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How to Choose an Apartment Intercom System — 13 Key Factors to Consider

Choose the best apartment intercom system for your multifamily unit with our guide! Discover the basics and top factors to consider when choosing an apartment intercom.

How to Choose an Apartment Intercom System — 13 Key Factors to Consider

The biggest benefit of installing an intercom system in a multi-tenant apartment building is making your residents feel safe and secure in their homes.

The need for multi-tenant intercom systems has risen due to an increase in inbound packages and food deliveries that place greater scrutiny on apartment building security. Multi-tenant intercom entry systems make it easy for visitors to request access and for residents to identify them and grant them entry.

Because the technology for an apartment intercom system varies from simple buzzers to sophisticated video and phone systems, it's important to review key buying considerations. This article will help you confidently select the right apartment intercom system for your building.

What Is an Apartment-Building Intercom System?

An apartment intercom system, also called a buzzer, is a standalone two-way communication device used within apartment buildings or a small collection of buildings to grant access to tenants and visitors.

Installed at the entryway of a building, intercom systems typically include a microphone, a speaker, and occasionally a camera. The intercom captures audio and video and transmits them to tenants, which lets them verify visitors before granting them access.

If you have an intercom at the front desk, it'll be up to your front desk clerk to contact your tenants to verify their visitors.

Most apartment complexes have in-unit intercom systems. When a visitor presses the button at the main entrance, the intercom inside the corresponding unit notifies the resident. They can then press a button on their intercom and talk directly to the visitor at the front entrance without ever leaving their unit.

How Do Apartment Intercoms Work?

Video Intercoms

An intercom system is designed for communication. It consists of two monitors linked together that allow people to talk to each other. While different brands have different systems, the basic components are more or less the same.

The master station (central control panel) is the unit that controls the entire apartment building entry system. The substations are connected to the control panel and are usually placed in tenants' apartments.

A multi-tenant intercom system is more complex and involves more than just point-to-point communication. Typically, there's one main hub at the building's entrance that's linked to other monitors placed throughout the building. Depending on the type of intercom system, there might be interior monitors at the front desk or inside each unit.

If your system has in-unit monitors, the entrance hub acts as a directory. It'll have the names and unit numbers of all the residents. When a visitor reaches the entrance, they find the number of people they wish to visit in the directory and push the corresponding intercom button that opens a line of communication between them and the unit.

Types of Apartment Intercom Systems

Apartment intercom systems come in several forms — each with its own unique capabilities to meet the needs of different buildings.

1. Wired Apartment Intercoms

A wired intercom system is physically connected by wires that run through a building from the main entrance panel to each apartment unit receiver. They can have audio and/or video capabilities and are popular for small condo and apartment buildings.

Because the apartment unit is wired to the front entrance, tenants can only receive calls when they're in their apartments. Typically, they are installed during the construction of a building and can be harder to maintain and repair.

Benefits of a Wired Apartment Building Entry System

  • Reliable: Wired connections are more reliable as cellular or Wi-Fi systems can experience connectivity issues.

2. Wireless Intercom Systems

Touchless Access Control

A wireless apartment intercom system doesn't need a hard-wired connection between the front entrance intercom and the in-unit devices. Instead, it uses a Wi-Fi signal or cell service. This allows tenants to receive notifications either via the apartment unit or via a wireless device like a smartphone or tablet that's compatible with the system software.

You can also get a wireless intercom with a door release that unlocks doors with magnetic or electric locks. Some wireless systems allow tenants to release the door only when they're in their apartments, while others allow remote access.

Benefits of a Wireless Apartment Building Intercom

  • Fast and simple installation: There's no need to cut walls to run intercom wiring throughout your property. All you need to do is install the hardware.
  • Affordable: Due to a simpler installation, wireless intercom systems are cheaper.
  • Easier upgrades and maintenance: Again, you don't have to rewire the building to maintain or upgrade a wireless intercom system.

3. Telephone Entry System

Traditional telephone entry systems are connected to telephone lines that call landlines or cellphone numbers programmed into them when a visitor requests access. Nowadays, most telephone entry systems use smartphones.

To use, guests look up a tenant's number within the system's directory. Once they dial your unit code, the system connects to the tenant's in-door unit door phone. If the tenant is home, they answer their door phone or smartphones and speak with the visitor.

Benefits of Telephone Entry Systems

  • Convenience: A door station number lets you can give visitors access from anywhere in the world.

4. Video Intercom Systems for Apartments

Video intercom systems take security and access control to the next level by incorporating audio and video captured at the front entrance. This data is then transmitted to tenants to verify visitors and grant access. Newer technology enables tenants and building staff to use mobile apps to monitor and interact with video intercom systems.

Benefits of Video Intercom System

  • Extra security: Video intercom systems allow you to see who is at the door before answering it. This can be useful when identifying suppliers, customers, or anyone else entering your business.
  • Reduced vandalism: A video intercom system is equipped with cameras that can be a great deterrent for crime, especially vandalism.

How Much Does an Apartment Intercom System Cost?

An apartment intercom system can cost between $1,000 and $10,000, excluding installation and maintenance fees. Intercom hardware is more or less fixed in price and easier to cost; however, installation and maintenance depend on the company and apartment building size.

A building's installation cost depends on the materials required and the difficulty of the installation. Ongoing maintenance costs will vary based on the number of hardware devices purchased and how much wiring is used to install those devices. Because every building requires different hardware and wiring, it is important to consult a certified installer and compare your options.

Make sure you get a quote for both hardware and installation if you're replacing an apartment intercom system. The right company will not only provide you with the best hardware at the best price but will also connect you with a local installer that will complete the job professionally.

Benefits of Apartment Intercom Systems for Building Security

Intercom Systems

Apartment intercom systems provide enhanced communication between residents and guests, and better security, including a range of other benefits:

  • Reduce overheads: The best apartment intercom systems allow staff to manage visitor access from their desks. They're less disruptive, free up time to focus on other tasks, and reduce the need for a guard booth or gatehouse.
  • Convenient living: Most tenants want to live in buildings with added convenience. It's a mission if they have to go downstairs every time a guest visits. Naturally, an apartment building entry system is more convenient and can boost tenant retention and acquisition.
  • Easy package deliveries: Package management is often a bugbear for building staff. Having an intercom system in your building allows them to grant seamless access to couriers.
  • Better security: Safety is always a concern for tenants. An apartment entry system adds another layer of security and provides peace of mind that whoever visits the property has been properly screened and authorized.
    By the same token, modern intercom systems deter crime — especially those with cameras. Most criminals would rather not be caught on camera and are, therefore, likely to target a less secure block.
  • Security system integration: An apartment block security system can be integrated with a home intercom so that everything can be managed under a single control system, and you may not even have to install an entirely new system.
  • Lower insurance premiums: Having a home intercom system installed will increase the security of your home, resulting in lower insurance premiums. Just make sure it's effective against intrusions and burglaries and is regularly and properly maintained.

How to Choose an Apartment Intercom System — 10 Key Considerations

Your tenant community will benefit greatly from the right intercom system, so make sure you consider these factors:

1. Mobile App Compatibility

There is very little we can't do with our smartphones in today's hi-tech world; apps seem to have taken over every aspect of our lives, from ordering food and rides to getting information. It's no surprise you can connect your intercom system to an app.

This is highly recommended because it allows your tenants to get into your building with ease, open doors, and gates, and manage the building's overall access. As well as working well with audio intercom systems, apps can also be used with video intercom systems.

2. Wireless or Wired Intercom System

All intercom systems can be classified as either wired or wireless depending on their connectivity.

A wired intercom system is more reliable since it does not depend on Wi-Fi signal strength. However, older apartment buildings that require substantial wiring modifications can benefit from wireless systems because they have significantly lower installation costs, making them more cost-effective. 

Whether you opt for a wireless or wired system depends on your building’s requirements. Wireless intercoms tend to be better for smaller apartment complexes but can become an issue for larger ones.

3.  Apartment Intercom System with Door Release

Apartment Intercom System

A door release intercom system allows tenants and other authorized building staff to conveniently grant access to visitors. Almost every modern apartment intercom comes with this feature.

With the click of a button, the system unlocks the door, providing a convenient and secure way to manage who is coming and going from the apartment building.

A door intercom release can be triggered between electronic strikes or magnetic locks. Advantageously, a door release function is compatible with both wired and wireless intercom systems.

4. Video Intercoms

Apartment video intercom systems are far superior to old-fashioned intercoms in residential buildings. Modern technology has made them more affordable. And depending on the type, it may not cost all that much more. 

With video intercom systems, tenants are not only able to communicate in a two-way fashion, but can also see who is at the door, adding an extra layer of security.

Remember, it’s essential to mount a video intercom in such a way that the guest is clearly visible when the intercom rings; otherwise, there’s no benefit to having a video camera. 

Among the many advantages of these intercoms is the ability to monitor visitors seeking access as well as to report intruders discreetly. Therefore, video intercoms can be useful for improving building security and preventing/deterring criminal activity.

5. Access Control Integration

In residential buildings, convenience is a top priority for tenants. Providing safety for them, their guests and your property is one of the main goals of any property manager. Thankfully, apartment access control systems offer unparalleled levels of comfort for both managers and tenants. 

Apartment access control integration allows management and tenants to communicate directly. This is an invaluable tool to ease transitions when people are coming and going, and when tenants are moving in and out. 

Residential properties that promote safety with smart technology are more likely to generate high demand. Generally, people seek buildings that are safe and provide a high standard of living for themselves and their families. A smart lock and an access control system will be the standard in the future, especially in urban areas.

Although the cost of an apartment security system installation may be an obstacle, an integrated system gives control over all technology installed thereafter, making this a great option for property owners.

6. Touchless Access Control

Our everyday lives have been streamlined by technology, and security is no exception. We rely on door entry systems to secure our homes, buildings, shops, and other buildings.

In light of COVID-19, touchless technology has become more and more popular to minimize unnecessary physical contact to keep ourselves and others safe. With touchless access control systems, we can facilitate remote exchanges with maximum convenience and minimum cost.

A touchless access control system allows tenants to grant access to repair staff or receive deliveries without being physically present. When selecting an apart building intercom system, be sure to choose one that's compatible with touchless technology.

7. Multiple Entrance Support

Buildings generally have more than one entrance, and the main entrance is usually the most heavily trafficked. Apartment intercom systems with the best capabilities allow unrestricted control of each building entrance. For the convenience and safety of tenants and building managers, multiple building entrances should have the same intercom system as the main entrance.

A good apartment complex will grant tenants access to all the relevant doors in the building and give them full control over which doors they can open. This level of convenience is easily achieved with touchless intercom systems, which allow tenants to access control by merely pressing a button remotely.

8. Remote Calling and Access

Intercom Access by phone

Technology has made our lives easier, safer, and more convenient. The practice of ringing a doorbell when a tenant is not home and receiving silence is so outdated. Nowadays, visitors can ring a bell and have their calls answered regardless of whether their hosts are at home.

This is convenient, especially if a tenant is running late or forgot about a meeting. The visitor can then connect to its host via call and smartphone users via video call, much like a remote surveillance monitoring system.

9. Multiple Property Access Methods

In terms of intercom entry systems, many options encourage safety, quality, and a high standard of living. Combined with a surveillance system, they ensure that your property is a haven for your tenants. 

The following are a few widely used entry systems:

  • Keypads: Today, most buildings use this traditional method of entering a code into a keypad, which then grants access to anyone with the code.
  • Smartphones: Residents can gain access to the property using an app on their smartphones. As everything can now be done via apps, this method is becoming increasingly popular.
  • Bluetooth: Users with Bluetooth devices can use their phones or other Bluetooth-enabled devices to enter the building if they have the Bluetooth passkey.
  • QR codes: Anyone with the QR code can scan it at the entrance and enter.
  • Biometric Control Systems: These systems use facial recognition software or fingerprint recognition software to grant access to a building. Due to its complexity, the biometric system is not widely used in residential buildings. However, as biometric technology advances, this will most likely gain popularity.

11. Weatherproofing

Choosing an apartment building intercom system that is weatherproof is important. So many people get carried away with the bells and whistles and completely forget about the elements. There are many systems that aren't weatherproof and won't work in rainy or snowy weather. Therefore, apartment intercom systems tested and certified to work in extreme conditions are the best. If you're unsure, then ask your service provider for recommendations.

12. Your Budget


It's no secret that video intercoms have become increasingly popular, as they provide convenience and security unmatched by traditional intercoms. As such, the prices for these systems are starting to come down, and there are several different models to choose from.

Having said that, and to reiterate what we mentioned before, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much an intercom system costs. There are various factors that affect the price, including the number of cameras, the features, and the manufacturer.

Keep in mind, however, that a more expensive system does not necessarily mean a better one. Quality systems don't have to break the bank. Comparing prices and features will help you determine which system is best suited for your needs. Thus, it is important to consider the features that are important for your apartment building when selecting an intercom system.

13. Multi-unit Intercom System Maintenance

So much time goes into picking an intercom system. While you want to avoid letting it fall out of date, you also need to consider maintenance costs when deciding on an apartment building entry system.

Apartment building intercom systems need regular servicing to guarantee:

  • Smooth system operation: Maintenance is essential to keep the equipment up and running. Technicians review system performance, clean out each camera component and monitor the equipment's installation area to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Maintain insurance standards: Security infrastructure discounts are offered by some insurance companies, and if you're taking advantage of this benefit, regular maintenance is necessary. The last thing you need is for a break-in to occur only to discover your camera system was down, resulting in insurance liability.
  • Reduce equipment costs: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can prevent major expenses by regularly inspecting your equipment and finding solutions before problems arise.

Choose the Best Intercom System for Apartments with Forbel

These days, people are willing to spend a lot of money on things that truly matter. As a property manager or building owner, you have a responsibility to make sure your tenants and property are always protected. 

We are professional intercom installers in Chicago. As security design consultants, we can also design your entire security system for multifamily units with up to 6+ doors. Entrust the selection and installation of an intercom system for your apartment complex to professionals. Contact Forbel! The future is at your doorstep and your fingertips.


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Dzmitry Beliayeu
Dzmitry Beliayeu

Dzmitry Beliayeu is a commercial building security expert, technology consultant, and licensed alarm contractor

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