SmartLocks vs. Locksmith

29 Replies

I've only been in business a short while, but own three rentals.  One I had to turn over already due to the quality of tenants, and it just happens to be the house with the most door locks I've ever seen on a 1200 s.f. house (9!).

I called around to several locksmiths to compare prices and all are similar.  My locksmith has set me up with a master key system, but still charges a $45 service fee and $10/lock to re-key when a tenant leaves.  So for this particular house it costs me about $145 (including tax and keys) when I have to re-key.

The other two houses have 3 locks and 5 locks, and would probably cost about $80 and $100 if I had to re-key (although I have better tenants in those and don't foresee high turnover, both have renewed leases this year).

Kwikset makes not only a Smart Locks that can be re-keyed, but also makes a deadbolt (no knobs) that are both Smart and allow a master key called Key Control.  I was contemplating switching all the knobs to plain unlockable knobs and the deadbolts to the Kwikset Key Control master system.  But the Key Control locks are $30 each and good knobs are about $20. I think it'll cost me about $250 or so to change the hardware for this house.

I found lots of info about the regular smart locks from Kwikset, but I was wondering if anyone had used the Key Control deadbolts in particular and how they like them?  The locksmith said he liked them, but they could be broken into and if you lose the master key, there's nothing much you can do (he couldn't get in) except contact Kwikset.

Also, since I have been in business such a short while, I am not really sure how often to project turnover (although for MX costs I assume once a year).  If I get new tenants every year, its probably worth it.  But less than that I'm not so sure.  Thoughts?  

The two common ways I know of dealing with locks are the kwickset locks, and  You can change the locks out yourself fairly easily, as long as everything fits up tight.  The one drawback to the Kiwkset locks can be seen if you search them on youtube.  They may have corrected the problem since video was made.

Also landlordlocks can make it much harder for tenant to rekey locks or make extra keys for their "subletees".

Do the 9 doors all need keyed locks?  Maybe you can change them to just open from the inside, or simply not issue a key to that door.

There are a lot of topics on locks here.  Have some fun with search.

I just set up my 3 family with Kwikset smartkey locks for all of the apartment locks.  They seem to work very well and the newer ones are grade 1 security (and seem sturdy) vs the key-control which advertize as grade 2.  Just by look and feel the grade 2 locks i examined do not seem as sturdy as the grade 1.  They are really cheap (slightly over 20.00 each) on Amazon.  I started with 5 kwikset 980s for 108.00, then bought more.

One drawback I considered is that the tenant can re-key the smartkey locks themselves if they wanted to, since you only need the working key to re-key the lock.  I figure so what. If they really want to lock me out, then I have a bigger problem.  I also put a notice in the lease saying that if they do that, they must give me a copy of the new key, and if I ever have to hire a locksmith to get in to do repairs, or whatever, they have to pay for the locksmith fees.  

On the plus side, it sure is easy as hell to re-key the things.  I think that the grade 1 security claim by kwikset and the fact that they advertize them as bump-resistant resolves my concerns that I am providing good locks for their security.

I am not a lock expert but it seems like this type of lock can take away a lot of business from locksmiths (nothing against locksmiths!) so it would not be surprising if locksmiths are critical of them.

I am sure someone will criticize my thoughts on this but I am cool with that and may learn something by listening.

Originally posted by @William Nohmor :

I just set up my 3 family with Kwikset smartkey locks for all of the apartment locks.  

 So, without the key control, you still have different sets of keys for each apartment, right?  But this saves you calling a locksmith each time you turnover?

I am a locksmith from New Jersey and in your situation i would recommend installing kwikset smart key locks on all locks that need to be rekeyed more then once a year, if you're looking for ways to cut cost in the long run. The smartkey can be easily rekeyed as you know and they offer good security compared to the other locks in it's category. What I recommend to all my clients is that they give a copy of the master key to a a family member or trusted friend in the area. By doing that you should have no worries about any lockout or rekey cost from a locksmith. As long as you lubricate the locks every year or so, they should last up to 20+ years.

Any other questions you can message me

Why the need for rekeying locks?

Tenants are responsible for returning all keys at end of lease. If keys are missing their security deposit is charged.

Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum :

Why the need for rekeying locks?

Tenants are responsible for returning all keys at end of lease. If keys are missing their security deposit is charged.

 You must not have been doing this for very long, or you lack thorough training. 

Re-keying locks is done so that the former tenant can't get back into the unit with the copies of the key that you weren't told about and that were kept by the tenant or the tenant's friends / family / etc. 

Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum :

Why the need for rekeying locks?

Tenants are responsible for returning all keys at end of lease. If keys are missing their security deposit is charged.

Sounds like you're suggesting that I use the same keys, tenant to tenant.  I think that's bad for the new tenant's safety/security, and the house's security as well (think: disgruntled tenant returns to deface property).  When I was a renter myself I always asked to be sure the landlord had changed the locks.

@Amy E. ...Under no circumstances do you ever keep the same key on a unit when a tenant moves out. You can have all the no-no's in the lease about not making extra keys but who's to know the different? Also, try to get different sets of keys for your units and cycle them. You wouldn't want the tenant from unit "A" to also have access to unit "D". 

I have been using the Kwikset secure key locks for years with only a couple of issues thus far. I look at the ease of re-keying (takes about 10 seconds to re-key one lock) and that has far outweighed the issues I've had which one was my fault and the other was that the lock would just spin and not lock/unlock. I think I paid something like $48 for a knob and deadbolt.

BTW...not re-keying once a tenant moves is only inviting issues...not to say that all tenants are bad but would you want a call from a current tenant stating that all their belongings are gone but no sign of forced entry?

Seems like lots of folks like to the smart key locks.  Any recs on who has the cheapest price?  I checked on Amazon and their 5 pack is much more expensive than buying singles, which are about $22. 

Originally posted by @Amy E. :
Originally posted by @William Nohmor:

I just set up my 3 family with Kwikset smartkey locks for all of the apartment locks.  

 So, without the key control, you still have different sets of keys for each apartment, right?  But this saves you calling a locksmith each time you turnover?

 with the smartkey, you can key as many locks alike as you want.  So in my case, I have the front and back door keyed the same for each apartment.  It is a simple 2 minutes or less process for each lock. you insert the working key, then a tool, and do a couple of turns in a certain sequence, put the new key in and turn it and you are now re-keyed. So at the end of a lease, the tenant gives you back the keys, and you take a kwikset key you already have (or you can buy pre-cut keys for cheap) and rekey the apartment to that new key.  The old turned in keys  dont work anymore.  You can save the old turned in keys to use on a different kwikset lock (not in the same building! for security) or toss them which is probably a better idea.  I only recycle kwikset keys for times when I am refurbishing an apartment and temporarily rekey it and give spares to workers.

This post has been removed.

@Amy E. I bring my locks to Home Depot and they re key for me.  One of the local stores charges me like $3-5 each and the other store does it for free.  It's a little time consuming to take them off and drive them to the store while the house is unlocked, but I typically do it when going there anyways and my rentals are in safe enough neighborhoods that I'm. It concerned with leaving them unlocked.  

The reason you want them to turnover the keys is that it is an additional indication that they have given up possession of the unit. I have them sign something that states they give up possession, that any thing left is mine (they have to pay for removal) and their new address, but it is just one one thing to show the judge if need be. 

I then retain their keys with a tag on it for a period of time in case there is ever a question if I changed the locks. For those units with self changing locks (kwickset/landlord locks type) I do it in front of the tenant when they move in and for others that still need a locksmith I have the locksmith come out when they move in if at all possible.

If all the locks are the same brand (i.e. Schlage, kwickset, etc.) then you can buy a rekey kit Prime-Line for about $10.  The are sold on amazon and are made for all the major companys. Schlage rekey kit

The first go round it can be a bit tricky, but after a little practice I can do a lockset (handle and deadbolt) in less then 10 minutes.  The kit is enough for 6 different locks and comes with 3 new keys which is prefect for my application.  Upon tenant changeover I'll just buy another kit and rekey the locks again.  

There are plenty of videos on YouTube of how the process works.  Here is an example: How-to

For this kit to work you must have a functioning key to remove the cylinder.

Another discussion on here mentioned these locks:

Doesn't that solve all the issues?

I Love the Smart Keys.  Value your time people!!!! I had a break in (forced entry to a window).  Strangely it was someone who they knew and had told them that they had lived there before.  It was a great feeling to say to the question "Who had the key before us?"  "Nobody you are the only one besides me that has that key".  Boom.

I just buy locks and change them around from property to property.   It's about $15 per set.

The most locks I ever had on a property was 5 (two each for the front and back door + security doors on each) and the garage.  Most are just 3 - front door, back door, and garage.

I see a lot of value in using a traditional locksmith.  I look at it as a service based business.  The service is priceless if you are out of town, have a move out and need the locks changed quickly.  I use the husband and wife owner operator locksmith.  Here is the value I see in having a relationship with one locksmith....

-  They know your properties overtime

-  They will jump for you when needed if you treat them fair and build a relationship

-  When they re key a property I haven't had a chance to visit I will ask him to take pictures and give me feedback on what needs to be done.  A inventory of repairs and problems.

-  I call or text my locksmith a couple times a month to check in.  I'm always pinging him asking whats going on with the market, who is doing what, who is selling what.  

- My rusty locksmith knows everyone around the county and sends me leads on landlords that might want out of the business.  Locksmiths deal with asset managers, realtors, owners, banks, etc.  My locksmith is my eyes and ears.

ALL of this for re keying my properties a few times a year at about $80 per property....


Recently, the lock for my apartment door broke and me and my roommate had to hire a Locksmith who drilled thru the lock. Basically that was the only lock for the apartment door and it broke due to old age and poor quality so it was no one's fault. The next morning, I hire a different locksmith to install a new lock. My roommate and I paid for the locksmith fees already, but we feel the landlord should reimburse some or all of the fees, but we're not sure if he's required to pay all of it. Is the LL responsible for the fees of the locksmith who installed the lock and the locksmith who drilled out the faulty lock? Or just the former?  Any recommendations?

I use the kwickset  smart key system,  one of the first things i do with a rehab is change  locks to a key, that all of us carry, our trusted vendors carry.  when rehab is done, we rekey for new tenant.  also rekey for each new tenant. Quick, easy and effective.  occasionally I have to swap one out. 

I have 4 units.
All locks are Kwikset so I purchased a Pin kit and extra set of locks takes about 10 minutes to rekey a lock. and cost nothing once you buy kit. I have even hand filed an existing Key to change pattern. With extra set you can rekey ahead of time and swap out locks. very easy and many YouTube videos to learn from.

is this one of the threads where i say how unhappy i am about Smart Locks?

if not, it is now... Smart Locks suck. i have had so many problems with NO key working - even tenants' keys stop working over time. or they open the top but not the bottom.

what a mistake!

If a previous tenant comes back in using a copy of a key, that is trespassing.  If you're required by law to change out the locks then change them out, otherwise it might not be worth the investment.  If you have to evict someone and they don't want to leave until the sheriff shows up, you might want to at least change out the deadbolt on the front door and screw the other doors shut while it is vacant to help keep them out.

I ended up going with a local locksmith and a master key system.  My only regret is not getting more estimates prior to hiring the company I'm with, they seem expensive to me but on the plus side they respond within an hour of my call so I don't have to worry about scheduling them.  I only own three properties, and only one property has a crazy amount of locks (9!), the other two just have a front and back door so this hasn't gotten very costly yet, but it can still get expensive (service fee, per lock fee,etc.)

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here