate changes in traffic volume and patterns to alleviate traffic jams. These technologies are becoming so prevalent that life without them will soon be inconceivable and impractical.

Convenience and personalization are important experience drivers that are the cornerstone of customer loyalty for companies like Amazon®. Consider the ease and speed of purchasing and returning items via the  Amazon app, which also sends push notifications to customers. And small business owners (some of whom are renters) who rely on AWS®'s (Amazon Web Services) IoT (Internet of Things) technology — the same technology that powers apartment smart home capabilities like smart locks.

But that's not all. A whopping 71.4% of people use virtual assistant technologies like Amazon's Alexa® and Apple's Siri®. So, technology is no longer a preference — it is an expectation among those who use it in all aspects of daily living, including renters.

But here's why all this matters: Dorsey's study revealed that most Gen Z and Millennial renters don't see homeownership in their future — quite possibly forever. They believe they will be lifelong renters. Will these generations of renters be satisfied with submitting paper rental applications, paper rent payments, paper and phone call maintenance requests, and paper amenity reservations far into the future? According to Dorsey, the answer is a resounding no. They don't even want to do it now. They want convenience — specifically technology-enabled convenience — and they want it delivered to them on a smartphone platter.

Multifamily property managers must begin meeting that demand by implementing technology that facilitates self-service maintenance requests and SMS updates about maintenance and service requests, access to resident portals where rent can be paid digitally and rent payment history can be viewed,  and automated rent reporting, which helps residents build credit and reach financial goals. All these capabilities offer the opportunity to create a resident experience that feels personalized.  

The value of a positive resident experience

The Greater Nashville Apartment Association (GNAA) revealed In a recent article that resident satisfaction is pivotal in shaping an apartment community's reputation, with satisfied residents being 2X more likely to renew their lease. They're also more likely to recommend the community to others and help build a positive community. This activates one of the most powerful marketing channels: positive word-of-mouth promotion. It's clear, then, that a positive, technology-enabled resident experience is no longer a mere nicety. It's a strategic imperative tied to tangible outcomes.

When resident recommendations are in the form of positive online reviews and ratings, the boost in online reputation score can significantly impact the community's competitiveness. A reputation for high resident satisfaction drives increased demand for the community. As demand grows, the community can command higher rental rates and maintain a stable, predictable income stream. This, in turn, lowers the community's sensitivity to market downturns because demand remains relatively resilient despite economic challenges.

But there are even more ways multifamily communities benefit from resident satisfaction. Satisfied residents tend to take better care of their living spaces and are less likely to engage in behaviors that lead to property damage. The ripple effect extends far beyond individual apartment units, though. Resident satisfaction creates a culture of pride and loyalty in the community.

With all this in mind, investing in resident experience solutions isn't just good practice — it's the path to long-term sustainable property value.

Industry trends in digital multifamily resident experience

Technology is the key to unlocking the full potential of resident-centric property management, with the possibilities being as limitless as they are transformative. There are eight ways technology brings convenience and connectivity to the resident's living experience.

1. Resident portals.

Mobile apps and websites that seamlessly take the resident from lease sign through an easy move-in, set up rent payments and earn rewards, submit maintenance requests, book common areas and easily communicate with property management staff.

2. Community portals.

 Online portals that allow residents to connect with their neighbors, organize events and stay informed about community initiatives can foster a sense of belonging that inspires, uplifts and brings residents together. Self-service reservation of apartment amenities like fitness centers, community rooms and other shared spaces ensures fair usage and helps residents plan their activities.

3. Smart home systems.

Technology that provides residents with remote, smartphone-enabled control over various aspects of their living space, from adjusting thermostats and lighting and locking/ unlocking doors to seeing who's at their door.  

For residents, smart locks eliminate lost keys, worries about duplicated keys or locks that may not have been changed when the previous tenant moved out, fumbling in the dark to find their keys and accidentally locking themselves out of the apartment. That's because when they arrive to move into their new, technology-enabled apartment, the "key" is pushed to their smartphone. It's safer, more secure and just plain smarter for property managers and residents.

Energy-efficient technologies, such as smart thermostats and lighting systems, help optimize energy usage without sacrificing comfort so residents can save on utility costs while helping reduce the community's environmental footprint (something Dorsey says is very important to Gen Z renters).

4. Smart parking systems.

Smart parking solutions use sensors, cameras and mobile apps to optimize parking space utilization, streamline parking management and enhance the parking experience for residents and guests.

5. Smart waste management.

Smart waste management technologies like sensor-equipped trash bins and waste compactors help optimize waste collection schedules, reduce overflow and minimize environmental impact. They can also promote recycling and encourage sustainable waste practices among residents.

6. Smart Water technology.

RealPage Smart Water™ leverages advanced submeter technology to help multifamily properties drastically reduce the cost of water management in common areas and residential units by quickly detecting and notifying site teams about leaks and consumption anomalies. With 90% of undetected water incidents resulting in multiunit damage (which makes residents unhappy), implementing smart water technology is a smart move for communities of all sizes.

7. Property-wide security and surveillance systems.

Advanced security and surveillance systems incorporate video, motion sensors and facial recognition that deter crime, enhance safety throughout the community and provide peace of mind for residents and property managers.

8. Package management solutions.

Smart lockers and package management systems take the hassle out of package delivery for residents by package arrival notifications and providing secure storage until pickup.

 Technology drives added value to residents

Forward-thinking multifamily companies are reaping the rewards of strategic investment in digital solutions that add value to the resident experience.

1. Enhanced convenience.

Because today's renters aren't okay with cumbersome processes and endless paperwork, technology can help deliver convenience into the palm of their hand via their smartphone, especially where communications are concerned. Mobile apps and online portals facilitate seamless, transparent communication between residents and property managers. When residents can easily submit maintenance requests, pay rent and receive important updates, their satisfaction with the community tends to be high.

2. Improved security.

Advanced security systems, such as smart locks, surveillance cameras, and access control systems with remote monitoring and alerts make residents feel more secure in their apartment community.

3. Community connectivity.

Online community portals and social platforms create community connectivity through opportunities for resident interaction and engagement.

4. Energy efficiency and sustainability.

Energy management systems and eco-friendly technologies help reduce energy consumption and create the kind of sustainable living environment that today's younger renters prioritize.

5. Value-added amenities.

Virtual fitness classes, wellness resources and concierge services, all made accessible through mobile apps, offer value-added convenience to residents.

From apartment community to resident-centric, technology-enabled hub of modern living

Apartment communities are more than just compartmentalized buildings. They're places where renters' lives happen. That's why the path to future prosperity in the multifamily industry is paved with resident-centricity and technology-enabled experiences that meet resident expectations. Offering a smart mix of technology options that are tied to convenience, connectivity and safety can significantly raise resident satisfaction and positively impact rental selection and renewal decisions.

RealPage's new resident-facing technology platform offers the industry's most robust, personalized and digitally optimized resident experience. Purpose-built to deliver a holistic, seamless experience from leasing to living. The new platform offers a unified online leasing flow from prospect to move-in, including fraud detection technology, a move-in marketplace of services and offers, financial wellness tools and a loyalty platform.

Through intentional design, social consciousness and genuine care enhanced by seamless, digital solutions, RealPage is redefining the resident experience, helping multifamily communities create technology-enhanced living spaces that inspire, uplift and bring people together, elevating the resident experience beyond expectation.

Check out the 2023 National Renter Study to learn more about renter priorities and how technology drives rental decisions across the U.S. multifamily market. 

Learn more about RealPage's resident experience solutions.

Read our resident experience press release.

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