US housing starts jumped 11% in December from the prior month and, according
to US Department of Commerce statistics, home starts are rising at levels not
seen in 25 years. But are these new homes “smart homes” filled with wireless
home computer networks, security systems and other home technologies? Is the
“home of the future” happening today? Or are smart homes still more Jetson fantasy
than suburban reality?
To find out, Internet
Home Alliance, a cross-industry network of leading advancing the home technology
market, surveyed more than 400 consumers who are either owners of newly constructed
homes or prospective constructed homes. The purpose of the study, which was
led by Alliance CompUSA, Cisco, CompTIA/HTI+, Hewlett Packard, Home Director,
Home, SBC Communications Inc. and Whirlpool, was to understand and needs of
consumers who own or expect to own a newly constructed consumers will make decisions
about purchasing, installing and maintaining technologies.
Following are the key findings from the report, which may be downloaded Internet
Home Alliance web site, www.internethomealliance.com.
Technology Options and Preferences
- About half of the target consumers (49%) presented with at least one home
technology option made a purchase. The most commonly purchased home technology
option is a home security system followed by pre-wiring for cable or satellite
TV and a built-in home theater.
- The home technologies that are most important to current and prospective
newly constructed home buyers are pre-wired cable/satellite TV and a home
security system, both of which consumers indicated should come standard in
newly constructed homes. Voted “somewhat important” were structured wiring,
multi-zone HVAC, an air purification system, a wireless home computer network,
an energy management system, a community-wide high-speed Internet connection,
a home control/automation system and lighting control. Consumers gave a “neutral”
importance to Web cameras and an Internet refrigerator.
- A majority of consumers said they were either “somewhat” or “very familiar”
with many of the technology options available. Most were not familiar with
Internet refrigerators and home-based health management systems.
- Outside of pre-wiring for cable or satellite TV, which comes standard in
63% of newly constructed homes, the most popular technology is an intercom
system and distributed audio followed closely by a central vacuum and home
- Participants summed up their experiences around these options with one
word, "overwhelmed." The Alliance’s research found that technology
options are often the last-mentioned options and they are often presented
in a cursory, checklist fashion.
- Consumers reported that they would prefer to purchase options after seeing
them featured in a showroom.
- Most target consumers (69%) considered making one of more technology purchases
for their newly constructed home independently of their builder.
Technology Vendor Preferences
- Most consumers would prefer to have a certified professional install and
maintain infrastructure technologies and major appliances.
- A majority of consumers lean towards a consumer electronics store for presenting
consumer electronics items and a professional installer for setting them up
and maintaining them.
Mortgage-Based Financing Options
- A majority of newly constructed home buyers (53%) expressed great interest
in rolling up the costs of their new home technologies, particularly pre-wiring
for cable or satellite TV, structured wiring and multi-zone HVAC, into their
Home Buying Process
- Most target consumers acquired or plan to acquire their newly constructed
home in a planned subdivision. The chance to start anew with a “clean canvas”
or to live in a home with a “better design or floor plan” are the most common
reasons consumers purchase newly constructed homes. In the focus groups, many
viewed this as an opportunity to personalize their homes to suit their tastes.
- A majority of both current and prospective newly constructed homeowners
consider the home builder a “very important” consideration in their buying
decision. In addition, most current owners of a newly constructed home are
“very satisfied” with their homebuilder’s efforts on their behalf. Most indicated
they researched and found their home builders by word of mouth.
“We were delighted to learn that the concept of the connected home is, indeed,
becoming a reality,” said Tim Woods, Internet Home Alliance’s Vice President
of Ecosystems Development. “The understanding of, and keen interest in, a wide
array of technological products for new homes validates our belief that we are
moving quickly towards a turning point where many of the ‘futuristic’ products
and services will integrate into being standard components of new homes.”