The real estate industry has been using big data for many years, with online real estate databases such as Zillow, Trulia and StreetAdvisor offering users incredibly detailed current and historical information regarding property condition, location, reputation, estimated value, and much more.
Most of that data come from public records and the Internet, including adjacent property values, closest schools, public transit, crime rates, and highest-rated local pizza joint. Want to know what time of day crimes typically occur in certain American cities? Trulia can tell you.
But a new tsunami of housing-related data is presenting homeowners and real estate professionals with even more detailed and potentially valuable information about specific properties and neighborhoods. The source of that tsunami is the Internet of Things.
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A growing number of intelligent devices inside homes — smart thermostats, robot vacuums, connected kitchen appliances, face-recognizing doorbells, and more — are making our lives safer, easier, and more efficient. Homeowners, renters, and businesses now can monitor and control lighting, heat and AC, entertainment systems, security alarms and coffee makers from their mobile devices, computers, cars, or office cubicles.
In the course of doing their jobs, these helpful home devices collect and communicate an unprecedented amount of data about their environment. This information is being captured, crunched, and leveraged by the real estate professionals to better understand and market to their customers.
“The analytics and heuristics you can get from smart devices can help real estate agents understand more about the value of that home and the areas that are being utilized by the existing homeowners,” says Paul Williams, vice president of security and communications products for Control4, a maker of device automation and control products for connected homes and businesses. “It allows them to make some assumptions about what prospective buyers would like. If a home theater is getting a lot of use, that may be something a real estate agent would really want to highlight.”
Smart home devices help real estate professionals do their jobs in other ways, particularly when showing a property to clients.
“Automation absolutely can show off a home in the best possible way,” Williams says. “You can offer the realtor a cheat sheet explaining how to work some of the technology in the house to show off features such as a granite countertop.”
A home’s tech arsenal can be more than a selling tool — increasingly, it’s a selling point. A recent study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies concludes that home automation will be the number two trend in residential remodeling over the next five to 10 years. That’s because younger homeowners don’t just want smart devices in their homes, they expect them.
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“To baby boomers, things like wi-fi infrastructure, Internet connectivity, and distributed audio are no big deal,” says Avi Rosenthal, vice president of security and integration for Linear LLC, a vendor of security and access control systems. “But to homebuyers from Gen X and Gen Y, they are a big deal.”
“Smart technology is a way for a home to be differentiated,” says Andrew Brooks, co-founder and COO of SmartThings, which makes an open source-based mobile app and hub that enable users to control all of the compatible devices in their homes from their smartphones. “It’s a very powerful and emotional way for the home to be differentiated when prospective buyers come in. We’ve heard stories about buyers walking in and the lights go on, music begins playing, and things respond to and around the guest as he’s walking through the house. It’s a very high-impact part of the sell.”
Another benefit of smart home devices is the amount of information they generate during a showing, says Brooks. Sensors can tell the (absent) sellers where prospective buyers spent the most or least time during the showing, as well as which rooms they returned to and for how long.
Consumer electronics vendors are so convinced house values will increasingly be influenced by the presence (or lack) of smart devices and systems that they’ve developed a TechHome Rating System under the auspices of the Consumer Electronics Association.
The system, which has been introduced to the National Association of Realtors, lets realtors adjust the value of a person’s home based on the amount of technology that’s build into the property.
“It’s not in wide use yet because at the moment, baby boomers are driving the real estate market,” Rosenthal says. “But as the Gen Xers and Gen Yers all get into move-up houses and on into their 30s and 40s, this will be more popular.”