Forget Millennials … tech trends are for the 55 and over crowd.
At least that’s the philosophy Traditions of America follows—and hopes to expand on—after this year’s International Builders’ Show. The privately owned multifamily developer and builder in Pennsylvania has delivered more than 2,500 active adult homes since the company started in 1997.
“Time is often just as, or more important than money,” says partner at Traditions of America Nathan Jameson. “The ability to manage their water heater settings remotely from a smartphone application and the ability to, with the touch of a button, reduce energy consumption through ‘smart’ temperature settings on their heating and cooling unit–these are simply better choices than convention.”
Traditions of America already uses Apple TVs in its model homes, clubhouses and welcome centers; and Apple iPads display homeowner testimonials as part of the company’s Buying Made Easy Program. Technology has also been tested in the individual units.
“Energy saving and convenience technologies like tankless water heaters are very popular in our homes, where they’re saving energy and adding convenience to their lifestyle,” says Jameson.
The use of tech has paid off, the company’s revenue has grown 20 percent annually. Last year, Traditions of America closed 260 homes in five communities for a total revenue of $105 million. And Jameson expects even more money to roll in with new tech being introduced this year.
Jameson’s four key reasons to integrate more technology in new homes
Convenience – buyers want it if it saves time and/or improves quality of life
Money saving – mature customers want to know the impact on their wallets
Competitive advantage – give buyers a reason to leave the “old” and buy “new”
Enhances operational efficencies – focus on new acquisitions and current clients
With those in mind, Traditions of America will launch its first smart home in its Saucon Valley community this year. Jameson discovered some of the new tech for that home at IBS. He’s looking into…
Nest’s learning thermostat – learns a client’s schedule, programs itself and can be controlled by a phone
Control4 – integrates lighting control, music, home theater, climate control, security, smartphones and tablets
The Kwikset Kevo – allows the lock to operate by just a touch when you pair it with a Bluetooth device such as a cell phone and can track when and who opened the door
Apple HomeKit – a framework in iOS 8 (not yet released) for communicating with and controlling connected devices in the home
“The smart home is really critical because it gives clients another reason to buy new, and we in the new home building business are competing against the home the homeowner lives in today,” says Jameson. “Something has to be compelling enough for them to leave that home and move into a new one.”
To sell tech, you have to use it. The Integrated Homebuilder Management System (IHMS) is an enterprise software that helps Traditions of America stay connected with its subcontractors, vendors and suppliers. They can view work orders and purchase orders and communicate directly with construction managers.
“The use of this paperless enterprise technology dramatically reduces the time and effort needed to manage vendor relationships,” says Jameson.
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The company is now creating even more bonds with vendors after IBS, as it prepares to train its staff on new products. The vendor usually provides the initial training to Traditions of America employees. An in-house expert then takes over as the go-to person within the company.
“This reduces employee frustration,” says Jameson, “by mitigating the ‘us versus them’ mentality that can materialize when the primary technology advocate is not a team member.” The company also uses GoToMeeting, Skype and Evernote Chat to give employees a chance to respond to changes.
Traditions of America has been recognized by the NAHB for its planning, design, amenities and marketing and has received more than 20 gold and silver awards from the organization’s 50+ Housing Council in the past four years.
Jameson is excited about what the future of tech may bring to his company. “As far as the products I saw at the Builders’ Show, I felt there was a definite trend toward integration and home automation.”
That means more home and life-safety devices that are important to the 55+ buyers, a group Jameson says is now breaking through the stereotype that older clients can’t adapt to tech. Traditions of America is evolving now because its 65 and under clients have already spent most of their lives using technology and soon the entire consumer base will be tech savvy.
For now, the trick is to focus on demonstration and education … allowing the older homebuyers to touch, feel and use the tech as part of their purchase.