Modern Ancillary Services for More Comfortable Homes

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In recent years, Vonovia has been working systematically on developing various services that are related to – and influence – housing to supplement its conventional “living space” offering. Vonovia is working continually on validating and expanding these supplementary services and developing new ones.

Whenever ideas are developed, the customer is always the focal point of our considerations. Before an idea is developed further and makes it past the pilot phase and on to the product launch stage, it has to meet three requirements: First, it has to offer customers added value. Second, it has to be cost-effective and affordable for customers. And third, it has to be a candidate for standardization and implementation on a larger scale.

For some years now, we have been offering our customers services that improve their sense of comfort and satisfaction, yet are affordable – and will remain so. We can achieve this by always implementing our services on a large scale and making them accessible to all customers. This allows our customers to benefits from cost advantages, which we can achieve by virtue of our size and pass on to our customers in the form of discounts. 203-2

Examples include:

  • Cable TV: One service that is already well-established is Vonovia’s cable TV business. Partnerships with Deutsche Telekom and other cable network operators mean that Vonovia’s multimedia subsidiary already supplies more than 75% of Vonovia’s properties with TV signals and high-bandwidth telecommunications connections offering Internet bandwidths of 50 Mbit/s and more. We pass along the volume advantages, which we receive by virtue of our size, to our customers in the form of contracts below the prevailing market rates.
  • Bathroom modernization in response to tenant requests: If needed, we can modernize the bathroom of our customers in exchange for an affordable fixed rent surcharge. Vonovia can buy the materials that it needs in bulk, keeping the costs for tenants low. We installed 700 bathrooms in response to tenant requests in 2016.
  • Kitchen modernization in response to tenant requests: The same principle that applies to bathroom modernization can now also be applied to the kitchen. The pilot phase was completed successfully and the service is now being rolled out across the board. 102-15, 203-2

We ensure with our caretakers, craftsmen and gardeners, who work directly in and on our properties, that repairs or modernization measures are carried out quickly and to a good standard and that the residential neighborhood is well maintained. Vonovia is continually expanding the services it offers in relation to the residential environment. Our service portfolio includes, among other things, the cleaning of stairwells, paths and park areas, professional tree and hedge-trimming services, lawn maintenance and the fertilization of green spaces, as well as many more services. Our customers also benefit here from size-related price advantages that arise through our standardized, efficient processes or in the procurement of materials. 203-2

We also, however, include demographic change, the greater flexibility among the population, the increasing need for security and, last but not least, the energy transition in our considerations about new services for our customers:

Taking Demographic Change and Migration to Germany into Account

As we also have a lot of older people as customers, we are also thinking about ways of offering them tailored additional services that will allow them to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

In particular, senior-friendly apartment conversions, but also bathroom conversion measures based on our tenants’ wishes, respond to the needs of our tenants, as these measures first of all take accessibility aspects into account by installing walk-in showers and second, also use tiles that minimize the risk of slipping, making the bathrooms more convenient for older customers.

In addition, we are currently running a pilot project for assisted living systems, which we expect to offer a significant increase in quality of life and safety for our older tenants in particular. The assisted living systems can support the customers in their apartments, enabling them to stay as long as possible and remain independent in their accustomed surroundings. Examples of applications are primarily in the areas of safety, comfort and entertainment. Among other things, we are also involved in a number of research projects on “decentralized SmartHome” systems. 102-15

So that our older tenants’ health needs are met and they are socially integrated, we have cooperated for many years with appropriate institutions and welfare associations, which can provide on-site care for older tenants at their request. 203-1

We are currently also collaborating with another provider on a pilot project trialling a mobile home emergency system in one particular region.

We are also analyzing the market for outpatient care and household services. Specific models for the implementation of a high-quality service offering for Vonovia’s older tenants are already in the planning stages.

The considerable influx of refugees in 2015 created new challenges for Vonovia in many areas. Several thousands of refugees have already found a new home with Vonovia. In many cases, the language barrier is a major obstacle to communicating with the telephone-based customer service team. Vonovia has addressed this need and has also been offering an Arabic service hotline since January 2016. 102-15

Taking the Population’s Increasing Need for Security into Account

The number of apartment break-ins in 2015 made it clear to us just how important burglary protection is for rented apartments as well. The issue is of increasing importance to our customers, too. We have reacted to this and launched a pilot project offering a number of security solutions. Customers can choose the option they want from a range of different security measures. The products on offer range from reinforced bolts to the replacement of the apartment entrance doors with doors of a higher resistance class. These modernization measures are being coordinated with the State Criminal Police Agency of North Rhine-Westphalia. 102-15

Taking the Population’s Increasing Flexibility into Account

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As many of our tenants are not at home during the day, we also develop services that offer them significant added value in terms of flexibility. For instance:

  • Smart metering: Smart submetering technology means that data on water and heating consumption can now be transmitted automatically using wireless technology. As a result, ancillary expense bills can be prepared more quickly. We are already billing the costs for around 30,000 units with the help of state-of-the-art technology via a wholly-owned subsidiary for our customers. The company is to continue to grow in this area in the years to come, too. Tenants benefit from automated remote meter reading, rendering the need for them to be at home on “meter-reading day” obsolete.
  • DHL mailbox for packages: In order to spare our customers a trip to the post office after work or at the weekend and to give them the opportunity to receive their packages even when they are away or to send them at any time, we have installed mailboxes for packages (known as a Paketbox) in multifamily residences in cooperation with DHL. In addition to the 50 mailboxes already installed in 2015 as part of a pilot project, a further 150 mailboxes were realized in 2016. We plan to extend this field of business further in the future.

Taking the Energy Transition into Account

Saving Energy by way of Energy-Efficient Modernization

A sustained, significant reduction in energy consumption is a key prerequisite for the success of the energy transition in Germany. Buildings account for a large share of total energy consumption. Vonovia is aware of its responsibility in this area, which is why it has launched an extensive program for the energy-efficient modernization of its buildings (see Climate and Environmental Protection in Our Properties).

Lower Ancillary Expenses Thanks to Decentralized Energy Supplies

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The constant rise in electricity prices, which is a matter of concern for many of our customers, is another reason for us to continually expand our energy-related services. But what many customers do not know is that actual electricity prices only account for around one-quarter of the total invoice. The rest of the price can be traced back to taxes, grid fees and other charges, with the two latter items having a major impact on the price increase. One way of counteracting rising grid fees and stabilizing costs in the process is making decentralized energy available – by generating power on-site. The electricity generated on location is not fed through the public grid, allowing many cost items to be saved. This means, however, that an investment has to be made in a power generation system, for example, a photovoltaic facility, on location. Vonovia has recognized its customers’ need for greater price stability and their desire to participate in the energy transition as consumers and piloted a tenant electricity concept for the very first time in 2016: A photovoltaic facility was installed in a building complex and connected to the building facilities. Tenants in a total of nine buildings can opt for the tenant electricity rate and are supplied with electricity from their own roof during sunny hours. In the hours when there is less sunshine, electricity generated from hydropower sources is supplied from the grid.

In 2016, we used 160 of our own photovoltaic facilities with a total output of 3.35 MWp to generate more than 3,000 MWh in regenerative electricity. The electricity is fed into the grid in full. Our 27 decentralized cogeneration units allowed us to generate more than 311,000 kWh of electricity – the heat generated in the process is used to support heating systems and heat the drinking water within the building.

We believe that this area offers further growth opportunities and will be making investments in decentralized power generation to tap into further potential.

Customers’ Need for Electromobility

We are keeping a very close eye on developments relating to electromobility. Particularly in major cities, the use of electric vehicles is expected to increase in the future. A suitable charging infrastructure is crucial in this respect. We received the first few inquiries from customers looking for a charging infrastructure in 2016. We are working with various providers to develop corresponding solutions. But publicly accessible charging stations on Vonovia properties also offer potential for a new business area. We plan to realize the first few projects in this area in 2017. 102-15