Getting a home market-ready used to mean a fresh coat of paint, a declutterring of the closets, and a careful rearranging of the furniture. For good measure, motivated sellers might even bake a batch of cookies the morning of the open house to make the place feel extra homey.

These best practices still apply; however, if you’ve tried them all and your house is still stuck on the market, savvy real estate agents might suggest a new strategy: smart home staging.

Ask Danny Hertzberg, a Coldwell Banker Real Estate agent based in Miami, Fla. “I had a recent seller who had done a full remodel on his home, but he wasn’t planning to put in any smart devices,” Hertzberg says. “I told him he was making a big mistake.”

The seller agreed to install a few components from Coldwell’s smart home staging kit, including an August Smart Lock, a Nest Learning Thermostat and a Lutron Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit. (At $1,135, Coldwell’s kit also includes Nest indoor/outdoor cameras and an Amazon Echo Dot).     

Hertzberg remembers one of his first showings. “The couple had never seen a smart lock before,” he says. “They were blown away, and quickly fell in love with the rest of the place. The house ended up selling in a week for one of the highest price-per-foot sales in the area.”

From Niche to Necessity

The term 'smart home' used to be synonymous with high-end home automation – think closed-circuit security cameras and hard-wired entertainment systems coursing through 10,000-square-foot homes. In the last few years, however, home technology has become more accessible and easy to use, thanks to products like the Nest and Amazon Alexa.

Homebuyers are taking notice. In a 2016 survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 42 percent of agents said their clients were interested in smart home devices. The technology is particularly resonant with millennials – a cohort on pace to own more than 30 million homes by the year 2030. A 2017 smart home survey by HomeAdvisor found that 77 percent of millennials have purchased a smart home product, compared with 50 percent of Gen Xers, and just 25 percent of those 55 and over.

That’s making the technology a major selling point. Real estate brokerage site Redfin saw a 41 percent year-over-year increase (from 2015 to 2016) in the number of listings containing smart-home terms. It’s particularly hot in new multi-unit housing, which tends to have contemporary styling and the latest amenities. “On a new-build property, smart home technology is almost an expectation,” says Steve Centrella, a Redfin agent based in Washington, D.C.

As for ROI, the trend is sufficiently new that the industry doesn’t have data on its impact on sale price. “But, anecdotally, we've heard around a 5 percent increase in the price of the home that has smart devices,” says Chad Curry, NAR’s managing director of the Center of Realtor Technology.

Run those numbers on a $250,000 house – about the national average – and a $1,500 smart-home investment could return up to $12,500. Even spending just a few hundred dollars should yield a profit.        

Five Smart Strategies           

As with any home-staging strategy, execution is key. Here are five rules to follow:

  1. Start with the front door. If you install only one connected device, make it a smart lock. It will make a positive first impression on sellers. Plus, the lock’s remote access and e-keys will make it much easier for your agent to show the house, which could speed up the sale.       
  2. Protect your security. Connected devices are basically mini-computers, and thus vulnerable to hacking. Before you turn your home over to the buyer, you need to wipe the devices clean. “Factory-reset everything,” says Phil Grim, a lecturer and cybersecurity expert at Harrisburg University. Most devices have a reset button that makes this easy to do. If you’re leaving your internet router behind, make sure to wipe it clean as well.     
  3. Don’t over-improve. This real estate maxim applies to smart-home technology. A whole-house system from the likes of Crestron® or Control4 probably doesn’t make sense in a modestly priced home. Conversely, a couple of stick-on cameras will look out of place in a luxury home.         
  4. Keep the user manuals. This has always been good home-selling policy, helping buyers operate appliances, heating and cooling equipment, and the like. It’s particularly helpful with connected devices, since they’re still foreign to many. “Buyers should make it part of the disclosure,” says Andrew Hacker, a cybersecurity expert and CEO of MistIQ Technologies. “Ask for a list of all smart home devices in the home, as well instructions on how to use them.”               
  5. Stick with name brands. “A device that’s backed by Samsung or Apple or Google is going to be well supported versus some startup company in China that you’ve never heard of,” says Grim. Name-brand devices will also be more likely to integrate with other smart home products that the buyer might want to install in the future, once they get hooked on the technology.

Dan DiClerico is a Home Expert & Smart Home Strategist at HomeAdvisor

Investopedia and HomeAdvisor have or may have had an advertising relationship, either directly or indirectly. This post is not paid for or sponsored by HomeAdvisor, and is separate from any advertising partnership that may exist between the companies. The views reflected within are solely those of HomeAdvisor and their Authors.

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