As we delve into 2014, it’s time to rev up those marketing plans and keep the momentum of last year moving forward.
And what do homebuyers really want? Energy efficiency and technologies. Yes, we’ve been beating the constant drum on this—but the NAHB study isn't the only one that has showed this. Similar studies by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) concur.
But if you want to see real, honest-to-God, eye-popping market opportunities just waiting for profitability, look no further. (Actually, do look further for confirmation. You should research this a lot.)
First, here are the “Top Five Features Wanted by Homebuyers”:
- Energy Star rating for whole home – 63%
- Energy Star rated appliances – 58%
- Garage storage – 54%
- Walk-in kitchen pantry – 54%
- Exterior lighting – 49%
Did we say energy-efficiency is big among homebuyers? That’s what an Energy Star rating delivers, from energy-efficient windows to building materials and energy-efficiency systems and appliances. Exterior lighting that uses new and efficient LED lamps, timers and lighting control or automation systems can save significant amounts of energy as well.
And they don't need expensive automation systems. You can automate exterior lighting easily with many of the affordable connected home systems becoming available from big service providers, companies like Schneider Electric and Nexia, and more.
According to the study, nine out of 10 buyers would choose a highly energy efficient home with lower utility bills rather than one costing 2 to 3 percent less but lacking those features.
In fact, 67 percent of buyers report wanting an environment-friendly home or being concerned about the environment in general, though they would not pay much more for such a home. That means many “green home” features should come as standard, as has been discovered by companies such as KB Home and Garbett Homes.
According to the study, homebuyers are willing to pay an additional average of $7,095 in the up-front price of a home if that saved them $1,000 annually in utility costs.
What Homebuyers Really Want in Technologies
According to the NAHB, few buyers currently have technology features, yet many want them in their next homes. Do you, like us, detect the sweet aroma of opportunity?
For instance, 50 percent would like to have a wireless home security system, but only 15 percent do so in their homes now. Forty percent would like security cameras, something only 7 percent of buyers currently have.
Here's the Top 12 Tech wish list for homebuyers, according to the study, with TecHome Builder’s assessment.
- 50% have, while 47% would like to have
Yet many never actually program their programmable thermostats. Regardless, the basic programmable thermostat should clearly be standard.
Wireless thermostats with smartphone connectivity, available through “connected home” systems, allow easier programming for many and remote connectivity, so people can adjust the thermostat while not at home. People with these systems are known to do this, even to show off the ability.
Some systems like those using Alarm.com technology allow timed programming of connected thermostats. Others use set-it-and-forget it automation, like Nest, and has the ability to learn your habits through motion sensing and automatically adjusting the temperature through its Auto Away feature. Comcast’s Xfinity Home partner EcoFactor makes tiny, imperceptible changes in temperature to help save homeowners money, and it is very cool.
These can also be tied to whole-house control and energy management systems for a “best” option.
Wireless Home Security System & Security Cameras
- 15% have, while 50% would like security systems
- 7% have, while 40% would like security cameras
Again, this is what is being offered by big service providers like ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint, AT&T, Alarm.com and its partners, My Alarm Center, etc. The list is rapidly expanding with these vendors, and large homebuilders might look to partner with these companies or a local custom integration expert that can provide these systems or those from the likes of Schenider and Nexia.
Security sensors can be used to trigger thermostat changes, lighting and even whole-house music when someone enters. Homeowners can receive alerts when their kids come home and video clips or photos of a person entering the home. Electronic locks can trigger events and cameras as well.
Lighting Control System
- 7% have, while 40% would like
This can be anything from a few dimmers around the house to occupancy and vacancy sensors that automatically shut off lights left on, to the setting of various preset lighting levels throughout the house and even automating exterior lights.
Some integration companies even set the lighting throughout a house to 90 percent brightness, which saves 10 percent on energy costs for the lighting and is imperceptible to most. And super-efficient LEDs are becoming the go-to lighting technology.
Automating lighting can be sold as a luxury convenience or energy-saving feature. It can help achieve HERS ratings and LEED scores, as well as other green home certification.
Wireless Home Audio System
- 5% have, while 39% would like
Sonos’ convenient and easy-to-setup wireless music system is great example of this. Sure, it can always be added to a house later, but why not include it in the mortgage and set it up for the family as an option? According to a CE Pro Brand Influence Study, custom electronics integrators say Sonos is the fourth most-requested brand.
We still recommend wiring in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and using wireless music systems with them, especially for the upcoming hi-resolution or (HD) audio. You can also sync mobile devices and listen to iTunes with connectivity from systems like Leviton’s Hi-Fi 2 and Control4’s Wireless Music Bridge.
According to the survey, some 73 percent of respondents said they would give the job of technology installation to a professional (36 percent to a custom electronics integration company, 19 percent to a home security professional and 18 percent to an electrician).
Don't assume because it’s wireless and doesn't have to be built in that people will only opt to add it later. Costs of these systems can add up, and by the survey, half of all home buyers want amenities (including electronic systems and technology features) included in the base price. So build it into the mortgage, whether as standard or upgrade options.
- 19% have, while 37% would like
We suspect this figure includes surround-sound systems in family rooms and the such, not just dedicated theater rooms. Regardless, there’s a clear opportunity to partner with custom integration and A/V pros to offer good-better-best home entertainment systems, from modest family and bedroom systems to the big entertainment room screens using the new 4K or Ultra HD resolution.
- 11% have, while 37% would like
Connected thermostats and control in different zones presents another opportunity to sell home control or connectivity systems so those thermostats can be programmed and coordinated to provide just the right comfort levels and energy savings all of the time. Automated dampers and ventilation systems can also be added.
- 7% have, while 34% would like
We bet moms love these, and they can be sold as healthy home options, which moms love even more. Central vac systems remove allergens and filtering particles in the air. Some systems even have convenient, baseboard kick-plate vents to suck up the sweepings from your kitchen floor. Make mom’s life easier, and you have a much better sale.
Energy Management System/Display
- 4% have, while 32% would like
This should be sold as part of a connected home or home control system, using energy monitoring sensors on the electrical panel for whole-house or circuit-level monitoring. Meritage Homes offers Nexia Home Intelligence systems with Powerhouse Dynamic’s excellent circuit-level eMonitor, for example. Verizon’s Home Monitoring system has an Energy reader option. And in the upper end, Savant’s Apple-based home control system has a super SmartEnergy energy monitoring system.
As more utilities add smart grid programs that offer energy-saving opportunities to homes, energy monitoring and management will become even more vital.
Outdoor Speakers and Audio Controls
- 8% have, while 31% would like
Who doesn’t like to be outside relaxing, recreating, or just plain partying? Add some music for the patio, outdoor kitchen and pool and spa areas, and you have THE gathering place for friends and family. But wait, you can also add big-flat panel TVs like weatherproof models from Sunbrite and Seura. We recommend placing them under overhangs to avoid glare.
Smart Irrigation System
- 5% have, 30% would like
On a recent swing through California, we saw plenty of Rainbird and Hunter irrigation systems using weather sensors so watering takes place only as needed—as mandates exist. But California is not the only state where water conservation is important. Much of the United States are deemed at risk for water shortages.
Rainwater harvesting and graywater recycling can also collect water in cisterns to be used for irrigation. We’ll be seeing more and more of this to conserve and more wisely use our most precious, life-sustaining resource.
Whole-house Control System
- 3% have, while 30% would like
We suspect the 30 percent number to be low, as many people either don't understand how home control systems can tie together a home’s systems like lighting HVAC, security and audio/video—or they think it’s too expensive. An affordable, connected home offering can be a good start, and can be expanded to include other systems over time—including an all-encompassing home control and automation system. It’s not just for rich people any more.