There are two words that describe the one thing all property managers are trying to do these days: stand out. You have multiple options for doing this. The one that most are flocking to is home automation – and for good reason. Home automation provides various benefits to the owner, manager, and guest. Just be sure to avoid potential confusion that can come with smart technology. With the questions we see and hear every day regarding home automation, we thought it would be helpful to further dispel myths about this technology.

Automation Saves

Automation Saves Money

Every business owner understands the constant battle between revenue and expenses, and property management companies are no exception. From taxes and fees to insurance and repairs, managing one or more rental property can be an expensive venture. But what you might not realize is that home automation technology can not only help you reduce long term costs, but it can also maximize your property’s value and increase your profits.

Smart thermostats, for instance, can save on energy costs at all times. During vacancies they mitigate the need for cleaning or maintenance crews by keeping the unit from running at non-efficient temperatures. When the property is occupied, the sensors prevent the AC from running if and when a guest leaves the door open. These actions alone can slash energy bills by $180 each year.

Automation Avoids Risk

Automation Avoids Issues

Smart thermostats help prevent major issues like frozen pipes by protecting against cold temperatures. They can also prevent mold from growing by monitoring moisture levels and running the AC to keep humidity below mold growth levels.

Automation Safety

Automation Increases Safety

Home automation technology has the potential to increase safety. The use of digital locks eliminates the need for physical keys, meaning you don’t have to worry about lost or stolen keys and who might have access to them while guests are in the property. Plus, you can delight guests by having them skip the check-in line and go straight to their property to start their vacation. With the ability to maintain a complete entry-and-exit record and designate unique access codes for various service providers, you always know who has been in a property. By installing cameras in driveways and front entryways, you can also remotely monitor unoccupied properties. Porch light switches or plug-in modules for lamps help to make sure entry lights come on at dusk and off at dawn, welcoming late guests and simulating occupancy to deter possible troublemakers.

Automation at Home

Automation Feels Like Home

In addition, home automation technology increases the appeal of a property because the technology is something people are increasingly familiar with at home. According to Parks Associates, 32 percent of U.S. broadband households own at least one connected device, and 50 percent of households intend to purchase a smart home device in the next year.

Automation Money

Automation Brings More Money

Renters are willing to pay more for properties with home automation technology, but be sure to keep it simple. Multiple devices from various manufacturers running several different apps at a time is neither convenient for the guest nor efficient for the property manager. Instead, look for a system that drives all functionality in one device and also has alternate interfaces such as voice activation or old-fashioned interaction (e.g., thermostats that can manually be manipulated or doors that have keypads).

The Cost of Automation

Despite the long-term benefits of home automation technology, the upfront costs can understandably scare budget-minded managers away.

You might wonder how quickly such an investment will pay for itself. The answer largely depends on which hub you use to help your devices “speak” to one another; there are a variety of options to fit your setup and baseline budget. Generally speaking, a basic lock and thermostat setup should cost between $500 and $600 and drive at least a 30 percent ROI when you factor energy savings, lost key costs, and recouping lost time from managing mechanical keys, vendor access, and showings.

If installation is what gives you cold feet, have no fear. A standard package that includes a lock, thermostat, and hub should take only 20 to 25 minutes per property to install, and comes with training on how to install and use the system. Additional support is also provided when the property management staff has questions that pop up. If self-installation doesn’t suit the team’s needs, this can be taken care of for around $150 per home with the training being focused solely on how to use the system.

Getting Started with Automation

Thermostats and smart locks are a great place to start because they have a great balance between operational benefits and resident amenity value. Once those are up and running, if you want to drive more operational savings, shift your focus to sensors and cameras. A $40 temperature sensor in a refrigerator can let the property manager know when a fridge is not functioning properly, while a similarly priced water sensor can detect leaks in unoccupied homes that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Driveway cameras and doorbell cameras can help property managers keep an eye on properties during the offseason while also validating who shows up to a rental property.

While it’s important to install home automation technology in areas that will provide operational savings, don’t forget that a smart home can also improve a tenant’s experience in your property. Additions like voice assistants, garage door controllers, and pool or spa controllers can drive higher guest satisfaction and higher rental rates.

Although technology changes quickly, most home automation devices are backward compatible. They enjoy a lifespan similar to that of kitchen appliances rather than electronics like TVs, which become outdated at a frustrating pace. Whatever technology you decide to adopt, avoid DIY hardware because it will come with additional security risks and lack the vital features of systems designed for property managers.

In Conclusion

Home automation technology is quickly becoming the new normal, and your guests will increasingly demand a connected vacation rental home. But don’t fear! This could be a welcomed (and profitable) change if the right steps are taken. Do some research, choose a partner that will evolve with you and support you over the long term, and put your toes in the water. The biggest mistake would be to do nothing; letting your competition drive higher operational efficiencies and higher guest satisfaction.

Sean Miller is president of PointCentral, a subsidiary of Alarm.com and the leader in smart automation solutions for long-term and short-term managers of single-family and multi-family rental properties. Outside of having a lifelong passion for technology, Mr. Miller has almost 10 years of professional experience with B2B and B2C IoT/home automation technology, having previously led global sales and business development for Wemo, Belkin’s home-automation business unit, and launched Mobile Link, a cellular-based internet connectivity service for generators, at Generac Power Systems.

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