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Homeownership

6 smart locks that will knock off your socks

(TECHNOLOGY) Smart locks are a growing part of the smart home – know these for yourself and/or your clients and you’ll be sock-less (get it?).

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Smart locks can offer a great deal of flexibility and convenience, but there are a few things you might want to consider before installing or recommending one to a client.

Smart locks give you and anyone you choose, the freedom to come and go without carrying a key, however, that’s also the first thing you may want to consider: in order for smart locks to be “smart,” they need power. This means you’ll need plenty of good quality batteries and the foresight to change them regularly; otherwise your smart lock won’t function. 



Also, renters will need to check with the landlord before making any changes to the existing locks, as some leases do not allow you to alter your locks in any way (although there may be a sneaky way around this if folks are so minded, but please bear in mind, you could be evicted or even be breaking the law by installing a smart lock, or any lock, without permission).

Aside from these few considerations, and the rare possibility of the lock malfunctioning, the benefits for most people, over using a traditional, physical key, outweigh the drawbacks. Here are seven of our favorite smart locks on the market:

1. Kevo Kwikset Smart Lock ($215)

kevo smart lock

The Kevo Smart Lock by Kwikset is a favorite for a few reasons. First, Kevo uses a Bluetooth-based close-range authentication system (which is more secure than the geofence auto-unlocking that many other locks utilize). Kevo also gives you several different options for controlling the lock: you can use a physical key, the smartphone app, or a wireless key fob (like the one you likely use for your car).

By accessing the app, you can control eKeys, as well who has access to the eKeys. Kevo also offers a “Kevo Plus” upgrade ($100), that allows you to monitor your Kevo when you’re away from home. This includes the Kevo Plus wireless gateway for monitoring. 

To unlock your door, simply tap the top of the door lock and it will communicate with your phone via Bluetooth and unlock; if your phone battery happens to die before you get home, you can use a physical key, the fob, or log in to your Kevo account from another smartphone and your eKeys will be transferred allowing you access.

The Kevo lock uses multiple levels of encryption to increase digital security and contains Kwikset’s patented SmartKey technology, which is tested to the most stringent lock picking, key bumping, and physical security standards. Nothing will be 100% secure, but Kwikset has been manufacturing locks for more than 60 years and the Kevo is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Grade 2. There are 3 levels, 1-3, with number 1 being the highest rated.

2. August Smart Lock ($200)

august smart lock
Remember when I said there might be an exception for apartment dwellers and renters? The August Smart Lock is the exception. It is a good solution (remembering the caveats mentioned above) for renters who want a smart home but aren’t explicitly allowed to change their locks.

The drawback to this lock is, you’ll need a gateway, the August Connect, much like Kevo Plus, for remote access. The August replaced just the interior plate and lever of your existing deadbolt, so the exterior hardware remains unchanged.

You can also add a few accessories: a keypad, the app, and a wireless connection bridge. In order for the August to be compatible with Echo/Alexa, HomeKit/Siri, or Google Home/Assistant, you will need the Wi-Fi Bridge which is not included. There have also been reports that this lock is particularly bad at draining batteries. While it does have a few drawbacks, it is a good choice for anyone happy with their existing locks, but still looking to add a lock to their smarthome setup.

3. Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt ($230)

schlage
The Schlage Connect Touchscreen Deadbolt is the most unique smart lock on this list because you’ll never have to deal with a key or an app to use it. Instead, you use the digital touchscreen. Schlage’s lock integrates with several different home automation systems, including Amazon Alexa.

One of the most unique features about this smart lock is that if anyone tampers with the lock/door, you’ll be notified and if anyone pushes against the door too forcefully, a piercing alarm will sound and you’ll be alerted to help deter break-ins. Schlage’s lock is also the only lock in this list rated one by ANSI. If you’re looking for a lock that will still let friends and family in without giving out a code, this lock still has you covered. You can lock and unlock from nearly anywhere using Schlage’s Z-Wave® technology.

This technology was developed by Schlage in 1999 and uses wireless radio frequency (RF) communication for home devices allowing you to give access on-the-go.

4. Yale Assure Lock SL ($219)

yale smart
Yale Real Living Assure Lock SL is the slimmest smart lock on the market, and if purchased with a Yale iM1 Network Module, it is HomeKit-compatible, so it can be controlled using the Apple Home app, the Yale Secure app, and via Siri voice commands.

It’s available at major retailers, including Lowe’s, Best Buy, PC Richard & Son, and on Amazon. This lock has a reputation for ease of use and reliable integrations.

5. Lockitron Bolt ($99)

lockitron
The Lockitron Bolt is a great choice for users looking to try out smart locks, but are also a bit more budget conscious. The Lockitron is compatible with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

It can be integrated and automated through IFTTT (If This, Then That). If you’re not familiar with IFTTT, we’ve written extensively about it. Lockitron is introducing what they call Key Match, so this will be another great option for renters as this will allow you to keep your current set of house keys and still use a smart lock. Soon, they will also be introducing the Lockitron Bridge so you can control your lock from anywhere in the world, giving you gateway connectivity. The Bolt is more secure than you might think, given the price tag. They use robust encryption using open, published standards. It is secured at both the protocol and application layers and if you’re worried about security, you can check their security page.

The Lockitron Bolt gives you a basic, affordable smart lock, with a sleek, easily accessible mechanism that is still secure and functional. If you’re looking for a smart lock with all the bells and whistles, however, the Lockitron Bolt, may not be your best option.

6. Friday Lock ($249)

friday
Friday Lock is a true competitor for the August Smart Lock in a sleeker design. Friday Labs ambitiously bills itself as the world’s smallest smart lock at a mere 2.7”. It is ergonomic, small, and functional for everyone. Friday lock securely connects to your phone wirelessly, giving you the ability to lock or unlock your door as you leave or approach, as well as effortlessly share access with anyone you choose. You’ll also receive notifications on your phone for every action your lock takes (every lock/unlock).

Friday Lock comes in seven colors and can also be connected with the Apple HomeKit and Secure Remote Access. It works with all single cylinder deadbolts and can easily be installed with a screwdriver. Friday replaces the thumb latch on the inside of your door, so changing out the lock is simple.

It also has a rechargeable battery in the baseplate, saving you money on batteries. While this lock is a bit on the pricey side, Friday rotates 360 degrees, making it compatible with any deadbolt. If you’re looking to add a sleek, small smart lock to your home automation, Friday is a great choice. 



The takeaway?

While smart lock technology has come a long way, there are still several things to consider before recommending one to a client or installing one yourself: do you still want to be able to use physical keys? Do you need remote access? Should it be compatible with your home automation system? Are you going to be replacing batteries or recharging them?

And for most people, can you afford to switch out all your locks at once, or will you need to do it one at a time? Smart locks certainly offer a level of convenience that cannot be beat by physical key locks, but there are some drawbacks mentioned above.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Homeownership

4 million homeowners skip mortgage payments as forbearance requests slow

(REAL ESTATE) It is no surprise that mortgage payments are being skipped across the nation, but it’s not all a total loss…

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Over 4.1 million American homeowners are currently skipping their mortgage payments on a temporary basis as COVID-19 keeps the economy shut down, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

Meanwhile, forbearance requests have slowed – the MBA’s weekly survey indicates that 8.16 percent of total loans are now in forbearance plans, up from 7.91 percent the week prior, and while the share of loans in forbearance is rising, the trend is toward requests decreasing.

Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, said in a statement, “There has been a pronounced flattening in loans put into forbearance – despite April’s uniformly negative economic data, remarkably high unemployment, and it now being past May payment due dates.”

Congress passed the $2.22 trillion CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), under which homeowners holding a federally backed home loan may delay mortgage payments for up to a year, but politicians are quick to remind folks that the money is still due, and fees may still apply during the forbearance period.

This relief effort is the primary reason so many did not pay their mortgage this month. People are still unsure of whether or not they will be employed in the near future, and are managing their finances accordingly, particularly while lenders are still in the mood to negotiate. Economists believe that difficulties will be ongoing, and homeowners will continue to struggle as a whole.

While our economy hasn’t been hit this hard since the Great Depression, and unemployment numbers reveal widespread economic devastation, slivers of hope remain. Forbearance requests slowing isn’t the only housing hope – new home construction levels are down, but nowhere near at the same pace as other sectors harder hit.

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Homeownership

Find out if your rental home is under the 120-day federal eviction moratorium

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) COVID-19 has thrown many certainties into chaos, but heres a beacon of light if you are worried about paying rent and if you will fall victim to eviction.

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Proactively prevent foreclosure eviction

The Texas Supreme Court extended a moratorium on evictions through April 30. Dallas County’s moratorium runs through May 18. Tarrant County, next to Dallas County, has an indefinite moratorium. Meanwhile, cities, counties, and states across America have different moratoriums.

The CARES Act includes a federal eviction moratorium that begins on March 27 and lasts for 120 days.

Federally subsidized housing cannot evict tenants for non-payment for 120 days. If you’re like most renters, you may not know if your property is backed a federal program, such as HUD, FHA, USDA or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Here is a searchable database helps renters identify if their home is covered by the CARES Act

The National Low Income Housing Coalition offers a searchable database of homes that are covered by the CARES Act. Please note that the database is not comprehensive. Just because your home isn’t listed, doesn’t mean that the CARES ACT doesn’t apply.

The NLIHC offers updates on COVID-19 housing issues. They also have a page for state housing assistance. Low income households in Austin may qualify for assistance through the Austin Tenant Stabilization Program. Share that program with tenants and landlords to prevent evictions.

Eviction moratoriums do not mean that tenants don’t have to pay rent or late fees.

Tenants and landlords need to work together to find a solution to paying rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The eviction moratorium is not a rent freeze. When life gets back to normal, tenants will still owe back and current rent or risk eviction.

We wrote that the National Multifamily Housing Council is recommending that its members waive late fees and administrative costs and help residents with payment plans.

It’s going to take everyone working together to keep families stable after the pandemic. We will do our best to keep you updated on any new options and helpful programs.

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Homeownership

1 in 3 renters didn’t pay rent in April – now what?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Renters have fallen behind on rent in the past month; that money can help them during this hard time, but what happens to the landlords?

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The National Multifamily Housing Council reports that only 69% of renters paid their rent by April 5. For comparison, last month, 81% had paid their rent by March 5. Last year’s figure for April was 82%. This figure should give lawmakers and business owners pause during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hoped that as unemployment and stimulus money is paid out, renters can make their payments, but this 12% drop in rent payments demonstrates just one challenge facing our nation.

Evictions on hold, but this may not be enough

The NMHC is recommending short-term financial assistance to renters who have lost their job due to the pandemic instead of just placing a moratorium on evictions. Putting a halt on evictions simply delays the inevitable. Renters who lost a job won’t simply be able to make back payments in a few months. The Texas Supreme Court has placed a moratorium on evictions through June 1. HUD extends this through July 24 for government-assisted housing.

A group in Colorado is asking for a rent strike, which in theory sounds effective. The problem is that landlords still have their own bills to pay, utilities, maintenance, mortgages and more. A rent freeze could create a tidal wave of issues that will further extend the economic uncertainty. Although some are hoping that Congress will address this huge problem, it could take a few weeks to get direct relief.

What are some options?

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson says, “Have a heart, have a heart. These are incredibly difficult times for everyone.” He also asked renters to work with their landlords, because they have bills, too. NMHC is asking its members to:

• Waive late fees and administrative costs over the next month
• Give residents payment plans (put them in writing)
• Share resources to help residents

Renters need to be proactive and talk to landlords about their situation. And landlords would be wise to openly communicate their limits to renters – transparency could be the difference between flipping a unit and praying for a renter, and a few tough months. These are difficult times. Everyone is going to have to work together to find solutions to alleviate the effects of this pandemic.

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