7 Smart Home Gadgets Landlords Should Consider for a Sought-After Rental

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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?

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7 Smart Home Gadgets Landlords Should Consider for a Sought-After Rental

1. Smart Door Locks: ~$200

Example: August

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).

smart-lock

Related: What Real Estate Technology Do You Really Need When Starting Out?

2. Smart Thermostats: ~$200

Example: Nest

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

Example: Canary

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

Example: Nest

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.

invest-garages

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!

About Author

Brian Davis

Brian is a real estate investor and landlord with 15 rental properties, who writes fascinating articles for SparkRental.com. His rental management is almost completely automated by now, allowing him to travel the world frequently (if not always in style).

12 Comments

  1. Paul Winka

    Brian, great suggestions here, especially the door lock. My concern would be the tradeoff in dealing with tenants from earlier generations that just don’t get how to use smart gadgets with their phone or simply do not own a smart phone. My stepdad, for example, still doesn’t get how to use Skype. Anyway, how do you handle this?

    • Brian Davis

      Very true – the higher the tech in a house, the more likely that a resident will struggle with working it. Part of the ROI equation is who your target demographic is; landlords targeting millennials can do well with higher tech, but landlords targeting older Americans should probably save their money. Normal keys do still work on smart locks, but there’s no reason to spend money if it won’t come back in a return.

      • Maybe landlords shouldn’t target millennials versus dinosaurs. A rental should be able to accommodate any great tenant of any age or technology preference. Believe it or not, there are millennials who refuse to buy smart phones and love their “bricks” (low tech cell phones).

  2. Roy N.

    Brian:

    As someone who has been doing the above … and a little more … for almost five years now, you need to look beyond the gadget and glam of certain gadgets aimed at the home owner market.

    The problem with many such products (Nest is a prime example) is that they are proprietary which makes them difficult to integrate into an overall monitoring management system. Some of them are also overpriced for what they offer (Nest’s smoke detector example).

    In 2011, we started rolling our own building monitoring / management solution based upon IoT protocols and using Raspberry Pi, Adruino, and a variety of sensors. We later moved to using the SmartThings hub as we wanted to spend more time developing the managing software.

    When we started, the only building monitoring/control/management systems came from folks like Siemens and Honeywell; they were/are proprietary and outside of the budget of a small landlord. Our goal was to develop a system that would cost us less than $1,000 (CAD) per door to deploy. We have achieved that for our base system.

    If I were starting over today, it would be possible to purchase off the shelf (COTS) more pieces, but there is still an unfortunate trend towards proprietary islands rather than open standards which makes integration of these pieces into a coherent whole still very challenging.

  3. this story obviously was written by a younger author with respect to all the unnecessary gadgets that offer nothing to the value of the property. I don’t have any of these items in my own house and there is no reason they are needed in any of our rentals. if my renters are looking for these items they may buy them themselves or search out rentals that offer them, and pay a higher monthly rent because of it. there are over 7 billion people walking the earth and tech only interests a small portion as a whole. just my experience

  4. Stacy E.

    I am seriously considering the SMART thermostats for my house in Alaska. I’ve been house hacking so renting out the basement unit and living up top. However, I am going to move back to the east coast (in about a month) and am concerned about the heat. Since the heat for both units is not separated it is an expense I am planning to cover. It’s a bit scary because it is oil and they tenants could make it 70 when it is -30 outside. The other thing is that there are multiple zones for the upstairs unit (2000+ sq ft) so I would need to purchase 4 of them + 1 for the downstairs. Another thought is to see how this year goes and do a cost benefit analysis and possibly install in the future.

    • Brian Davis

      That is a risk, particularly for smart door locks. While there’s no incentive for a hacker to go through the trouble in order to change your thermostat from 72 to 74, doors are another story. Another reason to have security software running at all times on your smartphone and all other devices, and to have your home wifi network secured with a strong password. Still, someone who wants to enter a home can do so with a bump key, or a pick set, or a crowbar, or an old fashioned brick through the window… life has its risks.

  5. Brandon Shewbridge

    If you’re not also providing maintaining the internet at these rentals then none of these smart home devices will work. If your tenants are providing the internet (and router) then your access to the smart home devices as a landlord will be non-existant. If you have the smarthome device running on a separate internet connection from the tenants, then your tenants wont have access…

    This may be better in an apartment setting where there is a management office on site.

  6. Rick Grubbs

    I had a system of master keyed locks – about $50 per set- but no longer use them. Tenants would change the locks or my property manager’s guys would change them out with others locks and i would be out $50. Now we use $12 cheapo’s from Lowes. If I had a $200 smart lock and tenant took it that would be very bad news.

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