What is a Smart House?
Whether you have heard of it referred to as a Smart House, the Smart Home or the Connected Home, there is no doubt there is a momentum developing behind the “internet of things” and it’s influence in our own homes – particularly within the New Homes sector. Indeed, a Gartner research paper recently stated thatthere will be 700 million connected homes by 2020, with the UK a leading playerClick To Tweet.
We can’t say this trend hasn’t been predicted either. Keeping up to date with the raft of property technology news from around the world is not easy but Google Alerts are priceless. To clarify, Google Alerts is a system, whereby emails are automatically sent to your inbox based on key words of your choice. I use terms like “PropTech” and “Real Estate Technology” to keep me in the loop. However, equally as effective is “The Jetsons”, named after the famous 1960s US TV series, which, ostensibly, showed what the American home would be like in the future. This cartoon is the forefather to the connected homes, with hugely optimistic gadgets (hence the use in Google Alerts).
Because of this trend, do property developers need to start incorporating smart technologies into their developments or is it just all hot air and potentially causing more problems than it is worth.
Many Developers, have started working with smart technology, so this isn’t necessarily new. In a small survey I ran,over 75% of house builders stated that had already experimented with smart technology in their developmentsClick To Tweet. Of those that hadn’t, all stated that they may use the technology in the future. But to what extent?
Estate agents agree smart technology is a trend for the future.Over 80% of them stated that smart technology helped them sell homesClick To Tweet. What is also interesting is, of those surveyed, more than 50% of them stated that they sold house with smart technology for more than comparable properties and in most cases, more than 5% of the standard asking prices. This is backed up in a Digital Homes Report by Barclays, who stated that, on average, people would spend £3,310 more on a home that came fully equipped with pre-installed connected technology.
An interesting comment from Peter Krelle, Managing Director of Spicerhaart Land and New Homes, was that “smart technology will become the norm and though it is still a little gimmicky, there will be those of us that are old enough to remember when central heating was a USP”
The Smart House; Smart product selection is critical
Developers need to realise that there is obvious demand for the technology. CP Consulting recently carried out a study in the UK and found thatnearly 50% of UK consumers are planning to buy a connected home product in 2016Click To Tweet. These findings were mirrored in another study, this time by Coldwell Banker Real Estate, in early 2016 this time in the US. Here it was the details of the survey that are most interesting.
It is very clear that practical smart technology is of most interest. The most popular products in the Coldwell Banker study were smart security (58% of respondents considered this appealing), closely followed by smart heating (56%). Of those who had already purchased a smart device, 90% stated that security was a key reason for the purchase.
In the CP Consulting study, nearly half stated their purchases in 2016 would be motivated by the saving of energy bills and the facility to monitor their homes remotely.
This tells us a lot about what motivates clients – entertainment systems and smart appliances (think fridges and washing machines) were consistently bad performers. Recently in a discussion I had with a prominent housebuilder, they stated that “some systems, that integrate everything are just too complicated. People are not interested in AV systems that they do not understand how to work”. This was mirrored by Kevin Hartnett, Development Director at Hastoe, who stated “you shouldn’t need to think twice about how to switch on the toilet light”.
Ultimately, a developer’s choice of smart product integration will be critical to a client’s wishes – focus on practical products rather than luxuries. Equally, look at infrastructure rather than individual systems. Being smart home ready might be more attractive than an integrated system already installed. This may deal with some of the other issues developers have with smart connectivity. Dale Robinson, Regional Managing Director of Stone Homes states “continuing dramatic technological advancements could well outdate smart installations in very short space in time”. This is mirrored by the Operations Director at Essential Living, Ian Merrick, who states smart technology “changes so fast, what you install today has been superseded next week”.
Perhaps this is where we need to focus on providing connectivity and hubs for clients to connect up what they would like, in terms of luxuries, whilst we concentrate on core products that are attractive, like security systems and heating. The research by CP Consulting states that the Smart Home Hub, allowing 3rd party products to speak to each other when added into the network, was one of the most desired products that a consumer wanted to buy. In addition to this, when discussing this finding with James Monighan, Managing Director of Smart Things (owned by Samsung), he stated that the Smart Hub was one of their best selling products.
Anything other than the practical elements may be a luxury not needed and will unnecessarily add to the cost of build. By giving power to the consumer and giving them hub units, the developer is most likely to reap the benefits of smart technology.
Age is no barrier to Smart Products
Interestingly in my survey, estate agents were expressing real concern on the age profile of buyers not understanding or disliking the technology. However, Elaine Sutherland, of Springfield Properties, states that they “are particularly interested in smart technology for their retirement schemes for looking after the wellbeing of their residents”.
This view is supported by the Barclay’s report that states “connected home appliances that are networked to family and care services assist the elderly in their own homes, allowing them to live independently for longer.” Indeed, a study by iConnect, found that72% of those aged 25-34 said they would sleep better at night if their parents or grandparents had a smart homeClick To Tweet – the numbers weren’t too different for older offspring either. Therefore, a developer in the retirement sector needs to focus on the family unit to explain the benefits of the connect home.
Aside from the well being angle, which will impress on the entire family, retirement developers should review the cost saving benefits for the potential residents themselves. A study from the US by iConnect showed that of those aged over 55, 78% were excited about the cost saving benefits of the smart home. Take, for example, the new Momit Thermostat, that has just launched in the UK, it aims to reduce energy bills by up to 30%.
So, house builders do need to prepare themselves
There is a demand for connectivity, regardless of the age of your client. Clearly thought out, practical smart products will resonate with your buyers and their family even if you are looking at the older demographic. As Tony Dowse, Chairman of Environ Communities states, the key to smart technology implementation is to “make it easy to use without needing to be an IT boffin and making sure that the package is truly functional rather than a sales gimmick”.
Understanding that a centralised hub that people can add to as smart products evolve will be a very important added benefit which won’t cost developers the earth to install. Giving clients the decision as to what they add and when, will give a semblance of control and understanding that you are helping them gradually integrate with the smart revolution.
It is more about being smart ready than smart installed.
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