The professionally managed vacation rental industry has seen rapid adoption of smart lock technology over the last two years. The increased security that keyless entry offers to managers, owners, and guests is reason enough to invest in smart locks for rental properties.
However, smart locks provide much more than the ability to lock and unlock a door without a key. Today’s smart locks also track who is entering and leaving the property, provide real-time alerts and notifications, email digital codes to guests, ensure an increased level of security for both owners and guests, and offer networked home automation products that control and monitor thermostats, refrigeration, pool heat, and more.
“Smart Home benefits all of the key stakeholders in vacation rental management,” said Greg Burge, president at PointCentral. “It provides a secure and convenient guest experience, cuts owner energy expense and maintenance, and delivers revolutionary operational benefits to Vacation Rental Managers (VRMs). Our customers have told us that no other investment has delivered as broad a set of benefits as their Smart Home investment.”
Key Advantages to Using Smart Locks
- Improves security for owners and guests
- Tracks activity in the property
- Provides protection for VRMs
- Eliminates the need for on-site check-in
- Decreases or eliminates staff time addressing late-night key delivery to guests who are locked out of the property
- Provides connectivity for Smart Home automation systems that control thermostats, refrigeration, and pool temperature
Because new smart home products and technologies are being introduced at warp speed, it can be challenging for VRMs to know the right questions to ask when selecting a smart lock provider.
We reached out to PointCentral, LockState, and dorma+kaba (Dorma and Kaba recently merged) to find out more about differentiating between smart lock options and the key factors in selecting a smart lock provider.
From installation to networking, software integration and guest communications, there are multiple factors to consider. Consequently, at VRM Intel, we compiled a cheat sheet of questions to ask when shopping for smart locks for your vacation rental management company.
5 Considerations When Selecting a Smart Lock Provider
A primary consideration when choosing a smart lock provider is whether the lock system connects with the internet via broadband, Wi-Fi, or cellular-based technology. In some cases, providers offer a variety of options, but VRMs will want to dive deeper by asking additional questions about networking and gateways.
- What is the average life cycle for the lock? Three years? Five years? Ten years?
- Does the lock system operate via broadband, cellular, Wi-Fi connectivity, or a combination?
- Does the lock require a “gateway” or additional hardware?
- If a gateway is required, what communication protocol does it use to communicate with the lock?
- Do I need to set up a new radio frequency (RF) network on-site?
- If a Wi-Fi connection is required, how friendly is the “environment” to the new network? For example, are there concrete walls that would limit the range of acceptable locations for the gateway?
- Does an RF technician need to be available for installation and support? If so, what will that installation and support entail?
- How often will the lock batteries need to be changed?
- Does the lock have a manual override option?
- What happens if connectivity is dropped? If power is lost to my gateway, will I receive a notification or alert? Will the lock still operate normally? Will I still be able to generate codes for my lock?
- Will the lock location be exposed to extreme weather conditions? If so, does the provider have locks that perform well when exposed to the elements?
- If I am located in a high windstorm area, is the smart lock approved or certified for these conditions? According to Rich Lang, vice president of sales at Oracode, “When deciding on hardware, one consideration is whether the smart lock is certified for installation in a high windstorm area. This feature could be essential for those properties located in hurricane-prone areas such as Florida.”
- Will the lock be purchased directly from the manufacturer or from a third party distributor?
Enterprise Software Functionality and Integration
The functionality offered by smart lock providers differs from company to company. In addition, most vacation rental managers require integration with their preexisting software systems. As a result, managers will want to understand the parameters of that integration, the additional functionality provided by the smart lock company, and the performance of the dashboard monitoring system.
- Will the system integrate into my current property management software?
- Is the software accessible from any mobile device without downloading apps?
- Can the software be embedded into my current property management software, providing seamless status management workflow?
- Can the lock company’s platform expand into other services that I need (e.g., booking calendar synching, cleaning crew management, maintenance management, HomeAway/Airbnb, etc.)?
- Is there an enterprise-wide operations dashboard? If so, does it allow me to make one change and update the entire enterprise? What information is provided on the dashboard? Am I able to see the real-time status of all of the properties that I manage?
- How are automated alerts and notifications created and sent to guests and the manager? How easy is it to customize the notification business rules and messaging?
- Does the provider offer occupancy-based (reservation) control of other devices such as thermostats, plugs, cameras, etc.?
- Are there multiple user levels and related data privacy and security restrictions?
- For large homes and Home Owner Associations, can the lock company’s platform control all locks and access points in the platform rather than just individual unit doors—that is, sliding glass doors, elevator floor access, parking garage gates, and garage doors?
Installation can be a major factor for VRMs to consider when deciding between smart lock companies. Additionally, there may be internal resources needed for installation. You will want to have a comprehensive understanding of the installation process.
- How easy is it to install the lock and the connecting system?
- Is any network setup required (i.e., gateways)?
- Who will do the installation?
- How long will it take to install smart locks at the property?
- Do I need to allot any additional resources for installation?
Company Performance and Track Record
According to Nolan Mondrow, CEO of LockState, “For property managers, connected locks are more than just hardware. They are new tools to help you better manage your business. The lock company you buy from should understand your business, not just the lock they sell you.”
It is critical to select a smart lock provider that has a comprehensive, specialized knowledge of the professionally managed vacation rental industry. Taking the time to research companies and check references from other VRMs who utilize these products and services will give invaluable insight into how these companies operate within the industry.
- What is the provider’s depth of knowledge about the vacation rental industry?
- Will I have dedicated project management of my account and installation?
- Will the company provide relevant references whom I can contact?
- Does the company invest in the ongoing development of smart home technology in the vacation rental industry?
As with any technology used by VRMs, requests for assistance and support will need to be handled with speed and efficiency. For this reason, a company’s customer support infrastructure should be a significant consideration when you are selecting a provider.
- Is training provided to my staff?
- Does the company offer direct support for end users?
- How quickly are requests for support answered?
- Do I need to have a local resource for ongoing support and maintenance?
- How robust is the lock company’s platform on which the lock is controlled? Can it handle thousands of locks in one user account?
- Is there a warranty?
- Is there an additional cost for ongoing support?