Technology that might have seemed miraculous or even like science fiction a decade ago is now among the amenities many homebuyers simply expect. The ability to control functions like lights and temperature remotely from smart phones or tablets, answer the front door from just about anywhere in the world, and check on the outside and inside of a home from work or while on vacation are features more and more individuals feel they should have.
“Smart technology is critically important now,” said Hillary Hertzberg, a luxury real estate associate with Coldwell Banker’s The Jills in Miami. “It used to be a wow factor. Now it’s just accepted that smart technology will come with a home.”
Builders and developers are taking notice and are including smart features in new homes at just about every price level. “The biggest change is accessibility,” said Peggy Marker of Marker Construction Group in Fort Lauderdale. “It used to be something you saw only in higher end properties.”
But buyers today also want technology to be simple. No more wrestling with four different remotes or struggling to decipher a complex software program that is supposed to make life easier instead of harder, thank you very much. To help meet this demand, some builders and developers even include a visit to buyers from an expert to explain how a system works.
“People are looking for user-friendly applications that are not complicated,” said Maurizio Pejoves of P&O Global Technology in Fort Lauderdale.
“Technology used to be truly complex and wasn’t user friendly,” Marker said. “People would get frustrated. Everything now has gotten to be much more simple and accessible. Platforms are starting to talk to each other and can do it remotely without huge amounts of wiring.”
Security is a major issue for many homeowners. “New houses are integrating the alarm system with security cameras so everything runs in a user-friendly application on a mobile device or on a computer from anywhere in the world, as long as they have Internet access,” Pejoves said. “Builders are doing the prewiring.”
Cameras have come down in price, Pejoves said. “They’re more affordable now, and a camera can intimidate robbers so they go somewhere else.” Another change: While cameras used to record for two weeks or a month, there are systems now that can record for an entire year, afeature that can be important if there’s a theft, Pejoves added.
TAKING IT FOR GRANTED
Some homebuilders are treating high speed, high quality Wi-Fi accessibility as something homeowners should be able to take for granted when they move into a new home, much as they do running water and air conditioning.
“Studies have shown us that smart technology is definitely something people are looking for,” said Brandon Sechrist, director of procurement for the Southeast Division of Pulte Homes. “We’ve found it to be necessary to equip our homes with the latest technology.”
Each Pulte home is wired with CAT 6 because it is faster and supports more bandwidth than the CAT 5 that has typically been standard. There is a CAT 6 and RG 6-wired outlet in the family room, with the option to run it to other locations, to provide greater bandwidth and thus reduce slowdowns for streaming and gaming systems.
Without this kind of technology, South Florida’s cement block home construction combined with impact-resistant windows can weaken the Internet signal, Sechrist said. “It’s like the difference between a two-lane and a five-lane highway,” he added. “You can have several people in the house on the same connection without losing Internet speed.”
The prewiring is standard. Buyers can, however, opt for a smart home package that can include features like remote control adjustment of thermostats and lights, home automation based on schedules and motion, and voice control. There are additional options like upgraded speakers and doorbells that allow he homeowners to see who is at the front door and answer it remotely. The package also includes the services of an expert who will come in, set the system up and show the owner exactly how to make it work.
Lennar offersWiFi CERTIFIED Home Design.The certification program from theWi-Fi Alliance allows new home builders to provide built-inWi-Fi networks with comprehensive coverage throughout the home and outdoor living spaces, according to theWi-Fi Alliance website.Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design plans integrate professionally designedWi-Fi networks directly into builder floorplans to provide whole-home coverage.
“It’s engineered in like plumbing and electric,” said GeorgeValdovinos, director of sales for the Southeast Division of Lennar Homes. “It’s not like having boosters where you can have bad reception in one end of the house.”
An expert will come to show the homeowner how to use the system and will provide additional help for 90 days. Feature options include voice control, a doorbell with video and remote control of lights and temperature, as well as door locks. “When you have a trunk load of groceries, you don’t want to walk up to the door with them and try to use a key,” Valdovinos said.
There are advantages to having a complete system installed all at once, Valdovinos said. The homeowner avoids having to purchase devices separately, then install them and be sure they work well together. “We’ve taken the guesswork out of it,” he said. “You don’t have to pick out stuff at the store. There’s asynergy to it.”
A SYSTEM THAT LEARNS
At Merrick Manor, a 227-unit mixed use development in Coral Gables, buyers can get a NEST thermostat package that can adjust temperature remotely by phone or voice control. The system actually “learns” about the owner. “At the beginning, you tell it what to do, but after a while it senses your routine and puts it into memory and adjusts itself,” said Henry Torres, president of Astor Companies, developer of the project.
There’s also a system that allows the owner to view remotely who’s inside the unit, an alarm that can be activated or deactivated with a fob to eliminate the need to punch numbers, and a touch key system on the front door.
Even rental properties are offering smart features. At Avery, a 144-unit apartment complex in Pompano Beach, apartments will have locks that be operated with fobs and thermostats that can be remotely controlled from phones. Security cameras will be located throughout the building, and the garage will have charging stations for electric cars, said Alan Losada, executive vice president and CEO of the Meyers Group, developer of the project.
Appliances with smart technology are also gaining popularity. “The biggest trend we’re seeing now is appliances with voice activation, pairing with popular platforms such as Google Home, Alexa and Apple Home,” said Tim Cardillo, showroom consultant at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting gallery in Fort Lauderdale. “Even without voice activation, manufacturers continue to launch a myriad of connected appliances.”
Here are few that may make life more convenient:
Ovens: “A connected oven allow the owner to control functionality using a smart phone and customize your cooking experience with helpful tips and information,” Cardillo said. “Pre-heat your oven using your mobile device or access gourmet guides that direct meal preparation, including desired doneness and the type of pan to use.”
Refrigeration: “With a connected refrigerator, you can verbally instruct the fridge to fill the ice machine or raise or lower the temperature,” Cardillo said. “Additionally, many fridges now can self-diagnose issues and alert you which replacement part to order or the precise error message to give the technician.
Washers and dryers: “Use an app to stay up-to-date during each step in the laundry process,” Cardillo said. “Some washers are equipped to send digital reminders to start and stop wash cycles based on fabric care needs. If no one is available to unload the dryer, you can receive a smartphone alert to activate a wrinkle shield function. Some units offer technology that pairs a connected washer and dryer with a home monitoring device.You are then able to automatically activate or delay the start of acycle.”