At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last month, some of the most popular gadgets seemed unusually mundane: Refrigerators, thermostats and air conditioners all received a remarkable amount of attention.
That’s because technology companies are outfitting familiar appliances with Internet-enabled dashboards and mechanical systems. The larger trend is toward a “connected home,” a living space that can be monitored and controlled not by knobs, but with touch screens.
Real estate agents must be prepared to advise homebuyers and sellers about the pros and cons of these devices — alternatively referred to as the “Internet of Things.” Below are five considerations for agents whose clients ask about connected homes:
1. An expense now can save money in the future.
When a client wonders whether to update a home, money should always be the first consideration. A smart thermostat, for example, can be programmed to reduce heat when the family is away at school and work, then turn it back up in time for their return. Such micromanagement of energy expenditure saves a great deal of money over several years. Get to know your local installation experts and find out which systems are best for particular homes.
2. Existing homes may pose connectivity challenges.
Simply getting an Internet connection established in a centuries-old home can be a difficult, so installing Internet-enabled appliances and systems creates a new set of challenges for historic homes. Homebuyers will become increasingly likely to request this information, and you must be prepared to offer it. Learn in advance from your preferred restoration and renovation experts whether there are unique wiring and connectivity concerns to a specific home — and whether there are renovation restrictions based on construction style or historical value.
3. New construction often comes preconnected.
While old homes might never be able to take advantage of the “Internet of Things,” new construction often includes it. When selling new homes, make sure you’ve contacted the developer to get full details about how Internet technology is integrated into the buildings. The developers should be able to provide estimates of energy cost savings and detailed instructions on how to manipulate devices to maximize what a home can offer. These details need to be passed on to prospective buyers.
4. Not all connected devices add value.
Many technologies under the connected home umbrella are fun to have, but not all add much to the overall value of a home. Internet-enabled refrigerators, for example, can track purchases and thus help reduce food waste. But it’s easy enough to tell when the milk has gone bad, and a smart grocery list is more of a novelty than a necessity. Such a system doesn’t add long-term value to home the way new windows or cabinets might.
5. Generational differences will shape the conversation.
For young homebuyers — who tend to be tech-savvy, cost-conscious and mobile — remote monitoring and control can be incredibly valuable. Young homebuyers are also more likely to be familiar with how the connected home integrates with the devices they already have. Many systems, for example, are controlled through an app on a smartphone. Although older homebuyers may be less reliant on technology, convenience and cost savings will always be appreciated. Be prepared to describe a home’s features in a way that appeals to each customer’s unique needs and preferences. Also, make sure you can refer a client to service pros who specialize in the installation of connected home technologies.
Mike Pontacoloni is director of marketing at OwnerAide, a real estate technology company.