16 REALTOR® JULY/AUGUST 2016 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
The term “smart house” was coined in the 1980s by the National
Association of Home Builders to refer to a home with integrated
telephones, lighting, audio, and security. Such systems required
special wiring and typically cost tens of thousands of dollars.
But the concept has evolved with the proliferation of inexpensive devices that can be operated via smartphone and can make
data accessible online. Now, one real estate franchise is trying
to bring about some common understanding of what it means
to call a house a smart home.
In May, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC joined forces
with consumer technology news source CNet to define a
smart home as “equipped with network-connected products
. . . connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or similar protocols for
controlling, automating and optimizing functions” of the home.
Their definition stipulates that the home has internet access, a
smart security or temperature system, and at least two other
smart features, such as appliances, entertainment devices,
heating or cooling equipment, lighting, landscaping elements,
air quality monitors, or thermostats.
Danny Hertzberg works on the front lines of smart-home
living: the luxury market, where such features have moved
“from an impressive amenity to an expected element,” he says.
Hertzberg, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential
Brokerage in Miami Beach, Fla., and a member of real estate
team The Jills, says his franchise’s e;ort to define a “smart
home” is an important step toward eliminating casual or misleading uses of the term.
“It’s false advertising to have a Nest [thermostat] and call it
a smart home. You can’t call the whole property a smart home
or a smart condo and just have one element,” he says. “We need
a nationwide consensus on the marketing terms. Otherwise
people will be disappointed.” Or worse, they’ll feel duped.
In the high-end Miami market where Hertzberg works, he’s
noticed home owners who are thinking about listing their
homes are proactively installing smart-home systems,
believing they’ll be at a disadvantage without them.
And with builders now installing smart devices in new
construction, it’s only a matter of time before the trend
reaches older homes and lower-priced listings, with sellers
positioning these devices as points of di;erentiation. It helps
that many smart-home devices can be had for a nominal cost—a
few hundred dollars or less. Among the low-cost o;erings are
the Belkin WeMo switch, which plugs into an outlet and enables
you to control lighting through a smartphone or motion sensor;
the Amazon Echo, an interactive speaker that lets you use voice
commands to access music, news, and more; and, of course,
the Nest thermostat, which o;ers access from your phone and
promises to learn your heating and cooling preferences.
Products like Nest have built-in data sharing tools to help
potential buyers see themselves in a home, says Matt Flegal, a
spokesperson for Palo Alto, Calif.–based Nest. Buyers who are
considering a listing with a Nest thermostat, for example, can
see the current owner’s app dashboard or the monthly usage
email Nest sends to home owners. Although utility companies
now o;er online access to energy usage information, Nest
brings control and usage data together in one package. “It’s a
simple thing to do to make a house show better,” Flegal says.
When you’re vying for a listing equipped with smart-home
features, Hertzberg suggests having a discussion about
which features will convey and how those features improve
the current owners’ lifestyle. “Understand why they installed
a feature and what they love about it,” he says. For example,
maybe they always left the lights on, so smart lighting has
been a money-saving solution. Or maybe they entertain
frequently, and smart speakers have enhanced the experience.
“As good as you think you are at copywriting, the owners
sometimes have these diamonds,” Hertzberg says.
Understanding how smart technology works can make
a di;erence. Hertzberg has seen the unfortunate result of
showings where colleagues failed to learn how a system works.
“The listing agent comes into the home and doesn’t know
how to operate the system,” he says, adding that it’s a real
turno; for buyers. “Even to turn the lights on, they have to call
The best way to get to know smart-home technology?
Install it at home, Hertzberg suggests.
What’s happening in smart-home technology?
What is a smart home?