building entrance shows off residential access control system

ButterflyMX offers robust access control for multifamily, commercial, senior housing, and student housing properties.


You already know how important it is to keep your residential property safe and secure — and that means effectively controlling access into and within your apartment building. But it can be overwhelming to choose a residential access control system that offers everything you need. This blog post will walk you through everything you need to know before committing to an access control solution.

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What is a residential access control system?

A residential access control system is a solution for automating access to a residential property to make sure only authorized people can enter. Access control systems are installed at entrances, gates, interior doors, and elevators throughout the building. There are many different types of residential access control systems, but all share the common goal of making buildings more secure and making access more convenient.

Building access control systems can be as simple as traditional metal keys and locks. However, investing in the right solution is a simple, affordable, and efficient way to improve your property, so it’s worth considering the options available to you. While an old-fashioned lock-and-key system keeps out unauthorized visitors, it’s not convenient for your current residents and staff to manage.


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How to manage access at residential properties

All entryways, from gates to doors, can benefit from access control to ensure that only authorized people pass through. Gate and door access control systems allow you to keep entrances locked and secure 24/7 so that only approved residents, staff, and guests can access the space.

Most access control systems include the following components:

  • Control panel: The control panel stores data on tenants and their access permissions. Older access controllers often use a physical device on-site, but many newer systems store this data in the cloud, so it’s accessible remotely.
  • Credentials: There are many different types of credentials. Your building may use metal keys still, or perhaps you’ve upgraded to key fobs or cards. Smart access control systems can even use mobile devices or fingerprints as credentials. In the end, all credentials serve the same purpose of storing data on who the user is and what they can access.
  • Reader: Every entryway needs a reader to manage access and scan credentials. With a traditional metal lock and key, the door opens as long as the key fits. But with more high-tech solutions, readers scan credentials then send encrypted data to the control panel. The control panel opens the door if the user is authorized to enter.
  • Door release mechanism: The door release mechanism is a device that unlocks the door so tenants, visitors, and staff can enter after scanning their credentials. It receives messages from the control panel when an authorized user is at the door and unlocks it so they can enter.


What are the most common types of residential access control?

There are many ways to manage access at your residential building, from old-fashioned metal keys to cloud-based contactless systems. Which apartment access control system is best for you will depend on the unique needs of your property. However, most multifamily buildings benefit from a combination of access strategies.

The top four types of residential access control systems used today are:

  1. RFID systems
  2. Cloud-based access control systems
  3. Smart locks
  4. Keypads


1. RFID systems

The technology for RFID keys has been around a long time and is still the most popular solution for hotels today. Every resident and staff member is assigned a key card or fob to scan at the entrance to gain access. You can use these systems beyond just the front door to manage access to gyms, laundry facilities, parking garages, package rooms, and more.

RFID access control systems are often cheap to install, but the cost adds up quickly as you replace lost keys and make new ones for residents moving in. These systems also don’t allow visitors to request access, resulting in packages getting left outside or prospective residents not being able to come in for tours.


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2. Cloud-based access control systems

A cloud-based access control system operates and stores data in the cloud. With a cloud-based access control system, authorized users can open doors for themselves or guests with any device that’s connected to the internet. Essentially, your residents and staff will be able to manage access from anywhere. Not only can they open the door from anywhere, but you can also update the resident directory, manage access permissions, and review entry logs remotely without having to be on-site.

Unlike RFID systems, a cloud-based access control system often also has features for visitor management. For example, the best system for residential buildings is a cloud-based video intercom. When installed at the building’s front entrance, intercoms allow visitors to contact any resident or staff member. Many cloud-based access control systems are also smartphone-based.

For nontraditional residential properties, such as mobile home parks or tiny home parks, cloud-based access control is a viable option.


What is smartphone-based access control?

With mobile cloud-based access control, your staff and residents use their mobile devices – such as smartphones, tablets, and smart devices – as their access credentials. This can work in a couple of different ways. To verify access, some access readers communicate with residents’ mobile devices over Bluetooth or WiFi. Other systems operate using mobile apps so residents can receive calls from guests, accept deliveries, and open the door all from their smartphones.


3. Smart locks

Physical keys will soon be a thing of the past. Smart locks replace metal keys and enable a resident to unlock their door using a PIN code or smartphone.

Smart locks are convenient because residents no longer have to carry around keys, and your staff won’t need to worry about the hassle of making them. However, smart locks aren’t the best way to manage front door access because once residents give out the PIN code to a guest, that person can reenter the door anytime they want. Your best solution is to use smart locks as door access control for individual units within the building.


4. Keypads

Like smart locks, keypads replace metal keys and locks with a more convenient solution. Keypads let users enter a PIN code to access a building or room and are a great way to manage access around your property. Some keypad access systems even allow tenants to open the door from a mobile app.

Keypads offer a convenient experience to residents and staff but don’t have an option for visitors to request access. Therefore, they’re best suited for use within the building rather than at the main entrance where delivery couriers and guests also enter.


keypad access control system


How to choose a residential access control system

So now that you know the different types of access control, how do you choose which one to get? You want to invest in a modern system that is scalable, reliable, and easy to manage. The best way to do that is with a unified, cloud-based access control system. Choose a cloud-based system with convenient hardware, like smart locks and keypads, to offer a hands-free, smartphone-based experience throughout the entire building.

Key features to look for in a cloud-based access control system:

  • Camera: Keep your building secure by choosing a system with a camera built into the access control hardware. That way, you and your tenants can visually verify who’s entering the building using live video. The best way to do this is with a video intercom at the main entrance.
  • Mobile app: The last thing you want is to spend money on technology that your residents and staff won’t use. So it’s essential to invest in a system with a great mobile app if you want to offer smartphone-based access. Check reviews on Google and the Apple Store to ensure the app is well received by people who use it.
  • Integrations: Thanks to the cloud, your access control system can easily communicate with other devices and software. Choose an access control system that can integrate with your other smart devices, like locks and keypads, to offer the most seamless experience throughout the building. You can also save your staff time by choosing a system that integrates with your property management software, so the resident directory automatically updates.


resident used rfid key for residential access control system


Which access control credentials should you use?

Key fobs and cards are similar to a traditional key in that anyone holding the credential can gain access. Unfortunately, this isn’t the most secure way to manage access because keys can be stolen, lost, and used by people who aren’t authorized. Your residents are much less likely to lose their smartphones, however, so systems that rely on mobile credentials instead are more secure.

Additionally, since COVID-19, the popularity of touchless access has grown exponentially. It’s an excellent investment for your property because it makes access more convenient and accessible for everyone since they no longer have to worry about keeping track of keys.


The best residential access control system

It’s hard these days to find an all-in-one residential access control solution. Luckily, ButterflyMX offers the highest-rated residential access control system on the market today so that you can do it all from one app. More than 1,000,000 people use ButterflyMX every day, and the system now has more than 20,000 five-star ratings. It’s the right solution for multifamily properties of all sizes.

When you choose ButterflyMX as your access control system, you get a powerful suite of integrated devices. These devices all work together to provide a secure and convenient solution for your residential property.

The ButterflyMX unified property access solution includes:

  • Smart video intercom to control access at the property’s front entrance
  • Keypads for secondary entrances, amenity spaces, and other interior doors
  • Elevator controls to ensure visitors can only access the correct floor of the building
  • Key lockers to enable controlled access to apartment units with traditional locks and keys
  • Integrations with smart locks so you can enable smartphone-based unit access from one unified system


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Jeff Granger

I'm a native Texan and tech guru who is fascinated by technology's impact on the real estate industry.