Most rental markets in the U.S. favor landlords at the moment, as more Americans are renting rather than buying. With the nationwide vacancy rate at a low 4.1%, most landlords simply do not need gimmicks to lease out their rental investment properties right now. Make no mistake, smart-home automation is coming, and soon. Besides, most of these smart systems are likely to become less expensive even as they grow smarter over the next few years; smart home devices are still primarily the domain of tech-loving early adopters.
Still, landlords and property managers with vacant higher-end properties might consider adding some smart-home upgrades as a way to differentiate your rental property. The following is a non-exhaustive list of functions that can currently be performed by mobile apps, and while many landlords may not currently be ready to jump on board, keep some of these in mind as potential ways to boost rents moving forward.
Remote Door Locks – Consider the possibilities of mobile app-controlled keyless entry, with temporary control access assignable to other people. Contractors could be allowed in without giving them a key. Landlords could give prospective tenants temporary access to enter the property to view it, if they are unavailable to meet them. These systems cost less than $200, and offer a nice “wow” factor as a first impression as you show your rental property to a prospective tenant for the first time. Example: Lockitron.
Remote Thermostat – One of the earliest smart home ideas, a thermostat controllable through mobile apps is widely available and currently the most-adapted smart home feature. In more recent variations, the thermostat can be programmed to automatically turn on when you get close to home, based on your GPS location. Examples: Nest, Revolv, Insteon.
Remote Security, Smoke & CO Detector Alarms – If a house only has someone in it half of the time, what happens if a fire breaks out when no one is home? It may well burn down, of course. Or not, if smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are smart enough to alert the landlord, homeowner or tenant on their smartphone, wherever they are. Likewise, security systems that alert the police are great, but it might be nice to be notified while driving home that someone just broke in through your back door. Examples: Insteon, Nest.
Integrated House-wide Sound System – While the price is considerably higher, internet-based speakers can be set up to play different music, at different volumes, in different rooms. Or the same music in all rooms, for that matter; the speakers and music can all be controlled through a smartphone app, and is a snazzy party trick, but unless the speakers are mounted in a semi-permanent way, they make a tempting target for theft among vacating tenants. Example: Sonos.
Lights, Outlets, Wall Switches, Plumbing Leaks – From higher-tech versions of light timers for vacant homes, to detectors of leaking pipes, to remotely turning on anything that plugs into an outlet, programmed and remote access to sending electricity to anything in the house is now possible. Examples: Insteon, Revolv.
The time may not yet be quite right for adding these updates to the average rental property, but landlords and managers of higher-end properties may consider adding them as a clever marketing strategy. Given their current rarity, smart-home upgrades are a sexy, chic way to differentiate your rental property from the competition – and collect an extra $50/month in rent.