You Don’t Need a House to Have a Smart Home

You Don’t Need a House to Have a Smart Home

Just because you don’t own a house doesn’t mean you can’t have a smart home!

Jan 30, 2017

Guest Post by Roy Powell

You’ve probably read a lot of best (and worst) of 2017 CES articles. As a realtor who specializes in rentals, I kept my eyes out for smart home technology ideal for renters. My criteria were this: easy to install and remove without any damage, and needed to significantly benefit life at home. Let’s go through some of the best smart home and smart apartment tech from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show – and some others I’ve found along the way.

Front Door

Interior of a room with classic door

Let’s start with the outside of the apartment. For some, an entryway camera system like Ring would be an obvious choice. It’s not too intrusive to install and it offers some much needed front door security. However, as someone who lives in an apartment building, it’s not of much use to me. I don’t really want to know which of my neighbors walk by my door every day and they also don’t want to be creeped on by me. A better choice for front door tech is the August Lock. It installs onto the existing door and deadbolt in a few minutes. Unlike some other wifi enabled lock systems, there is no way to tell that it’s installed from outside and it can be removed easily when you move. It allows you to unlock the door remotely whether you have hands full of groceries or a friend watching your place while you’re out of town.  If you don’t want to be tasked with unlocking the door every time they stop by, you can give them a smartphone code that works once or multiple times.


Smartphone is used to control the lights in a home. Woman holds a phone up in front of two lights hanging from the ceiling, The screen shows an icon for a light blub and the possbility for turning the lights at home on and off. It is a concept of internet of things with a mobile phone. Note: The image on the screen is my work, not a functional app.

There are a couple different options for interior lighting. A few brands are working on lighting and speaker combos, but honestly, I’m very particular about my audio. I want my lights separate. I have been very happy with the Philips HUE lighting system. The bulbs plug into your existing fixtures and setup takes about 10 minutes. If you are like me and have a few Ikea lamps that have odd shaped lightbulbs fear not. WeMo offers smart switches that you can control from your phone. I have simple on/off switches and they are very inexpensive and easy to set up. They work like a charm! Bonus: both systems work very well with Amazon Echo. Learn more at  and


Modern TV wall unit

Ok, this one is a bit tricky. There are plenty of wireless audio systems and depending on the size of your apartment a simple Bluetooth speaker might do the trick. For my place, I was having a hard time listening to my existing record player and stereo system. It was either not loud enough to reach the kitchen or way to loud for my neighbors. The solution: SONOS. I have a bridge to tap into my existing stereo and a remote speaker in the kitchen. Now I can listen to records, podcasts, and streaming music anywhere in my apartment. The best part is that I didn’t have to do any wiring and I can expand the system if I move into a larger place. Word on the street is that SONO is working on a deal to pair easily with Amazon Echo. Details to come…



I’ll come out and say it…I hate my TV. I love streaming shows but I hate having a big dark square staring at me. I’d rather have sleek white walls for showcasing artwork. I’ve researched projectors for a long time but I could never find one that fit my needs which are pretty simple and include being small, easy to connect to all with a beautiful picture. Sony has solved the riddle. The new Sony short throw projector is about the size of an iMac and can project a large beautiful picture from only a few inches away from the wall. You can move it anywhere in the house to throw your favorite show on any surface. You can even project it down to a table or floor from a distance the height of the projector. You’ll need minimal space to watch your favorite videos and TV.

I saw a lot of other great tech that I would incorporate into my place if I were to remodel it. Some examples include combination washer/dryer units, a laundry folding robot, glass front refrigerators with display screens from Panasonic, and Roomba type robots for any surface (including your BBQ grill)! But for now, this is my list of rental friendly tech that you can purchase and use right away without any damage. Have you found other must have tech for rental apartments? Let me know about it.

Roy Powell is a Real Estate Broker with Coldwell Banker BAIN in Seattle, WA. Connect with him on Twitter.