Turning Your Rental Property into a Smart Home

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Smart Door Locks

Let’s start with the front door. We’ve been conditioned for years by all sorts of sci-fi programs to expect doors that open for us as we approach. In some cases doors that also greet us with pleasantries as we enter. And, while it’s fair ato say that such doors are still a bit off, their forerunners are already flooding the marketplace with cool results.

The simplest of these new entry systems is the August Smart lock. For about $300 this bit of hardware installs right to the back of your existing deadbolt. This means that you don’t have to replace the existing deadbolt hardware, and in a pinch, you can still open the door using your old fashioned key. Of course, you won’t have to because the August Smart Lock will more than likely have already opened the door as it senses your approach; or more accurately as it senses your smartphone approach. The really cool part is that now if you have a tradesperson coming or the dog walker popping in, you don’t need to cut them each a key. All you do is create a digital key that goes right to their smartphone, with a set time of operation and expiry. No more are keys to your property floating out there beyond your control. The other really neat thing is that it keeps a log of when those digital keys accessed the lock. As a landlord, it can be good to know exactly when that electrician you hired has turned up! And what’s more, it locks the door behind folks as they leave, meaning your property is only open to those you select and never left unsecured accidentally. For your tenant, it can be great to know who is accessing your home and when. It helps keep the relationship very transparent.

Of course, there are all sorts of other options, and many of the traditional lock manufacturers are getting in now so they don’t get left behind. The Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt is one such offering. It links up seamlessly with Apple’s HomeKit app, meaning you can control it along with all your other smart home devices all from that one app. However, this one, like many of the more traditional manufacturers is a complete deadbolt replacement. But, also in the $300 range.

One other option, by the old school manufacturers, receiving high marks is the Kwikset Kevo Bluetooth Electronic Lock. It has its own app and has not, of yet, been added to Apple’s HomeKit list, but comes with fobs that can be given to younger members of the family who may not have a smartphone just yet. It’s also going to set you back about $300.

Smart Climate Control/Security

Door locks get all the attention because it’s cool to think of a front door that knows you! However, probably the best smart feature for your rental property—at least for your tenant—is the smart thermostat. Especially if the tenant is paying the utility bill, they will be quite interested in only using (and paying) what they need. Products like the ecobee3 Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat allow you to use the Apple HomeKit App, or the Samsung SmartThings App, or any number of other home tech consolidation apps, to adjust the temperature so you can ensure a comfortable home when you get there. No more leaving the heat or A/C quite so high all day long just to have a comfortable home in the evening. Like the smart locks you’re looking at about $300.

Another option in this area is the Nest system. Running off their own app, Nest starts with a thermostat (again around $300) but expands into a complete range of smoke & C02 detectors ($129), and Outdoor & Indoor security cameras ($249). Having the smoke and C02 sensors connected to your master control should provide your tenants with an added bit of comfort that these important devices are being monitored.

Smart Lights

Do you remember the devices that went between the lamp and the power socket that had little those plastic pins that needed to be set to indicate an on and off time? Once upon a time those were considered high tech. The lights go on at one time and off at another whether you are there or not. This is another area where smart technology is making big changes! Not only can devises like the Philips hue (a controller box and set of smart bulbs-starter kit $69.99) be set to come on and off, they can be controlled from your smartphone. What’s more, they actually learn your behaviour and come on and off based on how you live your life. They also have smart settings that can mimic activity when you’re away. No clapping required. So while, smart lights are a great perk for your tenants monitoring power consumption, they also provide an added security feature for your investment.

Smart Property Management

Turning on lights, setting temperature, and opening the front door are just the beginning when it comes to smart tech for the home. Now, admittedly, it’s not going to generate huge returns by way of rental income, but it can be beneficial in a competitive market and there is no doubt it’s going to make your property a little safer, more efficient, and easier to run. Which is why it only makes sense that there are also ways to integrate smart tech around the property. The first one, not unlike the smart front door, is the smart garage door opener. Chamberlain has been producing their MyQ smart garage door opener for a little while now but has recently been given the nod by Apple that they will be included in the near future as an Apple HomeKit compatible product. This, of course, means that very soon you will be able to ask Siri to open the garage as you’re driving up your street.

The other great innovation, especially from a landlord perspective, is the smart sprinkler system. Rachio being one of the first out of the gate, it another recent add-on to Apple’s HomeKit coming soon list. As a web-enabled sprinkler system, it knows the weather in real time and can adjust the watering levels based on the temperature, rainfall, or sun to cloud ratio. Smart technology is now making sure you are using just the right amount of water to keep the property looking great, all while putting in very little effort yourself.

One other area that can now be smartened up is the humble driveway! In a similar fashion to the smart sprinkler system, wifi enabled heated driveways are now able to know when the snow is falling in your area, making them considerably less expensive to run than the previous models that simply stayed on all the time. However, when it comes to smart heated driveways there is still the rather considerable cost of setting up the heating system. Likely only worth it if your property resides in a snow belt.

Is it right for me?

Of course, many homeowners are thinking they would love to outfit their primary residence with these options, but are they right for my rental property? Do I want to make the investment when there is very little potential for return? And the answer is a solid maybe. If you are covering the cost of utilities or attempting to rent a place in a very competitive rental market you may want to spend the money to make your place smarter than the rest. However, the place where smart home technology makes a lot of sense is if you have a vacation rental property. When you are managing multiple different renters coming through your space, the ability to have the yard water itself, the lights look as if someone is always home, and the ease of emailing a digital key to guests makes your life so much easier and worth the cost.