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Security Cameras for Vacant Rentals: Watching Over Properties Without WiFi

Safeguarding a vacant rental property on a budget is no easy feat. Property managers must find a balance between deterring trespassers and squatters and attracting an audience for showings. While we cross our fingers and hope each vacancy is short-lived, not having eyes on a vacant rental feels stressful and unwise. On the other hand, breaking the bank for security systems feels unwise when it’s just a matter of time until the right tenant comes along. Especially when most security systems require WiFi – and we aren’t exactly in the business of providing WiFi to empty rentals.

The strategy for excellent security should prioritize two things:
  •  Affordable, mobile security cameras that make sense in a temporary situation
  • Shortening the duration of a vacancy as much as possible
This article will address the risks associated with vacant rental properties and the criteria for cost-effective surveillance. We’ll highlight which security camera features are most conducive to safeguarding vacant units and present the most affordable options on the market. 

Are vacant rental properties really at risk? 

Vacant rental properties are vulnerable to a range of risks from intruders, including vandalism, property damage, theft, trespassing, and squatting. In fact, the whole block is more at risk – this study in Austin found blocks with a vacant building have 3.2 times more drug calls, 1.8 times more theft calls, and twice as many violent crime calls.  

With renter fraud and seller impersonation schemes running rampant, property managers and landlords are reporting more run-ins with trespassers and squatters than ever. While we’re still waiting on solid statistics, the amount of anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Between legislation failing to provide adequate security, and the urgent need to become aware of a squatter situation, what preventative and reactive security measures do landlords need to implement? 

Will home-security systems work for vacant rental properties? 

While lucrative for inhabited homes, for the scenario at hand – the short answer is no. With plenty of home security systems on the market, outside of expensive custom security packages, none meet the specific criteria that landlords and property managers need to consider: affordability and portability.   

Affordability: Installation costs are typically between $300-$500 (and don’t necessarily include a technician to “install” anything). On top of that, the usual monthly subscription fee falls between $30-$50. Already adding up, most of these systems require internet connection, so factor in another setup fee and a monthly WiFi bill. 

Portability: Cameras provided by home security services are installed semi-permanently. When a vacancy ends, it’s difficult and time-consuming to remove the hardware and put into storage. If the service provider even allows you to change addresses, transferring the hardware to another rental property racks up fees. You incur additional installation fees each time you move addresses, even if you do this work yourself. There are costs for discontinuing WiFi at one location and installing at the next. Even if the transition between properties were smooth, vacancies within our rental portfolios don’t just magically line up. 

For guarding vacant rental properties, the criteria for security cameras are specific. 

We’ve covered why property owners need affordable, standalone security cameras that provide adequate surveillance and can be easily moved from one vacant property to the next. With that in mind, what features and functions make a security camera a good fit for these properties? 

Here’s our list of specs: 

  • No WiFi required to operate 
  • Easily transportable and installable 
  • Can be used indoors or outdoors 
  • Heightened human and vehicle recognition  
  • Smartphone accessible footage via cellular streaming 
  • Real-time disturbance notifications with timestamps 
  • Reactivity to motion-sensing, with ability to pan and tilt   

While most of these specs are self-explanatory, finding a camera that can stream footage without WiFi is a bit of a thinker. The solution is “cellular” security cameras. Instead of using a dedicated Internet connection, a cellular surveillance camera wirelessly transmits video signals over a mobile network, making it the ideal security solution for locations without Internet and power source. For more information on how they work, here’s an comprehensive guide

Factoring into affordability, there’s a monthly cost for a cellular data plan, but it’s nowhere close to the cost of an internet bill, with prices maxing at $50/month. We found two relatively affordable cellular security cameras that hit every mark. 

The V300 Ultimate camera from Vosker was our runner-up. While it meets every demand, their data plans limit how many alerts the camera will send per month, and that raised a red flag for us. With frequent property showings, a limited number of disturbance alerts could be spent quickly. Prices just under $400 per device, this option is in the affordable range for a single camera, but many vacant properties would ideally equip an internal and an external camera. $800 with the data plan’s monthly cost falls far outside our idea of affordable. 

What’s the best cellular security camera for vacant properties? 

Ding, ding, ding, folks. We have a winner. 

With plug-in, solar-powered and battery-powered options available for under $250, we chose Reolink cellular security cameras  as the ideal camera for vacant rental properties. Reolink hit every mark on our spec list, provides remotely accessible footage with great resolution, and inspired us to take advantage of other features and apply them to our own self-tour solutions. 

For example, the Reolink cameras can record audio and facilitate a 2-way conversation between the surveilled space and the camera’s owner. During a self-tour, this allows a property manager to check in with guests, point out features they may have missed or answer questions in real-time. During a break-in, it captures incriminating audio from perpetrators and gives landlords the option to tell them to scram. 

Whether or not you’re interested in self-tours, InstaShow supplies three of their cameras independent of our own products. Through InstaShow, the data cards you need for these cameras are available at the lowest cost anywhere. At $10/month (and cancelable when not in use), our offer is at least 50% lower than other mobile data providers’. 

And since some states require both parties to consent to recording, InstaShow includes a sticker alerting visitors of A/V recording to display on the property while the cameras are in use. 

Security cameras can’t shorten vacancies, but tour tech can. 

It sounds obvious, like how the best way to prevent car accidents is to drive less, but still, the best way to protect vacant properties is to shorten the amount of time they remain vacant. To that point, streamlining tour access means more tours in less time, and more tours means shorter vacancies. Because only vetted & verified individuals are eligible to tour, the prospects that come through InstaShow are much more likely to be serious contenders for tenancy. And if you aren’t available for a showing, you can choose to allow a self-tour instead of missing the opportunity. 

About Instashow 

As pioneers in self-tour software, and as practicing property managers, the InstaShow team knew security had to be, utterly and unmistakably, the top priority for a self-tour system. There’s simply too much at risk to reasonably ask a landlord to enable self-tours without making security the backbone of the system. That’s why we patented and designed a layered, foolproof, biometric verification process for prospective tenants, and found hardware partners to close the gaps with surveillance and access technology that landlords can afford and control.  


Cellular Security Cameras [Top picks & How to Choose]. (n.d.).

Lacoma, T., & Crist, R. (2024, April 14). Best Home Security Systems of 2024. CNET.

National Vacant Properties Campaign. (2005). Vacant Properties: The True costs to Communities [Report].


Addressing the security needs of vacant rental properties without WiFi can be a complex endeavor. Conventional home-security systems fall short due to their limited affordability and lack of portability. However, the emergence of cost-effective standalone cellular security cameras, offers a compelling solution for remote surveillance. When integrated with advanced self-tour technology like InstaShow, landlords can effectively mitigate risks, potentially reducing vacancy durations and enhancing property safeguarding strategies.