To Automate or Not To Automate?

That is the question 


The first smart homes started to appear less than 20 years ago. That means home automation industry is still very young and there is too much uncertainties about it. There maybe so many questions in our minds on how much we should educate ourselves on smart home automation and invest on it through our projects, however one thing is clear: this train is speeding up and anyone in construction market who does not get on this train will fall behind. “The growth of the smart homes market in the coming years is expected to be high with the market size estimated to reach $58.68 billion by 2020, at an estimated CAGR of 17% from 2015 to 2020.”


Again the main question is how much should one invest on smart home automation in a project? To answer that, we have to take a look at homeowners perspective. With level of education a buyer has today, they will not necessarily be fooled by some shiny touch screen in the house. Buyers are looking for comfort and peace of mind. If they get to believe your automation system is simple enough and powerful enough to give them that peace of mind, then they will pay for it.



What Part of Smart Home Excites Buyers to Pay More?


The only reason why home automation is growing so fast is because it makes life simpler at home or office. When homeowners learn with press of a “Good Night” button beside their bed, All lights go off, TVs and speakers shut down, security goes to stay mode and doors are locked, they would not hesitate pay the bucks for comfort. Just think of the mother of the house who goes through so much trouble to play a song in kitchen. She would love her “Cooking Mode” button in the kitchen.


You can only get buyers pay more by providing value. In home automation this value is the functions an integrator can provide. The simpler the interface of your smart home is, the easier a buyer will relate to it. And NO, they won’t pay for an app on their iPad which they will never use because it is not appealing enough.


Some builders have questions about energy savings provided by home automation systems. Yes, we could talk about energy management benefits of a smart home and how the lifestyle along with energy conservation of smart devices will save on bills. However, there are not many homeowners who are focusing on how much their smart home will save them at the end of month as these systems are still considered as luxury add ons. Although as far as sales presentation goes, green homes and energy saving homes sound very appealing and of course competitive.


Fine, but how much investment is it worth?

Every average custom home being built these days, has to have some sort of automation along to compete with others in market.  We all know budget is always a concern in construction projects when it gets to innovation and added values. In well-established trades from excavation and framing to plumbing and HVAC, because experienced developers have a clear understanding of job details, they can make a deal on price while supervising quality of work. Building codes also ensure minimum standards of particular trader. This would help builders protect their reputation and hopefully happy home owner brings them another project.


But unfortunately the story is very risky in home automation. Lack of knowledge due to very younge age of smart homes and of course lack of building codes has allowed some low voltage traders take advantage of this dilemma. They sell an off the shelf package to builders and label it as smart home. The rough-in for these packages do not follow any engineering fundamentals, simply because the low voltage trader does not have the technical knowledge. AND IT JUST WORKS because the builder does not have any tool to evaluate the job performed by the low voltage trader. Even buyers might enjoy the first impression of the systems installed, but once they move in and need to actually control their electronics; that is when your quality of work will be constantly questioned.


There are enough experienced smart home designers like ARSO in GTA to chose from. Never go with a general labour who would ruin your long term reputations. 50% of home automation is the right rough-in design for proper integration.


Budget recommendation for smart homes.


So having all that said, how much budget should you delegate to home automation for your next project? We have a guideline for you based on inputs from 30 builders and 5 smart home designers. You budget is proportional to  scale of your project.


1. Communities and homes under $1.5M

If you are building a project to sell under $1.5M, advanced home automation systems won't bring you that much of profit. Best thing to do for these projects is to consider a reliable low voltage trader who can design and implement a proper rough-in. The most common mistake developers make in these projects is that they only shop for price. Unfortunately there are many low voltage traders out there who cut corners even on basic cablings behind drywalls. Not to mention they might not have a clear understanding of homeowner needs as they only do pre-construction works and run away. Try to avoid these kinds. Be sure if someone is doing a job a lot cheaper than some others, you are probably getting a lot less.


But to have a solid yet expandable low voltage system that includes a complete security system, 4ch surveillance camera, 4~5 zones of audio speakers, TV cabling, phone and network wires, you should consider paying anywhere from $6000 to $8000 for homes under 3500 SF.



2. Custom homes with minimal budget,

With real estate prices exponentially growing in GTA, especially in willowdale, builders have been pushed towards bringing values to homes to compete in the growing market. Yet we understand budget is always a concern when you are not building for an existing client. On one hand you need to keep your expenditure as low as possible, on the other hand you can’t avoid including an automation system for $2M~$3M home. To address this concern, ARSO has prepared presentation packages which focuses on impressing potential buyers yet keeping expenses low. These packages start from $8000.


For such projects you should dedicate a budget of $10k to $12k. This money should give you complete low voltage rough in including security system, surveillance (4~6 cameras + recording device),  network, phone and TV drops along with a minimal lighting automation and perhaps an inwall touch screen that show cases possibilities and future expansions. In this level of low voltage rough-in developers have to make sure there are enough cables at TV locations and critical spots of the house for home automation expansion for homeowner. Also every single cable including all speaker wires should come to control room.



3. High end homes over 3M

Third category is when a builder is building a house over $3M. A buyer who pays 5 or 10 million for a home, is probably looking for convenient and an added value. Average budget builder’s dedicate to our services for this scale is $15k~$20k. If there is home owner involved from day 1, an average project cost of $30k to $60k is estimated for the start.


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