Smart Technology

Opportunities set for builders get dealers knocking at the front door

Traditionally, homebuyers have been most interested in modern kitchens or high-tech home features. And for most homebuyers, a lock was just that… a lock. Today, however, both homebuyers and homebuilders are seeing locks a little differently. With the increasing popularity and affordability of home automation technology, smart electronic locks are nearing the top tier of features that entice buyers. With that comes a lucrative opportunity for security dealers, at least for those who are willing to reinvent themselves.

What’s the buzz?

The top two buzzwords among savvy homebuilders are arguably “green” and “digital.”

Green homes are all about energy efficiency and saving money in a way that makes homebuyers feel they’re making a positive contribution to the planet. There’s an increasingly popular and ever-growing list of devices that manage and monitor energy consumption. Skylights that let natural light shine into a great room, office or play room are becoming a hot addition in many new developments, while geothermal heating systems are on the cusp of taking off. Ultimately, customers feel like they can afford “more home” when they’re saving money on electricity on a daily basis.

The digital home, with automation devices and a central control system, is right behind the green home in terms of industry buzz and consumer excitement. Digital homes are more than just appealing as they deliver interoperability of home electronics from control panels, or often from the home electronics themselves, in ways that enhance security, convenience, comfort and overall livability. In digital homes, devices like alarms, lighting, thermostats and entertainment systems, as well as locks, all communicate with each other to provide maximum control, along with a trail of information.

Earlier versions of home automation systems were viewed as complicated and expensive because, in most cases, they were. They were an installer’s dream, though, responsible for racking up many man-hours of wiring and connection work. But in recent years, these networked systems have become easier to install and use, even for the do-it-yourselfer, more modular for adapting to changing needs and, perhaps most importantly, more affordable.

In fact, one of the most sought-after elements of today’s digital home among homebuyers is the electronic lock. This is a dramatic change from the days when the primary competitive advantages for a door lock were quality, style, finish and price.

Evolutionary Advantages

Over the last five to six years, there have been huge, technological advances in the world of door locks, each of which has increased the value of locks as an effective home sales tool.

  • Re-key technology provides homeowners the flexibility to change access to their own locks quickly and easily, without having to remove the locks from the door.
  • Electronic locks take the key and the possibility of losing it or having it stolen out of the equation altogether. Enter a personal code with just a few simple button pushes, and homeowners can enter their house. Temporary codes can be assigned to select individuals, granting access for a specific length of time.
  • With smart locks and home connectivity technology, locks can wirelessly talk with other devices within a home, while homeowners remotely communicate with and control their lock.

Most homebuilders recognize that the ability to control home electronics from the front door and grant home access from anywhere in the country, or even the world, is a significant selling tool.

For Smart Builders and Sealers, Smart Locks are the Future

Are builders getting more comfortable with these new electronic locks as well as the increasingly-sophisticated, home automation systems? If they are not yet, they likely will be soon.

The builder’s number one focus is building a house that people want to live in, at the right price. While it’s true that some builders are less welcoming when it comes to change, almost all builders want a competitive advantage. When price and location are similar, most builders welcome any element that will make the home more appealing than other choices.

For security dealers, the trend of attracting homebuyers with new technology, especially smart homes in general and electronic locks in particular, represents a new and major business opportunity.

Until recently, builders looked to dealers, installers and integrators for relatively low-level work, specifically pre-wiring for low-voltage, security electronics, expecting that work to be performed free of charge. The dealer may have converted homebuyers at a later date by selling and installing security products that would hook up to this pre-wiring, but it was never a guarantee.

For dealers wanting to form or strengthen existing relationships with builders, though, this was a necessary, but relatively unattractive task. Security dealers were somewhat taken for granted by builders, which caused tension. The builder often harbored a mindset that said, “If you don’t want to do the pre-wiring, the next dealer will.”

However, the advent of advanced technology, including electronic locks, changes the playing field. Builders are in need of a partner who can educate them and deliver this advanced technology, not to mention service it. Dealers need to reinvent themselves as technology providers rather than just security providers. In doing so, the dealer becomes a value-added partner to the builder, who in turn becomes more valuable to the potential homebuyer.

The wide array of wireless products makes it simpler and cheaper for the dealer to participate in this arena. And, for aggressive security dealers willing to slightly change their business model, opportunity is knocking very loudly at the front door.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Keith Brandon is the director of residential access solutions with Spectrum Brands’ HHI division.

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