As those in the rental industry are aware, property management is an area that continues to rely on people rather than technological solutions. While other aspects of the multifamily housing industry have expanded through technology, property management has remained high-touch.
The need to create more operational efficiency has spurred the unique partnership between Prometheus Real Estate Group, a leading West Coast multifamily housing company, and New York-based Latch, creator of the first smart access system.
With 55 properties and 13,000 units in its portfolio, creating a sense of community has been a core value of the company’s development. Prometheus has always been committed to delivering a feeling of home and is using technology to nurture its latest communities. Importantly so, since the prospective residents in Prometheus’ rental market, which comprises the greater San Francisco area, are among the most technologically advanced in the United States.
Thus, when developing Trestle, its new luxury apartment community in the Bay Area, the development team looked at deploying a forward-looking entry system that would save the time and cost of creating actual keys and increase operating efficiencies. In parallel the system would also have to further Prometheus’ main mission of community-building—a tall order for any entry system. Latch was up to the task.
The team began by identifying the issues with keyless access through three lenses, remembered Ricky Holak, Prometheus’ development manager. “We had our development lens, our construction lens, and our operational lens,” he said. “On the development side, we were looking at our overall budget. Between development and construction, we looked at the cost, details, and methods of installing a system. Then, looking at operational—well, it helps when we’re selling people on our tech-savvy places that actually are tech-savvy.”
Latch was among the vendors bidding for Prometheus’ business. Latch’s product was designed through extensive research and partnership with real estate development firms. The result is a smart-access enterprise system that lets residents use their own smartphones to unlock doors and share access with guests—while providing property management with a platform to manage access remotely and maintain security of the building through an audit trail of access events.
For Prometheus, the Latch design was a touchstone for the modern convenience lifestyle it was promoting, which was to make it easier for residents, guests, vendors and staff to move through a community. “The design of Latch,” said Holak, “was able to match our intention for our interior spaces, in terms of the look, feel, and color options.”
Latch became part of a vision for Prometheus that extends into the future of building unique and easy living experiences as a core value. And from a budgetary perspective, Prometheus was impressed by Latch’s cost savings and ease of use. “Construction costs are competitive with other products,” said Holak, “since it didn’t need a dedicated network and we could simplify our TES Operationally, we will not need to manufacture hard keys often. We anticipate saving costs on turns, since we’re not re-keying. And, due to the functionality, we have been able to select a TES without monthly cost ”
With Latch, the Trestle team was able to downsize its backup telephone entry system, eliminating a massive install from the construction budget. “From a construction perspective, not needing a dedicated wireless network was a huge design challenge that just went away.” Prometheus has integrated Latch to work with a Kantech system that operates the security gates and the telephone entry system (TES), mostly for delivery people who can’t or won’t use a dedicated keycode.
Once the residents (or as Prometheus prefers, “Neighbors”) started to arrive, the team realized a surprising benefit: the money saved on lockouts when residents forgot or lost their keys. “We’ve been running Latch for the first six months with only two after-hours lockouts.” Thomas Verdugo, Trestle’s neighborhood director (property manager), shared what makes lockouts such a pain point for property managers: “You have several different people that are on call. Usually, this type of call would route to a maintenance person, who may not live on site. Depending on what time the call comes in, that maintenance person would then have to drive to the respective neighborhood and follow their lockout procedures, which can take upwards of an hour. To lend perspective, sometimes these calls are coming in at 2 in the morning.” To which Holak added, “There’s an ongoing cost for overtime hours, and repetitive late night calls detract from the 'Home at Work' culture.”
Since implementation, the benefits of Latch continue to surprise and delight neighbors. “Another thing I see as a huge advantage for our neighbors,” Verdugo added, “if I want my brother to come to town and stay with me, I don’t have to go to Home Depot and have a key made and make sure he gets it, that I get it back, etc. I just send him an invitation to the Latch App, or let him borrow my Keycard for the week. That makes it much easier on the neighbor experience, which we didn’t have in the past.”
The Latch system has the capability to grant temporary access to guests and service providers, like dog walkers and cleaners; in short, a concierge level of service delivered through time-limited access codes. It’s a service that also gives peace of mind: the embedded wide-angle camera within each device can capture a photo of a guest, which residents can view from the Latch App. Finally, with Latch’s national delivery partners, residents’ packages can be automatically delivered safely inside their building.
Not all of these features, however, are currently in play in the Prometheus partnership. “There is a list of pending features that Latch has on its road map,” said Holak. But, he added, “It’s great to have someone who listens and tries to meet your needs.”
Trestle is a brand-new development; there are currently 180 apartments online, with about 40 units rolling out every other month. Verdugo noted that within existing residents, more than half of whom work in tech, enjoy the cachet. “Neighbors like the fact that they can use their phone, because we are a world that is very connected. In technology, there’s always this ‘arms race’ for the latest, greatest. But the Latch system is really cutting-edge tech that frames service. It’s modern, timeless, and has a good functionality rate.”
With Latch, Prometheus continues their mission to building innovative and community-oriented multifamily buildings.