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Home Tech Week - Do property developers need to be smart?

Posted 6 July 2016 by Helen Christie

James Dearsley looks at the influence of the connected home and whether property developers need to get smart with new homes...

Whether you have heard of it referred to as the smart home or the connected home, there is no doubt to the momentum developing behind the “internet of things” and the influence in our homes. 

Many developers have started working with smart technology, so this isn’t necessarily new. In a small survey conducted by James Dearsley, founder of The Digital Marketing Bureau, over 75% of developers stated that they had already experimented with smart technology in their developments. Of those that hadn’t, all stated that they may use the technology in the future.

Estate agents agree smart technology is a trend for the future. Over 80% of them stated that smart technology helped them sell homes. What is also interesting is that of those surveyed, more than 50% of them stated that they sold house with smart technology for more than comparable properties and in most cases, more than 5% of the standard asking prices. This is backed up in a Digital Homes Report by Barclays, who stated that, on average, people would spend £3,310 more on a home that came fully equipped with pre-installed connected technology.

Smart product selection is critical

CP Consulting recently carried out a study and found that nearly 50% of UK consumers are planning to buy a connected home product in 2016. These findings were mirrored in another study by Coldwell Banker from the US, in early 2016 but it’s the details of each survey that are most interesting.

It is clear that practical smart technology is of most interest. The most popular products in the Coldwell Banker study were smart security (58% of respondents considered this appealing), closely followed by smart heating (56%). Of those who had already purchased a smart device, 90% stated that security was a key reason for the purchase.

In the CP Consulting study, nearly half stated their purchases in 2016 would be motivated by the saving of energy bills and the facility to monitor their homes remotely.

This tells us a lot about what motivates clients - entertainment systems and smart appliances (think fridges and washing machines) were consistently bad performers.

Ultimately, a developer's choice of smart product integration will be critical to a client's decision of value - focus on practical products rather than luxuries. Equally, look at infrastructure rather than individual systems. Being smart home ready might be more attractive than an integrated system already installed. This may deal with some of the other issues developers have with smart connectivity. Dale Robinson, regional managing director of Stone Homes states “continuing dramatic technological advancements could well outdate smart installations in very short space in time”. This is mirrored by the operations director at Essential Living, Ian Merrick, who states smart technology “changes so fast, what you install today has been superseded next week.”

Anything other than the practical elements may be a luxury not needed and will add unnecessary costs to the build. By giving power to the consumer and giving them hub units - one of the most requested products in the CP Consulting research - that they can add to and ultimately upgrade easily themselves; the developer is most likely to reap the benefits of smart technology.

Age is no barrier

Interestingly, in the survey conducted by James Dearsley, estate agents were expressing real concern on the age profile of buyers not understanding or disliking the technology. However, Elaine Sutherland of Springfield Properties, states that they “are particularly interested in smart technology for their retirement schemes for looking after the wellbeing of their residents.”

This view is supported by the Barclay’s report that states “connected home appliances that are networked to family and care services assist the elderly in their own homes, allowing them to live independently for longer.” Indeed, a study by iConnect, found that 72% of those aged 25-34 said they would sleep better at night if their parents or grandparents had a smart home - the numbers weren’t too different for older offspring either. Therefore a developer in the retirement sector needs to focus on the family unit to explain the benefits of the connected home.

Aside from the well-being angle, which will impress on the entire family, retirement developers should review the cost saving benefits for the potential residents themselves. The iConnect survey showed that of those aged over 55, 78% were excited about the cost saving benefits of the smart home.

House builders do need to prepare themselves

There is a demand for connectivity, regardless of the age of the potential house buyer. Clearly thought out, practical smart products will resonate with your buyers and their family even if you are looking at the older demographic.

Understanding that a centralised hub that people can add to as smart products evolve will be a very important added benefit and it won’t cost developers the earth to install. Giving clients the decision of what they add and when, will give them a semblance of control and understanding that you are helping them gradually integrate with the smart revolution - it is more about being smart ready than smart installed.

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