InterFace 2022: Student Housing Navigates the New Normal

By: Amelia Woolard

SmartRent hosts a cocktail reception during InterFace Student Housing Conference.SmartRent hosts a cocktail reception during InterFace Student Housing Conference.
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Supply chain disruptions. Smart technology. Resident and employee retention. These are just a few of the buzzwords heard at this year's InterFace Student Housing Conference.

A record-breaking 1,300 attendees attended the France Media event earlier this month in Austin, Texas, where old friends met up and new business connections were made.

The SmartRent team also held a fun and informative cocktail reception at the J.W. Marriott, where we enjoyed a stunning view of Downtown Austin while discussing student housing-friendly smart technology solutions.

When we weren’t networking with others, we listened in on a lot of updates about the industry and where it’s headed next. Keep reading to uncover three insights we found particularly interesting.

#1: Thriving is possible despite supply chain slowdowns.

Everyone’s talking about supply chain slowdowns right now, and at InterFace, this was no different. Several panelists touched on the supply chain crisis and how it’s likely to affect the student housing sector in the years to come.

While these slowdowns may be stress-inducing, there’s no need to panic. During the Power Panel discussion, Bill Bayless, CEO at American Campus Communities, offered an optimistic view of the industry, particularly when it comes to financial investment:

With continued rental rate growth each and every year for the past 17 years and average occupancy of at least 97 percent, people are realizing that the stability of cash flows that this industry provides — especially as we’re approaching times of economic uncertainty once again — is more attractive than it has ever been. This industry has finally proven to the global institutional markets that it is one of the best investments you can make in commercial real estate.

Plus, growing interest in proptech carves out a new way for student housing operators to differentiate themselves from competitors and get students excited about living in their communities.

“Students are really into proptech,” declared Dillon Deffense, President of Book & Ladder. Hannah Diamant, National Director of Digital Marketing for Campus Life & Style, echoed the sentiment, saying that artificial intelligence and automation are important to their portfolio. Access control and smart apartment products speak directly to these needs.

Diamant has also noticed a trend toward sustainability. Implementing technology such as smart thermostats is a great way to appeal to these preferences, while also saving money on utility bills and boosting ESG scores.

Despite economic obstacles and supply chain slowdowns, it is possible for student housing portfolios to thrive. As enrollments and investments increase, smart technology provides communities with a new selling point – three reasons to be excited about the industry.

#2: Internet connectivity is the backbone of high-performing student communities.

Community-wide internet access is rapidly becoming a key feature in successful student portfolios. According to The Value of Virtual: New Dev Trends & Student Insights 2022 by uForis and College House, more than half of college students surveyed in every region say that included WiFi is a deciding factor when leasing.

There’s no question that students are heavy internet users. Students’ frequent internet use places 15-20% more strain on WiFi access points than a typical single family network, according to Glenn Meyer, President, MDU Services Group, Pavlov Media.

Connectivity shortcomings have only been amplified by smart technology. Ubiquitous smart devices have not only “changed the expectations of residents” (Bob Grosz, EVP & CCO, World Cinema) in terms of connectivity, but implementing proptech devices changes WiFi needs overall.

To achieve a frictionless experience, Chad Patterson, Solution Architect with Single Digits, recommends using a single internet service provider that can manage everything, keep the system running smoothly, and monitor for problems.

SmartRent recognizes this need and offers a scalable managed WiFi solution designed to solve the headaches common with traditional internet deployment. With our solution, student housing providers enjoy the following benefits:

  • Advanced network data, reporting, and alerts

  • 24/7 security and uptime monitoring

  • Remote management and troubleshooting

  • Speed testing and trace routing

  • Device response time tracking and statistics

  • WiFi access point monitoring

If you’d like to fortify your connection and appeal to always-connected college students, request a demo of our platform and we’ll be happy to tell you more about it.

#3: Taking care of on-site teams is a must.

Any seasoned student housing professional will tell you that the people behind their communities are the "secret sauce" of their success. While the "Great Resignation" continues across the country, student housing professionals are considering ways to make the day-to-day roles of their team members more efficient and less stressful in order to retain top talent.

During a panel focused on the “new normal” for management and operations, panelists shed light on how they are holding employee interest. Julie Bonnin, Principal and COO at Asset Living, mentioned offering monetary bonuses for new employees and those who hit career milestones within the company.

At the same time, costs are rising in many different areas, leading Asset Living and other management firms to consider where they can cut back without sacrificing team members’ work-life balance.

One solution is automated move-ins and move-outs. Bonnin and Jonathan Jeans, VP, Operations at B.HOM Student Living, both mentioned using automated move-ins and move-outs in select communities with great success.

Smart home technology platforms give on-site teams the freedom to focus on other tasks while also trimming costs typically associated with turn, like re-keying doors. Automating routine tasks also gives team members more flexibility in their workday, which promotes overall job satisfaction and may help retain employees for longer.

In the next few years, proptech will have a major impact on the student housing industry. It will have a lasting effect not only on the students who live in these communities but also on the team members who keep them running smoothly every day.

Jumpstart the Academic Year with SmartRent

We're still a few months away from the start of the 2022 academic year, but this year's InterFace conference got us excited about it.

From access control to parking management and everything in between, SmartRent has the sought-after smart home amenities today’s college students crave.

Interested to learn more? Request a demo with one of our team members and we’ll show you how SmartRent can reduce costs, increase efficiency, and hit high marks with student residents.