Smart tech is taking over the real estate industry

By: Jonathan Shead | C&G Newspapers | Published September 18, 2019

METRO DETROIT — When homebuyers are looking for a new place to settle in, they’re looking beyond the stainless steel appliances that were the centerpiece of homeownership 10 years ago. Today, consumers want to walk into a home already curated with smart technology.

“Today it seems most of the buyers are looking for homes that have all of the bells and whistles already in place,” said Caron Koteles Riha, an associate broker at Real Estate One in Rochester. “When we show a home that has smart technology, it makes it that much more appealing to the consumer. I think it gives them an edge up on their competition.”

As the metro Detroit area sits currently in a well-balanced market between buyers and sellers, “Sellers have to figure out a way to have an edge up on their competition,” she said.

Koteles Riha often talks to her clients about adding smart technology to their homes to stand out while on the market. She also has a blog on her website where she talks about the smart technology trend and how it can benefit homeowners.

With many of these mainstream smart gadgets decreasing in price, but still rising in overall value, many times the addition of a few simple products can help spruce up a house and increase the likelihood that it will sell.

“The items aren’t really that expensive, but the appeal outweighs the cost,” Koteles Riha said. “At the end of the day, they’re not going to lose any money on their investment.

“Buyers find these items very appealing, and they’re willing to pay the difference of what those items cost because they want to go out and get them, yet they don’t want to have to spend the money and time to install them. When they’re already in the home, it makes it that much more appealing,” she added.

While adding smart gadgets to your home doesn’t numerically increase the property value of the home, Koteles Riha said it certainly will increase the appeal and decrease the length of time on the market.

With upgrades to profile data forms, which detail the amenities of a home, real estate agents are now able to designate if a home has smart technology, giving sellers another leg up against their competitors.

So, exactly what products will give homeowners looking to move out the best possible chance to secure a sale?

Rebecca Edwards, a senior security writer and safety expert for SafeWise, said smart technology in the home usually serves one of three, if not multiple, purposes: energy efficiency, security or entertainment.

Products like the Nest thermostat and the Ring doorbell are the easiest gadgets to add, Edwards said, because they’re recognizable by name and easy to show the benefits, such as how much energy you’ve saved on your power bill each month.

However, other products, like smart lighting, hit all three benchmarks.

“I think smart light is good because you can have security from that, and convenience, and energy saving. Lightbulbs hit it all, and it’s affordable,” Edwards said. “It’s also probably something you wouldn’t mind leaving behind as a homeowner.

“You could also do another smart appliance, like a smart refrigerator, and those are things that are actually starting to show that they’re gaining a bit of return on investment in the housing market.”

Koteles Riha said many of her clients trying to sell their homes question why they would invest in these products if they can’t take them with them once the sale is final. She always explains the negative effects it could have on the selling process.

“If they’re showing their home with those items, most buyers will look at them and want them. Once they start to exclude them, it starts to diminish the appeal and value in the buyer’s mind,” she said. “If the seller likes those items enough they’d want to bring them with (them), that’s basically a red flag that they’re such desirable items they should consider leaving them behind.”

By keeping those products in the home, Koteles Riha said, buyers are generally more satisfied with their decision, and it makes the deal more solid when negotiating prices.  

For those who decide to leave their smart products behind for the next homeowners, Edwards reminds people that they’ll have to unprogram their gadgets and restore them to their factory settings.

“You want to make sure all of your login information and all the data that equipment has on you and your family’s habits and when you come and go has been wiped clean so the new people can get theirs set up,” she said.

Edwards also cautions people in general who are buying into this smart home trend about privacy, stating that they must be proactive about setting up their equipment properly, keeping it updated, and continuing to use routers and firewalls as a first source of protection.

“Anything that’s on the internet and using Wi-Fi can be hacked. No matter how careful you are, hacking is always an option, and the more connected your home is, the more ways there are in,” she said. “(But) you have to have someone really smart, and intentional, to be able to hack your house.”
As the all-connected smart home trend continues to grow and integrate into the real estate industry, both Edwards and Koteles Riha see it becoming the new norm.

“Eventually it’ll be like kitchen appliances: When they’re not included, people’s expectations aren’t met,” Koteles Riha said. “It’s basically setting a new level of expectations, and a plateau, where people will expect this technology in every home in the future.”