You don’t have to be wary of all that confusing technology; incorporating home technology is just another piece of the puzzle for homebuilding.
So you build a fair number of houses and you’d like to include the latest technologies such as home control and connectivity. But—eeek!—you don’t want to deal with:
- All that confusing technology.
- Learning about that confusing technology and training your people to sell it.
- Partnering with an electronics integration firm that knows about all of that confusing technology.
Not to worry, says custom builder Tony Crasi of the Crasi Company in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, who has headed up a custom homebuilders group formed in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA).
The key for higher-volume homebuilders to offer home technologies such as home control and automation is to show it off in their models or design centers and to offer packaged systems such as lighting control and audio.
“It’s easy for us to build all of this in. It doesn’t cost much to wire things. And builders can offer several packages, from the simple to more complex. Then you can set up [platforms] that you can grow on,” Crasi says.
Sounds good. So how do you go about it? Or get over the fear of dealing with home tech? Here are several ways:
You Can’t Know Everything
You or your salespeople don’t need to understand how the technology works and
all the complexities involved. Leave that for the experts. But it is important to understand what the technology can do and the key benefits to the homeowner. “I’m not selling little components that I have no clue how to put together,” Crasi says.
Because technology is always changing, you have to keep up with it—just like you’re current with the most recent building materials, says Crasi. Go to builder shows and trade shows. Go to home electronics and technology shows and see what technologies are in demand. (Today it’s a lot of smartphone and remote connectivity.)
Assess what your client needs are. It’s about solving problems, Crasi adds.
You have to grasp of what the technology can do and what problems it can solve for homeowners. Then, put the pieces together by bringing in an integration company to go over the detailed options for the client.
Hire a Reliable Tech Installer
How do you go about that?
“It’s no different than hiring a drywaller,” Crasi says. You’re looking for references and reliability. “You have to have a competitive quote.” To fairly assess differences between electronic integration firms, Crasi advises having a plan drawn up—be it architectural, electrical or other—that you can give installation firms as a basis to devise their bids, and pay separately for that plan.
With that standard design you can fairly and accurately assess what electronics installation firm best addresses your needs and the homebuyers’.
And don’t just go for the lowest bid. Look for signs of professionalism, like a rented office space or a showroom, adequate insurance protection, certifications from organizations like CEDIA, and references. Check the references and ask the firm’s clients whether the integration firm finished the job on time, how they dealt with problems, change orders and deadlines changes. Inquire about all aspects you can think of that may come up on the job. (We’ll cover this in more detail in upcoming newsletters.)
Get the Installation Company Involved Early
As in before the walls go up—and ideally in the design phase. “The trick is without question to get the technician involved in the beginning,” Crasi says.
That way they can help you plan for technology implementations and schedule and perform all the necessary prewiring before the walls close.
Finally, Get Over the Fear
“Builders always ask, ‘What happens when something goes wrong [with home electronics systems]?’ Do you fix the plumbing when that goes wrong?” Crasi asks. “[Home technology] is just anther piece of the puzzle… You have get over the fear of it.”