By Liz Dominguez
The real estate industry is constantly evolving, and the next big thing is here. Amazon's latest innovative tech product, Amazon Key, an app exclusively for Prime members, is being advertised as a safer way to get packages delivered, but has the potential to be so much more than that.
It's similar to how eKey real estate applications work for letting agents into a listing. The question is: Will the app be a threat to the industry, or a way to make real estate safer?
How It Works
Amazon Key is a mobile app connected to a keypad, which gets installed on your front door. You'll have to install it on one of two well-known lock brands: Yale or Kwikset. The app lets you lock and unlock the front door remotely, and works directly with Amazon to schedule deliveries and authorize package drop-offs inside your home. Amazon Key also lets you give anyone temporary or recurring access via your mobile phone.
You can schedule access during specific times only and can keep an eye on visitors using the included CloudCam, which can be integrated with Amazon's Alexa devices for voice recognition. Amazon is working with partnered vendors and over 1,200 Amazon Home Services so you can eventually give home access to professional service providers.
Amazon is still working on making the product available across all zip codes; the service is limited to 37 cities across the U.S., since Amazon is currently only using its own delivery team. You can check the product page to see if your zip code is eligible. You'll also need to have a compatible door (the requirements are listed on the product's FAQs page). Amazon Key is currently available for pre-order at $249.99.
The Upsides and Downsides
Agents can use it instead of a lockbox. The idea of a lockbox is that only licensed agents with the app can access your home, but Amazon Key could work in a similar way with added security measures. Listing agents would have to vet those who want to show your home before you schedule a showing for a specific time and day, and then you could give them temporary access. If you're selling from out of town, this would guarantee that agents don't keep going into your vacant home without permission, as they can with a lockbox.
The security camera and lock features would make the process more secure. While you always have the option of installing security cameras, that can get pretty expensive. With Amazon Key, you can use the included indoor security camera to keep an eye on visitors, even at night. It also has two-way audio so you can listen in or speak up if any visitors are out of the camera's line of sight. Since visitors are monitored through the camera and their access is tied to their phone, any burglary attempts would be easy to track.
You might be tempted to DIY and sell on your own. This might seem like a good way to avoid paying a real estate commission, but it's not that simple. You'll still lack the marketing and agent expertise, even though the danger of letting a stranger in for showings or open houses would be significantly less. Keep in mind that while this restricts who can go in your house, visitors wouldn't be supervised unless you stay at home during the showings, which is not convenient. When buyers work with real estate agents, they have been thoroughly vetted, making them a much safer option than '"John Smith" off the street.
Smart locks are not a new development. The tech is not new, but Amazon's way of using it for package deliveries is. The thing is, you can find a variety of other smart lock brands for sale, even from Amazon itself. They range in price, with the most basic ones that only let you open and lock your doors remotely costing about $100 dollars. More complex tech that works like Amazon Key mimics the new product's price range of around $200-$300. Most of these include cameras, but you'll have to pay attention to connectivity features. While some connect to your router using Wi-Fi, others use Bluetooth technology, which restricts the range to around 40 feet.
You'll have to decide if the added bonus of monitored indoor deliveries and Alexa connectivity is enough to entice you to the Amazon brand, but for the price range, it seems worth the splurge. Either way, the smart lock technology could play an important role in real estate if the antiquated combo lock or lockbox methods are replaced—an option that would only be viable if smart locks are adopted by the majority of homeowners.