Property Management Advice: Will a Wireless LAN help fill your rental units?
by Annette West
A recent article in the Las Cruces Sun News (08/12/05, page 1C) discussed the increase in customer traffic a few local restaurants and most coffee shops are experiencing with the addition of free high speed wireless Internet access. A whole new type of customer is walking in to some of these restaurants.
Can landlords replicate this success story? Would tenants be more likely to rent if free wireless high speed Internet access was offered with the apartment? And if so, what would it cost?
According to the National Real Estate Investor (August 10 2004), Internet cafes are the top amenity being offered at A+ properties and are a "must have" to stay competitive. http://www.nreionline.com/mag/real_estate_showtime_amenities/
Many of the A+ apartment complexes in Las Cruces offer high speed Internet, but few for free. Says Ben Bohannon, Assistant Property Manager at Puerta Villa at Sonoma Ranch: "Many prospective residents are asking for high-speed Internet access in the upper end communities. At this property, our residents pay for high-speed themselves but at some of our other properties, we offer reduced Internet access rates to increase occupancy. "
Adds Celeste Rivera, Casa Bandera Property Manager: "We have Internet hot spots to let residents connect to the Internet from the pool, the clubhouse, and of course from their room. Offering free high speed wireless Internet a HUGE selling point for us."
The consensus: students, retirees and professionals demand high speed Internet access. [Editor's Note: As internet junkies, ActiveRain members can certainly attest to this!]
Clearly, if people are willing to hook up their laptop in Jack in the Box or Arby's, the attraction of being able to do so in their apartment or rental house is high. And to do so for free is even better.
So what is involved to you as a landlord, and how much does it cost?
If you have a smaller complex, you can use what I will call a simple wireless network.
Step one is to get the highest speed Internet connection available from an Internet access provider. (Given the prospect of multiple users, you want the highest speed possible to avoid bottlenecks.)
Internet service providers (ISP) in Las Cruces include Comcast Cable, Qwest and, ZiaNet, among others. Qwest, for example, offers a business DSL account including Internet Service Provider and, if you sign up before October 8 2005, free use of an external modem/router for one year, for a total fee of $53.99 per month. After one year, you can buy the modem for $50 or rent it for $5 per month.
Speeds offered depend on your location. For one complex at 809 West Van Patten, 7 megabits per second is available. At another, 808 North 17th Street, 1.5 megabits per second is offered.
At this point you will need a computer, access to and a cable or DSL external modem that ISP's provide for a fee. The modem will connect to the phone line for DSL or your cable TV jack. An external modem will let you later remove the computer and leave only the modem at the property. The modem should include wireless capabilities; if not, you will need to buy a wireless router ($50 to $100, available even at Wal-Mart).
Finally, an outside antenna (an unobtrusive small box that looks like a smoke detector) is recommended if your complex has more than 4 apartment units ($50 to $100). The wireless-capable modem or the wireless router will include a small antenna. If you have more than 4 units, you should unplug this antenna and instead plug-in the cable from your outside antenna.
Once you have the router and antenna<