As a smart home system designer & installer, I enjoy helping my clients solve problems by automating their homes and implementing new and useful devices and systems. My clients rely on my knowledge and advice and their positive feedback encourages me to continue learning, researching, and problem solving.

But sometimes I meet prospective new clients and they aren’t sure about upgrading to a smart home – they want to be “sold” on the concept and benefits. Is it worth it? Why should I spend the money? How much is this going to cost?

Realtors opinions vary and depend upon the dynamics of the local housing market and geography where they work. In conservative parts of the country, they don’t understand smart homes and actually advise their clients selling their house to remove all the smart home gadgets if they want to keep them because it won’t result in a higher selling price. (So if you want to take that Nest thermostat with you when you sell, remove it before you start listing your house.)

Fortunately, in many real estate markets (both here in the US and Internationally), having a smart home increases the resale value. The new buyer appreciates that everything is already installed and working. In addition to saving a lot of time and money, it is much easier to see the benefit when it is already in place. The biggest appeal right now is for millennials buying their first home or condominium. Some of the biggest national home builders are now including smart home features as upgrades or even standard components of new home construction.

ronically, home automation is least important in the hottest tech markets like right here in Silicon Valley. The reason is simple economics – with more potential buyers than sellers, homes are snapped up quickly and there are usually multiple offers, sometimes over the asking price, so the presence or lack of smart home features is a secondary consideration.

Stepping back a bit, there are really two different scenarios – Retrofitting a house to be a smart home purely for the purpose of putting it on the market and getting a higher price, or upgrading your home that you occupy and plan to live in for the foreseeable future.

The first option is actually the easiest – if you are selling your house, then you’ll need to make a simple ROI (return on investment) calculation: If I spend $x on improving my house, will I get $x+y back when it sells? Conventional wisdom is that if you are only upgrading to facilitate a sale, then focus on the biggest bang for your buck – slap a fresh coat of paint where needed, maybe replace that ratty rug with a new, but cheap one, and pay attention to other cosmetic issues like the grass/landscaping, etc. Investing in home automation usually doesn’t make the cut – but should!

On the other hand, upgrading or remodeling your existing home can be beneficial. You will reap some reward eventually when you sell. Realtors caution that as a rule-of-thumb you won’t get back 100% of your investment, but you get the benefit of the improvements while you still live in the house. Remodel the kitchen or bathroom and you will have a much nicer house and when you do sell, it will be more appealing.

Smart home retro-fits and upgrades have the same payback – You get to enjoy all the benefits every day while you live in the home and it will certainly improve the salability even if you can’t directly calculate the ROI. When there are two or more homes for sale that are similar, anything that makes your house different and distinctive makes it more appealing. So even if you can’t guarantee that your smart home investment will increase the eventual sale price by $xx, it might make the difference between closing the deal or not be able to sell it at all.

Have you considered upgrading your home to make it more valuable? Would you leave your smart home devices installed or remove them before selling your home? Let me know what you think.


Automation technologist and problem solver

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