Adding Rental-appropriate Smart-Home features to Rental house

7 Replies

I'm in the process of renovating my latest rental house.  I've been thinking about Smart-Home features which would be beneficial to a landlord as opposed to wiz-bang cool features to attract tenants. Specifically, I'm only interested in smart-home features which help to minimize the risk of home being damaged or minimize our response time when those things occur. It will also allow me to put the "smart-home" buz word in my rental listings which may attract some tenants.

The ones I'm thinking of would be:

1. Water detector in a) a/c pan, b) water heater pan, and c) behind washing machine which will notify me if there's a leak in these places. I have had significant water damage in all three of these areas in the past.

2. smart thermostat to tell me when the air filter needs to be changed

3. Smart lock so I can let service providers in when appropriate by giving them a temporary access code. (would only do this with tenant's permission or in emergency if neither tenant of I could be there).

4. wifi-capable smoke/co2 detectors to warn me in case of smoke or CO2.

One challenge was how to get internet in the house. Do I rely on tenants' internet? don't think that would be wise. Should I make wifi part of the "what's included" portion of the lease? That seems like something which would just add monthly costs with little/no return. But, I found a great third option. Freedompop offers a free LTE wifi hotspot (with small one-time activation fee) and no monthly fee as long as you use less than 500MB per month. That should be plenty for the above-mentioned smart home items. There are other companies which offer similar "free" plans assuming low data usage.

Here are the specific products I've either purchased for this project or am leaning toward:

1. Water detector: D-Link DCH-S160 : $60 each

2. Thermostat: Leaning toward Nest-E ($169) ... a bit overkill for my intended purpose though. So, I"m still looking.

3. Smart Lock: TBD

4. smoke/co2 detectors: TBD

5. Wifi Hotspot: FreedompopR850 Hotspot: about $25 one-time fee when it's all said and done.

I'm also tying all these together with IFTTT to help improve the integration and notifications... it's free. 

And, I'll make sure I itemize each of the items in my contract with replacement values in case tenants steal them or damage them through neglect... much like I do with garage-door openers.

Has anyone else done this with their rentals? Any suggestions on specific products? Any ideas on the above uses and/or others? 

Oh, and a 5th item ... a Wifi-enabled water sprinkler controller to give ME control over when the yard is watered. This will have to be listed as a clause in the contract giving me the right to use their water to control when the lawn is watered.

I have never heard of the Freedom pop Hotspot.  I'm curious on the range of the wifi it emits. As far as data usage goes, it makes complete sense to go with this to keep wifi always on. The number one difficulty with smart devices is that if they disconnect from wifi, they can sometimes need to be manually reset, which usually requires a trip out to the property. 

I'm a software developer for a smart property management platform and the "always on" wifi is a challenge were trying to navigate right now for 150+ unit communities. If this ends up working for you, please let me know.

I'd recommend a kevo quickset smart lock with the kevo smart hub, which allows wifi access to the lock so you can lock/unlock the door from anywhere. eKey handoff is pretty simple with it as well.

I haven't looked into the smart smoke detectors or water detectors, but I do like your thinking behind these devices.

But from our findings, we've found millennial renters are willing to pay a 10-15% rent premium for smart home amenities, so I'd say its worth looking into to see how IoT devices can impact your bottom line.

Hi @Lewis Eldridge ,

Do you think all those things are going to end up paying for itself? Do they allow you get higher rent?

I believe your thermostat is worth it, as well as water detectors.These are the two products that are actually going to save you money, and the tenants know it's going to save them money too. 

I don't believe your smoke alarm is worth it, it's an improvement on a standard device that doesn't really need that feature. 

I've been told by several locksmiths that the smart locks are awful. You can simply put a lockbox or faux lockbox stone on the property to make up for the temporary code. What will happen with a smart lock, is that a habit will be formed that you don't need a key, and when the power goes out, the lock doesn't work. 

I'd leave the wifi feature alone. I rent a lot of condos, and some HOAs include wifi in the fees. I'm seeing a lot of people working from home now, and require the highest speed internet. They rather pay for it to guarantee they get what they need. 

Hope this helps!

I think there may be some implied liability if you say in the lease, that you have WiFi connected smoke detectors. That could imply that YOU are “monitoring” for fire. Then 3 years later, while you are in the Islands on vacation, the house burns down and you don’t call the fire department. The tenant may be able to claim you did not uphold your end of the lease agreement.

I know that is very far fetched, but I owned an alarm (burglar and fire) company for years and now I am an insurance adjuster. So potential for liability is bigger in my mind than in most.

Thanks for your comments! Very good things to think about. The wifi hotspot will ONLY be for the IOT devices and not be used for tenant's regular internet. It will be slow, but good enough. And, you all make good points about some of the specific applications. I'm already having second thoughts on the door lock and smoke detectors as result. 

Sounds like a lot of over kill that may or may not work when needed. I do not personally consider any of that technology reliable.

How often do you inspect your properties. Are you assuming these items will eliminate your need to do regular inspections.

@Lewis Eldridge While I do not see the value of your IOT devices on a rental, I do use alot of them on my own house.  Most of the smart locks on the market run off batteries, so no fear about a power outage (although the batteries could go dead, but most still use a regular key as a backup).  I would say that the filter reminder is just that.  If the tenant forget to reset (or you do), that is going to cause alot of false triggers).

Keep in mind that most IOT devices require some sort of hub, which is extra money.  My guess is you looking at over $1k in costs, and will never really recover than in extra rent.

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