While many in the industry are familiar with the challenges of multifamily buildings, there is one use-case in particular that remains especially unique: student housing.
It is, however, a model that Trimark Properties knows well. Specializing in student housing in Gainesville, Florida—the home of the University of Florida and over 50,000 undergraduate students—they are on the vanguard of the student living experience.
In their newest luxury building, Cascades, Trimark opted for the Latch smart access system, installing devices on all building entry points, unit doors, and into amenity spaces like the fountain courtyard. “The Latch system has been very well received by the tenants,” said Peter McNiece, the Project Manager with Development and Construction at Trimark Properties. “People mention the Latch App as one of the benefits of the building. Of course, there are a lot of other amenities and the building is brand new, but it’s a feature that gets mentioned fairly often.”
Unlike traditional multifamily buildings that have rolling leases and renewals, students are a less predictable group of renters. Because many graduate, study abroad, or sublease at the end of the semester or school year, the turnover has a different trajectory than buildings with a predominantly non-student population. “We’re so close to the university that the vast majority of our residents are students,” said McNiece.
“We have about half of the tenants moving out in July, and we will have the other half of the building renewing their leases,” said Leasing Assistant Teddy Lausier.
With this model comes a unique challenge: How to efficiently turnover dozens of units within a few days’ time—without adding staff or sacrificing quality.
A fully integrated hardware and software product, Latch is more than a lock. Along with the resident-facing Latch App, building operators and property managers utilize the web-based Latch Manager application to create a building’s access architecture and grant access to residents, guests, and staff.
Instead of handing out physical keys, a resident simply needs to be added to the system and granted the correct access to the building and its amenities. “It really doesn’t take more than a few minutes to delete a user and get a new user set up with the proper credentials,” Lausier explained.
After training with the Latch team, the staff at Cascades began using Latch Manager to grant secure and convenient access to their residents for every door in the building, including the front door, parcel room, and private residences.
Lausier and his team began using Latch Manager for their busy move-in season last year. “We used an Excel spreadsheet with everyone that was due to move in, and they were uploaded to Latch Manager. It didn’t take long at all,” he said.
Along with allowing for flexible access sharing, maintaining building security and privacy, and allowing for scheduled door access, Latch Manager also allows staff to manage buildings remotely. Instead of needing to be on-site to grant access for maintenance or guests, everything can be done from a desktop or smartphone.
“It was the first time we used this product, so the opportunity for failure was high and the opportunity for a lot of headaches during our busiest time of year was definitely on the minds of our company. But we took a risk, and it went perfectly,” added McNiece.
The ease of adding and deleting residents, the elimination of mechanical keys, and remote access all combined to create the ideal system for the Cascades team.
“Because all of our leases are year-long leases, maintenance has little time to turn the apartments between occupancy. They have a lot of work to do in August,” explained McNiece. “At a lot of the other complexes, they have regular keyed door entry, and the maintenance team must rekey all the locks so that the old key doesn’t work in that same apartment for the new residents.”
Now, instead of maintenance staff physically changing over locks during the busy weeks of August move-out, the Trimark team simply has to make a few quick updates in the software system. “We can do it all in the Latch Manager,” McNiece said.
Maintaining the Latch system throughout the building is also simple and easy. “I pull up the Latch Manager application once or twice a week, check battery levels, make sure things are getting updated,” said Lausier. “Now that we’ve had such great success with Latch, the maintenance team’s comfort level has gone up.”
The ease and speed of Latch Manager, along with the positive feedback from maintenance staff and residents has made a distinct impact on the Trimark staff. “I have been advocating for more widespread use of Latch products in our buildings,” McNiece said.
In addition to the operational efficiencies for the Trimark staff, Latch is driving amenity value for their customers. Students and parents have expressed countless perks, like added security and easy guest access sharing. McNiece said, “At a lot of properties, we won’t have 60 percent renewals like Cascades. I think part of the reason for that is the Latch devices on the doors.”