Published Sep 01, 2022

Benefits of Showcasing “Smart Home” Model Units

living room in a single family rental in Chicago

Are there benefits to showcasing “smart home” model units?

The answer is YES! People love previews. Consumers like to taste food samples at Costco and take test drives before purchasing vehicles. The better the preview, the greater the chance of closing the deal.

It’s really no different in real estate. Traditional model units offer renters a glimpse of their future living space and its amenities. Adding smart home technology to model units makes a property preview exciting.


Traditionally, the “model units approach” for renter tours is especially helpful to managers of large communities with many units, different floor plans, or long walking distances between buildings.

A nearby model unit can quickly gauge the interest of a leasing prospect and save managers time by not having to escort rental prospects across properties. Similarly, renters save time by seeing right away if a particular property’s units meet their expectations.

To create more exciting property previews, managers should consider optimizing model units with smart home technology.

“Smart” model units capture renter interest early, increase touring volume by enabling self-touring, enhance lead collection, and keep valuable showcase units secure.

Smart Model Units Impress Renters

Today’s renters are tech-savvy. They have come to expect that their smart devices connect to their homes. A recent survey by Rent. revealed that 82% of renters want at least one smart device in their home and are willing to pay, on average, $37.65 more in rental rates for units with smart home technology.

Today’s most popular smart home devices include a smart thermostat, smart lighting, smart locks, smart sensors and video doorbells.

Groupshot withKwikset

By demonstrating all of these devices in a smart model unit, managers create an immediate incentive for renters to lease actual smart home units.

Creating a smart model unit is also a good first step towards pairing smart home investment with actual lease signings.

For instance, smart devices can be presented as a key selling point to renters on a model unit tour. Managers can identify renters who desire and would pay more for a smart unit and then (fairly quickly) upgrade the unit with the smart home devices and include those upcharges in a new lease. 


Even just a limited use of smart home technology, in one or more model units, could eventually lead to an entire community smart home upgrade that was economically scaled, based on real renter demand, and financed by real returns.

This is a great way for managers to respond to renter preferences and ease into smart home deployment. 

Rently’s smart home solutions can be deployed at any pace that makes economic sense for a manager. Whether unit-by-unit or community-wide, investing in Rently’s smart home technology adds value to every property over time.


Smart Model Units Permit Self-Guided Tours

In today’s busy world, rental prospects seek flexibility when scheduling property tours, and 40% of renters desire to view properties outside of regular business hours.

Many renters also prefer to tour a property on their own, without an agent present. In fact, recently provided data to show a 63% increase in demand for self-guided tours since 2020.

Rently Community Tour Data

Enabling self-guided tours of model units ensures that walk-in tour traffic is easily accommodated and no rental leads are lost. Smart model units permit managers, who may not be available onsite, to remotely control renter tours. 


Simply by adding a Rently smart lock solution, model units can be instantly activated to permit self-guided tours. This flexibility in accessing a property increases the number of tours and the chances for lease signings.

Rently’s smart locks transform model units into self-showing units. While smart locks do require installation, that one-time investment is quickly offset by the long-term benefits. Smart locks are ideal for managers who are concerned about key theft from traditional lockboxes. In addition, previewing smart locks in a model unit demonstrates the appeal of this device as part of the everyday resident living experience.

Rently Keyless Lock

By deploying a smart lock on a model unit, managers can quickly activate self-guided tours and impress rental prospects who spontaneously arrive at a property looking to tour.

Furthermore, smart locks enhance a property’s marketing potential to the fastest growing category of renters, the Millennial generation. The National Apartment Association (NAA) has reported that 55% of millennial renters would pay more for a unit with a digital lock. 


Smart Model Units Provide Valuable Lead Data

In today’s data-driven world, the more managers know about renter profiles and market trends, the better their chances of achieving their leasing goals.

Rently’s self-guided touring technology sends renter information to managers throughout the tour journey.

When renters register for a self-tour, they provide Rently with important data including name, contact info, unit preference, and move-in timeframe. After a tour, Rently also receives valuable renter feedback about their impressions of the property.

Rently’s smart touring solution also offers renters a “waitlist” option if they are interested in a particular community but do not see units currently available to tour. The waitlist then becomes a free lead source for leasing teams to reach out to. Finally, after renters complete their tour, Rently provides them with a link to complete online rental applications; thus streamlining the leasing process for both renters and managers.

Thanks to dynamic integration partnerships with leading property management software systems (Entrata, RealPage Onesite, and Yardi) and CRM systems (Funnel, Knock, RealPage ILM, RealPage Lead2Lease), Rently can immediately upload this information as a guest card to whichever platform they operate out of.

Managers can use this data to send prospects invitations to tour and follow-up with them afterward. 


Smart Model Units Secure Your Property

In addition to the convenience offered by smart model units, they also offer a secure self-touring experience.

The digital cross-checks involved in completing the self-guided touring process allow renters to experience first hand how smart home technology secures a unit.

Adding smart home technology to model units also reassures property managers.

For instance, property managers often go to great lengths to decorate and furnish model units with expensive contents. Adding smart locks and smart motion or entry sensors to these lavish model units reduces the chances of property theft or breach.

Managers also decrease risks to their property at large by funneling most of their touring activity into a few smart model units that validate the identity of touring renters and track their activity in a pre-set space.

A Smart Model Unit Success Story

The marketing and operational benefits of showcasing smart model units are evident to operators who use this approach.

For example, activating self-guided tours in model units with Rently’s smart home technology proved to be a successful leasing strategy for our client, the Flatiron District at Austin Ranch, a Cushman & Wakefield property located outside of Dallas, Texas. 

This multifamily property has more than 1,500 units, with 58 different floor plans. The community receives a high level of walk-in tour traffic and its managers did not want to lose any leasing opportunities by not accommodating that steady interest.

By activating 17 model units for self-guided tours, the Flatiron District at Austin Ranch added almost 1,000 additional (self-guided) tours which  generated 146 leases, meaning that for every model unit they activated for self touring, they signed 8.6 unit leases.

Using Rently’s smart home technology, the Austin Ranch property met and exceeded their leasing goals by transforming their model units into “smart” model units. Their success continues to this day.



In property showing, as in other sales transactions, first impressions matter.

Showcasing smart home technology in model units is a great way to make a great first impression on renters.

As an added benefit, smart model units optimize key leasing tasks by activating self-guided tours, automating lead data collection, and enhancing property security.

Managers currently using a model unit approach would be sales savvy to consider adding smart home technology to their models to ensure that their property makes an exciting first impression.

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