The Next Ten Years in Property Management: Predicting Multifamily Tech in 2028

Industry Insights

Chatbots, smart locks, artificial intelligence — HappyCo CEO Jindou Lee breaks down the buzzwords and predicts just where property management tech is heading over the next ten years.

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Just a decade ago, multifamily property managers were wrangling with fax machines, relying on office phones, and resorting to desktop computers just to navigate their day jobs. For the multifamily business leaders of 2008, it was unimaginable to gather apartment applications online or advertise units without physical signs — let alone to conduct inspections from internet-enabled devices that were perfectly palm-sized.

Technology has brought us a long way, but several pain points remain. Scheduling unit inspections and gaining access to apartments (while respecting privacy standards) are largely still manual processes. As online reviews hold more weight than ever, there’s a lot of pressure to get these tasks done quickly. Unfortunately, paper forms make it tough for technicians to have all of the information they need when making the rounds.

Luckily, hope is on the horizon! Considerable strides are being made in AI and machine learning. I predict that in the next ten years, these technologies will be able to automate the most burdensome property management tasks.

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From stress to smiles: let chatbots bear your scheduling burdens!

chatbot on smartphone

By 2028, I believe chatbots will bear one of your biggest burdens: scheduling inspections. With these AI-powered personal assistants in your corner, coordinating unit visits will go from stressful to seamless.

As multifamily managers know well, this task can be incredibly draining. The best time for a resident might already be booked for a technician. Games of phone tag may go on and on, but it’s critical that multifamily managers respect the rules around privacy and security when it comes to entering an occupied unit. Fortunately, the future is happier!

Enter: chatbots. I believe there’s much to be gained (time and money) if the property management industry follows in the footsteps of companies using meeting assistant AI technology like X.ai or those getting help from Clara to speedily arrange hiring interviews. After conducting years of natural language research, Google is also a key contender in the chatbot arena. As this playful demo proves, virtual assistant Google Duplex manages to “handle the interaction gracefully” when a scheduling phone call faces a curveball.

It might come as a surprise, but chatbots are already being used on business websites in 195 countries; by 2020, they’re expected to support products for 50% of medium to large organizations. Needless to say, this kind of technology could fundamentally improve the multifamily experience. For example, property managers could program the chatbot to ask something like: “when are you available in x-date range for a technician to complete a fire safety inspection?” After securing the resident’s response, the chatbot would then discover the same information from the technician, and boom: the perfect inspection match is made. Should an emergency come up and unravel the chatbot’s efforts, another round of availability requests could follow with ease.

Skeptics in the multifamily business could reasonably worry: “will this chatbot sound anything like a person, let alone my brand voice?” Forbes reports a resounding: “yes!” A recent article notes that chatbots have already grown smart enough to reflect specific corporate cultures (and they’ve been known to imitate a wide range of personalities — from Albert Einstein to “How I Met Your Mother” characters).

Now’s the time to slash your stress and streamline your scheduling by embracing chatbots. Given such rapid advances in machine-learning technology, I’m confident these bots will be plenty savvy by 2028.

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Your win-win for security and efficiency? Smart Locks.

smart lock screen

By 2028, I bet the price will finally be right for multifamily managers to start embracing… smart locks! While hotels phased out metal keys decades ago, keycards have never really caught on in multifamily communities. Indifference wasn’t the issue, though — steep costs have simply been too much of a turn-off.

But Fortune suggests a promising trend in smart lock prices. August is just one top seller pushing to lower its operating costs so that smart locks can replace standard keys once and for all. The company has started dropping prices for popular models, and its CEO has grand plans to keep “going bigger, going wider,” expanding August’s scope beyond wealthy urban markets.

Combined with chatbots, this technology would make it much, much easier for multifamily technicians to address major problems quickly. From leaky ceilings to faulty heating, serious concerns could be tackled faster than ever — with chatbots and smart locks ensuring the most efficient path possible from request through repair. As PCMag roundup explains, smart lock administrators can take advantage of a growing range of features like voice activation or geofencing, as well as adding temporary users in a pinch. For multifamily executives, this would spell major savings in time and money, as well as prevent tragedies that can be avoided with timely inspections.

Smart lock technology also marries well with a growing trend in package delivery: direct-to-resident delivery, an option HappyCo has covered in previous blogs. With wifi-enabled smart locks, a resident could ensure an expensive package is delivered inside their unit instead of placed in a vulnerable spot within a bustling mailroom.

Finally, the switch to smart locks would bridge a growing gap between supply and demand. Some 61% of Gen Y-ers say they would rent an apartment precisely for its electronic access features. In fact, when combined with other smart home features like learning thermostats and motion-sensing lights, smart locks will spur ⅕ more in rent from interested residents. Given their potential to boost revenue and maximize convenience, smart locks will definitely be a worthwhile amenity as prices keep dropping.

Now’s the time for multifamily executives to monitor falling smart lock prices and decide the right moment to budget for this worthwhile amenity. There’s no doubt in my mind: with smart locks, the future is happier!

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Pictures finally worth 1,000 words … when AI meets multifamily!

technician working

By 2028, I’m convinced artificial intelligence and image recognition will truly change the game for multifamily unit inspections. Within the next ten years, smart inspection apps will be able to turn a single photo into a full-fledged encyclopedia.

Yes, the future is that happy! Picture this: a technician enters a unit, takes out a smartphone, and snaps a shot of a washing machine’s serial number. Then, through image recognition and artificial technology, the phone recognizes the machine’s specifications, reveals its repair history, indicates upcoming work required, and ultimately offers how-to guides on ways to fix the appliance. And wait — there’s more. Once the maintenance tech discovers which parts are the problem, the smart inspection app could quickly present a series of replacement options (including costs and delivery estimates).

These days, maintenance techs working on a large property lose a lot of time during inspections when they have to return to the office for forgotten tools, replacement parts, or repair instructions. Luckily, rapid strides in AI suggest none of those detours will be necessary ten years down the line. We already live in a world where a smart oven can recognize 50 different foods and know exactly how to turn them into dinner. The possibilities for multifamily are just as exciting.

After all, I don’t just see artificial intelligence connecting the dots for a single appliance. I see it connecting the dots for entire communities. Within the decade, we’ll have smart inspection apps that reveal a burst of information right from the front door. That’s where a technician would snap a photo and let image recognition meet cloud technology in a powerful way. The smartphone would quickly showcase resident names, pet information, inspection history, and which visits are scheduled on that floor or elsewhere in the building.

Before even entering the unit, the property manager or technician would have a wealth of information at their fingertips. If they were stopping by for a fire safety visit, they might also discover it’s an ideal time to check carpet condition for an approaching turn. With a cutting-edge mobile platform like this, managers can start making the most cost-effective decisions to keep communities safe and revenue rising.

For all of these reasons, I promise: the future is happier!

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Unleash your tech-savvy side with Happy Insights!
At HappyCo, we wish you a Happy (and data-driven!) New Year. With item-level analytics and out-of-box dashboards, our Happy Insights tool can show you exactly what’s going right and wrong for each of your communities. Learn more about Happy Insights as 2019 begins.


About the author


Jindou Lee
CEO and Co-Founder

Jindou Lee is the CEO and co-founder of HappyCo, a software company that builds mobile and cloud solutions to enable real-time property operations. Prior to his current role, Jindou also founded and exited two previous tech companies. Jindou spent most of his adult life growing up in Australia and graduated from the University of South Australia with a Bachelor of Visual Communications (Design). After that he worked at Midway Games where he led the User Interface team to work on classic titles such as Mortal Kombat, Gauntlet and Dukes of Hazzard. Besides his love for technology, Jindou is also an avid real estate investor, ex-semi pro soccer player and speaks five languages.

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