If you're preparing to to offer contactless showings, and you've decided to start off by doing it yourself, then you may be tempted to go down to your local hardware store and buy a traditional, combination code lockbox. Don’t do this. The moment you give out the code to the first interested renter, no matter how qualified they seem, you’ll probably start worrying about who they may have shared it with and what they may do with it. Chances are you’ll find yourself removing the keys and tossing out the lock in matter of days.
A smart lock, on the other hand, has a digital key. You can hand out the key from anywhere and you can make it disappear with the click of a button. All of the lock’s activity is recorded so you always know who is coming and going. Don't concern yourself with the quality of the actual locking mechanism — this is the same for a smart lock as for a regular lock, which is why we suggest sticking with hardware that has internal components (i.e. the deadbolt) built by trusted lock manufacturers like Schlage or Yale. Do concern yourself with the "smart" features, because when it comes to what's necessary for self-guided showings all smart locks are definitely not created equal.
Most important hardware features
Most smart locks were designed for homeowners to install in their own homes and use themselves in their daily life. You’ll be facilitating access for up to twenty five people a day, most of whom you’ll never meet, so you’ll need a very different feature set.
1. Works without a mobile app
You need a smart lock with access codes and a touch screen so you don't have to force prospects to download an app.
2. Generate codes from anywhere:
You also need to be able to revoke or grant access from anywhere, which means that your lock needs either be WiFi enabled or controllable without WiFi.
3. Unlimited access codes
This is important both for safety and to offer renters the best experience possible and what it really boils down to is that it should be incredibly easy to share unique pin codes with renters.
Here's an example: the Sentrilock smart keybox only allows the user to create eight codes per day. Since there's always some percentage of cancelled showings and no shows, if things are working as they should and you're getting a lot of interest you would run out of codes by early afternoon.
4. Time-based access codes:
There are two kinds of pin codes. Non-time-based codes work forever until they're manually deleted or they work for an entire 24 or 28 hour period. Time-based codes work for specifically chosen windows of time, like August 24th between 4PM and 5PM. You want the latter.
Why? Simply because the more granular your access control, the safer your properties. If a code lasts for the entire day or longer than it's easier for people to share codes with friends that haven't gone through your authentication process.
Keybox versus deadbolt
A smart keybox is a padlock with a digital screen that can hang on or nearby the door. It has a key to the traditional lock, and is accessed similar to how an installed smart lock is accessed (access codes or bluetooth). It's a great starting point for property managers and landlords trying out self-guided showings.
Pros: No need to fundamentally change the door.
Cons: No way to know if the code was used, the keys were returned or the door is locked. More limited selection.
A smart deadbolt becomes part of the door's internal locking mechanism. If the unit’s door has a deadbolt above the handle itself then you can attach a smart lock "retrofit deadbolt" to the existing locking mechanism with a few minutes and a screwdriver. The locking infrastructure stays the same, but you now control what it does digitally. If it doesn't, the shape is weird so that the retrofits don't fit your door, or you're doing a gut renovation then you'll need to replace the lock completely with a deadbolt smart lock. In terms of lock functionality once they're setup, their functionality is the same.
Pros: More functionality, including a sensor in the lock so you always know if it's locked and the ability to know instantly if the prospect showed up for the viewing or not.
Cons: Relies on WiFi and will need more frequent battery replacement
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
Can’t find your question?
Have a specific question that's not answered in one of our Learn articles? Submit it here and we might be able to create a new article.