The benefits of upgrading your rental with smart home technology are proven: studies show 82% of guests are more likely to complete a reservation when they see smart tech listed in the rental description, and 60% of guests will even pay more for smart-home enabled rental properties. These findings suggest that not only can smart technology increase your number of bookings, but it can also boost your income — so why wouldn’t you want to make this profitable improvement to your rental?
The truth is, even considering the benefits of a smarter vacation rental, there are some pitfalls you’ll have to consider when installing smart home technology, such as cost and technical glitches. Among the greater risks is the danger of alienating your less tech-savvy guests. Any new technology brings with it a learning curve, and guests who are looking to relax will not be pleased if they have to spend their whole vacation learning how to operate complicated devices.
That’s why it’s essential to follow these best practices if you plan to implement smart home technology in your vacation rental:
1. Mention any smart technology in your rental listings.
As stated above, most guests will be more likely to book vacation rentals that mention smart home technology in their listings. However, this step is just as important to include for guests who don’t want to book your rental because they’re uncomfortable with using smart technology. For example, an older couple with no experience using smart devices—or even a Millennial looking to unplug from technology for a weekend—may not want to be blindsided with this rental feature.
By openly publicizing your property’s smart home features, you will entice most guests and simultaneously avoid leaving the outliers dissatisfied. Add a “Smart Technology” section to your description, then list each smart device available to guests, and be sure to include any other important information such as whether they will need a smartphone to operate essential apps.
2. Always leave a how-to guide for your guests.
Do you provide guests with a welcome packet, or any other written instructions? Maybe how to operate the TV, or where to find highly rated restaurants in the area? This packet would be a great place to add a page or two of straightforward instructions for any smart devices that guests may use during their stay. Include any vital information, but try to avoid overwhelming guests with details they don’t need.
Provide a catalogue of smart devices and the functions they can perform, along with any mobile apps guests may want to download and common commands or trigger words for smart routines. Before you leave this guide for guests, ask someone you know to take a look and test out the smart devices using the instructions you’ve left. This way you can have a heads-up if your guide seems too complicated for the average user or if you’ve accidentally left something out. Keep in mind – even the things you may think are easily understandable could be more difficult for your guests to grasp.
3. Use a smart speaker that can execute commands for multiple devices.
As much as possible, allow guests to utilize your rental property’s smart home technology through a smart speaker like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. The key benefit to smart speakers is that you can connect most of them to multiple types of devices and routines, so that guests won’t have to switch between apps every time they want to trigger a new routine. Some guests may like to download the corresponding apps for certain smart devices, but the apps shouldn’t be their only option.
Be sure to place smart speakers in central areas of the house. If you only install one, put it either in the kitchen or the living room, which tend to be the most highly trafficked areas of any home. You can also choose to distribute a handful of smart speakers throughout your rental (which would be particularly convenient for your guests if your property has a lot of square footage).
4. Focus on smart home technology guests actually want to use.
It should go without saying that a smart sprinkler system is less appealing to vacation rental guests than perhaps a smart TV. You may feel tempted to splurge on devices that fulfill your own wants and needs, and that’s ok! Depending on your budget, you may be able to afford the Smart TV and the sprinkler system. Rule of thumb, though, is to prioritize investing in what your guests want (which will give you the highest return) – then you can work your way down to other items if you so desire and have the budget.
According to the survey previously mentioned, smart TVs and smart security systems topped the list of most appealing smart devices for guests, with 93% showing interest in those features. Thermostats, while still appealing to 86% of guests, actually came near the bottom of the list, alongside indoor and outdoor cameras and smart lighting systems.
Another great way to avoid making an inaccurate prediction is to survey past guests, asking them to provide feedback that will help make your properties even more enjoyable in the future. You’ll not only get a better understanding of what devices your guests are interested in, but also engage in continuing the conversation, which can lead to more bookings with them in the future.
5. Avoid installing interior cameras.
Although many homeowners feel more secure with smart cameras they can monitor from their phone, you can get yourself into some seriously hot water for having cameras inside a rental property. You may turn the cameras off for the duration of a guest’s stay, but many people will be uncomfortable knowing that the cameras even exist. And worse still would be not warning guests about indoor cameras, only for them to discover the cameras themselves.
If you feel you must install indoor cameras for security or any other reason, you should be completely transparent with all guests. Clearly describe the location of each camera and assure guests that they will not be turned on without their knowledge—or, better yet, use cameras that can be removed before each stay and installed again after guests leave. Nest Cams, for example, can be removed from their mounting plates without too much hassle. Most importantly, place yourself in the guests’ shoes and think about how you would feel staying somewhere with interior cameras.
6. Have a fallback plan for when your smart devices fail.
In the case of power outages, technical glitches, or even user error, you must ensure that guests remain comfortable and safe if your rental property’s smart features aren’t working properly. Being prepared for these situations could mean making yourself available in the case of emergencies, leaving instructions for alternatives when smart devices fail, or just choosing devices that allow use even when they’re not connected.
For example, a smart lock your guests can only operate through a mobile app can be a risky choice because if they misplace their phone or their battery dies they’ll be locked out. However, a smart lock with a mobile app as well as a keypad provides an alternative solution in those situations. Smart TVs that require an internet connection to stream from Netflix or Hulu may frustrate guests if the wireless goes down or is running super slow for any number of reasons—so consider providing a basic cable package as well.
When it comes to installing smart technology in your vacation rental, focus on simplifying life for your guest rather than unnecessarily complicating it. Make choices from that perspective, and you’ll likely succeed in impressing your guests, drawing in more bookings, and increasing your income fees.