10 smart home features buyers actually want
More homebuyers are starting to think snagging a "smart home" is a smart move.
Where smart home features were once considered a fringe benefit, more buyers are demanding them, and agents are taking notice.
A recent survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate showed that nearly two-thirds of its agents have found that homebuyers are more interested in homes with smart features and technology than they were just two to five years ago.
Travis Gray, a sales associate affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Annapolis, Maryland, said he believes this trend will continue gaining popularity and will eventually become the new norm.
"I equate it to stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops," Gray said. "Ten years ago it was great if you had them but it wasn't expected. But now you have to have them -- it's expected. And if homeowners don't have those features, they're installing them to sell their homes at a better price."
His best guess is that many homebuyers will consider smart home features standard within the next three to seven years.
But for many homeowners, it's one thing to say buyers want "smart features" and another to figure out which ones are really worth it. With that in mind, Coldwell Banker took a look at what was hot at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show, then it cross-referenced specific smart home products with its findings about what homebuyers prefer and came up with a list of the trendiest items.
"These smart home features can basically be broken down into three different buckets," Gray said. "They're either for practical and functional use, for lifestyle and entertainment, or for safety and security."
According to Gray, homeowners should have at least three smart home features -- ideally performing a diverse series of functions -- before they can reasonably market their properties as a "smart homes."
Click ahead to see 10 smart home features buyers actually want.
LG Studio Collection
South Korean tech company LG Electronics has a premium collection of smart kitchen appliances that could make a house more functional (and therefore more appealing) for buyers, according to Coldwell Banker. The full stainless-steel line includes refrigerators, cooktops, ranges and ovens, dishwashers and microwaves, several of which come with the Energy Star seal of approval. Smart features include LED touchscreen displays, microwave sensor cooking and gourmet recipe banks in two of the ovens.
Nest Learning Thermostat
Gray said this Learning Thermostat is possibly his favorite new smart home technology to hit the market. Tech site CNET also listed it among the best smart home features of the year.
The system, created by the California-based company Nest, can be controlled by a smartphone and programmed to learn a homeowner's daily routine and adjust the home's temperature accordingly. It also has sensors that keep track of whether a home is empty, and it can use less energy while no one is there. According to Coldwell Banker, the feature can really make a buyer's ears perk up because in addition to its novelty, it could also save some serious cash. Nest claims it can lower an owner's heating and cooling bills by up to 20 percent.
Lutron Caséta Wireless
Need a reason to consider investing in an automated lighting system? Having a secured property can be very important to some buyers -- and with good reason.
"I had a client come back from a business trip, and all the lights were off in her house," Gray said. "She walked up and found someone trying to break in. That scared her to the point where she started thinking about having a home with a smart security system, monitoring system, automatic lighting. She wanted to be able to turn on the lights from her phone so she didn't have to come into a dark house."
The Caséta Wireless system, by Pennsylvania-based Lutron Electronics, is an automated way to control not only a home's lighting but also the position of its shades and temperature. It works via an app that can be used on a smartphone, tablet or smartwatch.
Sengled Pulse Smart Bulb
The Pulse Smart Bulb, by the Chinese company Sengled, is part entertainment device and part functional lighting system. According to Coldwell Banker, it created a lot of buzz at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. Since more diverse smart features mean more selling points for homeowners, according to Gray, this could be a great investment for people looking to kill two birds with one stone.
Each lightbulb contains a hidden speaker that plays music wirelessly. The bulbs can be screwed directly into existing light sockets and controlled via an app that works on personal smart devices.
LG Mega-Capacity French-Door Refrigerator
LG makes its second appearance on this list with the stainless steel Mega-Capacity French-Door Refrigerator. It's called "mega-capacity" for a reason: The appliance is the largest French-door refrigerator available, according to the company, at 33 cubic feet. Considering its size and features designed to give food a longer life, like a smart cooling system that can sense humidity levels, this fridge would probably be best suited for a larger family home.
Generation X is the top buying group interested in smart home technology, according to Coldwell Banker, and a group that's very likely to have children at home, said Gray. If an owner is trying to sell a family house fast, this buy-in-bulk smart refrigerator could be a great selling point.
This alarm system, created by Silicon Valley startup iSmart Alarms, allows homeowners to keep an eye on their property from anywhere -- without paying the monthly fees that are often attached to traditional security systems. Given that 62 percent of buyers are interested in controlling their home technology through their smartphones or tablets, according to the Coldwell Banker survey, homeowners should keep an eye on tech that appeals to this market if they ever plan to sell.
The iSmart Alarm system comes with window sensors, door sensors, motion detectors and cameras that are all connected wirelessly. Users can control the system via an app that also has the option to monitor and control a home's lighting, thermostat and smoke detectors.
First Alert OneLink
Here's a smart safety system of products so new that some of them haven't hit the market: It's called OneLink, and it was created by the Illinois-based security company First Alert. The entire suite of products -- including Wi-Fi smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, a smartwatch, smart tracker for personal items like keys, a Wi-Fi safe and a Wi-Fi programmable thermostat -- are all compatible with Apple's HomeKit system and can be controlled via iPhone.
According to Coldwell Banker, 48 percent of homebuyers are most interested in smart home technology related to safety. These OneLink products could be a good investment in an area of tech that appeals to a large number of people shopping for a smart home.
Iris Smart Kit
Coldwell Banker recommends snagging the Iris Safe and Secure Kit, backed by the home improvement giant Lowe's, to give your home a smart upgrade. According to CNET, the home management system is a descendant of the U.K.-based AlertMe -- a similar product that also has Lowe's backing. Users can control the kit's contact and motion sensors from a smartphone, tablet or computer, and are notified if anything out of the ordinary happens. It also comes with a keypad and wireless hub. While it's a DIY, self-installed, self-monitored system, paid service package upgrades are available for people who want extra features like the ability to preset security schedules.
Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock
The Kevo Smart Lock, created by the California-based lock company Kwikset, might make it easier for homeowners to sell their properties in more ways than one. Not only are homebuyers interested in smart home technology related to security, but this product could actually make it easier for a real estate agent to sell a home.
Like the locks on many new car models, this system is keyless. Instead, a user's smartphone acts as a sort of key fob and all he or she needs to do is tap the lock. For sellers, Coldwell Banker noted, that means it's possible to grant access to real estate agents (or housecleaners or neighbors) for designated periods of time without giving them a physical key that could get lost or stolen.
Vizio 60-inch P-Series Smart TV
Most homeowners don't leave their TVs behind when they sell, but maybe more should consider it. According to Gray, Millennial buyers are more likely to be interested in smart entertainment and lifestyle features than their Gen X counterparts. Since this generation seems to finally be entering the market, accounting for 32 percent of all home purchases last year, according to the National Association of Realtors, having a smart TV may get more of them interested in a property down the line.
This 60-inch smart TV, by the California-based electrics company Vizio, allows users to stream video content from services like Netflix, cable and satellite providers, Blu-ray players and smartphones.