The virtual message boards at the student properties we work with are filled with posts about a wide range of subjects. There is one topic, however, that jumps out to anyone scanning through the messages at any given property: the wi-fi. The message usually, but not always, conveys a slight variation of the general question: “Why is the wi-fi in here so bad?”

Spurred by Brent Williams at Property Management Insider we took a deeper look at comments on Yik Yak, a student-dominated social messaging app. Their message boards resembled ours: lots of chatter about the wi-fi, often, but not always, negative.

For all the complaining, however, our takeaway is not that the wi-fi doesn’t work. As we are not the ones to be following up (or even living at the properties in question) we cannot pass judgment on its functionality.

Our takeaway is even simpler: wi-fi is the most important amenity of them all. Yet, at many properties that offer it, “free wi-fi” is often buried halfway down the list of amenities below the solar-power heated pool and the state-of-the-art yoga center.

Wi-fi (and “free” wi-fi in particular), however, is not just another item on the checklist; it is the only amenity at the property with which the resident is constantly engaged. The gym gets used one hour a day a few times a week, the Internet gets used all day and all night every day and every night. The wi-fi is, quite literally, a resident’s connection to his or her property.

Now, we’re not here to throw shade at the Internet service vendors these properties use, we’re sure they get enough grief and are doing what they can to cope and improve. We’re here instead to call attention to just how important this amenity really is. To us, it seems like getting wi-fi right is the best chance for a property to impress its residents and keep them happy.

Certainly, today’s students have plenty of complaints about the wi-fi, but more certainly they will expect their property to provide them with wi-fi because that’s what currently happens. Additionally, with so many connected people and devices already in conventional multifamily today, we believe forward-thinking property managers in will embrace the current service issues and work with vendors to make sure they get this amenity right and market the hell out of it.

We know this is probably easier said than done, but wi-fi looks like the best opportunity to get a leg up in the amenity arms race.

Does your property offer free wi-fi? What has been your experience?

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