Control & Automation

Coldwell Banker Turns Smart Home Retailer; Sells Lutron, August, Nest and $59 Installs

Real Estate giant Coldwell Banker steps up smart home agenda, marketing home automation devices and $59+ installs through Pro.com to help properties sell faster. Only three devices makes a “smart home?”

Coldwell Banker Turns Smart Home Retailer; Sells Lutron, August, Nest and $59 Installs
Coldwell Banker is now selling Lutron, August and Nest smart home devices through its new SmartHomeStaging site. The price of a complete kit (shown) is $999, and the real-estate agency promotes $59+ installations from Pro.com. ($550 flat for for installing the entire kit).

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Julie Jacobson · August 26, 2016

Two years ago, the giant real estate agency Coldwell Banker decided to get into the smart home business, convinced that connected properties sell faster and that tech-savvy agents can win more business. After launching a training program for agents and marketing the company as tech leaders, Coldwell Banker is now ratcheting up its efforts in the category by promoting smart home staging kits that include August, Nest and Lutron products. 

Consumers can buy the connected devices through Coldwell Banker's SmartHomeStaging.com, mostly at full retail price. (Correction: "It is not a Coldwell Banker site," the company says.) Professional installation is encouraged through the national installation network Pro.com for a flat fee starting at $59 for individual devices ($550 for installing a complete Starter Kit).

“They see the connected home devices as a way to excite buyers of the future, a way to move homes,” Lutron VP Michael Smith told a small group of industry reporters this week.

Worthington Distribution, a national distributor for the custom installation channel, is handling fulfillment for the kits. A package comprising the following pieces are currently selling for $1,135 retail, with a discounted price of $999 available to agents to encourage them to try out the systems for themselves.

  • Nest Learning Thermostat
  • Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm
  • Nest Cam Indoor security camera
  • August Smart Lock
  • August Connect gateway
  • Lutron Caséta Wireless Lighting Starter Kit

Areas serviced by Pro.com can have the entire kit installed for a flat fee of $550.

A recent survey conducted by Coldwell Banker found that:

Roughly half of millennials and 42 percent of U.S. broadband households surveyed would "smart stage" their home to attract buyers. The survey also found that more than one-third of Americans (35 percent) now associate smart home technology with a move-in ready home - something that 71 percent of Americans would want if buying a house today.

Whether you believe this research is statistically relevant or methodologically sound, the trend is clearly there. Coldwell has anecdotal evidence from 85,000 agents in 3,000 offices that “the smart home world is leaving the luxury-only sector and entering into the more mainstream world,” Coldwell VP and spokesperson David Siroty tells CE Pro. “We’re in the home. We see what’s happening every single day.”

That’s anecdotal evidence you can sink your teeth into.

“We found out a segment of society was way ahead of our agents,” Siroty says. “If our agents are selling homes featuring smart-home technology, we need to become more aware … know what questions are coming from clients.”

With that, Coldwell Banker, “planted a flag in the smart home arena,” starting with a very public “definition” of the smart home (debated below) and a training and certification program for agents.

In a nutshell, agents take a three-hour course (co-developed with the home technology trade group CEDIA), pass a test and get certified as a smart-home-knowledgeable Realtor. Over 2,000 agents have already done the deal.

Siroty notes the program follows the same course as any other training that follows trends in home building, buying and selling.

“The rise of smart home technology mimics the rise of granite countertops” back in the day, he explains. “Back then, agents had to learn about granite. Some went to quarries to learn more about it.”

3 Devices Make a Smart Home?

Recently Coldwell Banker (with CNET) came up with a definition of a “smart home” that seemed laughable at first.

The definition was: a broadband home with three intelligent devices, with at least one of those devices being related to security or temperature control.

So, for example, a property with a connected thermostat, a smart TV and a water sensor for a plant would be considered a “smart home.”

None of the stuff has to be connected to each other or, for that matter, connected to the Internet or configured for automation.

It’s a “smart home” definition that just begs for a good lampooning.

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But it started to make sense once I chatted with Siroty at Coldwell Banker. There needs to be some starting point for a conversation about the smart home, and the simpler the message the more the listeners.

Integration is foreign to the mass consumer, he (rightly) notes.

“When you’re so close to something, you just don’t see it,” Siroty told me, while stabbing a virtual knife in my chest.

To begin the dialog, the message has to be broad enough for mass interest, but specific enough to be meaningful.

“We were seeing: My TV is a smart TV so it’s a smart home,’” Siroty says.

The simplistic definition was “designed to begin the discussion, to help the real estate community have the conversation with consumers,” he says. “Their [CNET’s] definition -- at least it is in the right direction. We wanted to stop people calling it a smart home when it just has a camera or a smart thermostat.”

OK, I get that.

Smart Home Staging

There are many reasons to stage a home with smart gear that go way beyond resale value. Connected thermostats don’t necessarily save money when a home is vacant because the property always needs to be kept at a comfortable temperature for showings. Smart lighting, on the other hand, can do a good job of showcasing certain features of a home … as long as the agent knows how to operate the system.

“If they don’t know how to use it, it doesn’t matter how good the product is,” Siroty says.

The Coldwell Banker training obviously doesn’t explain how to work every manufacturer’s smart-home products, but it at least raises the awareness of agents who can leave notes about a home’s technology and suggest the right buttons to press for the best effects.

“We firmly believe real estate agents are the ones to engage. They are the original social influencers.”
— David Siroty
Coldwell Banker

There are tricks to staging a smart house. Motorized shades should be left down when the home is unoccupied to protect furnishings, for example, but raised to show the view when potential buyers tour the property.

Coldwell Banker agents will learn tips like this through the company’s efforts.

“An affluent listing can be hurt because of challenges” in showing a smart home, Siroty suggests. “If they [agents] don’t know how to use it, it doesn’t matter how good the product is.”

At the same time, too much of a good thing can be … too much. Like too much furniture and too many tchotchkes in a space, too many cameras (for example) can turn off a potential home buyer.

Siroty tells the case of one home for sale that creeped out potential buyers. Sure, the cameras can be removed or turned off, he explains, “but the agent couldn’t properly represent the fact.”

Whatever the result of Coldwell’s investment in the smart-home movement, all the buzz is undoubtedly a boon for the industry.

Home automation is still in its infancy. The only way to raise awareness is to engage with consumers, and who better to engage than a bunch of people giving home tours all day, every day?

“We firmly believe real estate agents are the ones to engage,” Siroty says. “They are the original social influencers. They’re in the community, they know everybody.”

Next Step: Automated Property Viewings?

Still in its infancy, the August Access program is a service that links the manufacturer's smart locks and video doorbells with third-party service providers such as pet-walkers, dry cleaners and the aforementioned Pro.com home-improvement professionals.

Consumers schedule appointments with partner services and the system grants access and logs activity.

While August and Coldwell Banker have not indicated they are teaming up for Access integration, such a partnership seems the next obvious step, especially considering the partnership with Pro.com

The property-showing process today is archaic. It makes sense for appointments and access to be coordinated between the seller, the potential buyer, the real estate agent and the home’s electronic systems.



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Lighting · Whole House Control · News · Products · BEST · Coldwell Banker · IoT · Lutron · Realtors · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by Jason Knott on August 31, 2016

Coldwell Banker is participating in today’s free CE Pro webinar at 2 pm if anyone wants to find out more information or ask questions to them directly.
http://www.cepro.com/article/impact_of_smart_home_technology_on_realtors_builders_developers1

Posted by hfb1970 on August 31, 2016

Lets hope they have an ounce of common sense and realize that the 59.00 system they are selling is for starter homes and not for the larger homes that require more intricate systems.  We have the same problem with “random electricians” helping with larger system, but that is a builder disease trying to cut corners and not call in a legitimate integrator.  This is a whole new problem in the market that we haven’t dealt with yet.  This is the next step down the food chain.  Now we have a group of people that in my experience can’t walk into a home in a build out mode and see the final product.  What I hope it that they have very laid out guidelines on what they can sell and how it works.  Even thought I have my doubts. 

If you are making $200 bucks from a agent install you must be doing really well.  Most of them don’t want to spend that on their own homes let alone a client.  That is if they ever pay the invoice.

Posted by dbendell on August 31, 2016

LM?AO! excuse my french short hand.

90% of these agents can’t even tell you what CAT5e looks like. They are clueless in low voltage world. They are show n tell and take no responsibility for “lack of knowledge” in low voltage.  These folks sell multi-million dollar homes here in the mountains, get paid, then the clients call us, “there is no internet or cell coverage in these mountains.” Yep, we tell them, sell your home and move to where there is coverage if you need it that badly.

Or they tell the clients, yes there is CAT5 everywhere in the home! Yep there is, in all the wrong locations and daisy chained by some random electrician.

Point is, these companies need to stick to selling and referring out professional services! Not taking on extra curricular activities.  They made their $20k - $100k, lets us make our piddly $200 bucks.

Posted by hfb1970 on August 29, 2016

That’s fine if the pro.com folks are doing them.  Just so there are no grey lines.  We welcome the addition of more folks selling automation into homes. The more people using it and living with it the more people buy into the systems.  We are just starting to see everyone for painters to alarm contractors installing switches and thermostats. They are not supposed to be installing anything that is 120 volt in our state without a licensed electrician on site. We have a master on staff that does it for us.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 29, 2016

Whose agents? Pro.com? They’re the one doing the installs and I assume they’re licensed to do what they’re doing.

Posted by hfb1970 on August 29, 2016

Hope all their agents are licensed contractors.  They are not allowed to touch any wiring in our state without it.  We caught one of their professionals installing light fixtures in a home within the last month and thought it was fine as long as no one ever found out.  They didn’t connect any of the grounds on any of the light.  We reported them to the local inspector and will continue to do so if needed.

Posted by hfb1970 on August 29, 2016

Hope all their agents are licensed contractors.  They are not allowed to touch any wiring in our state without it.  We caught one of their professionals installing light fixtures in a home within the last month and thought it was fine as long as no one ever found out.  They didn’t connect any of the grounds on any of the light.  We reported them to the local inspector and will continue to do so if needed.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 29, 2016

Whose agents? Pro.com? They’re the one doing the installs and I assume they’re licensed to do what they’re doing.

Posted by hfb1970 on August 29, 2016

That’s fine if the pro.com folks are doing them.  Just so there are no grey lines.  We welcome the addition of more folks selling automation into homes. The more people using it and living with it the more people buy into the systems.  We are just starting to see everyone for painters to alarm contractors installing switches and thermostats. They are not supposed to be installing anything that is 120 volt in our state without a licensed electrician on site. We have a master on staff that does it for us.

Posted by dbendell on August 31, 2016

LM?AO! excuse my french short hand.

90% of these agents can’t even tell you what CAT5e looks like. They are clueless in low voltage world. They are show n tell and take no responsibility for “lack of knowledge” in low voltage.  These folks sell multi-million dollar homes here in the mountains, get paid, then the clients call us, “there is no internet or cell coverage in these mountains.” Yep, we tell them, sell your home and move to where there is coverage if you need it that badly.

Or they tell the clients, yes there is CAT5 everywhere in the home! Yep there is, in all the wrong locations and daisy chained by some random electrician.

Point is, these companies need to stick to selling and referring out professional services! Not taking on extra curricular activities.  They made their $20k - $100k, lets us make our piddly $200 bucks.

Posted by hfb1970 on August 31, 2016

Lets hope they have an ounce of common sense and realize that the 59.00 system they are selling is for starter homes and not for the larger homes that require more intricate systems.  We have the same problem with “random electricians” helping with larger system, but that is a builder disease trying to cut corners and not call in a legitimate integrator.  This is a whole new problem in the market that we haven’t dealt with yet.  This is the next step down the food chain.  Now we have a group of people that in my experience can’t walk into a home in a build out mode and see the final product.  What I hope it that they have very laid out guidelines on what they can sell and how it works.  Even thought I have my doubts. 

If you are making $200 bucks from a agent install you must be doing really well.  Most of them don’t want to spend that on their own homes let alone a client.  That is if they ever pay the invoice.

Posted by Jason Knott on August 31, 2016

Coldwell Banker is participating in today’s free CE Pro webinar at 2 pm if anyone wants to find out more information or ask questions to them directly.
http://www.cepro.com/article/impact_of_smart_home_technology_on_realtors_builders_developers1