Make your home a ‘smart house’ to attract more buyers

By ,
Ask a Lender
March 21, 2018

Key Points

Smart tech drives home sales

  • Smart houses are homes equipped with Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-enabled devices like thermostats or doorbells.
  • More than two-in five home sellers would stage their home as a smart house.
  • Tech that automates security, heating or lighting tends to be popular with homebuyers.
  • Large smart appliances are not catching on as quickly as smaller devices due to high cost.
  • It is important to secure smart devices by changing default passwords strengthening firewalls

It sometimes feels like we’re living in the future foretold in science fiction novels: Powerful computers fit in our pockets, self-driving cars are on the horizon and people increasingly live in smart houses — homes equipped with technology that automates everyday chores and tasks.

Smart houses, also called smart homes, aren’t ubiquitous yet, but interest in smart technology is growing — which means it can help your house stand out from the crowd if you’re trying to sell it.

What is a smart house?

Coldwell Banker Real Estate and CNET define a smart home as any residence “equipped with network-connected products (aka ‘smart products’) connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself.”

Examples of smart house technology include smart speakers, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home; video-enabled doorbells like those offered by Amazon-owned Ring; and Wi-Fi-enabled locks like those offered by Kwikset or August. Samsung offers a smart refrigerator that plays Pandora and Spotify playlists, and LG offers a camera-equipped fridge that can tell you if you’re out of milk when you’re at the store. In addition, there are smart thermostats, smart lightbulbs and smart security systems. New products are being introduced all the time.

Growing interest in smart tech

In a 2018 Coldwell Banker survey, 32 percent of respondents reported having smart house products in their home, up from 24 percent the previous year. Home sellers expressed interest in smart tech, with 42 percent of respondents saying they would seek suggestions from their agent on staging their home with smart products.

Homebuyers also want smart products, and the survey broke down responses according to the type of product. Respondents who said they were buying a home in the coming year showed the most interest in having smart thermostats pre-installed in their homes (77 percent), followed by smart smoke detectors (75 percent), carbon monoxide detectors (70 percent), cameras (66 percent), locks (63 percent) and lighting systems (63 percent).

Smart products can help your house stand out from other homes in your market, according to Angel Piontek, associate broker and vice president of marketing for Coldwell Banker Elite.

“It may facilitate a faster sale, and it increases the marketability of the house,” she said. For example, research conducted by Coldwell Banker showed buyers are more likely to consider purchasing an older home if it’s outfitted with smart house technology, she said.

“As far as increasing the actual value of the house … that’s on a case-by-case basis,” Piontek added. “It would depend on the appraiser, because it’s such a new territory that we’re going into. Facilitating the speed of the sale and the increased marketability, I think, is where you’re going to see the value in it, not necessarily the actual price of the home.”

Best smart products to sell a home

Smart security systems are currently popular, as are energy-saving products such as smart thermostats and smart lighting systems, said Rick Kowalski, manager of industry and business intelligence for the Consumer Technology Association.

“I think people are definitely interested in it [smart tech],” he said. “It’s getting into homes more and people see value in it. There’s all these technologies out there, and anything you can do as a homeowner to prepare a home … to make it easier to install any of these technologies … can be a selling point.”

Piontek advised looking for smart tech brands with which people are familiar. Brands like the Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell are heavily marketed, giving people an immediate familiarity with them, she said.

Additionally, people prefer products that are simple and easy to use, according to Piontek. “If somebody’s never had a smart home or smart devices installed in the house, they don’t want something that’s going to be really hard to understand,” she said. “A lot of it should be easy to install and easy to use once you have the app. It should be intuitive.”

Most of the tech driving interest in smart products are do-it-yourself options that are relatively inexpensive — less than $500. There are more expensive products as well, such as the smart refrigerators, as well as ovens and washing machines — but at a cost of several thousands of dollars, they’re not catching on as quickly, according to Piontek.

Strengthening security

For all the convenience afforded by smart houses, they also raise questions about security and privacy. Wi-Fi connected security cameras and smart locks may offer new ways to protect a home, but they could also expose you to new vulnerabilities, such as hacking your home.

Kowalski recommended changing the default passwords on your smart devices as soon as they come out of the box. “That’s a very quick first step that you can do with any connected product in your home to limit other people trying to use a default password to get into your system,” he said.

Enabling or strengthening the firewall settings on your Wi-Fi router can add another layer of security, Kowalski said. For people with further concerns about their smart house security, Kowalski advised hiring professionals who can install the smart products, integrate them so they all work together and ensure rigorous security settings are implemented.

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