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How to Select a Key Control Method for Your New Multifamily Property

Marketing. Leasing. Hiring. Whether it’s new construction or a recent acquisition, a lot goes into setting up a multifamily property for business. To provide a good experience for your residents and protect your property’s reputation in the future, choosing a key and access control solution should be on your list of things to do before you start signing new leases.

There are dozens of options to consider, with the most common being the following three methods:

  1. A manual process using a pegboard and logbook
  2. Electronic key control systems
  3. Smart locks

When evaluating the best option for your property, ask yourself the following questions:

What does your target market want?

As with any other decision you make about your property, it’s important to consider who will be living in your community. Millennials, for example, often want apartments with smart locks. Older demographics, on the other hand, might feel strongly about having traditional metal keys instead of smart locks. One man, along with a group of fellow tenants, even sued his landlord over a smart lock system that required a phone app to enter the building, which he felt presented privacy concerns.

If you do stick with physical keys, what’s the best way to manage them? A pegboard system combined with a physical log is less expensive upfront, but an electronic system can securely store keys and capture a digital record of who’s accessed those keys. Put yourself in your residents’ shoes: Which method would make you feel most safe?

Does the key management method you’re considering fit with your brand?

For upscale communities, the key and access control method you use should reflect the message you want to convey. If you take a prospect on a tour using a key attached to a paper label, for example, that looks unprofessional — not to mention unsafe. On the other hand, using a system that automatically records when keys are removed and even notifies the resident by text or email when someone has removed the key to their home provides a higher level of security and sense of safety for the resident.

In other scenarios, electronic locks might make sense, such as if you’re branding your property as a smart community. If you do go this route, however, bear in mind that smart locks don’t necessarily eliminate the need for key control, as you still need a way to manage any traditional metal keys (backup keys for the keyless entry system, keys to storage sheds, etc.) as well as any smart tokens that come with the smart lock system.

What are your other properties using?

Think about the key control methods you’re using at other properties. Is there a certain method or system that works well? Are there communities that need a better way of controlling access to keys and apartments?

Consider using the same method across multiple properties. This strategy is beneficial for a few reasons:

  1. Employee training can be standardized.
  2. Reporting is in the same format, allowing you to get an accurate high-level view of activity across properties.
  3. Purchasing and vendor management are easier.

While every property is unique, it’s important for every one of them to protect its residents through effective key control.

Is it scalable?

As you assume responsibility for additional properties in the future, how easy would it be to roll out the access control or key management solution to those communities? For the reasons mentioned above, standardizing a solution across multiple properties is a smart move.

How versatile is it?

Consider whether a system includes additional features or applications that can help you save time and get more value from your purchase. If you’re using an electronic system to manage keys, you might have the option to collect prospect data by scanning driver’s licenses, managing resident packages, tracking employee time clocks, and managing work orders.

Some communities are even taking advantage of smart lock systems to offer prospects self-guided tours (though property management professionals have divided opinions on whether or not this is a good strategy).

Manual key control methods, of course, are the least versatile, since they serve one purpose only: to store keys and record who’s using them when.

With on-site personnel being strapped for time and the constant pressure to do more with less, there are benefits to having technology that can multitask. When deciding what capabilities you want out of a technology investment, take the time to think through your staff’s daily tasks, how they interact with each other, and any software you have in place already.

Will on-site personnel get the training and support they need?

With multifamily turnover rates hovering around the 30 percent mark, an efficient training process is a must. Having a technology partner that offers customized training services can help alleviate the training burden, allowing you to focus on helping your new team members hone job-based skills rather than spending a chunk of your time on showing them how to use the technology and applications your property uses.

While there are plenty of tasks related to a newly built or acquired multifamily property that can occupy your time and attention, spending the time to develop an effective key control solution will be worth the investment. Not sure if you’re heading in the right direction? Download our whitepaper "Six Common Key Control Mistakes Property Owners Make."

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