If you want, you can bypass physical keys entirely by replacing the deadbolt with an electronic lock that opens with a punch-in code. Most models allow you to program multiple user codes, making it easy to create and delete unique codes for your guests. Buying an electronic lock is a little more pricey and involved than a lockbox, but comes with the added benefit of being able to manage and customize access to your property. Plus it saves you from all the worries about losing keys and forgetting passcodes. Installing can usually be done with nothing more than a screwdriver, although it does take some time (30 to 45 minutes) to replace your door handle and set up a passcode.
Electronic door locks are typically battery powered, with a battery life of around 2-3 years. If the batteries run out, you can always use the mechanical keyhole that’s still in place. Here are some popular models to consider:
These devices replace the code-based method with an electronic system that unlocks when it receives a wireless signal from an authorized smartphone. Smart locks come in different shapes and styles, some models completely replace the door handle and bolt like a code lock; others are installed just above the handle. What they all have in common is an electronic system that allows you to remotely manage who is authorized to open the door at any given time, reducing the key exchange problem to a matter of clicks.
How Smart Are Smart Locks?
Most models not only allow you to wirelessly grant access to other phones by sending them a digital keycode but also they let you schedule when and for how long that access lasts. So, if you have a guest coming for exactly one week, you can limit their ability to unlock the door to the duration of their stay. On top of that, smart locks will send you a notification when one of your authorized phones has opened the door, allowing you to keep tabs on who is in your house at all times.
Are Smart Locks For You?
If you live in a rented apartment, make sure you clear it with your landlord before jumping to installing a smart lock. Some buildings may not allow smart locks that are installed externally, especially if they replace the original door bolt. A smart lock can only be attached to one door. So if your house has multiple doors or a locked front gate, know that you would need to buy and manage multiple locks, as opposed to just having a ring of keys in one lockbox.
What If A Guest’s Phone Dies?
All smart locks can still be opened with a traditional key. Otherwise, you yourself can open the door for your guest from a remote location.
What If The Internet Is Down?
Smart locks continue to function even without a WiFi connection. Most models can still be opened with Bluetooth, and again all models can at any time be opened the old fashioned way, with a traditional key.
What If The Power Goes Out?
Smart locks are typically battery operated, meaning that they will keep running during a power outage. Most models not only have sensors that let you know when the batteries need replacing but also will send you a reminder email about it.
Does A Guest Need WiFi To Get In With A Smart Lock?
Nope, all they need to do is activate their Bluetooth connection.
How Secure Are Smart locks?
When a smart lock is communicating with a smartphone (sending digital passcodes or receiving signals), any and all data exchange is protected with 128-bit encryption. This is the same level of security found in online banking, so to intercept and unscramble it would take a government-grade professional hacker. Of course, there are other small electronic vulnerabilities. For example, if by some crazy fluke your WiFi goes down just as you’re trying to revoke someone’s access, and that someone turns off their WiFi but keeps their Bluetooth on, they may still be able to get into the house. Another concern people have had is the notion that if a stranger is outside your door and as you approach the peephole to see who it is, the phone in your pocket automatically unlocks the door. However, more advanced Smart locks detect if a signal is being received from inside instead of outside, and will ignore the inside signals. This scenario can also be avoided by simply disabling the auto-unlock option that comes with most models. Bottom line: though smart locks aren’t advertised as being any more secure than a traditional deadbolt, they are certainly no less secure either.
Smart Lock Reviews
RentingLock – A remotely programmable lock for vacation rental properties. Guests can enter the apartment by using generated codes which are later sent by text or email. No more time consuming key handovers and check-ins, no more fear of key losing, stealing or duplicating.
RentingLock does not require any WiFi or electricity. All that is needed is an online dashboard to generate codes and a special option to program and read your own NFC cards for even more convenient experience, just like in hotels.
Lockitron $99 (BLE Lock) -$178 (Lockitron Bridge) Lockitron bolt fits over the deadbolt behind your door, making it extra simple to install (only requires around 6 screws!). The lock is opened with a signal from an authorized smartphone and a tap, though it doesn’t offer as many management and scheduling features as some of the other models. However, this model has other features that are beneficial for renters, such as its Key Match feature, which alters the Lockitron cylinder to allow you to keep your existing set of keys. A point to mention is that the turning radius may need to be reprogrammed if your door isn’t a standard Schlage requiring a 90-degree turn and that reprogramming has a negative effect on battery life. A great thing about Lockitron is that its more advanced model – the Lockitron Bridge – includes both built-in WiFi and remote capability, so you’re not only guaranteed to receive a notification when your door is locked or unlocked but also able to manage entry from anywhere in the world.
Sesame $99 (1 sesame preordered) -$549 (4 sesames) This sleek smart key can be programmed to respond to not only the smartphone(s) to which you link it but also any custom knock on your door or phone. It’s easily installed in any deadbolt with just some tape (no tools required). Its [included] batteries last about a year and a half, and will notify you when they need changing. With Sesame, your phone is your keys!
August $250 An elegant circular lock that’s installed by replacing the original deadbolt on the back of your door. August can be managed via iPhone, Android, or online, and offers an unlimited number of digital keys for guests. This model sends notifications when the door is opened, and lets you manage which days or even which hours any particular guest is allowed access. August detects when a key is close with Bluetooth low energy, and can unlock automatically as you approach.
Schlage $200-300 An older style lock that isn’t opened with a smartphone signal, but with a punched in 4-digit passcode like a normal electronic lock. The difference is that these Smart Locks can still be managed via smartphone, letting you create as many as 19 private codes that you can give to your guests, cleaning service, etc. Codes can be added or deleted as needed, and this lock can still be opened remotely through the app.
Goji $278 This model is on the expensive side because it comes with some extra bells and whistles. This system is installed on the front of your door, and replaces the entire locking mechanism. Goji has all the same management features as August, with the addition of an LED screen that displays the user’s name when it unlocks. The Goji lock also comes with a camera that takes a photo of whoever is doing the unlocking. The Goji Smart Lock is optimized for smartphones, but also supports their electronic Bluetooth fobs, similar to a car’s remote. These fobs, like smartphones, can be programmed to only allow specific time and date access. Each lock also comes with two traditional keys as back-ups should you ever need them.
Kevo powered by UniKey Bluetooth Smart lock $200 (www.amazon.com) This small model detects the smartphone in your pocket and opens with a simple tap without the phone coming out of your pocket. Comes with all the management capabilities through their free app, and replaces the deadbolt in the door. Downsides – Some reviews have complained that Kevo’s deadbolt is easy to break. Also, while any smartphone with Bluetooth capabilities can be used as a key, the management app is only available for iPhones and Android devices with Lollipop operating system.
OKIDOKEYS $189-$249 (creation & sharing of unlimited keys)The prices of OKIDOKEYS main products are $189 and $249 and each includes the creation and sharing of unlimited keys with trusted third-parts. There is an extra cost only over 5 smart locks or over 10 users managed on the same account. The install is easy, and the whole package offers all the amenities of August and Kevo Lock. What’s cool about this model is that you can purchase “Smart-Tags”, in the form of keychains or cards, which can also open the door automatically, and can also be added or dropped through your smartphone.
Oracode460K $450 / 660K $550 There are two types of lock to choose from (latch and deadbolt) as well as two finishes – chrome or brass. At the top end of the market, they are ideal for property management and vacation rentals, allowing up to 128 users at any time with time sensitive 6-digit codes. Unlike other locks that work from software installed on your phone or computer, these codes can be produced or changed anywhere you have access to the internet. For added security, the lock retains the last 1000 events that have happened and comes with a key override for emergencies.
ResortLock 2000/4000 are established security solutions for the rental space. It does not require an internet connection to manage the property. The algorithmic lock has been pre-programmed with thousands of temporary or permanent codes that can be provided to users. Book a guest stay and email them a code through the portal that manages locks. With ResortLock, there are no monthly fees associated with managing the lock.
RemoteLock 6i ($529) is the new durable WiFi enabled lock that allows users to lock and unlock doors remotely, know when people have unlocked their door, receive alerts when codes are used, issue new temporary codes, or delete users’ access from their smartphone or computer.
eRentalLock There are three types of locks to choose from in two finishes (silver and gold) priced between $279-$429. The code generation feature covers both short-term and long-term guests with the choice of a 10 digit access code or a 3-6 digit personalized code which can be created days or months in advance. Popular features for hosts allow guests to create their own easy-to-remember time-sensitive code, along with two back-up keys for emergency override and the ability to disable the valid access code, allowing more control over the property. The battery has a standard 3 year life cycle with an internal clock and is weather resistant and easy to install on almost any door.
Bekey Smart Locks This Bluetooth-operated smart lock is the newest solution to key exchanges for short-term rentals based in apartment buildings. Once the host installs the hidden Orange Box component in the apartment complex’s intercom system, guests can unlock both the building’s front door and the apartment’s front door through their smartphone/tablet. The device on which Bekey is used automatically stores the key information, meaning WiFi is not necessary. Home sharing safety is ensured through the app’s ability to delete users’ stored key information after their rental is over.
Using a Smart Lock
Most smart lock models can’t be found in stores, and have to be ordered online from the model’s website. In most cases (with the exception of maybe Goji), smart locks can be installed in 10-20 minutes, using a screwdriver to remove the keyhole on the back of the door if required. Once the system is up and running, test out a few smartphones to make sure the authorization is working properly. Then, simply add your guest’s number to the list of authorized phones. Be sure to also add an emergency number of a friend or a neighbor so that they can unlock the door just in case.
Teaching Guests How To Use Smart Locks
Not all of your guests are going to be tech savvy. If you’re going to commit to a smart lock system, you will most likely need to type out instructions (or explain in person) on how to use a smart lock app for your guest. Because most models have an auto-lock feature, your guest will only be responsible for downloading the app, and turning on their Bluetooth when they reach the house.