Have you ever tried to install a supposedly simple tech gadget and found yourself giving up after hours of frustration? Maybe you’re more tech savvy than the average homebuyer, but there are a lot of new smart home features out there, and you might not understand them all. To work around this, some homebuilders are providing free set-up and training for new homeowners to help them get the most out of their smart home technology.
When Darren Anderson, who recently purchased a Lennar home in Dallas, moved into his new home, it came equipped with an Echo Show, an Echo Dot, Ring video doorbell, a keyless entry system, a programmable thermostat, and a lighting package—all of which can be controlled by talking to Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant.
“As soon as I moved in, I got an email from Amazon to register my home and schedule a tech support visit,” says Anderson. “The technician arrived with a box of tech goodies and programmed everything and made sure all my apps were installed and working so I could control the lights and everything else.”
Anderson had a little experience with an Echo Dot in his previous home, but he was thrilled to have someone set up all his new smart home equipment.
More than 70 percent of homebuyers want at least some smart home features in their next home, according to the 2018 Smart Home Marketplace Survey by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
Justin Kalnas, who purchased his new home from KB Home in Murrieta, California two years ago, volunteered to have his home serve as a pilot project for smart home features.
“I’m tech-savvy and have grown up with technology, but I hadn’t had smart home features before, so I was grateful to have the installers come and set everything up for us,” says Kalnas. “Everything is controlled through apps and that makes it easier to use.” The support team sent by KB Home spent several hours at the Kalnas home installing the equipment, teaching Kalnas and his wife how to use it, and showing them how to troubleshoot the devices if anything stopped working.
Builders Providing Customer Support
Buyers today expect smart home features in a new home, says David Grove, a division president with Lennar in Dallas. In response, Lennar not only includes smart tech in their new homes, but they also try to make it as hassle-free as possible.
“Anyone can buy the components and put them in a house, but if the components don’t talk to each other then they’re useless,” says Grove.
Lennar teamed with Amazon to provide smart home features and support service for all their buyers. The Amazon techs pair devices, connect them with WiFi, set up passwords and voice commands and set up “scenes” for the lighting, thermostat, and locks, says Grove. In addition, Lennar pays for 90 days of support after the initial installation in case there are any problems.
“At KB Home, we provide ‘white glove service’ for our customers after they move into their new home,” says Jacob Atalla, vice president of sustainability initiatives for KB Home. “We have a contract with a group to set up the WiFi, connect all the accounts and digital devices and train our customers in how to use them. In two hours, the customers will have what it might have taken them two weeks to accomplish.”
KB pays for six months of service on everything in the house and any other tech devices they buy during that time period. “If they buy a smart TV, the homeowners can call a toll-free number and get guidance on how to set it up and connect it with the other technology in the home,” says Atalla.
Miller & Smith, a regional builder in the Washington, D.C. area, provides buyers in some of their communities with tech support through Sight & Sound Systems in Sterling, Virginia.
“A growing part of our business is setting up a home network with high-speed internet service,” says Naveed Kaymanesh, chief technology officer of Sight & Sound Systems. “We set up all the major technology in the house such as lighting, keyless door locks, thermostats, security systems, and audio-visual controls for music, video, and surround-sound systems.”
Sight & Sound works on 1,200 to 1,400 newly built homes annually, providing varied levels of service.
“On some entry-level homes we spend less time with the home purchasers because of financial constraints, but we work with them to help them make decisions about what smart home technology to install,” says Kris Kaymanesh, president of Sight & Sound Systems. “Sometimes we work with homeowners who have invested $100,000 or more with us to install and maintain their smart home features.”
Typically, the builders that Sight & Sound work with pay for 90 days of tech support for their homebuyers, says Kris Kaymanesh.
Future-Proofing Your New Home
The biggest thing people need help with today is setting up their WiFi systems, says Naveed Kaymanesh. “With everyone in the house using more wireless devices, you need a rock solid WiFi platform and network integration.”
Lennar’s homes are “WiFi Certified,” which means the home has been heat-mapped to make sure there aren’t any dead spots in the house where the WiFi doesn’t work, says Grove. “We want to make sure that any component the homeowners add in the future will function.”
And while smart home features provide safety and security, they can also be a lot of fun to play with. “At Christmas my wife was setting up a mechanical snowman on our front porch,” says Anderson. “So, I kept saying ‘hello’ through the Ring doorbell system to mess with her until she figured out where it was coming from.”
While you probably don’t need help to come up with innovative ways to use your smart home features, a little set-up help and initiation to how they work can’t hurt.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.