Smart Builders Deliver Smart Homes

After the comfort and health of their families, homeowners are interested in products that improve security, deliver entertainment, and offer savings in both money and time   

By Glenn Renner

Homeowners and potential homebuyers across the U.S. overwhelmingly want technology that makes their home smarter and, as a result, their lives easier, according to data outlined in a HomeSphere-sponsored webinar in May 2016. 

The trend is here to stay, according to presenter Mollie Carmichael, whose firm, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, surveyed 22,000 new home shoppers across the U.S. The trend in homebuyer preferences reflects a greater trend across all consumer goods. By 2020, top research firms like Juniper, IDC and Gartner predict there will be between 21 billion and 38.5 billion connected devices in use. This year alone, Gartner predicts, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.

The key to getting smart about smart is understanding what customers want—and will pay for. When analyzing the 80-plus brands that use HomeSphere for builder outreach, a great majority is marketing or testing products that connect. According to JBREC’s research, however, homeowners will only commit to those products that deliver a real benefit to themselves and their families.

“At Electrolux, the two most important criteria in product development are design and customer benefit,” says Amie Guy, Sr. Director of Canada Marketing and North American Customer Integration for Electrolux. “And today’s savvy customer wants all of their home technology to work together. The industry is moving in the direction of the truly connected home.”

Electrolux’s strategy for connected design incorporates a long view and industry collaboration. The company is one of 200-plus members of All Seen Alliance, a consortium of businesses working together to create an ecosystem of devices, services and apps that communicate—regardless of make, model or brand. The company also is partnering with Google’s Brillo, a new Internet of Things platform designed to tie together the smart home world, to deliver benefits to its consumers.

Though the truly connected home may be a few years away, homeowners are willing to pay extra for some stand-alone products. Of most interest? Connected products that deliver comfort. Eighty-nine percent of JBREC homebuyers would pay an additional $400 for a controllable thermostat, while 87 percent would pay for smart lighting, and 75 percent would pay for high-tech appliances.

In addition to comfort, an increasing number of buyers are interested in technology that improves the health of a home, such as smart vents that filter air, for which 69 percent of respondents would pay an additional $1,200.

HomeSphere customer Lennox delivers both comfort and health with its iComfort S30® smart thermostat, which, in addition to allowing homeowners to control their home temperature from their smart device, monitors air quality by zip code and automatically turns on the air-cleaning fan when allergens are high.   

JBREC survey respondents rank controllable thermostats as the most popular home technology product. More than half the high-end systems sold by Lennox are controlled by smart thermostats, according to John Webster, Director of New Residential Products for Lennox.

What else will prove enticing to homeowners in the near future? After the comfort and health of their families, homeowners are interested in products that improve security, those that deliver entertainment, and those that deliver savings in both money and time.   

Doorbell and security cameras, alarms and intercoms are among the most popular security features. Exterior cameras have the highest likelihood of purchase by homebuyers: 64 percent of JBREC respondents are willing to pay up to $250 to check on their homes from anywhere.

“Security presents a wide range of opportunities for builders and remodelers,” said Carmichael. “Exterior cameras were among the most popular among our respondents, and you can see why. Technology allows the doorbell to become far more than a bell ringing inside the home. It’s interconnectivity that delivers access to your home from anywhere in the world.”

Entertainment, too, remains important to homebuyers, particularly as more and more options open up that deliver first-rate entertainment to any screen, anywhere. Of the options presented in the JBREC survey, 60 percent of homeowners would pay up to an additional $1,500 for built-in Bluetooth speakers, and Carmichael suggests entertainment delivers a big bang for builders attracting buyers. “Technology opens up a lot of different spaces and options to play music,” she said.

The list of smart products is nearly endless, but the key, as Guy noted, is finding a way to create a platform of connectedness that ultimately makes homeowners’ lives easier and more efficient.

It may not be at 5G speed, but the truly connected home is coming. For remodelers, builders and developers, this trend is also the connection to profits—if they get smart about smart.

Glenn Renner is the chief executive officer of HomeSphere, the homebuilding industry’s only B2B digital lead generation and customer retention platform. He may be reached at grenner@homesphere.com.

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