8 Smart Home Tech Essentials for Vacation Rental Homeowners

Jul 10 2022

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Whether your vacation rental property is in the heart of the city or tucked into the rustic backcountry, smart home devices can go a long way in improving your guests’ experience. After all, it’s the overall guest experience that can get you excellent reviews that lead to more paying guests in the future.

For guests who have already adopted technology in their day-to-day living, quality upgrades can add a sense of modernity and familiarity. On the flip side, guests who don’t have smart home technology solutions in their lives will be wowed by what your short-term rental has to offer. If you want to improve your guests’ stay on your property, consider adding some tech upgrades.

1. USB-ready electrical outlets

The average person spends close to three hours a day on a smartphone. On vacation, keeping those devices charged and ready to go is always a challenge. Not to mention that if a traveler forgot to bring a prong adapter, that smartphone becomes a smart paperweight. For a business traveler, such a simple mistake could be devastating. So why not make it more convenient for your guests to quickly charge their smartphones? Hybrid USB/conventional outlets are affordable investments ($20 to $35 each) that are thoughtful upgrades to any vacation rental business.

The installation is also really easy to DIY. And please, follow credible instructional sources and stay safe. If you aren’t familiar with electrical work, spend a few bucks, and hire an electrician. You can find many great options for hybrid outlets on Amazon. But make sure you get outlets that are:

  • UL and National Electrical Code compliant
  • Output at least 2.4A (15W). Cheap alternatives aren’t as efficient and will take forever for the devices to charge.

Install a few of these hybrid outlets where you know they’ll get used. Remember the three most popular spots to charge smart devices are:

  • Above kitchen counters
  • On each side of a bed
  • Under living room end tables

Bonus tip #1: If you want to go for that 5th star, show your guests a little extra love and leave a few charging cables for Android and iOS devices in your vacation rental.

Bonus tip #2: A universal power outlet is also a game-changer. Switch to these if you can, especially if you attract overseas travelers.

2. Streaming sticks or smart TVs

There has never been a guest comment card that said, “I loved trying to figure out which buttons on the three giant remotes turned the TV on and changed the channels.” With cable slowly going the way of the dinosaur, streaming sticks and smart TVs are the new ways of watching television. There’s a difference between streaming sticks and smart TVs.

Smart TVs are internet-connected, and streaming apps are built directly into the television. USB streaming sticks, such as Roku, Fire TV, and Chromecast, essentially turn a traditional TV into a smart TV.

Smart sticks ($30 to $50 depending on the brand) will likely be familiar to many of your guests who will appreciate being able to log in to their favorite streaming services. But smart TVs may be a better option if you’re catering to older guests who may not use streaming services.

Bonus tip: It’s a good idea to have at least one streaming service account like Hulu or Netflix set up. They only cost about $15 per month and are great for guests who don’t have a streaming subscription. They’ll still be able to watch television when they wind down for the night.

3. Smart locks

Smart locks are similar to hotel key card deadbolts, only they use Bluetooth technology to lock and unlock. Most also come with a keypad – unique access codes will be generated and communicated with the guest beforehand. It’s handy for guests who don’t travel with a smartphone or when their devices run out of power. The advantages of having keyless entry are twofold:

  • For the guest: there’s no more worrying about losing a key. It’s also great for large groups who split up for the day. Everyone can meet back at the property without one person having to arrive early or getting up repeatedly to open the door. 
  • For the property owners and managers: a smart door lock lets you implement self-check-in. That means you won’t have to wait around to meet your guests anymore. Just include the instructions for operating the smart lock in your digital guidebook and call it a day. The other advantage is that the guest’s check-in time can now be flexible since you don’t need the host to be present anymore.

An entry-level smart lock costs anywhere from $200 to $250. These smart locks are usually barebones: Bluetooth access and keypad. High-end models range from $300-$400 but come with much more functionality. These intelligent locks connect to Wi-Fi, which means you can perform almost any action on the lock remotely.

For example, you can unlock the doors remotely from an app on your phone. Some models even come with a security camera, allowing you for extra peace of mind.

Bonus tip: Vacation rental hosts can use smart locks for much more than improving the guest experience. With higher-end models, homeowners can unlock the door remotely or provide an e-key for cleaning services and maintenance workers. As a backup, a conventional key will still work with the lock if needed.

Also, don’t forget that you can create an automated message to be sent directly to the guest when they’re about to check in. All you have to do is set up an automated message in your property management platform and you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to send guests check-in instructions. A follow-up can also be automated with the trigger being the guest using the keypad.

4. Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats are quickly becoming a standard issue for many homes. The good thing is that the advantages of intelligent thermostats for homes translate directly to cost savings for vacation rentals. Here are a few benefits this tech upgrade brings for hosts:

  • Most models come with sensors that can detect if there are occupants in the room and adjust the temperature as a result.
  • Temperature can be changed remotely. So, when your guests let you know that they’ve checked out, you can reduce heating and cooling costs while the property is empty. This is great for hosts who manage their vacation rentals remotely.
  • Most thermostats now integrate with smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

Prices can range depending on how high-tech the thermostat is. The cheapest you’re likely to find will be around $250. But expect to pay upwards of $300 for more standard models. Large properties will be more expensive to retrofit as you’ll need to buy sensors for more rooms.

Bonus tip: Remember to leave detailed instructions about your smart thermostat in your digital guidebook.

5. Smart lighting

As a host, the last thing you want is to return to your home and find all the lights on. Many people aren’t conscious about their usage of lights, and tend to leave them on even when they are not at home. And then there are moments where people just forget. 

To combat this problem, consider smart lighting for your vacation home. This has an advantage for the host and the guests. If you’re managing remotely, it’s easy to check the lights’ status after the guests leave, and you can control them from anywhere. Also, your guests can help with energy efficiency by using smart lights to schedule the timings, so lights aren’t being used when they’re not needed.

Bonus tip #1: Ward off would-be burglars by giving the appearance that the home is being lived in by strategically switching the lights on and off from a remote location (especially if the home is vacant for a period). 

Bonus tip #2: Invest in eco-friendly products that use LEDs to reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint. When guests know this about you, it gives them a reason to choose your home versus the host across the street.


6. Mesh network routers

If you’re renting out a small space, a single Wi-Fi router should be enough to send a signal throughout the entire property. But if you have a large home or dead spots in your house (for example, blocked by concrete), the internet via Wi-Fi may not be reliable. And that’s a major turnoff for guests. Spotty Wi-Fi may also make it difficult to attract business travelers who rely on the internet to get their jobs done.

Luckily, there’s a tech upgrade you can quickly implement for your vacation rental. Just grab a few mesh routers. These handy devices relay Wi-Fi signals throughout the property. Meshing doesn’t merely boost signals; it maintains high speeds throughout its range. Google’s Wi-Fi router system (around $140 for a single router or $285 for a pack of three) is ideal for providing your guests with quality internet anywhere on your property.

7. High-tech toasters

A high-tech toaster? Yea, no kidding, this is next level. It’s one of those vacation rental tech upgrades that trick guests into thinking they’re staying in a luxury accommodation. After all, you’re bringing in high-tech appliances that haven’t changed in decades. The Cuisinart Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice Toaster ($58 to $77) isn’t technically a “smart” device, as it’s offline. But it still makes an excellent case for being the toaster of the future. Still not convinced?

Here’s where you’ll woo your guests: there’s no lever, and the settings differentiate between bread, English muffins, and other baked goods or pastries. Speaking of high-tech, it can toast your bagel on the inside while lightly warming the outside.

Bonus tip: If you choose to upgrade your vacation rental with such a fancy appliance, leave a few items guests can use with the toaster. In your digital guidebook, leave instructions on what settings to put into the device. It’ll bring attention to the upgrade and encourage the guests to use it!

8. Voice assistant

As more homeowners add smart speakers (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) to their living quarters, it’s likely you already have one of these dandy items in your luxurious rental property. But have you considered making the voice assistant more accommodating to your guests? Yeah, watch your property stock increase as guests realize they will have their very own personal concierge when they arrive. They’ll be able to get weather updates, play music, check the news for what’s happening in the area, restaurant recommendations and get answers to other questions. You can also take the time to program different requests and bits of information that guests can activate with their voices. Think how impressed your guests will be which will in turn translate to better reviews and more bookings!

Bonus tip: If you have an automated check-in process, a voice assistant can prove beneficial by reaffirming the house rules and providing important safety information.

The takeaway

As you can see, you don’t have to invest a lot when it comes to tech upgrades in a vacation rental to make a significant impact on guests. But by adding these features, you’ll improve your guests’ experience. That means more 5-star reviews, and possibly return bookings.