Remember clap-on lights from the ‘80s, and those light timer systems with all the pins from the ‘90s? They seem low-tech nowadays, but they were early ancestors of today’s smart home technology.
Impossible as it seems, smartphones have been around for less than 10 years, with the first iPhone released in 2007. By 2010, innovative companies were selling home appliances and systems that were wirelessly connected and controllable by mobile apps. There was even a catchy buzzword for this, bandied about in 2014: “the internet of things.”
These smart home devices have come a long way in a short time. Beyond technical improvements, smart home tech is a lot cheaper today than even a few years ago. It’s also substantially more user-friendly.
Should landlords jump on the bandwagon and trick out their rental units with smart tech?
Well, maybe. As with everything real estate-related, it’s a matter of return on investment.
Landlords with low-end units at the corner of Shoot-Up and Drive-By will probably not see a return on their investment. On the other end of the spectrum, smart home tech might simply be lost among all the other luxury touches that high-end properties often boast — and not command higher rents. In mid-range homes, however, landlords might actually see a strong return, since a few standout features can make the difference in drawing attention and applications for vacant units.
So what smart home tech should landlords consider, and what do they cost?
7 Smart Home Gadgets Landlords Should Consider for a Sought-After Rental
1. Smart Door Locks: ~$200
Smart locks are actually quite convenient, and affordable given that you only need one per rental unit. Not only can the landlord or tenant lock/unlock the front door remotely with the mobile app, they can also temporarily authorize others (e.g. contractors or real estate agents) with electronic access to open the lock. The app can log who enters the property when. This helps keep a record of who is coming and going (although be careful not to track your tenant’s movements for privacy reasons).
2. Smart Thermostats: ~$200
Sure, these thermostats are controllable by smartphone from anywhere, but they can also actually “learn” based on your frequent settings. They adapt and adjust temperature settings based on your behavior and will automatically conserve energy when no one is home. Like smart locks, most units only need one thermostat, making this another extremely affordable gadget to add.
3. Smart Security System: ~$200
Including a video recorder, microphone, motion and noise detection, smart security systems let you monitor what’s going on at home from anywhere. You can also set up alerts when you’re away or asleep to notify you if motion or sound is detected. If an alert comes through, you can view a recording of the event or turn on a live feed. Some systems even have air monitors that track humidity, temperature and air quality, and alert you if any of them change suddenly.
4. Smart Coffee Makers: ~$150
Example: Mr. Coffee
Admittedly, these are a little gimmicky, but sometimes it’s these seemingly trivial details that sell renters or buyers on a home. You can set these to brew on a set schedule, or you can manually start the coffee maker brewing from anywhere using a mobile app. For hardcore caffeine fiends, sometimes there’s nothing better than waking up to the smell of coffee brewing.
5. Smart Smoke & CO Detectors: ~$100
How embarrassing is it when you burn dinner and your smoke alarm shrieks an announcement to the neighborhood? Or how annoying are those low-battery chirps? False alarms can now be silenced through your mobile app, and low battery notices are sent to your phone, not chirped endlessly. They include a hardwire option for power and send alarm notices to your phone, so even if you’re halfway around the world, you can be notified and send help.
6. Smart Garage Opener: ~$130
Example: Chamberlain MyQ
While opening a phone app may or may not be easier than clicking a physical button, the geofencing feature to automatically detect your phone’s GPS location and open the garage door when you approach is undeniably elegant.
Related: 7 Intuitive Tech Tools to Streamline Your Wholesaling Business
7. Smart Stereo & Virtual Assistant: ~$180
Example: Amazon Echo
“Alexa, play The Backstreet Boys,” says the nostalgic stay-at-home mom when no one is around to judge. And then “I Want It That Way” starts blaring from the speaker. Besides being a cute party trick, Amazon’s Echo with virtual assistant Alexa connects to your Amazon account and responds to voice commands. It lets you play music and audiobooks and will even shop and buy items based on your voice commands. Oh, and the sound quality is great, too.
Smart home gadgets also include smart water quality sensors, smart crock pots, even smart light bulbs (but at $28/bulb, let tenants buy their own). Landlords and real estate investors should consider installing two or three of the above, and then touting their property as a “smart home” in the listing. At a one-time cost of about $500, investors can boast about all the benefits of their smart home and ask a significantly higher rent or sales price.
Or if you decide ROI isn’t your cup of tea, you can always blow $10,000 on a smart coffee maker for the sheer joy of burning money.
Landlords: Have you put any money into smart tools for your rentals? Which are most worth it to you?
Let me know with a comment!