While having the coolest high-tech feature to show off to your friends and neighbors might be fun, most homebuyers today focus on security, savings and simplicity when it comes to choosing smart home features. Technological advances mean that smart features, once reserved for high-end homes, are more widely available and more affordable than ever before. Some builders now include smart home products as standard features.
In 2018 Lennar announced that an array of smart products, all controlled by Amazon’s Alexa, will be standard in all their new homes. Every new home built by PulteGroup, including homes by Pulte, Centex, Del Webb, DiVosta and John Wieland Homes, will be constructed to accommodate the newest home automation.
“Most people today don’t use a key to get into their cars, but they still use a key to get into their homes,” says Danielle Tocco, vice president of communications for Lennar Group. “We know we live in a wireless world and now people want the ability to bring that technology into their homes and upgrade their living experience.”
PulteGroup’s survey found that 70 percent of consumers believe having smart home technologies available in their home is important. But the exact technology they want varies.
“Consumers have told us that they want flexibility, so they want smart features and they want a new home, but they also want to make it their own,” says Diahann Young, director of innovation for PulteGroup. “This is true whether they are buying a $1 million home or a $150,000 home.”
In 2017, 32 percent of Americans reported having smart home products in their homes, up from 24 percent in 2016, a 33 percent year-over-year increase, according to a survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate.
“Safety, security and convenience are factors for everyone, but smart home technology brings significant benefits to those aging in place as well as those with mobility issues and their families,” says Angel Piontek, an associate broker and vice president of marketing at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Fredericksburg, Pa.
Hardwiring for a Wireless World
While people rely on wireless tech for nearly everything, Young explains that smart wiring is essential for it to work well.
“We call it the backbone of the house, so we install the highest quality (CAT 6) wiring and pull it all to a central box where you can easily turn things on and off,” says Young. “We hardwire every level on the house and hardwire the most likely place for the family TV or an Xbox because those devices use a lot of data and will slow down the wireless service on your other devices.”
Lennar, which built the world’s first “Wi-Fi Certified Home,” engineers commercial-strength wireless systems in every home they build just like a plumbing system, says Tocco.
“Wi-Fi certification will be a standard feature in all of our homes, which means they’ll have the infrastructure needed for smart home automation,” she says.
Preferred Smart Home Products
Lennar, known for their “everything’s included” building method, is partnering with Amazon so that all included smart home features can be controlled by Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant. The array of smart home products with every Lennar home includes a Ring video doorbell, a Baldwin Evolved Smart Lock, a Honeywell Lyric Round Wi-Fi thermostat, a Sonos speaker, an Echo Dot, an Echo Show and devices that provide smooth control and connectivity.
“Safety and security are always a concern to homeowners, which makes this a popular entry point into smart home,” says Piontek. “They want to be aware of what’s happening at home when they’re away and feel safe when they’re home. They also want products that are easy to use and from brands they recognize.”
Pulte’s survey found that more than 70 percent of respondents rank security systems among their top three choices for smart features.
We offer a package that includes the items people want most: a smart wireless garage door, a smart door lock, a smart thermostat and an Alexa voice-controlled system to make it easier to operate everything,” says Young. “Then, if buyers want more, they can add other features a la carte.Diahann Young, Director of Innovation for PulteGroup
Smart home features provide can add to a home’s resale value, says Piontek.
“For example, if a home with a smart sprinkler system is located in parts of the country with water restrictions, then it provides a real benefit to the prospective homeowner,” says Piontek. “It may be the difference between a homebuyer choosing the smart home over the one without the upgrades.”
Tech Support for New Homeowners
Lennar’s 15 “Amazon Experience Centers,” which are model homes enabled with Alexa, Prime and Amazon services installed to showcase the smart home lifestyle, are in numerous markets around the country. An Amazon employee will provide free one-on-one training to buyers of each Lennar home to set up their smart home features and offer personalized pointers on how to get the most out of them, says Tocco.
Pulte provides “white glove service” to buyers who purchase their core package to help them set up their systems in a seamless process, says Young.
While homebuyers can benefit now from smart home features, both Lennar and Pulte emphasize the importance of the built-in wired support for connectivity that will allow homeowners to add or change smart home features in the future.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.