Unless you live onsite at your rental property, you can’t be there to fix every maintenance issue or oversee security on a daily basis. Thankfully, you can use smart technology to automate many processes and keep an eye on your property from afar.
Top 5 smart home investments
Invest in these upgrades to make your job easier and attract more tenants.
Get the biggest bang for your buck with a smart lock. These high-tech devices provide an added layer of security beyond standard keys using mechanisms like PIN codes, Bluetooth-to-smartphone connectivity, and biometric scans. Smart locks can’t be physically picked, and many models can be monitored and managed from anywhere using a smartphone app.
Though there are a number of entry types, all of them let you control access as tenants come and go. You won’t have to worry about rekeying when tenants move out, and you can grant remote entry to contractors without needing to be onsite or manage physical keys.
Smart locks are especially useful for short-term and vacation rentals with frequent turnover. Sabrina Robinson, a San Francisco-based landlord and real estate investor who owns a rental property in South Lake Tahoe, says that smart locks are a must for landlords who manage rentals from afar.
Smart locks allow her to remotely—and temporarily—grant access to maintenance workers and tenants. She also receives notifications when people enter and exit and resets codes remotely between each guest’s stay.
Locks range from $50 for simple keycode access to more than $400 for biometric entry. Some basic keycode locks may not provide additional security above your standard keyed deadbolt—keypads wear out and codes can be easily shared—and they don’t allow remote access via smartphone.
Others with high-tech, fingerprint-resistant touchscreens are more secure, and those that require a fingerprint or proximity to a connected smartphone for entry are the most difficult to trick. And they still allow you to lock and unlock from afar. Though you’ll invest in the device upfront, you’ll save yourself the cost of rekeying, avoid the hassle of having to be onsite for every maintenance issue, and add security and peace of mind for you and your tenants.
Smart thermostats are energy efficient and cost effective—they’re also the most compelling smart home feature for potential renters. These devices go above and beyond simpler programmable thermostats because they enable remote scheduling and management. For landlords, that means less energy wasted in vacant units and a better knowledge of the total usage across your properties.
The thermostats also learn your tenants’ behavior patterns, then create more efficient heating and cooling routines, which is why many brands are ENERGY STAR certified. If you’re paying for utilities in your units, you’ll see a drop in your monthly bills. If your tenants cover the utility costs, the savings will be passed on to them.
3. Irrigation systems
If your rental properties have lawns or gardens, you don’t have to leave the upkeep to your tenants or make special trips just to water the grass. Some smart irrigation systems integrate sensors, weather forecasts, and local vegetation data to manage watering schedules. These systems use only the water required because they adapt to real-time conditions, and they can even help you keep your grass stay alive under drought restrictions, such as these requirements in Claremont, California. Save on your water bill, and manage everything remotely via a smartphone app.
4. Moisture sensors
There’s nothing exciting about a smart leak detector, especially for renters, but for about $60, this small device can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in potential water damage. Strategically placed smart sensors can alert you to water pooling where it shouldn’t: around toilets, under washing machines, and in basement corners. These gadgets connect to your phone via Wi-Fi or a smart hub and send notifications when they detect excess moisture.
Though smart sensors won’t stop leaks, they will help you respond more quickly to minimize damage. Your tenants may not be on the lookout for potential issues, especially in spaces that aren’t used on a day-to-day basis. With smartphone notifications, you can alert tenants, a neighbor, and your plumber to the problem right away, then decide if you need to go to the rescue yourself.
5. A fully-automated property
Smart home devices are fairly easy to integrate with a tenant’s smart hub, and a smartphone app in a single-family home, but installing and keeping track of thermostats or lock codes across individual units in an apartment building—in which each tenant may or may not have a hub—is more complicated.
To make management easier in multi-unit properties, smart home companies, such as Vivint Smart Home, are creating dashboards that allow landlords and property managers to customize smart home products for individual units and manage devices from a central location. When units are unoccupied, property managers can track energy use with smart thermostats and grant keyless entry to contractors using smart locks. Once renters move in, they take control of all smart devices and can add their own if they wish.
Renters will notice
While these tech tools can make your job easier, they might also attract renters who want an automated home and, in the case of a smart lock, added security. In fact, potential tenants, especially millennials, are often willing to pay more for properties outfitted with smart tech. Jake Lane, a renter in Austin, Texas, says he would pay higher rent for smart tech that cuts down on expenses like electricity.
But many renters don’t want to install the technology themselves.
“It seems too complicated and expensive to install,” says Laura Douglas, who rents in Los Angeles. “Plus, I don’t want to install something like that in a place that I might move out of in a year or two. But if an apartment already had smart tech installed, I would consider that a huge benefit over similar apartments that are lower priced but without the smart features.”
Start small with one upgrade in a single unit and see how quickly automation saves you money and gives you peace of mind.