Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Looking for the right intercom system for your apartment building? Our Apartment Intercom Buyers Guide will help you understand the different considerations you should make when choosing a system that will be the best fit for your property.
What is an apartment intercom? (and why do I need one?)
At it’s very simplest, an intercom system allows building tenants to communicate with visitors and grant access to the property. Using a front entrance unit visitors dial the apartment they want to speak to, and the tenant can speak back via an in-unit intercom and press a button to unlock the door.
What are my options?
Front Desk vs. Multi-tenant
A front desk intercom only places calls to the front desk or leasing office, and the intercom needs to be managed by someone 24/7. Front desk intercoms are less convenient for multifamily buildings that have many visitors, or for buildings that do not have a dedicated front desk employee.
A multi-tenant intercom lets visitors search a directory of tenants and place a call to their individual apartment unit. With a video-capable multi-tenant system the tenant and visitor can see and speak with each other before access is granted.
Wired vs. wireless
A wired intercom system uses wiring to connect the front entrance intercom with individual units in each apartment. When visitors use the front entrance intercom, a signal is relayed through the internal wiring to the corresponding unit, and tenants can respond and open the door via the unit in their apartment. Because the apartment unit is wired to the front entrance, tenants can only receive these calls when they are in their apartment.
Wired systems require a lot of cabling, they can be more costly to install, and harder to maintain and repair.
Wireless intercoms don’t need a hard wired connection between the front entrance intercom and the in-unit devices, and use a WiFi signal or cell service instead. This allows tenants to receive notifications either via the apartment unit or via a wireless device like a smartphone or tablet that is compatible with the system software. Wireless systems are generally less costly and take less time to set up.
A wireless intercom system offers more flexibility and convenience for tenants as they do not necessarily need to be in their unit to answer the intercom.
Wireless systems often use a Mobile App to facilitate the connection between the front entrance intercom and the tenant's device. Tenants use the app to answer calls and grant visitor access.
Today intercom systems have a range of features to make visitor management easier for both tenants and building managers. The addition of video calling offers tenants the added benefit of visually verifying guests, and systems with remote access control allow tenants to manage the front entrance from anywhere in the world.
Having the right intercom system can add layers of convenience for an apartment building, serving as a virtual doorman, helping to manage deliveries, and bolstering security.
Audio vs. Video intercom
Traditional building intercom systems only allow for a two way audio call between the visitor at the front entrance and the tenant. Visitors use a directory to look up the correct apartment number, and then “buzz” the apartment to alert the tenant of their arrival. The tenant and visitor can talk through the intercom beforing “buzzing” their guest in.
Video intercoms offer the added benefit of being able to see and speak with visitors at the front entrance. This is especially convenient for buildings without a front desk that want to ensure the safety of tenants.
Video intercoms can be especially useful when away, needing to verify visitors, allow package delivery, or let someone in remotely.
Better visitor management experience
Secure package delivery
Increased tenant satisfaction
1. Ease of installation
You want a system that can be installed quickly and easily. Intercoms are important visitor management and security features for an apartment, so the less time you wait for the unit to be installed, the better.
Another question to consider is whether you are installing an intercom for the first time or upgrading a current system. This is an important question, as some devices are trickier to replace than others. If this will be a first time installation, how much maintenance will be required for set up?
It’s important to work with integrators who know what they are doing and have a good relationship with the intercom company. Companies that train integrators on their products have a likelier chance of getting the job done quickly and efficiently, saving you time and money.
2. Video Capability
The most robust apartment intercoms are video enabled intercoms that initiate a video call between the visitor at the front entrance and the tenant. This allows tenants to visually verify their visitors before grating them entry to the building. This feature provides a great alternative for buildings that do not have a front desk or security guard.
It is always important to understand the costs associated with an apartment intercom. Modern intercom systems can cost between $1,500 for a basic unit, and up to $6,000. These costs can increase further depending on the functionality of the unit and how many units are in the building.
Installation: Installing a new unit can often be one of the biggest costs. Installers may charge you extra for unseen issues or if the project runs overtime. It’s important to check if you will be responsible for additional costs associated with the installation.
Subscription: Intercom systems that use a mobile app service use a subscription-based model with a fixed monthly cost, either per user or per unit. Costs based on units will typically cost building owners less over time. These subscriptions tend to cost between $2.50 - $5.00 per month per apartment.
Recurring fees: Systems that don’t charge subscription fees may nonetheless require additional costs for system maintenance, updates, or training costs and this may not be made clear at the time of purchase.
4. Mobile app
An intercom system that works with a mobile app lets tenants receive visitors' notifications and open the entrance via their smartphone (or a smart device). Tenants can communicate with the front entrance and grant entry to visitors or delivery people from anywhere in the world.
If the intercom also has video capabilities, tenants can see who is at their door before letting them in via the app.
Building owners and managers also benefit from having an intercom system with a mobile app. They can easily allow maintenance people or potential renters into the building without having to physically be there.
It is important to check the app’s rating before choosing an intercom system with a mobile app. Both apple and android offer valuable feedback in their respective online stores but watch out for potentially inflated ratings, sort the ratings by date and pay closer attention to the latest reviews. If the app has bad reviews or is unreliable, you may want to look elsewhere.
5. Multiple entrances
Most apartment buildings have multiple entry points, so you'll want to make sure you choose an intercom system that can accommodate the number of building entrances that need to be secured.
6. Building management:
Consider an intercom system that has an integrated management platform for property managers or building owners. This will allow building staff to update tenant information, view entry logs or manage building entryways, enhancing the security and efficiency of the building.
Now that you know what to consider, it’s time to review the best apartment intercom systems. Check out our Best Apartment System Guide to find the solution that’s right for you!