Ride the Smart Tech Wave

by Eric MacDougall | Jun 29, 2016
“Remember the Clapper? It made turning lights on and off a breeze with only a quick clap-clap of your hands. Back in 1986 when it was first released to the public, the Clapper was considered innovative by using sound to control the lights (or anything else you had connected).
Although turning the lights off without getting up was convenient, The Clapper did have some drawbacks. It could be inadvertently triggered by a dog barking, someone yelling, or even an overly enthusiastic closing of a door. 

Fast forward to 2016 and things have advanced significantly since turning on the lights by clapping your hands was considered “smart technology.” Today, almost every area of the home has some sort of smart technology available and these technologies are making an impact for the homeowners who are taking advantage of them. While this technology may not be commonplace in all homes throughout the country, smart home technology is not a fad. Realtors® need to be prepared for this latest technology wave before your clients surf over to an agent who is.

WHAT IS A SMART HOME & SMART TECHNOLOGY? 

The term “smart home” is used to refer to a residence with appliances that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely. Much like smart phones, smart home technology was created to allow users to “live their lives more efficiently,” no matter where they may be. Although many people may own some advanced technology like smart televisions, smart outlets/plugs, or Bluetooth speakers, these items alone do not qualify a home as “smart.” A home is generally considered “smart” when three or more devices have been added to the home. 

According to a survey done by Coldwell Banker and CNET, one in four U.S. adults have smart home products with almost half of Millennials having smart home products in their homes. Technology and designs for smart home tech have been rapidly changing and improving since former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers debuted the Nest learning thermostat in October of 2011. 

“Realtors® need to be ready for questions about these new and emerging technologies by educating themselves on the variety and type of devices on the market, as well as what the benefit is to the consumer,” said Chad Curry, managing director of NAR’s Center for Realtor® Technology (CRT). “By way of examples, smart thermostats offer greater control and ability to monitor energy usage, smart cameras offer piece of mind as well as access from anywhere, and these types of things are very attractive.”

IS UPGRADING WORTH IT FOR HOMEOWNERS? 
When it comes to smart home tech, buyers want convenience. For Anton Koury, a recent home buyer in Pennsylvania, smart home technology played a major factor in his purchase. “The home that I purchased has a Nest Thermostat and Nest Protect installed. Having both items in my home gives me piece of mind because I will get notifications on my phone if there’s an issue at the house,” he said. 

Another benefit of a single product line installed in Koury’s home is that they all connect to each other automatically once they’re added to the same user account. This means that a security camera can connect to a smoke detector which can connect to a thermostat, etc. “I’ve been looking into security cameras as well and integrating a camera just seems to make sense. With technology like this it’s a little bit addicting. You want to add more,” Koury said. 

Buyers like Koury aren’t alone. According to the same Coldwell Banker/CNET study, 70 percent of people who currently have smart home technology said that purchasing their first smart home product made them more likely to buy another. As it turns out, the installation of new technology isn’t just fun, it saves money. Of those polled, a monthly savings of $98.30 (or $1,100 a year). 

THE BENEFITS OF UPGRADING:
Convenience 


Imagine this, you’re at the airport waiting to board a plane for a business conference. Did you remember to turn the AC off before you left? Break out that trusty cellphone and your lights and home temperature can be set with a few taps of your fingers. Now you no longer have to worry about your air conditioning cooling down a house that nobody is in. 

Smart Home Tech Makes People Feel Safer 

Homeowners can be connected to their homes even when on vacation. “Accessing security systems is going to be huge with the second home market,” said Andrew Sarno of RE/MAX Andrew Realty Services in Medford, Mass. “Being able to control the temperature or who enters a vacation home while you’re not there would provide piece of mind year round.” For example, a homeowner can view footage of their WiFi-enabled security camera night and day through their smart phone. Also, if the home has a smart lock, the homeowners can open their home to friends, family, or their Realtor® with a virtual key no more spare key under the welcome mat. 

Savings 
Utilities and insurance costs can add up when owning a home, but fortunately smart devices have the potential to save users money. A 2015 Nest white paper reported 10-15 percent  savings on heating and cooling, in addition to rebates of $100 or more from utility providers. One such program is Connected Solutions from National Grid which offers $100 off a WiFi thermostat. Combine the energy company rebate with the savings from your first month and you’ve almost paid off the unit already! Users can also save on their homeowners insurance by installing security cameras, smart locks, and smoke alarms. 

HOW TO SET YOURSELF APART
“Any new product or change in market demands are worth learning about, especially in order to provide excellent service and advice to our clients,” said Dawn Henry, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Longmeadow, Mass. Knowing the inside and outside of a home and being knowledgeable about the features is what helps Realtors® set themselves apart from the competition.

Millennials are buying more homes - Millennials are the largest home buying segment and they are going to want their homes to mimic their tech-savvy lifestyles. A Realtor® that knows the ins and outs of smart home technology will be better positioned to meet the home buying needs of this large group. Smart home devices can save time for agents - Although smart home technology is designed with the homeowner in mind, Realtors® can also benefit. Agents can open a home for a showing without the need for a lockbox, set the lighting and open the blinds, or close up a house with the push of a button. 

Increasing the sale price - According to Consumer Reports, installing a smart thermostat can increase the value of a home by three to five percent. With 65 percent of home buyers saying that they would spend $1,500 or more on smart home tech, that amounts to a return on investment (ROI) of $9,000 - $16,000 when based on the median sale price for a single family home of $350,000 in Massachusetts. 

Despite not having seen many properties with smart home features previously, Elias Acuna of Maria Acuna Real Estate, LLC. in Springfield, Mass. has sold two homes in the past six months with smart features. “I recently sold two properties that had Nest Thermostats and had a smart doorbell installed that is motion activated.” The interesting part of these sales is that the sellers were Millennials and the buyers were Generation X’ers.

LOOKING AHEAD BY LOOKING BACK

In August of 1939, Popular Mechanics Magazine published an article on “The Electric Home of  the Future.” The home featured in the article had amazing inventions that used electricity to do things like cook a ham sandwich, do laundry, and even the dishes. While a microwave, washing machine, and dishwasher may not seem 
all that impressive today, they were at the time. Today, a similar home trend is happening with the emergence of smart home technology. While the trend might not be in full force now, smart home technology will only get more popular with refined user interfaces and additional cost savings information. So grab your surfboard and ride this new home tech wave.