Building High-Tech

Make homeowners' lives easier and add to your bottom line with automated homes.

Home automation is a booming segment of the residential construction market, but builders and remodelers don't have to become installers themselves to get a big chunk of the profits. By knowing how to sell automation products and upgrades to their clients, as well as choosing and working with dedicated automation professionals, you can see a surge in your bottom line.

Many contractors may be wary of the automation game because they think they don't have the technical knowledge to specify, install and service such systems. And the simple fact is that most don't. But that doesn't mean they should be scared to jump into it. Just keep in mind that the main focuses of the technology are security, lighting and environment control, and audio-visual, and find the right professionals to work with to make clients' homes more efficient and accessible.

Building as Usual (Almost)

The first thing a contractor should do is offer structured wiring packages and pre-wire for a security system. The added expense is minimal in the overall scheme of a home's price, and it minimizes the costs and time needed to install any other components the client (or future clients) may choose. A builder may also need to include some extra blocking during the framing stages for installation of audio-visual components, such as a 200-pound plasma TV that will hang on a wall.

Even by offering only structured wiring, builders will help homeowners realize both short-term and long-term benefits. There's no need to daisy-chain phones with structured wiring, and other electronic equipment such as computers and TVs can be moved from room to room without extra wiring or the need to splice cable.

Finding and Working With Installers

Automation installation typically occurs after the framing, plumbing and wiring have been completed and before the insulation and drywall is installed. Final installation of components typically occurs after the painting and trim work are done. To ensure seamless installation and on-time completion, builders should schedule a walk-through like they do with electricians. It’s helpful to have an electrician and the HVAC installer on hand at that time.

Here are some tips for choosing the right automation installer:

  • A contractor in your local area can provide service after the sale. A company with enough staff to handle the inevitable customer questions is also key.

  • Get multiple quotes from various vendors, and make sure they have the proper marketing materials to help explain the products to both you and the customer. Some vendors also have builder programs, which offer training programs and product discounts.

  • Look to trade publications and automation Web sites for product information and help with finding an installer in your area.

  • Go to automation trade shows to establish and maintain strong relationships with vendors.

Selling It to Customers

Even though high-tech is in high demand, you may still need to develop some selling techniques to convince a few of your customers that they need some of these upgrades. If you're building spec homes, install as many bells and whistles as you can, as customers are often sold when they see the products in action. Otherwise, here are some major selling points:

  • Automated houses sell faster and for higher prices than those without high-tech components.

  • Improved lifestyle and energy savings often more than make up for any higher initial cost.

  • Busy people who may travel a lot can remotely monitor and control their homes over the Web, a convenience offered by most automation systems.

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