You can hardly watch TV, scan the Internet or walk around a retail store these days without seeing smart home technology. Big players like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, among others, are producing and marketing smart home products faster than you can say “automation” — and they’re just getting started.
Consumers are taking note and adopting the idea of a smart home at a pace that will bring the market to 75 billion units installed worldwide by 2025, according to IHS. Of course, this consumer trend is reflected in the vacation rental guest community in a big way. Research from PointCentral shows that 86 percent of millennial renters and 65 percent of baby boomer renters are willing to pay more for a unit outfitted with automated or remote-controlled devices. Other research shows that 80 percent of vacation guests said they would be more likely to complete a reservation for short-term accommodation rentals that is equipped with smart home technology.
But what’s bringing smart home automation to the forefront for many vacation rental mangers (VRM) is the fact that it has significant benefits for guests, homeowners and the management company: The perfect trifecta.
It Starts with the Key
Guests are so used to receiving digital keys at hotel that when they are handed a mechanical key, you can imagine what must go through their mind: Who has a copy of this key? How many times has it been lost or stolen? Is my family going to be safe? Why is this management company so far behind the times? Having to answer any of these questions is not good for business.
Guests love the convenience of not having to stop at an office or front desk somewhere to pick up or drop off keys because it means they can spend more time having fun. And they love not having to figure out who has a key when they are part of a large group. Guests especially love the security of keyless smart home technology, because it gives them the peace of mind knowing their lock code is unique and, thus, their family is much safer. In that same research referenced earlier, 60 percent cited keyless entry as making them more likely to rent a unit.
Management companies realize the significant benefits that arise once they eliminate mechanical keys. Keys are one of the biggest operational headaches for VRMs, especially when they are forced to drive out to a property to open the door for a guest who has been locked out. The operational savings from going keyless are substantial. When you add to that the increase in guest satisfaction, it’s no wonder smart homes are catching on so quickly with VRMs.
Homeowners Seeing Green
Much like the guest consumer, homeowners also want smart home technology. Research from PointCentral shows that 85 percent of millennials, 73 percent of Gen Xers and 67 percent of baby boomers are likely to add smart home technology to their own home. Over 50 percent of those millennials, 38 percent Gen Xers and 28 percent baby boomers plan to so implement such technology within the next year. These are very compelling statistics that should cause every VRM to take a closer look at smart home technology.
In addition to convenience and security, owners are very interested in saving money and going green by having more control over the energy their homes consume, specifically as it relates to their HVAC equipment. Today’s smart home thermostats provide remote control of temperature and automation of settings — plus email and text alerts when temps exceed high/low thresholds. On average, this results in 10 to 15 percent savings per month for homeowners.
Managers, Get Smart
So, what happens when a homeowner installs smart home technology in their rental property? It puts the homeowner in control of the locks, thermostats and other smart home devices. Unfortunately, this means the VRM is not in control and cannot manage the property effectively, which creates all sorts of problems. There are stories of homeowners remotely reducing the air conditioning in their property while a guest was staying there — you can imagine how this would increase the frustrations for the guest and the management company.
These types of issues that are escalating around the U.S. point to an urgent need for vacation rental managers to implement an enterprise-wide smart home automation system. While a consumer-grade smart home system controls only a single property, an enterprise-grade smart home system controls access and temperature for all the properties managed by a vacation rental company.
In addition to the aforementioned operational savings, vacation rental managers are benefiting from the real-time intelligence provided by today’s advanced smart home automation systems, such as the one from PointCentral. From a centralized online dashboard or from a mobile device (including the Apple Watch), users of the PointCentral Smart Home Automation system can see the real-time occupancy status of every property based on the arrival and departure lock codes entered by the guest. Plus, the check-out code can automatically send an alert to housekeeping, which, in turn, automatically alerts an inspector after the property is cleaned. In addition to every guest being automatically provided with a unique lock code for their arrival, the temperature in the property can be automatically set to a comfortable level and set back to an energy-saving level on departure.
What happens when a guest arrives early? In the old days, they would hang around the office and bug the staff until their property was ready. Two features in the PointCentral solution solve this problem: If the property is not quite ready, they can be automatically sent an email or text when it is; and if the property is ready early, they can be automatically sent an email or text to let them know they can start their vacation ahead of their scheduled arrival time. In this case, the lock code is automatically activated early.
With all the new technology available today, it’s not often that you see something that has such extensive benefits for guests, owners and management companies.
Bill Schlosser is the “Brand Master” at Dr. Brando, a full-service marketing agency specializing in helping tech providers build their brand in the vacation rental market. Bill served as VP of marketing at both NAVIS and Escapia and has been involved in the vacation rental market since 2003.