Handheld Property Management
How to leverage the latest and greatest in home automation technology
By Selena Chavis, Condo Owner Magazine, February 23, 2015
Advancements in security and remote monitoring and control technology are making the life of vacation property owners easier than ever since many functions can now be performed through wireless mobile devices. But, keeping pace with the rapidly evolving home automation space over the past decade requires research and review by the average vacation homeowner.
“The whole industry is exploding and continuing to mature,” said Scott Sremba, partner with Gulf Coast Roll-a-way in Gulf Shores, Ala. “The best thing to do is research, but for the average do-it-your-selfer, it’s going to take a lot of research.”
According to Scott Allen, owner of Innovative Sight and Sound in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., automation technology has become less expensive, more reliable and easier to deploy. While condo owners have been able to control elements of their home remotely for some time, the most noteworthy advancement has been the expansion of these offerings to mobile devices.
“The smart phone has put home control at the owners’ fingertips at all times,” Allen pointed out. “Our clients enjoy the ability to check in on their property at any given time [and] the convenience of preparing things—lights, shades, thermostats—for their arrival or departure with one click.”
The Latest and Greatest
Leveraging home automation technology to its fullest potential can give vacation property owners and rental management companies better control of investments. Visitors seeking vacation rental properties have come to expect the latest in technology supporting security and pleasure. And, according to Allen, there is an element of cost savings when owners leverage technology that allows them to remotely set limits on HVAC temperatures or switch them off if a door or window is left open.
For condo owners and vacation home owners wanting to begin researching this area of protection and convenience, Sremba and Allen pointed out several considerations.
Today’s wireless home surveillance systems can be designed for indoor or outdoor monitoring and allow owners real-time visual access to their property via mobile devices. At the touch of a button, owners can monitor any room or area where cameras have been installed. Surveillance systems elevate security and keep owners informed of any situations that might require immediate intervention such as water leaks or flooding.
Advancements in home automation tools now allow owners to remotely control locks, temperature and security systems via smart phones and other mobile devices. Many systems allow changes to controls to be scheduled or input manually. Out-of-town condo owners that live on the other side of the U.S. and desire to manage their own properties can accomplish such tasks as unlocking properties for repairmen, adjusting thermostats for incoming guests or turning water valves on and off.
Hurricane Shutter Control and Motorized Shading
Like other home control tools, hurricane shutters can be managed via a mobile device. Specifically, Gulf Coast Roll-a-way offers an automation system that allows condo owners to open and close hurricane shutters via a mobile device. A camera is installed on the shutter so the owner can actually watch and confirm that the task has been completed.
According to Allen, motorized shading is one of Innovative Sight and Sound’s fastest growing service areas. Especially in coastal areas, the sun can present both opportunities and problems for condo owners. While natural light and ocean views are a positive, condo owners find that the heat, glare and damage that can come as result of too much sun need to be balanced. Motorized shading allows owners to control the amount of sunlight at any given time of the day at the push of a button on virtually any mobile device.
Best Practices for Home Automation
Home automation tools and systems are readily available through stores such as Home Depot or Lowes. And while this might seem like the most cost efficient option for do-it-your-selfers, both Sremba and Allen caution that it is easy to clutter up a home with technology when a big-picture strategy does not exist.
“Owners can avoid that by setting up a system that is completely compatible, where everything talks,” Sremba emphasized.
Allen suggested that owners choose an integrator carefully with the goal being simplicity. Since the idea behind automation is to make life easier, a system that integrates security, control systems with other key systems such as audio and video makes the most sense.
“There is a fine line between a well designed and installed system and a total mess,” Allen said. “Your integrator will become [your] ongoing support, just like you have for other maintenance needs, so you want to be sure you are working with someone who will be responsive and will be around for a long time.”
Sremba also noted that interior cameras need to be disabled while a home is being rented for guest privacy. For this reason, he recommends other non-intrusive monitoring methods such as position sensors on hurricane shutters.
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