It is hard to imagine what futuristic homes will look like, or how to tailor property planning to technological innovations and the evolution of living spaces in upcoming decades, but investors who get on board now could see their return on investment triple. Here’s how.
In the last 10 years or so, the world has witnessed the rise of smart homes, with personified programs like Alexa making investors ponder if, or when, robots could become our live-in household maids – and if they could become as cool as Hollywood movies predicted.
It seems more likely that, rather than having robots whizzing around houses with vacuum cleaners, futuristic properties will become digitally controlled realms that perform various household duties on our behalf.
A spectrum of smart home brands and digitalised products are already colouring the global marketplace and have become relatively commonplace, while remaining expensive and confined to the world’s wealthier households.
It is difficult for investors – and even experienced architects – to understand the intricacies of integrating smart home systems properly and efficiently.
However, if they are done right, they can also make an investment profitable, according to managing director and systems designer at SMARTHOMEWORKS, Guy Holden.
“People might spend $50,000 on stuff that goes into their house, like intercom, pool control, sound, security, TVs [and] dimmers,” Mr Holden said.
“Now, if you do that with dumb stuff, it’s not really an investment, it’s sort of just to build it, so you’ll [lose] it. But if you spent that sort of money or upped it or tripled it, you could probably double or triple the value of the investment.”
However, this is dependent on where the house is located, who it is intended for, and the type of system that is integrated into the home.
It is equally important to ensure that the process of having smart home systems built into existing property is done correctly, using the correct brands and products, while having all of the electricals and dynamic details well documented.
How exactly can investors catch onto the wave of the internet of things and look to potentially triple their investment?
Mr Holden said some of the most common features of smart homes include: “structured cabling for television and internet around the house, smart lighting control, network equipment, access control... theatre or television, surround sound – and then whole-house controls”.
“You have one control system for everything, and there’s a cost-saving by doing that,” Mr Holden added.
Ideally, smart homes can be controlled through a single app using a smartphone or smartwatch, even if the user is in a distant country. They incorporate adjustable automation systems to change specific settings at scheduled times or dates.
Further, smart homes can change settings in scenarios that have been pre-determined by the user, by detecting when a setting is turned on and wasting energy, such as music playing in a room when nobody is home.
Tom Bunting, senior project leader at Smart Design Studio, said: “Instead of having 30 different switches to turn on a whole bunch of things, you have a switch plate that essentially sets up scenes in a room, so you can set your house to night mode for example and the lights dim, the air conditioning sets to a certain temperature… also controls music and blinds, etc.”
Adeleine Hooper, design manager at Crown Resorts, said: “That sort of thing (smart home system) is a really nifty thing to have. They can make a house greener and they have live systems that automatically turn off and that sort of thing.”
Smart homes may not be necessary for certain properties or locations, such as low-income neighbourhoods where renters or buyers cannot afford extra expenses, including the luxury of a smart home for increased rent.
On the other hand, Ms Hooper explained: “If you’re renting out your property, then it depends on what kind of property it is, whether you’re wanting to rent out to executives or someone like that, then smart homes and those sort of things are an almost need-to-have.”
In some cases, when aiming to increase the value of a home to make a sale, choosing to invest in a smart home could be a colossal mistake.
Ms Hooper added: “If you’re doing a really simple rental, they’ll probably end up causing more problems in the long run.”
“Smart home systems are more of a really nice-to-have and can require a high level of maintenance and technological know-how.”
According to Mr Holden, smart homes can generate a great deal of value in modern homes, but only if investors seek professional guidance from start to finish.
In order to have a smart home system in a house, it basically “requires what modern wiring should entail in a house,” Mr Holden added.
He continued: “There’s usually quite a bit that varies from electrical contractors, because an architect designed it and has no idea how to design electricals… otherwise it is very hard to maintain.”
It is highly recommended that investors employ a professional to document every step of the rewiring process, providing instructions on how the system works and is gridded throughout the property. Otherwise, future buyers and electricians may have no idea how to make repairs or upgrades.
“We’ve done some houses in the eastern suburbs that someone five or 10 years go has put in some… smart electronics,” Mr Holden added. “We’ve gone in there and redocumented the house, done a survey of the house, just so the real estate can sell it.”
He continued: “The electrical contract could cost double the amount it would usually cost to wire the house… if the buyer has no instructions [for them] in the first place.”
Using known common brands of equipment is important, so consumer-recognisable mainstream brands. Otherwise, investors could end up with highly problematic, inefficient and unmaintainable systems that could repel buyers when it’s time to sell.
According to Mr Holden, there are smart home packages for apartments and townhouses, for investors that are building to sell, and for owner-occupiers building their own futuristic family home.
According to Mr Bunting: “Smart homes are kind of a whole other industry now that’s kind of separate from design. Because I work for a more high-end architectural firm, it’s kind of a need-to-have.”
Despite the fact that housing developments and refurbishments are heading in a digitalised direction, it could be unwise for many investors to prioritise them at present.
Ms Hooper concluded: “I suppose if the idea of developing your property is to rent it out, then you wouldn’t go to high-end finishes and fine detail, or the luxury of smart home systems. You would pick things that have less detail and luxury to them, but look nice and function well long term.”