Jim Blansfield builds beautiful homes fitted with unique home technology like the multifacted Elan g! Home Control system. Courtesy of Blansfield Builders
Jim Blansfield is not your ordinary homebuilder. He builds 3,500-to-11,000-square-foot custom homes in rural Connecticut near Danbury and Westchester County, NY and yet his talk with prospective clients usually includes a very commonplace exchange. He takes out his smartphone and shows them how he can control various systems at his own Vermont home.
“All I have to do is show them a demo of what I can do with my house from my phone,” he says. “I show them the cameras, turn the lights on and open the garage door — and they think it’s amazing.”
The next thing you know, an Elan g! Home Control system is going into the house, allowing homebuyers to operate audio/video, lighting, security, HVAC systems and more from
touchscreens, remote controls and mobile smartphones and tablets.
Cut to Frankel Building Group in Houston, Texas, where the family-run homebuilder is in the process of constructing 30 to 40 high-end homes this year, all to the standards of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Since 2010, Frankel has included a basic Crestron home automation system in each home it builds. The base package includes:
- wall switches for three to four rooms of lighting zones,
- lighting controls with nine wireless Crestron
- pre-wiring to all TV locations
- two surround-sound locations and seven audio zones
- an iPad and in-wall dock to control the system and tie into the security. (The iPad dock is located strategically between the kitchen and living areas for whole-house control, and homeowners can upgrade to audio/video, entertainment systems and more through Frankel’s technology integration partner, RefinedSystems of Spring, Texas.)
Frankel could have put in a less expensive home controller than the upscale and robust Crestron, but the builder has a philosophy for offering top-notch systems to its affluent clientele.
“We spent way more, about 40 percent more, on home automation as a standard, but I believe we’re giving the homeowner way more value,” says Scott Frankel, Vice President of Frankel Building Group. He says almost all of his buyers are adding to the systems in the design phase, including audio and video system upgrades sold through RefinedSystems.
“At the beginning of a home sale, some [homebuyers] don’t express interest in a control system, but as the sale closes they ask if they can still get that. It really has been a home run.”
RefinedSystems Principal Shawn Bookter will run prospective homebuyers through a fully decked-out Crestron system at Frankel’s model to see what other high-tech features people would like to include in their homes. The electronics integration firm has installed Crestron systems in about 30 homes for Frankel homebuyers in the past year.
“Our clients love it and they continue to build on to the systems,” Frankel says. “At the beginning of a home sale, some [homebuyers] don’t express interest in a control system, but as the sale closes they ask if they can still get that. It really has been a home run.”
A Must for Homebuilders
Back in Connecticut, Blansfield Builders believes not only in the value a home control system provides homeowners today, but that homebuilders must invest in technology in their homes. “This has been a game changer,” says Blansfield. “The fact we’re comfortable with technology sets us apart from others builders. People are judged at how up-to-date with technology and how comfortable you are with it. You have to learn new things and stay current.”
The Elan system installed in Blansfield’s homes can typically cost the homebuyer an additional $10,000 to $20,000. The systems are installed by Structured Home Solutions of Sherman, Connecticut.
Blansfield says nearly all of his clients opt for the home control systems to be installed during the construction process. His home control wave started with Blansfield offering Elan systems for background music throughout the home and then moved to thermostatic controls. “Then [people] realized they could operate other things like lights and cameras, spa and pool controls and security. Then iPhone connectivity became available, and that blew it to a whole new level.
“You can’t untether from technology [such as smartphone connectivity] today. It’s addictive,” he adds. And that helps to sell the benefits of home control and remote home connectivity.
After Blansfield shows his potential clients and architects how he can operate the systems in his own home, he brings in Structured Home Solutions to work with those who want to have a full system installed while the house is being constructed. Others may opt for a prewire or a base system and add to it later. Structured Home Solutions works as a subcontractor with Blansfield through the closing, after which the custom electronics integration firm performs upgrades independently.
“Jim’s our best salesman. He absolutely loves the system, and putting the system in his hands is one of the best things we can do,” says David Febbraio, owner of Structured Home Systems. “When you put it in [the homebuyers’] hands and they see how easy it is to use, they see how they can use it in their own homes.”
Febbraio says Blansfield’s homebuyers usually start out with having audio and video added to the Elan g! system, then nine out of ten add security systems, or lighting control and a camera or two.
“Some of Jim’s clients are a little bit older, and they like the ease and convenience with features like lighting control.” They can push a button in their car and turn on the house’s lights via an iPhone or a car-visor HomeLink technology also controlled by Elan g!
In some larger homes, Structured Home Solutions will connect home systems to the security system so when someone leaves and the security system arms, all the TVs shut off and the thermostats set back to save energy. Blansfield’s home-buying clients aren’t the only ones excited by the home control systems. “Believe it or not, my architects are so into it now, they’re asking for a line item for whole-house control,” Blansfield says. He now includes the systems as a $15,000 budget in the price of a home.
Not putting in these systems, he says, is “almost as foolish as omitting insulation in your attic.”
“It’s just cool stuff,” says Frankel. “If you can put it at a price point where the homeowner can’t not do it, the homeowner is going to love you for it.”