The Smart Money: Smart Opportunities in the MDU Market

May 6, 2022
Connected solutions improve business efficiency and help drive revenue for integrators serving the multi-family market

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

The multi-dwelling unit (MDU) market – which includes apartments, townhomes, built-to-rent, student housing, and senior living – has expanded rapidly, expanding challenges for owners and management but also opening new service and business opportunities for multiple players, from property owners/managers to service providers and device manufacturers.

Parks Associates research indicates that 36% of U.S. broadband households (more than 40 million) are MDUs, and among these, 43% own at least one smart home device, a higher rate of adoption than single-family homes. Property managers and building owners can leverage broadband, Wi-Fi and smart home technologies to improve MDU operations, expand the quality of life for residents, and stay competitive in a crowded market.

MDU managers and owners face unique challenges, including high demand and occupancy rates, high competition for renters, increasing
operational costs, and labor shortages. Always-on connectivity and smart home tech offer new ways for property managers to differentiate and add value.

The highly competitive rental environment creates a more pressing need to attract and retain residents. With rental rates at a historical high – including in luxury markets – tech and smart home amenities add differentiation and open opportunities to provide new value through connectivity, safety and security, and energy management solutions.

Access Control

Access control use cases typically involve smart home solutions installed in common and public areas, including smart locks, smart garage door openers, and smart video doorbells. For MDU owners and managers, the highest-valued use-case is the ability – via networked smart cameras – to monitor the safety and security of residents in public areas.

Improvements in access management through smart access solutions enable multiple benefits, including: Self-guided tours, which can be enhanced to offer a unique experience for prospective residents; Lock reset for units with no extensive or in-person rekeying needed; monitoring of contractor labor time; and improved maintenance processes.

Smart Parking

More than one-third of MDU owners/managers with at least one property with smart home devices also have smart parking sensors. This is a popular use case among adoptees – 82% use these tools to facilitate rental of parking spaces.

According to Apartment Guide Amenities Survey 2021, 15% of renters rate parking as a top amenity. Smart parking technology helps to enforce assigned parking, leverage underutilized space, and manage inventory. These products represent an emerging opportunity for MDUs to improve safety and improve resident experiences.

AI-based parking could also become a fundamental part of the experience. Dynamic messaging can be incorporated to help improve the experience. As EV adoption continues to grow, consumers will also look to apartments to provide charging stations and property developers will turn to sensor-based technologies to help manage the experience.

Risk Mitigation

New tech solutions can reduce risk of theft and losses, or damage from inclement weather or malfunctioning equipment. The extent of these use-cases depends on the equipment and levels of integration, but they offer a variety of opportunities to secure the property.

While the main benefit is mitigation from loss, some insurance companies are starting to offer discounts for smart solutions, notably in the single-family housing sector. Some examples include:

  • Smart cameras and door locks that monitor the property for unauthorized access and improve the security of residents and the building.
  • Smart water leak detectors and smart appliances that can detect malfunctioning equipment and send alerts to maintenance teams before any significant damage occurs.
  • Smart outlets that provide remote access to electrical outlets to save energy and stop current shortages.
  • Smart HVAC systems that send alerts about impending equipment failures.
  • Weather alerts about upcoming freeze, flood conditions and other inclement weather that adjusts operations accordingly.

Energy Management

Energy management savings are a huge driver for consumers and property owners. These solutions include smart thermostats, as well as smart outlets, smart lights, and connected HVAC systems.

These solutions resonate with MDU owners and managers, as their top concerns include residents wasting resources. Parks Associates research reveals that 26% of property managers and owners have an energy management/monitoring system. Additionally, 64% of property managers and owners who have at least one property with smart devices installed expect OPEX savings of between 10% and 20%.

This top value proposition offers an important benefit to reduce OPEX – smart lighting and energy management solutions allow managers to remotely adjust lighting and temperatures in unoccupied units. Owners and managers do not want to pay to light and cool/heat empty apartments, and energy management products offer an easy, cost-saving solution. An integrated system further allows automation of these settings, with the ability to make adjustments ahead of tours or showings.

Jennifer Kent is Vice President of Research for market research firm Parks Associates ( This is an excerpt from the Parks Associates whitepaper Smart Solutions - Boosting Revenue in Multifamily Properties, in partnership with SmartRent. Download the full whitepaper at