Does Smart Home Tech Make You A Better Short-Term Rental Host?
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Does Smart Home Tech Make You A Better Short-Term Rental Host?

How to ensure you don’t cross the line from surveillance to spying.

By Kris Frieswick
Fri, Apr 22, 2022 9:39amGrey Clock 4 min

For my money, the best horror film ever made was the 2012 movie, “The Cabin in the Woods.” A group of teenagers go on vacation to a cabin in the woods, only to find themselves terrorized, and slowly knocked off, by a series of horrible zombie monsters. Unbeknownst to them, the entire zombie monster operation is being run by a group of engineers who are surveilling their every move from a clandestine lab. The engineers are also technologically manipulating the events that trigger the release of the zombie monsters. It doesn’t end well for anyone.

I think of this film every time I try to decide whether we should install smart-home surveillance and control technology at our short-term rental property. I waffle back and forth between the advantages of having a remote view into the operation of the home, and the knowledge that I may be stepping onto a slippery slope that inevitably leads to zombie monsters.

Owning a short-term rental is fraught. The revenue is nice, but it’s a lot of work and worry. Landlords are completely at the mercy of a rotating cast of renters. Also, stuff happens in a house you don’t occupy full-time that can wreak holy havoc if left undetected. Smart-home tech, like smoke, fire and carbon-monoxide detectors that automatically alert responders, water heater monitors, and flood detectors can stop a situation going from bad to worse. This tech is firmly in the “benevolent” category.

Where I get conflicted is with the clandestine lab/evil engineer-type stuff.

Some short-term landlords have installed so much smart-home tech that they can, theoretically, observe their renters almost everywhere in the house, track who comes and goes, control the lights, air conditioning, heat and window shades, monitor their Netflix consumption, view the contents of the refrigerator, and reduce the water pressure to a dribble. They can lock renters out of the house entirely. Smart-home tech can’t unleash zombie monsters yet, but that’s probably coming in the next generation of the Amazon Echo.

While I love the idea of having a layer of oversight and protection over my rental property, I’m not sure I should possess the power that all that smart-home tech provides. Here’s why:

Obsessiontown. Population, Me: Web-enabled, real-time video surveillance, recorded on a remote server, is a proven way to reduce break-ins at vacation rentals, and, at the very least, gives landlords a chance to identify and prosecute perps.

But how do I stop watching?

If I got 24/7 access to a live feed of the comings and goings at our largest single asset, I’d never get anything else in my life done. I’d be reduced to a bleary-eyed gamer, staring unblinking at the action on my computer screen, afraid to look away lest I miss something: a criminal with a crowbar trying to break down the front door, a flurry of guests clearly dressed for a rave, someone smuggling in a pet tiger even though we have a very specific “no pets” policy, the progress on the crown of thorns plant by the front door. (It hasn’t been doing well.) Then, inevitably, I’d start going all evil engineer. How much would the renters freak out if I lowered the shades in the living room while they’re sitting there? What would happen if I made the pool really cold one day and really warm the next? How would they react to having only basic cable for eight hours? Hammer-hard water pressure, then just dribbles? I wouldn’t sleep. I wouldn’t eat. I’d just mess with them ALL DAY. Now, I am become Zombie Monster, destroyer of vacations.

Clearly, I couldn’t handle that kind of power.

It’s gross: Home-security systems are nothing new, but it’s a different ballgame when you’re surveilling your short-term rental, because you are, by definition, watching the daily activities of strangers. This is creepy. Clandestine lab creepy.

Short-term renters, like all tenants, have a legal expectation of privacy. Airbnb and other short-term rental companies have policies about what hosts can and cannot surveil at their property. Hosts are also required to disclose to renters the location of any surveillance.

But people forget about such things when night falls and alcohol begins to flow. Do I REALLY want to see what my renters are doing in the pool or on the couch at night? Nope. Don’t watch, you say? Please see the “Obsessiontown” item above.

Ignorance is still bliss: Dumb homes are more vulnerable than smart homes to many things. But I’ll bet the owners of dumb homes have less grey hair. They’re not sitting around, watching the feed, waiting for the big scary thing to happen, second guessing everything they see. Last winter, some friends of mine learned there was a raging party taking place at their rental property, complete with fire dancers juggling lit torches on the patio, which is covered with wooden furniture and other highly flammable things. It was still happening when they learned about it, but damage had already been done. If they had seen the fire dancers arrive on a video feed, they might have been able to get their property manager there fast enough to shut it down, but the only way they could have done that was to be glued to a video-surveillance feed at all times. That’s no way to live.

I’ll keep my home dumb. I will let the campers frolic unobserved at my cabin in the woods. That way, if some zombie monsters do show up, I can honestly say I didn’t see them coming. And I know I didn’t send them.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 21, 2022.



MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Hotel experience at home in Castle Hill

A new development in the Hills District sets a new standard in buyer expectations

By KANEBRIDGE NEWS
Wed, May 22, 2024 3 min

Castle Hill is set to be home to a new hotel-like development, with the announcement that the 94-apartment Astrid site is just weeks away from completion.

While the penthouse apartments across the two buildings have already been snapped up, there are still one, two and three-bedroom residences on offer. The development comes with a gold star iCIRT rating, guaranteeing it has met quality construction standards. The iCIRT rating system has been developed by Equifax in partnership with government, industry and market and rates projects from one to five stars following a rigorous and independent review process.

Steve Harb from developer CBD Core, said it’s the best indicator would-be buyers could have that their investment is safe.

“The iCIRT rating gives people the assurance that we’re trustworthy and have integrity as a developer,” he says. “Our service is complete from start to finish, from developer to builder. 

“As a buyer, you have one point of contact, there’s no shifting responsibility or passing the buck so if anyone has an issue, it can be sorted out as soon as possible.”

He said Astrid has proved popular with locals interested in upgrading without leaving the convenience and amenity of the Hills District. Surrounded by some of the best restaurants, clubs and recreational facilities in the area, it is also just six minutes’ walk to the new Metro station and a seven-minute drive to Castle Towers Shopping Centre. Schools and tertiary education options are also within an easy drive. In addition to some of the best parks and reserves in Sydney, it’s an attractive option for families on the move.

Mr Harb said the concept for the development, as with all his projects, was to create a hotel-like environment.

“I only do boutique projects and when I say ‘boutique’, I mean hotels without the concierge,” he says. “The quality and integrity is built into it.”

The infinity edge pool is surrounded by leafy gardens in a resort-style environment.

Leisure facilities include rooftop gardens and entertaining spaces as well as a fully equipped gym on the ground floor overlooking an infinity edge pool surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. Mr Harb says beautiful landscaping is a signature of all his developments.

“I have lived in the Hills District for more than 15 years and the reason I live here is because I love the leafy environment, the greenery,” he says. “I always like to emphasise that in my developments with strong landscaping.”

WORK FROM HOME HUB

Recognising the ongoing desire to adopt a hybrid working model, Astrid provides a dedicated on-site working environment suitable for exclusive use by residents needing focused work time, as well as those seeking professional meeting rooms to receive clients, with wifi enabled work desks, as well as more casual seating. 

Mr Harb said the pandemic taught him that, while working from home was convenient, having breakout spaces within a wider residential development was highly attractive.

“You’re not stuck looking at the same four walls,” he says. “The shared work space at Astrid has comfortable lounges, chairs, coffee tables and more than a dozen cubicles,” he says. “It’s more like going into a meeting room in a hotel.”

The apartments are characterised by light-filled interiors.

IN RESIDENCE

The apartments are light-filled living spaces with seamless access to balconies, through to integrated joinery secreting storage. Finishes have been chosen to last, from the Michael Angelo Quartz benchtop and Char Oak Polytec Ravine joinery in the kitchen to the stone splashback and custom-made joinery in the bathroom.

Access throughout the buildings is via a swipe card, providing a secure environment. 

For more information, see Astrid Castle Hill.

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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