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The electronic evolution: Why electronic locks are a smart idea for apartment buildings

By Robert Gaulden, director of Allegion multifamily channel strategy


Multifamily properties have come a long way over the last decade. From urban core growth to bolder style and design to experience-driven amenities, multifamily living has increasingly become a chosen lifestyle for many people.


This is an exciting time in the market, but it has also led to some confusion as to how to best adopt technology into their property’s offerings.


Technology providers have tried to apply either single-family solutions or commercial solutions. Single-family solutions have a hard time scaling to the needs of a multifamily property. Commercial solutions can tend to feel heavy and lack the feature sets or integrations that really make sense to the multifamily operator. It was a Goldilocks situation, and none of these hybrid residential-commercial solutions were “just right.” Then property technology (Proptech) companies entered the scene to deliver better apartment experiences. With the right Proptech provider, multifamily properties seeking a purpose-driven technology solution can choose from the broadest offering of capabilities. When smart locks for apartments and mobile credentials integrate with Proptech providers, properties can start to solve for self-tour and package delivery dilemmas and enable services like dog walkers and food delivery.


But what if you’re not ready for a fully integrated system throughout your property? Do you stay mechanical forever? Of course not. Expectations for smart locks and electronic access control intensify as each generation becomes more tech-savvy. Check out our research on millennials and their expectations for multifamily technologies.


Smart locks for apartments buildings can be added around the property in offline mode, which gives you many of the benefits of electronic access control without the need for community Wi-Fi.


The infographic below covers the basics of electronic adoption and tips for transitioning from mechanical to electronic.  

If you’re new to electronics, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the many options on the market. The good news is that you don’t have to go all-in to reap the benefits of smart locks. Smart apartment locks can operate offline.

The access control evolution is similar to the automobile. Traditional car keys are still common today, but they are being replaced by push buttons. If you have a regular key, you might not think there is anything wrong with your experience—you’ve stuck a key in the ignition your whole life. But once you’ve enjoyed the convenience of a push-to-start car, you don’t want to go back to the key. Younger renters have enjoyed credentials for access at their offices and universities for years—and today’s students are being introduced to mobile credentials, which will further drive the demand for convenient access.


Attracting residents is just part of the story. Electronic access control improves business operations and positively impacts net operating income (NOI).

Back to basics: Mechanical to electronic locks


If you’re new to electronics, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the many options on the market. The good news is that you don’t have to go all-in to reap the benefits of smart locks for apartment buildings. If your property has mostly mechanical hardware and mechanical keys, start by adding electronic locks in phases. Installing electronic smart locks at exterior openings and common areas is a good first step, along with replacing mechanical keys with smart cards or mobile credentials.


This will introduce you to the benefits of electronic access control. You will have more visibility and control over who enters spaces, and key management is less of a headache. Plus, it’s more convenient for residents, which means better retention and improved occupancy rates.


When ready, expand electronics to include smart locks for apartment doors. This can be done with locks offline or online. Offline locks are stand-alone solutions, which makes them more affordable but slightly limited in their remote capabilities. Online, or networked locks, are connected to the central access control software for greater capabilities, like remote monitoring. Regardless of which option you choose, you will really see the benefits of electronic adoption at this stage.


Key management is labor intensive with traditional, mechanical keys. Smart credentials, on the other hand, eliminate the need to rekey locks, offer stronger security features and mitigate risks often associated with mechanical keys. Mobile credentials make it even more efficient as the resident doesn’t even need to come to the office—it’s all done through an app from virtually anywhere.


Auditing capabilities on apartment doors helps with risk mitigation. Did your staff or a service provider enter a resident’s apartment at the time something went missing? Now you can prove whose credential was used.


Secure, convenient access control can give properties a competitive edge. Studies from the National Multifamily Housing CouncilNational Apartment Association and Entrata found that residents are willing to pay between $20-35 more each month for amenities that offered convenience.


See more benefits in the infographic above.


Next step: Smart(er) apartments


Smart locks give your property a competitive edge, and they open the door for more sophisticated services and amenities. This is especially true with mobile credentials. With the right technology and door hardware in place, you can enable services like dog walkers, in-unit delivery and more in a secure manner while residents are away. Mobile credentials also make it easy to offer self-touring to potential renters or set up short-term rentals for vacant apartments during slower months.


When your property is ready to add technologies to improve the resident and management experience, it’s time to explore third-party integrations that offer advanced smart apartment features and functionality.


Getting started with Schlage®


Managing access and visitor management—on top of package delivery and maintenance—can be overwhelming and timing consuming. The Schlage® ENGAGE platform makes everyday tasks simple. Schlage has mobile-enabled smart locks for every opening in the property and a cloud-based platform to manage everything from a single location.

Learn more about Schlage’s multifamily solutions.