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How to Choose Smart Locks for Your Apartment

Open floor plans, natural lighting, and stainless steel appliances. Look like the most in-demand amenities…

Open floor plans, natural lighting, and stainless steel appliances. Look like the most in-demand amenities on a potential tenant’s list of essentials? Think again: Modern renters are increasingly tech-savvy and are shopping for more than just laundry rooms and gyms. They’re looking for intelligent conveniences like smart locks, a modern must-have in any property manager’s portfolio of smart apartment perks. How can you unlock the management benefits and tenant-attracting potential of smart locks in your rental community? 

Why a smart lock for apartments?

Smart locks are a key component in creating the tech haven that twenty-first century tenants crave. Digital locks do away with the need for a traditional key ring by unlocking via passcode, app, fingerprint, or simple proximity to a paired wearable or mobile device. Plus, they’re an easy way to add to the appeal and value of your multifamily apartment complex. Consider these benefits: 


  • Convenience: Smart locks put an end to hassles like fumbling for your keys while juggling an armload of groceries. Instead, they allow us to unlock our front door with the thing we no doubt always have in hand—our mobile device. The convenience of keyless entry also extends to property owners desperate to put an end to late-night lockout pleas, enabling residents to open their doors via a mobile app. 
  • Added value: High-tech add-ons are a great way to attract a new slate of renters. In fact, on the list of things renters will pay a premium for, smart locks outrank traditionally hot amenities like pools. Bonus: they’re also far easier for property owners to implement than constructing a new swimming facility. 


    • Improved security: The transition from mechanical keys to smart entry ups the security of your complex and gives peace of mind to both you and your tenants. Instead of the headache of changing locks, simply pair and unpair devices. End the practice of loaning hard-copy keys to maintenance teams: provide quick access to units using a one-time access code. You can even deny entry into shared spaces like gyms and lounges after certain hours. 


  • Captivate younger renters: High-tech amenities are a siren song for younger generations of renters. Conveniences like the ability to pay for a supermarket haul or subway fare via smartphone are slowly phasing out staple trends like ‘carrying a wallet’ and the humble keychain is not far behind. Millennials are such fans of emerging in-home tech, that 86% say they would pay one-fifth more in monthly rent for an apartment packed with amenities like smart locks, intelligent thermostats, and digital light switches.


Smart locks are more than just a novelty. They offer tangible benefits like added convenience and security for the tenant, while also increasing the value and curb appeal of your apartment units.

Types of locks for multifamily spaces

From the invisible technology they use to their physical appearance, there are many styles of smart locks to suit the layout and needs of your rental community. Here are some top considerations to keep in mind when selecting the right technology for your smart lock system. 

Connectivity options for smart locks

There are three popular ways smart locks receive their signal to open and close: Z-Wave, Bluetooth, and WiFi. Here’s what you need to consider when researching the best option for your complex. 


What is Z-Wave? It’s a radiofrequency that operates on the lower end of the spectrum, whispering through the air compared to its data-burning counterparts. Z-Wave self-isolates from the louder frequencies that carry 4K streams or virtual classrooms, giving it the space to connect and communicate with dozens of devices like thermostats and smart locks. Since it walks the ‘frequency less traveled,’ Z-Wave is at the foundation of most home automation ecospheres, creating a vast network of low-power devices that transmit simple signals like “turn on” or “unlock.” 

Z-Wave-enabled locks can link to a central smart home hub, giving residents quick control over every smart amenity within their apartment. Using an app or web portal, they can lock all doors, turn up the heat, or flick on holiday lights. 


Smart locks can also work over the same wavelength that wakes a set of headphones when they near your mobile device. Known best for harnessing the power of close proximity, Bluetooth locks and unlocks units when a recognized mobile phone, smartwatch or other wearable is within 30 feet of the front door. 


Smart locks operating via WiFi pack a powerful punch. They can lock and unlock doors over far-flung distances by offering remote control of locks. Residents can open the front door for a dog sitter while at the office, or ensure doors are locked after leaving for vacation. 

Z-Wave networks can also connect to the outside via a WiFi, giving residents and building managers control from anywhere in the world. 

Physical differences between smart locks for apartments

Unlike a single-family home, several unique cohorts often need to access a multi-unit space. Residents, visiting relatives, leasing agents, and maintenance staff are just a few examples. Locks that only open via fingerprint or wearable can prevent access when it’s needed most. So, many smart locks also contain a keypad that opens deadbolts via push buttons or touch screens so doors can lock and unlock with a passcode. 

Push button designs mimic the feel of a traditional touch tone telephone keypad, while a touchscreen looks like a modern smartphone display. Every apartment complex has its own distinct look, so shop around for one that suits your aesthetic. 

Questions to ask (and answer)

Smart lock manufacturers offer a variety of configurations so you can find the best fit for your development. Ask yourself the following questions about your floor plans and local codes: 


  • Is it compatible with your current door types and property setup? The changeover to digital locks includes more than individual unit doors. Consider the needs of your full layout. Do you have elevators, front gates, or shared space doors that will also need the swap? You want every door where tenants need access to work on the same system so they do not need to juggle multiple dongles or clanging physical keys. 



  • How do you want your residents and staff to interact with it? From apps to web platforms and digital key fobs, there are many ways you can interact with a smart lock. Do you offer housekeeping services? Do leasing agents need potential tenants to self-tour units? Choose the best setup for your needs by considering all the types of people that will need access to a unit.



  • Are they up to code standards in your area? Some states require front door locks to meet special regulations like fire code ratings. Make sure you check into the specific rules of your area before investing in a smart lock system. 


It’s important to think about all the nuances of your individual community before selecting the perfect smart lock system for your apartment residents. 

Decide on features

Smart keys offer tons of dazzling features that lure new tenants, but they also come with many attributes that improve your life as a property manager or community owner. 


  • DIY rekeying: Many smart locks also work with a physical key as a failsafe. Some styles are simple to rekey in a few quick steps, while others require a more involved procedure. Make sure you select one that works best for you, your budget, and your maintenance team. 
  • Electronic vs. physical keys: A failsafe key can come in the form of an electronic key fob or a traditional mechanical key. Have a multifamily complex with hundreds of units? You can program a single electronic key fob to access every door within your community, while traditional keys still require you to store a physical copy of each. 
  • Access logs: Digital locks can also collate an entry and exit dossier like you’d see in a fancy hotel. Know who is in the building in the event of an emergency, or receive instant alerts of unauthorized access. 
  • Remote locking and unlocking: Remote locking and unlocking gives you and your residents the ultimate convenience with remote access control. A tenant at the office can tap a button to welcome visiting grandparents into the unit, and a property manager can quickly open the door for a locked out resident. 
  • Integrations: Future-proof your smart lock investment by selecting a system that works well with other budding technologies. For example, Z-Wave devices from ceiling fans to kitchen lights all speak a common language so you can create the ultimate high-tech utopia.

The humble mechanical key is a strictly binary tool: turn one way to open, and one way to close. Smart locks unlock a bounty of upgrades for your residents and property management team, ranging from convenience to safety. Add a smart lock system to your development to open new doors of profitability by offering the high-tech amenities tenants crave. 

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