Smart locks. Smart lights. Smart speakers. Today’s smart home technologies are endless — and they’re easing the rental experience for both property managers and tenants.
On the operational end, they cut down on costs, improve security, and increase marketability. For renters, they mean a more convenient way of living and a reduced environmental footprint.
That last part is particularly important to the nation’s youngest cohort of renters—Generation Z. Gen Zers, or those born between 1997 and 2012, are part of the most socially and climate-conscious generations we’ve seen, and it’s trickling down to their consumption habits—and even into the properties they choose to rent from.
For them, the smart thermostat is one of the most sought-after in-home tech products. These allow renters to set custom temperature schedules and better control their energy consumption while in the unit and away from it.
“The technologies they tend to value most are smart climate control and security and access control,” says Jeffrey Amengual, COO of DMG Investments. “Gen Zers are very environmentally aware, so the ability to control their heat and cooling remotely is important.”
While developers and property managers are likely happy to cut down on overall energy use, there’s also another benefit they might see: higher rents. According to a recent study by First Insight, 73% of Generation Z say they’d pay more for an eco-friendly product. Most would pay as much as 10% more, in fact. Access and ConvenienceGen Z renters also expect technologies that ease the traditional struggles of the rental experience: getting locked out, missing packages, letting those delivery people in when the door attendant is out, etc.
Smart locks and keyless entry systems are the first lines of defense here.
“They are busy people and enjoy concierge services to deliver groceries and other packages into their apartments,” says Zach Aarons, co-founder and general partner of MetaProp, a venture capital firm that backs some of the top property technology companies in the country. “Therefore, they gravitate toward smart lock technology that can allow different users and guests to access their apartment at certain times.”
Though not an in-unit technology, on-site package lockers are also a smart solution that Gen Z renters are demanding, especially as COVID-19 sends their online shopping purchases upward.
According to Ryan Shear, managing partner of PMG, easy access and package solutions have been priority No. 1 at his properties, which span Florida, Chicago, and New York.
“Tracking and retrieving packages in smart lockers or rooms is a must-have given the constantly escalating volume of e-commerce,” Shear says. “We’ve prioritized mobile keys, smart thermostats, and AI voice controls as the minimum starting point for in-unit technologies.”
Other Smart TechOther smart technologies can catch Gen Zers’ eyes, too. Smart speakers, for example, are a top choice for most young Americans. In fact, recent data shows that when combined with millennials, Generation Z spends over $13 billion per year on smart speakers alone.
Smart lights, which allow renters to control their lights from anywhere in the world, and smart appliances are also key.
“They also want smart vehicle charging, smart locks, and appliances and devices that can be controlled remotely from a phone app,” Amengual says.
The most important thing with smart home tech is that it’s easily connected to and controlled by the renter’s phone. As digital natives, Gen Zers live and breathe by their phones—and they expect to use them in most parts of their everyday life. They also demand a symbiotic relationship between their smart home devices—one that allows them to connect and work together easily and without fail.
“Compatibility with tech platforms is key,” adds Amengual. “Gen Z automates much of the operation of their home, so devices and appliances with the ability to connect easily to Bluetooth, Apple, and Android is very important.”A More Marketable PropertyGen Z is the renter of the future. At a mere 23 years of age (and 8 at the youngest), developers and property managers will be serving this cohort for many years to come.
While a full suite of smart home technologies probably isn’t a must for every unit, working in some of this cohort’s most-prioritized products may help properties stay competitive as more of Gen Z strike out on their own.