Market a Smart Home Smartly

Don't focus on all the bells and whistles. Market the features of a smart home that appeal to a wide audience.

July 16, 2014

Soon it will be possible to send a text to your refrigerator asking if you’re running low on milk. The fridge will text you back based on what the appliance’s built-in camera reveals. Already, you can pull up the weather forecast on your stovetop and light your fireplace with a simple voice command.

These are just a few of the technological advances that can be found now (or likely will soon show up) in smart homes, which enable Internet-connected home appliances and systems to be more complementary with 21st-century lifestyles. But here’s the challenge for real estate pros: How do you know which of this gadgetry is most appealing to buyers? Do you highlight the texting refrigerator over the tweeting washing machine (which lets you know when a load is done)? Does the stovetop-turned-meteorologist offer a strong marketing hook or seem too gimmicky?

You just can’t know which smart-home features will entice a buyer most. “It’s a personal choice for what you need it to do and what you’re willing to spend,” says Mike Prince, an agent with Equity Results Real Estate in American Fork, Utah.

That’s why, some real estate pros say, it’s best to strip your marketing down to the basics of what a smart home has to offer. Don’t try to talk up all of its features, but rather zero in on the functions that are most likely to appeal to the widest audience.

The most popular advancements aren’t even the newest inventions. They involve security, heating and cooling, and lighting—areas that virtually all buyers will pay attention to.

Remote Access to Security Cameras

Tanya Starcevich, an agent with Keller Williams in Los Angeles, has many clients who travel a lot. For that reason, she says, they want to be able to monitor their homes from long distances—even internationally.

Starcevich sold a $3 million home in Malibu, Calif., with a number of smart features. Owners would be able to search the Internet on big-screen TVs as well as close and lock doors with the touch of a button. “But the biggest point that I stressed was the controlled security access from anywhere in the world,” she says. The home’s security cameras could be viewed via a mobile device. “The house was essentially accessible any day, any time. It’s a huge selling point.”

Smart Temperature Control

Smart green features are in high in demand. Matt Walker, an agent with Haring Realty in Mansfield, Ohio, says what’s always at the top of his smart-home buyers’ lists is a smart thermostat. He’s found the most popular to be the Nest Thermostat, which programs itself based on the user’s temperature preferences, adjusting itself once a home owner has left to avoid unnecessary heating or cooling of an empty house. The Nest can also be controlled from a smartphone and shows your home’s energy usage through the app or website.

Mike Karras, senior sales associate at William Raveis Real Estate in Yarmouth Port, Mass., sold a smart home to a family who spent a lot of time on their houseboat. “They loved the remote access to their home from their boat if they wanted to turn the fireplace on or turn the heat up—or turn it off if they decided to stay on the boat that night.”  

Lights On, Lights Off

Most practitioners say automated lighting is a major selling point for smart-home buyers. Being able to turn lights on and off from a smartphone is a particular draw for clients who travel away from home for long periods. For example, Starcevich’s clients, who travel internationally, can turn their lights on from anywhere in the world to make the home appear occupied while they are gone.

Graham Wood
Executive Editor of Digital Media

Graham Wood is Executive Editor of Digital Media for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at