It’s one of the most common contractor dilemmas the average landlord-style real estate investment professional is likely to face. It’s quite a serious decision that should be given more than a knee jerk decision. The cost of locksmith services can be quite high in some circumstances and you’ll have to balance that against your security needs, budget and expectations.
One of the benefits of hiring a locksmith on a regular or contract basis is their ability (in most cases) to deal with your intercom, alarms, and camera systems in addition to their lock changing and re-keying abilities. Another is being able to put your properties on a master key system, reducing the number of keys you and your staff have to keep track of and enabling you to control more strictly access to properties you own.
Many landlords choose to use a locksmith for bigger projects, like setting up a master key or intercom system and doing the maintenance work of cutting new keys, re-keying and changing intercom passcodes in-house. This can work well in many situations, especially where property turnover is low or there is a qualified and competent resident manager system in place.
It can become much trickier if you are dealing with multiple lock and intercom passcode changes during the busiest days of your month. Move in/out days can become a strategical nightmare once the number of properties involved increases.
Of course, when you hire out rather than taking care of the task in-house, you lose a bit of control in scheduling your services. While most locksmiths will be able to take care of your needs within your timeline most of the time, there will be occasions when service is not as quick as you may require.
However, in hiring a locksmith, you will have access to a higher grade of locks and systems than are generally available within the consumer market. Doorknobs and other locking mechanisms available in your typical home improvement store tend to be of lesser quality than those available through the specialty lock and security system providers.
This is largely due to the specific skills involved in the installation and maintenance of the locking mechanisms. Those made for the professional market are going to be geared towards the skills of a journeyman locksmith rather than the weekend hobbyist renovator. This difference can make a major difference in your security. There is some price differential between professional and typical systems, but not a large one.
It’s also important to note that the locks currently available as self re-keying tend to fail much quicker than typical locking systems. Drilling out the mechanism completely is often the only recovery option when this happens. While you’ll be able to install it yourself (or have a staff member do so), and you will be able to re-key it yourself, when it fails you will have to call a locksmith to rectify it without damage. Whether that’s a risk you’re willing to take is one only you can decide.
Ultimately, the decision to hire a locksmith or continue with a do it yourself approach is one only you’ll make based on the criteria that are important to you. You’ll just want to think it through carefully and go with what works for your operations. Consider your budget and attitude towards security along with your interest and willingness to fiddle with the small parts of locks and doorknobs.