Better property management through technology

There’s a growing number of products on the market that can improve the security and comfort of your home, but many of them are not typically used with investment properties. Some of the new technology available does involve high costs and a lack of serviceability, but for investors with multiple properties who want to avoid the cost of a full-time property manager, there are plenty of relatively inexpensive devices that can increase efficiency and security while improving your bottom line. Here are three that I encourage all investors to consider.

Keyless entry and lockboxes

Keyless digital entry locks are simple locks that work by keying in a four- to eight-digit code directly on the lock keypad. After you punch in your personal code and press ‘unlock,’ the deadbolt automatically retracts. These locks can easily replace a traditional deadbolt without much hassle, and many are designed for self-installation. Newer models are now equipped with Bluetooth technology, which allows you to unlock the door by using your phone to validate your security code.

This is a sweet deal for investors, especially those with student rental properties who need numerous individual keys for each house and bedroom. Pairing keyless entry with a lockbox at your student rental can save you a lot of painful phone calls from students who have lost their house keys or are locked out.

Another great option is a door lock with a removable or changeable core. This allows you to change the key when replacing a tenant without removing the entire lock system. These are more expensive to install, but they’ll save you a lot of time and money in the future.

Wi-Fi thermostats and surveillance

Readers who own or manage student rentals know that utility costs can rise dramatically and cut deeply into your bottom line if students are fully in control of the thermostat and are not careful with hydro/water usage. But today, there is a simple piece of technology that allows a landlord to fully control the thermostat in a rental property from anywhere on the planet with a Wi-Fi connection.

Wi-Fi thermostats are becoming more common in many households, but few landlords I know have implemented them. This strategy is best reserved for properties where the landlord is fully responsible for the utility costs. For $200 or less, you can pick up a Wi-Fi thermostat that allows you to change the temperature in the house remotely using an app on your phone or your laptop.

For example, in a student rental, you would purchase and install the Wi-Fithermostat, hook it up to the house Wi-Fi connection and set a program to heat up to a certain temperature – say, 21ºC in the winter and around 24ºC in the summer. The program will function without any human interference, but if any adjustment is needed, simply pull out your phone and take care of it with a few taps of your screen. (Be sure to install a plastic safety box over the thermostat to prevent tenants from messing around with the manual controls.)

You can also use the same Wi-Fi connection for a digital security camera. (Swann cameras are my personal favourite.) This is a costeffective – and admittedly very cool – way of increasing security for any investment property, especially if you live far away.

Solar power

Solar power can be a lucrative game for landlords. If you’re sitting on five rental properties, you have five roofs sitting there unused and not making you any money. Most landlords don’t consider a roof an income-producing asset, but why not? The technology is readily available, and you can easily sell back some or all of the power you generate. A small investment in solar panels may provide a large boost in monthly income – or at least a reduced energy bill. There are several professional companies who can advise and install your panels, and many even have financing programs to help you get started.

Solar panel technology is constantly improving, which is both good and bad for investors. Today’s latest technology can become outdated within a few years, so always research the facts and never believe the hype coming from a solar salesperson.

Technology is on your side. The number of gadgets and strategies that can be used in investment properties will inevitably increase, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on implementing the ones that make sense for your portfolio today.

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