Tech can upend, enhance apartment industry

Tech can upend, enhance apartment industry

I learn best by talking to people and I seem to be deeply curious about everything.

So when I hop in a cab, I usually open a conversation with my cabbie, learn a little about his life, and maybe get a quick read on the place I’m visiting. It’s also a chance dig into whatever interesting life they have led that put the two of us in a moving vehicle with his two hands controlling my destiny.

Uber and other ride-sharing applications have been a gift for curious oral learner types like me because most drivers are just locals trying to earn a few bucks on the side and many, like me, enjoy the social aspect of the experience.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I rode with a nice fellow who was a contract software developer working out of his apartment.

He drove for Uber to get away from the computer screen and talk to people. “Beats sitting at a bar,” he quipped as he dropped me off. Five-star rating for that guy.

On another trip to L.A., my driver was the youth basketball coach of one of this years’ top NBA draft picks. I wish that ride had lasted an hour.

I pushed the wrong button one time and found myself in a pooled ride arrangement from Kennedy Airport in New York to Lower Manhattan. Along the way we picked up and dropped off three people, two of whom I am pretty sure were drug dealers. It doesn’t work every time.

Ride sharing with Uber, room sharing with Airbnb, vacation rentals with VRBO and many other technology-driven efficiencies are penetrating our lives and making things more efficient and cost-effective.

Viewed one way, they de-personalize our lives. To many, though, they do the opposite and connect us.

There’s enormous untapped potential in apartment properties for technology that connects us that will lead to cost savings, but also enhance the experience.

The work involved in finding an apartment, touring it, going through screening, completing the paperwork, securing the keys and then actually moving in is fraught with friction and technology is coming quickly into the industry to streamline those steps.

New technology is being birthed to enhance the experience once an apartment renter moves in, though. The thinking is that neighborhoods can be viewed as a bundle of amenities which can be brought to bear to improve the lives of people.

Using technology to aggregate neighborhood restaurants, shopping and entertainment while alerting us to crime or traffic issues around us in real time and at the tap of a finger on our smart phones is where this seems to be headed. Bike sharing, dog walking, and other shared services are already showing up.

Like an Uber ride, the primary goal with emerging technology in apartment living is to make things more efficient and cost-effective.

In the process, though, these applications can serve to broaden the rental experience and enrich lives.

As for ride-sharing, I’m learning how to use it more and more and loving it. I found out about a local farmer’s market on one ride in Snohomish County recently.

I have removed the pooled ride option permanently, though. No more hopping around big cities with drug dealers in the seat next to me.

Tom Hoban is CEO of The Coast Group of Companies. Contact him at 425-339-3638, or or visit Twitter: @Tom_P_Hoban.

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