Lucas Haldeman of SmartRent: “Proptech is a hot sector right now”

I predict that smart access will become increasingly important following the influx of pet adoption during the pandemic, especially once the vaccine allows us to return to a semblance of normalcy. At SmartRent we’ve seen that weekly or daily dog walkers have been a big use case for smart access for residents in multifamily, as […]

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I predict that smart access will become increasingly important following the influx of pet adoption during the pandemic, especially once the vaccine allows us to return to a semblance of normalcy. At SmartRent we’ve seen that weekly or daily dog walkers have been a big use case for smart access for residents in multifamily, as it allows them to easily let recurring visitors in securely. Innovations making homes more pet friendly and accessible for pet owners would certainly be welcome as the number of pet owners continues to grow.

As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucas Haldeman.

Lucas Haldeman, CEO and founder of SmartRent, has spent the last two decades innovating and developing property management technology for the real estate industry. Haldeman’s in-depth multifamily knowledge and experience uniquely position him to start SmartRent. He felt compelled to create the suite of solutions after noticing recurring pain points for property owners and managers that could be solved with IoT and smart home technology solutions managed from an enterprise level. Prior to founding SmartRent, he served as the chief technology and marketing officer of Colony Starwood Homes where Haldeman and his team developed a platform that was instrumental in helping the business acquire, renovate, lease and manage more than 40,000 single family homes. Previously, he served as the CIO and marketing officer for Beazer Pre-Owned Rental Homes and was the founder and managing partner of Nexus Property Management.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I took a blended path of technology and actual real estate operations — it was not an intentional strategy, but it worked out. I was employee no. 18 at, the first site to publish a national database of apartment communities online. Post-exit, I was with (now Move, Inc.) through a successful IPO, then spent years as an apartment and commercial property owner and manager before serving as a technology and marketing executive at Colony Starwood Home prior to founding SmartRent. I’ve been at the intersection of property technology for the bulk of my career, and what a lot of these innovations have culminated in is the need for enterprise-level smart home technology solutions. SmartRent addresses both the pain points for property owners and managers, as well as implementing technology-driven demand from renters. Our goal is to make it easy for multifamily communities to offer their residents luxuries like smart home tech that previously only applied to single-family homeowners. Residents enjoy the advantage of having smart devices in their rental home with full control over them, while property managers and owners have peace of mind in knowing their assets are protected and are notified of issues (like a leak) before they become a catastrophic, costly event.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I’ve enjoyed being at the center of the evolution of how humans use technology as it relates to our homes and living spaces. I’ve spent the majority of my career at the intersection of technology and real estate, and I’ve seen — and helped build — a myriad of different ways technology can help us find, manage and live in homes of all types. Smart home technology has come a long way in a very short amount of time, and I’ve found it fascinating the way our wants, needs and expectations from both smart home technology and real estate management technology have changed. Finding an apartment online was new relatively recently, and we’re at the point in our relationship with technology where we’re using it to help us physically tour new apartments, offer remote access, and manage the climate of our home from anywhere.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

It’s not a ‘tipping point’ but I would say for anyone success comes from perseverance and persistence, at least they have been key to getting me where I am now, and I would advise anyone looking for career advice to just keep getting back up. At the end of the day, staying true to yourself and your career goals is the best thing you can do for yourself and your work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I believe we’re all a product of our mentors. Everyone I’ve reported to in my career has given me something to get to where I am today. Earlier in my career one mentor shared with the “Riddle of 9 eggs,” without going through the riddle, the end point was sometimes you can learn something from data that’s not right in front of you, and that has always stuck with me, whether I’m reviewing KPIs or monthly financial reports, in addition to looking at what’s in front of me, I’m also focusing on what I might be learning from what isn’t there.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Two books I read early on in my career inspired me to be an entrepreneur and showed me that I could. Richard Branson’s autobiography Losing My Virginity shows you there isn’t a guide to being an entrepreneur, and it’s okay to make your own trail. Before I read it, I was looking for a blueprint or a playbook to be an entrepreneur, but I walked away from it understanding that there isn’t one, and I was empowered to blaze my own trail. The second book that I think most impacted my career was the first of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series. Not growing up in a wealthy family, early on having this book as a resource to help me understand what a corporation is, what venture capital is, and how to be entrepreneurial was incredibly valuable to me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Early in my career, my commute off the bus in San Francisco included a walk up Fremont street, which was at the time more of an industrial, warehouse neighborhood than it is today. I saw a piece of graffiti reading “Les is mor” on the side of a building. I still love that quote as it reminds us that simple is always better. Another favorite quote is “The answer will present itself” from Qui-Gon Jinn.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future

One key burgeoning trend I have my eye on is full-fledged smart communities: bringing the luxuries and benefits of a fully-connected smart home to the 43 million renters in the country traditionally excluded from utilization. This goes beyond in-unit amenities like smart thermostats, lighting and locks, but a fully-integrated property. We want renters to have a seamless, customizable experience in their homes, just like homeowners can configure their experience in their homes from the moment they pull into their garage.

Currently, for us, creating the renter’s analog to this includes amenities like smart access for frequent visitors like food or package delivery and dog walkers, as well as connected parking solutions, but the use cases continue to grow. During a time like the pandemic, for example, these solutions have proven beneficial in keeping residents and staff safe, lessening face-to-face contact inside communities. We’ve even rolled out a Self-Guided Tour for both multifamily and single family properties that helps prospective residents tour their next home without interacting with a leasing agent, so home searches and business can continue to move forward during Covid-era restrictions.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

Predictive maintenance is a key part of mitigating costly financial and environmental issues with water and energy. For example, an appliance equipped with a smart leak sensor can shut off a valve before a flood even begins, or an HVAC unit can connect to utility monitoring services that help monitor meter levels. Keeping tabs on usage and understanding the key culprits of high usage and wastefulness can help property owners and managers implement more efficient and sustainable choices. There are also amenities owners can install that both cut costs and incentivize greener living, like solar energy, battery arrays, and electric vehicle charging ports.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

There are several definitions of smart homes floating around, and I think the key differentiator between an apartment filled with smart or bluetooth-enabled gadgets and a true smart home is integration. The smartest part of a smart home is connectivity and an all-in-one interface, regardless of what system, platform or vendor you’re getting it from. It’s not just about the cool hardware and gadgets. If you have nine smart home devices and nine apps to control those devices, it doesn’t feel smart anymore. A true smart home ecosystem is one where the devices connect, integrate and work with other devices in the system; offer connectivity beyond the home they service, such as the ability for users to control the devices remotely; and work in harmony with the user’s lifestyle, rather than disrupt it.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

With the tailwinds of e-commerce and delivery, package management is a huge issue in multifamily. I hear from my peers about package rooms that only hold 20 percent of the capacity they need to hold, and it’s only depleting as online orders and e-commerce grow. This is a problem unique to multifamily, but it’s a huge pain point for everyone involved — companies lose money from stolen packages and deliveries, it’s a headache for residents to track their packages down, and employees are overwhelmed with the volume. In-unit delivery powered by smart access is proving to be a remedy for this issue, and one that is being incorporated into more and more apartments and homes. Think Walmart’s in-fridge grocery delivery program: residents in multifamily communities should be able to receive in-unit deliveries securely and safely, enjoying the same caliber of convenience as owners do.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

I predict that smart access will become increasingly important following the influx of pet adoption during the pandemic, especially once the vaccine allows us to return to a semblance of normalcy. At SmartRent we’ve seen that weekly or daily dog walkers have been a big use case for smart access for residents in multifamily, as it allows them to easily let recurring visitors in securely. Innovations making homes more pet friendly and accessible for pet owners would certainly be welcome as the number of pet owners continues to grow.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

I’m interested in using 3D printers for homebuilding. Not only does this address efficiency and customization, but it also can help solve some major issues we’re facing with home affordability and homelessness. With 3D printing, you can print a structure in a single day. On that note, there are also companies that are creating integrating locking panels. With wiring within and no need for a frame, these snap panels assemble easily and offer major efficiency for builders who spend thousands of dollars and hours on hauling lumber and framing homes.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

Something we don’t spend enough time talking about in the real estate investment space is the importance of making technology a recurring expense. We’re accustomed to paying upfront one time — like granite countertops, for example, will be a selling point for fifteen years or so, and we pay for them once. But don’t forget that technology is a recurring budget item, and one you want to have. You want your apartment and rentals to be modern. It’s not spending it once and leaving it alone. I encourage everyone to make technology a recurring expense and you will reap outsized rewards on your investment if you do that.

Proptech is a hot sector right now, and I would recommend people look at the elements of the space that are solving for real pain points and challenges arising from the increasingly virtual economy. There are plenty of innovations coming out of challenges from the pandemic, and I would urge investors to look at how the solution would expand to a post-Covid world. Many innovations and new tech adoptions will stick because they’re cheaper, more efficient and can survive in a virtual economy, but beware of solutions that are tied too much to a uniquely pandemic-era problem.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

Homelessness is a broad label for a lot of different problems, from addiction to mental health to home affordability and availability — none of which we are doing enough as a society to solve. People are struggling with many different challenges, but a lot of it presents itself as homelessness. We can track a lot of this problem back to cutting critical resources like mental health institutions and rehabilitation programs, and it’s unsurprising that we’ve gotten to where we are now because many people have no place to go or no support. Because I’ve had my career in real estate, I do feel strongly about making sure that people have places to live, but I do believe that we need to address these root causes of homelessness.

Solving the true homelessness issues are going to be a matter of both the public and private sector. We need funding for programs that contribute to mitigating problems causing homelessness, but companies can take action as well. For example, Amazon just announced a multibillion-dollar initiative to support affordable housing in its HQ regions.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

Bring down the cost. Housing affordability can correspond directly with building prices. If we can help builders do more with less, we’ll have less of a shortage of housing to offer affordably.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to start a wave of kindness, because we really need it right now. If we are all kinder and more open, we’ll all be better off. As Lincoln once said, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter: @Smartrentdotcom


This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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