Liza Hausman

The home design and remodeling services search platform Houzz has done extensive research on the burgeoning presence of connected-home technologies in the latest home builds and renovations in the industry. So we tapped into the expertise of Houzz Vice President of Industry Marketing Liza Hausman to get her insights into the research’s results – and into the general topic of smart-home-product uptake in the renovated home. Here’s what she had to say.

TI: Houzz has conducted a major study of Smart Home Trends and has been following these trends’ progression pretty closely.  One eye-opening result of that research shows that nearly half (45 percent) of home renovators are installing smart devices during the renovation process. What are the some of the major forces behind this behavioral change in homeowners that Houzz has been able to track?

Liza Hausman: Increased adoption is likely driven by the development, availability and awareness of more mainstream smart home products. For example, our 2018 Kitchen Trends Study found that many homeowners are integrating new electronics, such as wireless speakers, and new appliances with high-tech features, such as wireless or voice controls. These preferences continue to evolve as new devices, such as home assistants, take the place of older ones, like TVs.

How are homeowners becoming aware of the option of installing smart devices into their homes during the renovation or build process? Is it generally through the builder’s recommendation or is the suggestion self-generated by the homeowner because of consumers’ increasing awareness of and familiarity with standalone smart devices from Google and Amazon, and basic security systems popularized by companies like Ring, that are becoming ubiquitous on the market these days?

Hausman: Increased marketing by recognized brands, as well as the availability of these smart devices on the shelves of mainstream stores, helps to increase awareness among homeowners. In custom builds, recommendations from the builder are key, though there is still a lot of variability among builders and remodelers in terms of knowledge and understanding of the potential on customer satisfaction or profit.

Our 2016 Smart Home Trends Study found that renovating homeowners are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their new smart upgrades compared to those installing devices without mobile connectivity. So, hearing that a family member or neighbor is pleased with their smart home upgrade may also lead homeowners to discuss potential options for their homes with a professional.

The study found that thermostats and security are top of mind when homeowners consider “smartening” their homes, meaning safety and energy savings are the top motivators for people being able to monitor and control their living environments whether at home or from a distance. Has Houzz tracked an expansion of interest in smart devices that address other aspects of home control beyond security and energy savings  – and which have gained the most traction lately?

Hausman: Automation and security continue to be the leading types of system upgrades according to our 2018 Houzz & Home Study. Interest continues to grow for both systems, though the share of renovating homeowners integrating home security grew a whopping 50% over the past two years.

Does smart device adoption in home renovations or builds remain generational – meaning is its appeal mostly still limited to younger, tech-savvy homeowners?  And is that changing?

Hausman: First-time home buyers, who tend to be younger than long-term homeowners, are installing automation, security and entertainment systems at a higher rate (36%, 26% and 19%, respectively, versus 19%, 13% and 11%, respectively, for long-term homeowners).

That said, the largest gains in adoption of home security and home automation systems were among long-term owners who appear to be catching up to more tech-savvy recent first-time buyers. Over the last two years, long-term homeowners were 22% more likely to install home automation systems and 57% more likely to install security systems, compared to 5% and 18%, respectively, for first-time homebuyers. (Source: 2018 Houzz & Home Study)

Are homeowners becoming more aware of the needs of the skills and advice of home technology professionals when considering the incorporation of smart devices in a home renovation or build? Who or what would lead them to seek out a technology integrator to “get it right” when adding smart devices into the renovation/build equation? Would it be designers, architects and builders who need to funnel homeowners to these technology integration professionals?

Hausman: The majority of renovating homeowners already rely on professional help for the installation of both smart and non-smart security, climate control and lighting products, though they are even more likely to turn to pros in the case of smart technology upgrades in these categories. We see that renovating homeowners upgrading entertainment systems enlist professional help to a lesser extent than those upgrading security or safety, which may be due to the degree to which the system is “built-in” or an easy DIY addition. It’s important for professionals to be aware of smart alternatives so they can best counsel their customers and recommend where professional help may be necessary.

The Houzz study reveals that a slight majority (55 percent) of renovators surveyed are still not adopting smart devices into the process. The study cites disinterest, price and security concerns as reasons for non-adoption. What do you see happening in the market today, or in the near future, that would tip the scales in the other direction for those who decided to take a pass on smart device incorporation in their renovation or build plans?

Hausman: In order for smart home functionality to become ubiquitous, technology companies will need to improve their products to deliver more secure and cost-effective solutions which may assuage the concerns of late-adopters.

What conclusions has Houzz reached regarding what changes may be expected in consumer adoption of smart devices – changes that will lead to more “connected homes” being planned and built now and in the future?

Hausman: Tomorrow’s homeowners are digital natives, so demand and adoption will only grow along with this cohort. Home builders are already partnering with manufacturers and automation experts to create homes and communities that appeal to this generation. Standardization, de-risking the technology investment via software upgrades, and education about the financial and lifestyle benefits will also be key to driving adoption.