Which Smart Home Upgrades Raise Your Home's Value?
Smart home technology may wow homebuyers, but they may not be willing to pay more for the latest upgrades.
While some tech upgrades in the home can be seen as a perk for interested buyers, the systems that are more mobile and will likely leave with the seller have no impact on home value.(Getty Images)
When we add technological bells and whistles to a residence, these additions and upgrades are typically aimed at ourselves and our own day-to-day comfort and ease of living. The question is whether some of these upgrades translate to a higher contract price when we sell.
High-end renovations today often go beyond a state-of-the-art kitchen and luxurious bathroom to include smart devices like a built-in sound system, electronic window treatments, central air climate control with multiple thermostats and remotely controlled lighting in every room. Demonstrated altogether for a potential buyer, home automation is inarguably impressive and downright cool.
But it remains to be seen not only if buyers would be willing to pay up for these bells and whistles, but also if tech-savvy buyers might feel that the years-old tech might not be current enough. Various examples of smart home devices have begun to appear more often in homes we see on the market, and there's no final answer whether these pricey gadgets and gizmos translate to fetching a higher sale price.
Renovating a home can be a daunting undertaking and is not for everyone. Fixer-uppers are expensive, time-consuming, and often require people to make expensive decisions that are very different from their usual routine – choosing tiles, lighting plans, cabinets and paint colors is a very different task from modeling spreadsheets or organizing employee schedules.
If the market is healthy, smart renovations will improve the value of the property – and of course make it more enjoyable for the owner to live in.
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But what about tech? Do high-end home tech systems for climate, lighting, sound, or security improve a home’s value? Will a substantial investment in residential bells and whistles translate to a higher number on the contract of sale?
Here are some smart home upgrades that can attract buyers to your home:
- Automated blinds and curtains
- Smart lighting
- Climate control with smart thermostats
- Built-in speakers with app control
- Smart locks
- Smart garage door opener
- Smart appliances
- Smart home security system
Technology as Permanent Fixtures
A New York City condo recently on the market was fully decked out with motorized window treatments, built-in speakers everywhere, heated floors in the bathroom, Nest thermostats and customizable lighting. While buyers touring the space were impressed with the smart home technology, they didn't necessarily feel compelled to pay more for the home because of it. Instead, they focused on the home’s layout, light and age of the renovation. Not only was the hardwired tech not the main draw, but buyers saw it all as just a nice perk.
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Technology That Leaves With the Seller
While some home technology is affixed to the home and is passed along to the new buyer, a lot of technology is more mobile and leaves with the seller. Portable cameras and speakers that are not hardwired into the walls are becoming more prevalent, less expensive, and more temporary. They can be easily upgraded, connected to voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo and generally, don’t transfer with the sale of a home. Understandably, a nanny cam that sits on a table will not improve the value of a home.
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Smart Tech Highlights Other Improvements
Smart home technology is supposed to make life easier, as customized settings learn our habits for predictive living – the garage door might open on its own as your car pulls up, the air conditioning can be switched on remotely 10 minutes before you come home and a video camera in the refrigerator can be accessed from your phone while you're at the grocery store so you buy what you need.
Improvements and advancements at home will suggest easier paths for tech to respond to how we enjoy our lives, rather than technology telling us how to live our lives, says Kurt Knutsson, a tech journalist best known as The CyberGuy, and chief tech contributor on Fox News and Fox Business networks.
Knutsson notes is that if a home has current, high-end technology, it signals something positive to potential buyers, as an “unspoken endorsement” that wiring is up-to-date and that the seller exhibited a certain pride of ownership, maintaining the home diligently. So even if there is not a direct correlation between a technological enhancement in a home and its contract price, these improvements will help to impress buyers overall at showings.
In the same vein, home staging and targeted decluttering convey clean, fresh and new, even if a home is none of these things. If buyers know how they feel about a property within the first few seconds of stepping inside, showcasing the futuristic technology is a smart selling tool.
The high-tech Manhattan condo sold to a tech entrepreneur, who recognized the substantial investment that had been made into smart home technology. The buyer also felt that some of it was now dated by his own standards, and during the negotiation flatly stated that he was not willing to pay up for something he’d have to overhaul anyway. Examples like this should lead homeowners to install technology for their own enjoyment, and not with the expectation that motorized window shades, Hue lightbulbs or the latest Sonos upgrade will increase the contract price on their real estate sale.
How to Sell Your Smart Home
In terms of hardware, more and more, it seems, home technology is integrated via a smartphone or through apps on a home tablet device, and not necessarily hardwired through the walls, but with movable sensors.
Thus, integrating home technology for the average layperson is less costly and easier to do than ever before, but also leaves with the seller and does not generally stay at the property with the new buyer.
Once a homeowner decides to undergo a renovation, one of the main questions is whether the renovation is more for the enjoyment of the homeowner, or if the renovation is aimed at attracting future buyers. If the homeowner is renovating for herself, she might be more likely to choose colors, materials and technological embellishments that she likes and will enjoy living with. But if she is renovating to sell, then she might be more disposed to choose less expensive options that give the home a neutral yet updated look and feel, ideally appealing to a wide audience of potential buyers.
With recent advancements, she could even overhaul the home technology more than once in the near future, as home tech becomes less expensive and easier to upgrade.