Photo courtesy of The New Home Company.
Are homebuilders ready for the explosion of technologies in the homes they are selling—and in the selling process?
It no longer appears to be an option. Technology is coming into the home and into the sales and design process. Homebuilders now must prepare for it.
The subject of homebuilders and technology was front and center last week at the CE Pro Summit for top home technology integrators, where a breakfast keynote and panel discussion covered “A New Golden Era for Technology and Builders,” and featured representatives from each of the disciplines. The Summit was hosted in San Diego by AE Ventures.
“There a phenomenal tsunami in the marketplace today,” established Dave Hanchette, vice president of business development for Legrand Home Systems. “Home prices are starting to climb back up, so there’s a real value proposition in owning a home. … Mortgage interest rates are at their lowest ever. And we’re seeing a rise back up in housing starts.” Hanchette went on to cover the escalating number of products in homes—30 or more devices for those with incomes of $50,000 and up—as well as rising ownership and consumer purchasing intent for security, home automation, and energy management technologies.
Photo courtesy of Studio Chateau
Two studies conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) show double-digit growth in the intent to purchase security, energy efficiency and home entertainment systems within two years versus existing ownership.
- Energy focused home automation systems rises from 4 percent ownership in 2013 to 36 percent intending to purchase.
- Security-focused home automation/management systems goes from 5 percent ownership in 2013 to 24 percent intent to purchase in two years.
- Entertainment-focused home automation/management systems increases from 5 percent ownership in 2013 to 22 percent intending to purchase in two years.
Hanchette also showed data from the CEA’s 11th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market tracking study released earlier this year, which indicated some homebuilders were not including many technologies in their offerings because they felt there is not much consumer demand.
“This ‘not much consumer demand’ doesn’t jive, frankly, with all of the other data,” Hanchette said. “We know consumer demand is high.”
Hanchette said that Legrand’s own Interactive Home systems installed as standard in homebuilder Taylor Morrison communities in Houston, Austin, and Orlando have resulted in 2,000 Interactive Homes with the technology and a 400 percent increase in upgrades for integration firms working there with the homebuilder.
The Legrand Interactive Home is based on its Unity System and includes a video intercom for the front door, the ability to send messages to rooms like kids’ rooms, a built in weather display, the ability to control thermostats from an in-wall console and the ability to set lighting and play music from a smartphone.
Part of the success of Legrand’s Interactive Home system is that the company trained Taylor Morrison’s personnel in using the systems, provided benefits-based collateral material and installed them in 64 model homes.
Photo courtesy of Legrand.
Technology Use in Sales
Not only is technology making its way into more and more homes—by consumer demand—it is making its way into the sales process and can be useful for selling technology in the home.
Joan Marcus-Colvin, senior vice president of Sales, Marketing and Design for The New Home Company in Aliso Viejo, Calif., has used technology such as iPads in “iBars” to allow prospective homebuyers to browse home features or peruse a model with an iPad full of options.
The New Home Company uses Studio Chateau software, which can be customized for builders’ communities and can help streamline the selection processes with cut-off dates for finish trim, structural room options, electrical, cabinets and so forth. It also allows drag-and-drop electrical plans, order processing and back-office reports.
Online options software such as Studio Chateau can be tremendously helpful in showing buyers their options—if populated with the right information about those options.
“We can’t expect buyers to inform us how much they want technology,” said Marcus-Colvin.
Addressing the audience of top custom electronics dealers, she summed up the conundrum of homebuilders offering technology options and marketing those options through design center salespeople who are accustomed to selling flooring and cabinets: “How do I get a design center person to understand technology at your level? I can’t. I don’t want to.”
Photo courtesy of Studio Chateau.
Builders like New Home Company and others are looking to technologies like online options portals and iPads to help. Not only can such software platforms assist designers to present technology to homebuyers, it can be used to coordinate manufacturers and contractors of all sorts—not just electronics but high-tech lighting, electrical, HVAC, solar, door locks and more, said Marcus-Colvin. Through such portals, vendors and electronic integrators could produce quality virtual presentations with fully merchandised, fully planned solutions including products, installation and customer care, she added.
Follow this space for more to come on this important subject.