Personal Finance

Savvy home sellers turn to smart technology

The tight supply of homes for sale across the nation has turned this spring into a strong seller's market, but not all homes will move, especially if they are outdated. That is why smart sellers are investing in smart technology to lure potential buyers.

"That's your ticket to selling the house," said Sabine Schoenberg, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based home-improvement expert and founder and CEO of real estate firm PrimeSites.

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Schoenberg specializes in updating old farmhouses with new technology.

"I think technology really helps us get our lives more organized and simpler in a way," Schoenberg said. "If you have an old farmhouse, you still have a front door, so why not install a smart door lock, especially if it's a second home?"

Analysts say one of the many places Apple can still succeed is in smart home technology, like the Nest, a brand of Google that consists of smart home products, such as thermostats, smoke detectors and security systems including smart doorbells and smart locks. Ironically, the Nest brand name was originally owned by Nest Labs, co-founded in 2010 by former Apple engineers.
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Nearly half of all Americans either already have smart home technology or plan to invest in it this year, according to a survey released in January that was conducted by Harris Polls for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. Seventy percent of those surveyed with smart home technology said buying their first product made them more likely to buy another.

It is a myth that retrofitting an older home with smart technology is too difficult or too expensive. When it comes to selling a home, more than half of current homeowners said they would install smart home technology because they thought it would sell the home faster. Additionally, 65 percent of them said they would pay $1,500 or more to upgrade — but that may not be necessary.

Buying a home is an emotional process. People need to connect with the house. The features grab you. They say: 'That seller is up on this, and this is a hip place to live.'
Sabine Schoenberg
CEO of PrimeSites

"A few hundred dollars will have an impact," Schoenberg said. "The price of technology on these gadgets has come so far down." She cited competition among the makers of smart door locks and other technologies. She also said buyers today will ask if the Wi-Fi is staying, just as they would have asked in the past about a chandelier or refrigerator.

Companies such as August, Kwikset and Schlage offer smart door locks for about $200, and is a smart doorbell with security camera, starting at $199. Learning thermostats from companies such as Nest and Honeywell will also not break the bank. More extensive smart products, such as Crestron's Pyng Home Automation System, can be more expensive, but the return on investment may be worth it.

Where to start to be smart

1. Strong Internet connection and Wi-Fi network

2. Smart doorbell

3. Smart door locks

4. Smart climate controls

5. Smart lighting


While smart technology is becoming nearly standard in newly built homes, putting it into existing homes is becoming much more prevalent and therefore giving sellers of those homes an advantage. Even sellers of larger homes, who may be marketing to older, move-up buyers, should consider it.

Older generations are adopting certain types of smart home technology faster than younger ones.

For instance, 40 percent of those over age 65 who own smart home products currently have smart temperature products, compared to 25 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34), according to the Coldwell Banker survey.

Anthony Foxx, U.S. secretary of transportation, speaks during the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, U.S.
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"Buying a home is an emotional process," Schoenberg said. "People need to connect with the house. The features grab you," she said. "They say: 'That seller is up on this, and this is a hip place to live.'"

While most homeowners start with smart entertainment systems, second on the list is home security and smart temperature controls. The least popular smart technology is in appliances, like smart refrigerators or washing machines.

(Correction: This story has been updated to correct the starting price of's smart doorbell.)