How can home builders add smart technology features without increasing the base cost of the home?
It’s not that high-volume builders don’t want to sell smart home features. It’s that the decision to offer smart tech can spiral into a quagmire of device and function specifics that, at the end of the day, aren’t guaranteed to win more home buyers.
Without a winning formula, how can builder executives be expected to standardize on a set of smart tech features?
Consumer Awareness and Expectation
Consumers are interested in smart tech for their homes. That’s no surprise. Smart device manufacturers and retailers have invested heavily in advertising and marketing. As a result, the “smart home” is a growing expectation. But do home buyers find it essential?
A large survey by BDX indicates that 60% of home buyers consider smart tech essential or high priority in new homes. Other major studies report that 86 percent of consumers prefer and are willing to pay for a connected home over a low-tech one.
Is this growing home buyer preference for tech translating into purchase decisions? Or are home buyers ticking “yes” on customer preference surveys because smart tech in the home seems like a good idea and they’re afraid of missing out?
Even major builders like PulteGroup are having a hard time answering these questions.
“Connectivity and technology are appealing across the board, but people are very inconsistent and diverse about why it is appealing,” says Diahann Young, director of digital platforms and innovation for PulteGroup. “Flexibility has to be the focus for us,” says Young.
Smart-Home Simplicity Wins the Day
Production builders considering how to position themselves on smart home tech should focus on a general platform that works well for every buyer. Cover the basics, but don’t get bogged down in specifics that only appeal to small segments of the market.
“Smart home control is such a highly personalized thing,” says Felicia Ratka, president of TBI Smart Home Solutions (a Toll Brothers subsidiary). “Offering a solution to fit each buyer’s demands is not easy on a national scale. What matters to one buyer might not matter to another.”
General systems like electrical and Wi-Fi are fundamental utilities in a home owner’s daily life. It’s no surprise that building giant Lennar has made Wi-Fi its headline smart home product – Wi-Fi connectivity is the backbone for all other smart home features! Lennar is offering “general” smart home tech and allowing the home buyer to get “specific”.
Thermostats, lighting, security cameras, garage door openers, door locks and door bells, water monitoring – these individual systems can create a soup of conflicting apps, mismatched protocols, higher support costs, and lower customer satisfaction.
Future-Ready Versus One-Off Accessories
Adding bolt-on smart accessories is a tactic employed by some builders today. Technically speaking, a home can be called smart if it has one smart product included. Installing a learning thermostat or a wireless lighting control allows a low-tech home to be advertised as a smart home.
Device manufacturers will continue to add to the smart home marketplace. Buyers will expect more smart home components. Builders should evolve into offering smart home platforms that deliver experience the home buyers expect.
Whatever the strategy, the user experience has to be easy, seamless, and reliable for everyone. Wi-Fi offerings like Lennar’s Certified Wi-Fi provide a reliable connection in every area the homeowner may go, from the basement to the backyard barbecue. Wire-free electrical control manufacturers like Levven make each light and electrical outlet ready for smart control, without forcing the home buyer to learn anything new or purchase a specific platform or device.
A good “general platform” strategy will enhance the already-familiar systems in the home by making smart connectivity possible if the home owner wants to act on it.