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Pros & Cons of Home Showrooms

Integrators tout the benefits (and drawbacks) of using their own homes as a demo facility.


One common benefit from a home showroom is the ability for the integrator to see how his family interacts with the technology, which helps personalize selling.
Jason Knott · December 19, 2011

Sweeping the front porch, picking up the dirty laundry, washing the dishes, and not walking around in boxers all day (I suppose part of the day is OK, but not all day) are pretty much universally accepted commandments inside any home. But those rules and many more are rigid laws for integrators who choose to use their own homes as showrooms to showcase their custom electronics installation prowess.

Already, 47 percent of CE pros, according to the CE Pro Annual Readership Survey, have home offices. So it seems logical for dealers to convert their abodes into showpieces to accommodate customers.

But the whole idea of a home-based showroom creates a financial dilemma. On the one hand, evidence (and logic) supports the fact that if you demonstrate technology to clients, your chances of closing the average deal and upping the dollar amount of the sale greatly increases. On the other hand, it’s difficult or completely financially infeasible to spend money on building a showroom these days.

That’s why some dealers have chosen to use their residences as demo facilities. The benefits of a home showroom are real:

You close more sales: There is no replacing the experience of seeing, hearing and touching the equipment to get clients’ juices flowing. In particular, whole-house solutions such as multiroom audio and distributed video, outdoor entertainment, and even technology options for kitchens and bathrooms are difficult to reproduce in an office showroom, which is typically one room anyway.

Photos: Pros & Cons of Home Showrooms

You are more credible: What better way to let a client know how much you trust a particular brand or technology than to have them see it in use in your own home by your own family? Moreover, using the equipment every day and night allows you to become more familiar with the product versus playing with it at a tradeshow for 10 minutes or monkeying around with it between phone calls in the office. That experience translates into a better and more confident sales story, whether you realize it or not, especially if you are sharing anecdotes about how your family is using the systems.

Add value to your home: Even though real estate values have been on the downswing, one benefit to your home (and your customers’ homes) is that the technology solutions you are installing should be increasing its value.

You and your family enjoy the benefits of using the equipment: You get to play with the latest gaming consoles, watch cool movies on awesome home theater equipment, save money with energy management, listen to music on superb audio, and experience the convenience of home automation and control … all in the name of “testing” equipment to improve your business! Of course, there are also drawbacks:

You have to keep the house clean: It might mean investing in a regular cleaning service. If you have kids, the potential problem can be even worse. Nothing will turn off a client faster than seeing a filthy home. The immediate mental leap is: “If he can’t even keep his house clean, how dirty is my house going to get during an installation?”

It can lead to family discord: Because you will likely be swapping equipment in and out on a consistent basis, the technology can actually become an inconvenience to your family. Just as they are getting used to a certain universal remote or a certain thermostat, you go and change it. If it’s something they really, really like, they might purposely hide your tool belt.

Forget about tax benefits: Unless you are going to build a separate “wing” on to your home and never use it for personal purposes, you are going to hard pressed to garner any tax benefits from a home showroom.

You are always tweaking: With smartphones, most dealers are never disconnected from their businesses anyway these days. But, as they say, you are “takin’ it to a whole ’nother level” with a home showroom because the temptation to fiddle, adjust, calibrate, etc. will be constantly staring you in the face every time you turn something on.

$75K of Equipment Shows Off Whole-house Solutions
Gordon van Zuiden, president of Cyber Manor in Los Gatos, Calif., uses his home as a de facto showroom. There really was no transition necessary - the six-person company started from inside his home originally back in 1999. Later, Cyber Manor opened an office with a small showroom space as a complement, not a replacement. So the home showroom has always been in use.

“Like a lot of other integration companies, our company was actually borne out of our house,” says van Zuiden. “We didn’t start with $100,000 in capital and say, ‘If we build this showroom, they will come.’ The company was borne out of the notion that we could create a home data network to our children’s rooms, and the office and the media room.”

The house is a 3,200-square-foot single-story contemporary that’s about 30 years old, and it’s only 1.5 miles from the office. Among the myriad systems in the residence are whole-house control, whole-house audio distribution (Sonos) and whole-house video and recording (TiVo and Media Center), gaming (Xbox, Wii and Kinect), lighting control (Lutron RadioRa), wired and wireless home networks, home theater in the multipurpose room with surround sound, LED lighting, energy management, motorized window treatments, and a rack in the garage.

There is even an Internet-connected grand piano (PianoDisc). Throughout the house, various forms of interfaces are in place, including keypads, remotes, tablets and smart phones. In all, it’s about $75,000 worth of equipment, van Zuiden estimates.


  About the Author

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at jason.knott@emeraldexpo.com

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