GUEST OPINION by Mark Sinclair, ANZ Regional Director, WatchGuard Technologies: Remember when prospective tenants lined up round the block for inspections and real estate agents were able to instigate bidding wars for rental properties in hotspot locations, in the major capital cities?
Back in 2019 it was an unremarkable scenario, with many agents even turning to apps to elicit best offers from eager applicants, from which landlords could then pick and choose.
Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, those days are now long gone and, signs are, they won’t be returning any time soon. A recent news report suggested landlords could miss out on billions in rental income over the next two years, as vacancy rates rise and tenants struggle to pay. Hotels, serviced apartments and purpose built student accommodation facilities are suffering from a similar slump in demand, as the COVID crisis continues to restrict movement. With international students locked out of the country, temporary and permanent migration sitting at a virtual standstill and interstate travel curtailed, the rental and accommodation market has become very much a buyers’ one.
Sweetening the deal with connectivity
The tables having turned, renters and travellers are now in the position to demand maximum bang for their bucks. That means finding ways to differentiate their premises from the slew of broadly similar, vacant offerings on the market has become an imperative for property owners and managers.
One of the ways they can potentially up their appeal is through the provision of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled technology and solutions - think smart security systems, interactive lobby billboards and the like - which optimise the efficiency and liveability of their buildings.
Another is by including free wifi access in future rental agreements. The rise of remote working can make this a compelling proposition for many younger tenants, while those with children whose bandwidth demands are extensive - online gaming, YouTube, streaming and social media - may also find it a boon.
The rising risk to individuals and businesses
However, its attractiveness may be diminished if security concerns are not adequately addressed. In recent times, Australians have become increasingly aware of the dangers hackers and cyber-criminals pose - to businesses and themselves.
They’ve clocked Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s extraordinary warning to organisations back in June, about a sophisticated, state sponsored series of cyber-attacks, and they’ve read the stream of stories of local companies, including beverages giant Lion Nathan, falling victim to ransomware.
Meanwhile, on the home front, they’ve noted the tsunami of spam and phishing emails the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in and they’re worried about data and credential theft and the accompanying inconvenience and potential financial loss that can result.
Secure solutions to prevent compromise and attack
If a breach occurs, users are likely to apportion blame to their wifi provider - fairly or otherwise. That’s why it makes sense to put measures in place to manage, monitor and protect any networks to which you offer communal access.
Providing a layer of defence against phishing attacks and malware can enhance the value of the service you’re offering and provide users with peace of mind that logging on won’t mean putting their devices and data at risk.
At a time when keeping the customer satisfied may mean the difference between empty premises and ongoing income, it’s a modest investment in cybersecurity technology which may pay for itself many times over.