Smart Security

written by
Emily Landes

ADT is synonymous with home security. Now it’s branching out into the smart amenities sector as well.

For decades, ADT has been known for its suite of security services—everything from alarm systems and monitoring to surveillance cameras. But relatively recently, the company has branched out into providing amenities for the multifamily market, and security is just one of the many tools in their tenant-attracting arsenal.

“We call them smart amenities,” said Chris Martin, ADT’s national account manager for the multifamily sector. “Smart locks, smart thermostats, leak detection in the unit and smart lights are really the focus in multifamily.”

That’s “smart” as in controlled by a smartphone, which Martin says is very attractive to all renters, particularly younger residents who have grown up with the ability to access everything they need in the palm of their hand. He cited a National Multifamily Housing Council Survey that shows 54 percent of renters are interested in smart locks, 66 percent are interested in smart thermostats and 59 percent are interested in smart lighting.

He believes those numbers have only gone up since the 2017 survey. “We're seeing a huge amount of renters wanting the technology,” Martin said. “Being able to control the home through your smartphone is very important nowadays, whether you rent or own. Everybody has their phone on them 24/7.”

These tech-minded tenants are perfectly happy to give up physical keys and the hassles that come with them. Martin said if property managers still want to hold onto physical keys, ADT is happy to provide them. But he sees the industry going completely keyless in the years ahead. He estimates that, currently, for every thousand units that sign up with ADT Multifamily, about 100 have no physical keys at all.

It’s easy for tenants to see the appeal of a code over a key. No more lockouts or lost key charges. The ability to let dog walkers or cleaning staff in from afar and check to make sure these service providers came at the appointed times.

This smart monitoring isn’t just attractive to tenants but to property managers and owners as well. Contractors and maintenance staff can all be given personalized entry codes with notifications to make sure they arrive and leave when they claim. Plus, with ADT’s “set it and forget it” technology, vacant units stay at pre-set temperatures that can’t be raised or lowered by contractors servicing the unit for turnover.

These operational efficiencies and tenant-attracting services have gotten huge players in the apartment industry on board with ADT Multifamily. “As leaders in property management, we know that our ability to bring innovation to the multifamily living experience and offer tenants access to the latest in smart technology and convenience from their fingertips is important,” said Joanna Zabriskie, president of BH Management, the ninth-largest property management firm in the U.S. “The partnership with ADT also provides extensive efficiency on the management side to better manage and respond to maintenance requests quickly and regulate non-inhabited units to ensure they are well-kept and efficient.”

A System for Self-Sufficiency
With more turnovers than usual recently due to the economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, Martin says owners and leasing agents have been loving the system’s ability to allow for self-guided tours. “That’s something that’s been a big hit since COVID,” said Martin. “It was surfacing more and more before that, but COVID blew it out of the water.”

Prospective tenants must submit a photo ID and credit card for liability purposes. But then, for a set period of time, they can have access to not only the unit they are interested in, but also building amenities that would typically require key access. “We don't just get them in one specific door. Especially in larger apartment communities, there's also one or two other doors that they have to get into,” Martin said. “So, we can actually get them from the front gate all the way through each door—gym, laundry room, everything—and make it seamless.”

The self-guided tour system is also great for leasing agents because it allows them to permit access if they are working remotely or have left the office for the day. “Let’s say the tenant can't get in until 8 p.m. and there's no leasing agent on staff. The leasing agent can say, ‘Hey look, unfortunately, I'm not going to be here, but I do have a self-guided tour available for you at 8 p.m. Let me go ahead and set that up with you on the phone right now,’” said Martin.

Self-guided tours also protect leasing agents from unnecessary exposure, which is a critical way to keep staff safe. Plus, the built-in notification serves to quiet the concerns of tenants who might be wary about how many people have been touring the unit before them. After the apartment is viewed, managers are notified and can send out a cleaning crew to disinfect the unit before the next prospective tenant arrives.

With these safety measures in place, Martin believes self-guided tours will fill vacancies more efficiently than photos or virtual tours. “I would never rent a property off of pictures alone,” said Martin. “Most people are going to want to go and actually see it before signing a lease for 12 months.”

Once tenants are in the units, the ADT technology connects to devices they already use, like Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod. Tenants can even set certain lighting scenes and say something like, “Hey, Alexa, it’s movie time” to change the vibe from “working from home” to “Netflix and chill” without ever getting off the couch.

Martin added that leasing agents and their managers love that the ADT Multifamily system is already integrated with all major property management software, like Yardi and Real Page. “We don’t want them to have to learn another dashboard,” he said. “It’s one less thing they have to be trained on.”

Plus, ADT’s leak detection system can let managers or owners know immediately when something isn’t right in a unit. It’s a big help for fixing small leaks fast, since tenants don’t always report them, and it’s essential when a major leak can mean 10,000 gallons of water down the drain. BH Management said that if they had just had ADT before their last major leak it would have paid for the cost of the system on that property.

Your Price Point Is Personal
Martin has a payment plan to fit every price point—even some that require zero down payment. It’s all about personal preference. Some owners like to put down a larger upfront payment and have lower costs throughout the contract term. Others prefer to pay a larger amount monthly with fewer upfront costs. Fees also rise or fall depending on how many smart systems owners want to offer, with smart locks and thermostats being the most popular choices.

Martin can also offer phased-in billing over the first year. So, in the first quarter of a new contract, ADT only charges 25 percent of the total monthly cost. Every quarter that monthly rate goes up so that the owner is paying the full amount by the end of the first year. “We understand that you have to have turns and new leases come in order to raise the rents,” he said.

Martin believes that the systems more than pay for themselves, especially in tech-heavy San Francisco. “Think about the high technology area that we’re in,” he said. “As long as your apartment community is up to date, you should be able to add around $75 to your asking rent for this amenity.”

So, in the end, with ADT even when it’s all about amenities, it’s also all about protection. “You’ve got to look at the name ADT and think security,” Martin said.

Emily Landes is a freelance writer and former editor of SF Apartment Magazine.