How is technology simplifying property management?
What is the Internet of Things?
You’ve probably heard lots of buzz around the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), but what is it exactly? The concept has been around for many years, but is finally coming to fruition thanks to a trend towards smaller, less power-hungry devices. The eponymous ‘things' can be anything that
can be assigned an IP address, and mostly work without human input. Essentially, any object that can transmit data over a network can form a part of the internet of things. Typically, this involves interconnected everyday appliances that can automate themselves and tailor their behaviour to their users.
It’s predicted that by 2019 companies will ship 1.9 billion connected home devices to bring in about $490 billion in revenue.
So how can you benefit as a landlord? Well, the possibilities are endless. From informing you of faults before your tenants have to, to allowing the whole home to be automatically personalised
to each tenant with nothing more than a few taps and swipes. Simply put, it can make managing your properties easier, cheaper and more efficient.
Below, we'll run through some of the ways you can make that a reality.
One of the biggest concerns for any property owner is security, whether it's protection from vandalism, burglary, or even the elements. There are already a number of smart devices out there designed specifically for this purpose, so you can rest easy. They're particularly useful if your property is unoccupied, or your tenants are absent for an extended period.
They're also completely non-intrusive, so your tenants don’t need to worry about their own privacy. These devices merely serve to protect both their belongings and your property. So, what's available?
These are similar to the motion detectors that work with normal burglar alarms, except they are smaller, more discrete and can be fitted using only an adhesive. They work to ensure that you or the tenants know about any unexpected entry to the property.
If your property is vacant the sensors can monitor for possible intruders by alerting you with notifications to your smartphone when it detects motion.
Available motion sensors:
The motion sensors can be plugged into any wall sockets and connects to the home Wi-Fi. It’s sensitive to motion up to 8 metres away and can send push notifications whenever motion is detected.
If tenants leave the property without switching on the alarm, FIBARO Motion Sensor can notify you or automatically arm the alarm when it detects the lack of motion in the house.
So common in commercial premises, security cameras have yet to become standard in private properties, but that soon could change. With the latest tech, cameras can be synched to the Wi-Fi in your home, and can be monitored from any other smart device, like your phone or tablet. It’s easy to set up the cameras outside possible entry points so they’re particularly useful for keeping an eye on unoccupied properties.
Available security cameras:
Arlo cameras are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, feature night vision and are wire-free for easy installation. It can send notification alerts to you whenever motion is detected and video footage can be stored in the cloud.
Equipped with advanced motion detection, these cameras know the difference between true motions from people or pets and that from outdoor foliage, so you’ll only be notified of movement that requires your attention.
How many landlords does it take to fit a Smart Bulb? Thankfully, only one, as they're just as easy to fit as a regular light bulb. These bulbs essentially learn when the occupants are usually in or out, allowing them to switch on even if there's a change in the pattern to deter potential thieves.
Available smart bulbs:
LIFX Wi-Fi LED light bulbs can be remotely controlled from any smartphone with an app so you can switch on lights when the property is unoccupied without having to leave your seat.
BeON learns your daily habits to mimic your lighting routines when you’re not at home. It can also set lights to turn on if someone rings your doorbell to make it look as though someone is at home. Shipping starts in August 2015.
Home Security Savings
Smart tech’s ability to provide early warnings of security or maintenance issues can be a real time- and money-saver, allowing you to address the problem before it gets worse.
Wallpaper a room:
£255 - £440
Paint a room that was previously wallpapered:
£420 - £600
Smart Locks are the latest modern solution to the age old problem of lost keys or broken locks. They only require a smart phone with the matching signals to unlock the door, which is great for landlords for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you don't have to keep track of how many keys you've had cut and when tenants move out you don’t need to worry about getting your keys back, all you have to do is to revoke their access. Also you can easily create new virtual keys for new tenants when they move in.
Secondly, you don't need to be there for a physical handover. If you're busy on the only day some tenants can move in, you needn't worry, just get them to download the app and authorise their entry.
A third advantage is when it comes to maintenance. You and the tenants don't have to be there to let the plumber in, just authorise them from afar.
They can also log who's entered and exited, so you don't need to worry about anyone outstaying their welcome or it can alert you of intruders.
They're straightforward to install too, and will retrofit on to existing locks. You just need a power outlet and a Wi-Fi network. If you don't like it, you can easily revert back to the original system too.
Available smart locks:
Goji unlocks doors through a mobile app and it can be set up to unlock and relock automatically when you approach the door. You can send a virtual key via smartphone and set specific days and times when the recipient can enter, and even see a real-time picture of what’s happening at the front door. They’re compatible with all locks from around the world.
The Dana Lock is easy to install on your existing lock and you only need to download their app to get started. You can remotely operate the lock from any location with internet access and it’s compatible with European locks.
Replacing door lock
Problems with damp can be one of the most costly issues for a landlord to deal with. It can be made worse because it's not always clear that there's a problem until it's too late.
Until now, that is. You can buy Smart Sensors which will let you know when the property is becoming damp by measuring humidity and moisture levels. This way, you can tackle the problem before the costs escalate.
Couple this with heat sensors to ensure that the property is being kept warm enough, and you shouldn't have to worry about any major damp problems.
The sensors can cost around $300.00 (£190.00), but think of it as a long term investment with a big return as the cost of fixing damage caused by damp can be very steep.
Available humidity and temperature sensors:
Wally detects and alerts you to water leaks as well as changes in humidity and temperature. When sensors detect moisture they’ll let you know where the problem is. Simply install wireless sensors in damp-prone spots around the home and connect using the Wally app.
Tempo can store 30 days of average temperature and humidity readings. You can set high and low thresholds for the temperature which will alert you on your smartphone when those thresholds are reached.
Damp can cause major damage to walls requiring expensive re-plastering
Water damage prevention
Water Leakage Detection and Prevention
What starts as a leak can escalate into flooding in your property and can cause extensive damage which is expensive to repair. Whether the leak starts from a faulty pipe or from a burst pipe caused by the cold you can address the problem early on.
Smart thermostats can be installed to ensure that rooms in your property are at the right temperature, reducing the risk of pipes freezing and bursting. You can remotely control the central heating from your smartphone to switch on the heating when the tenants are away on holiday or when the property is unoccupied.
Available sensors and thermostats:
Nest allows you to control the property’s temperature remotely from your mobile, tablet or laptop using Wi-Fi access which you can use to heat the pipes during the winter months. Additionally it can act as a frostat which automatically turns on the boiler if the temperature drops dangerously low.
Fixing a burst water pipe costs between £70 - £120 but the average water damage claim from landlords in 2011 was £3,000 where repair was required for flooring and plasterwork.
The cost to plaster walls and ceilings ranges from £400 to £700 with cost of repairing wood flooring varying from £50 to £250.
Cost of repairing engineered wood flooring:
£50 - £100
£100 - £150
Hallway or landing
£200 - £250
Basement, bathroom, bedroom, dining room, lounge/ living room
Smart irrigation systems
If you're lucky enough to own property with outdoor space, you probably know how difficult it is to keep it looking great all year round. Of course, you can hire a gardener, but this is an additional cost which can be avoided.
Once again, the technology now exists which can help you keep on top of your gardening from afar. You can now buy sprinklers which are connected to a network, and can be activated from your phone or computer -- all it takes is the download of an app.
It doesn't stop there, either. Solar powered sensors are available for obtaining full diagnostics on all of your plant life, catering accordingly for heat, humidity and soil conditions.
It's easy to install, and ensures that the outdoor space will look presentable while removing much of the need for tenants to maintain the garden themselves.
Available smart irrigation systems:
This smart irrigation system uses real-time weather data to automatically program the garden’s watering schedule to reduce water consumption and your bills. Instead of using a Wi-Fi connection where there’s only a limited range it stays connected by using electrical outlets.
Eve uses soil moisture sensors to detect when and how long it should water the vegetation based on real-time soil data so you’ll only use water when you need it.
A well-maintained lawn makes your property look presentable to prospective tenants. However, if the current tenants neglect to water the lawn, such as during a drought, the grass will no longer look lush and healthy and you may need to re-lay the turf.
The cost of relaying turf ranges from £200 to £1,000 depending on the size of the lawn.
With smart appliances, you can get constant diagnostics straight to your phone or laptop. Even more helpfully, they can transmit to service centres where they can instantly diagnose problems and, if need be, order the parts required.
LG Smart Thing Q Appliances
LG developed internet-connected smart appliances to help you save energy by operating more efficiently.
Their “Smart Diagnosis” feature helps you troubleshoot issues quickly before they become bigger problems. When the appliance detects a fault it diagnoses and finds a solution for it by telephoning the LG Call Centre or communicating through an app on your smartphone.
It’s possible for insurers to offer lower premiums to customers since the connected home provides reliable data, increased level of security and reduces incidents. Insurers are aware that those with monitoring devices in their home are more likely to be safety conscious and so present a lower risk.
Insurance tailored to connected homes is currently only available from some American providers, but with the connected home market predicted to be worth £40bn in 2018, insurers in the UK are likely to pick up on the trend and adopt similar practices in the near future.
As well as all the smart tech available, there's a huge array
of digital tools to help make your life as a landlord easier.
There are whole suites dedicated to making it simple to run
your properties, whether you own a couple of them or an entire town's worth.
Firstly, there's task management software. This is exactly as it sounds. It keeps track of everything you need to do, and reminds you when you need to do it. You can track when tasks are done, when tenants contact you, track which furniture has been replaced and anything else, really. It's an incredibly useful tool which takes mere moments to use, but can save you days.
Second, there are property inspection tools. These essentially automate the reporting process, once again saving time, money, and paperwork.
Rentify are an online letting agent offering support for landlords from advertising, credit checks for tenants and drawing up tenancy agreements. There are free plans available and paid services only require a small fee from 4 – 5%, so landlords may find they can make greater savings than if they went to a high-street letting agents.
Imfuna is an online inventory tool for landlords. You can use your smartphone when inspecting the property to take notes and take photographs, which are then stored online to convert into a report.
A basic plan for data processing starts from £80 for 0-0.49GB a month with an option for Imfuna’s Auto-transcribe starting from £0.75 / min.
Landlords with small or large portfolios can benefit from property management tool Landlord Vision. You can record information for tenants including alarm codes and locations of stopcocks. It can also schedule property related tasks such letting tenants in or arranging repair work.
Price is dependent on number of tenancies, and sign up is free for up to three tenancies, but a monthly subscription starts from £9.97 a month for up to 10 tenancies.