Home > SmartHome > Buying or selling a smarthome? Watch out for amnesia!

Buying or selling a smarthome? Watch out for amnesia!

Moving, 1988 - Richard Prior

With everyone, including Realtors talking about “smart homes” I’m not sure there’s anyone who’s involved in a home transaction who’s not aware that “smartness” is a compelling selling feature.

So much so, that the realtor company Coldwell Bankers teamed up with CNET a few months ago to define exactly “what a smart home is” – some criteria their members can use to decide whether your home is worthy of the title.

Simply, they define a smart home as one with internet-connected HVAC or security, plus something else, like connected lighting, audio, watering systems or safety systems.

Yes, a home with Sonos music and a Ring doorbell would be considered smart.

The problem is – much of the current generation of consumer smart technology is likely to be taken by the previous owner when they vacate.

Think about it – would you leave your music system behind? Or your plug-in-the-wall motion detector? In fact, it’s unlikely that owners of smart homes built on consumer devices would leave any of them behind – reminiscent of the 1988 Richard Prior movie “Moving” perhaps?

The home you viewed, with its clever smart tech, may be very dumb indeed when you move in.

This isn’t a problem with the more traditional “built in” smarthome technology like Crestron and Lutron, as it’s much harder to pick it up and move it – no one wants to replace all their wall switches etc. But with plug-in consumer devices, portability is one of the selling points.

Apart from the disappearance of devices themselves, there’s also the problem of vanishing rules and logic:

Typical consumer smart home systems like Samsung SmartThings rely on personal accounts and lots of setup – widgets and rules etc. Even if someone leaves their hardware behind, unless they hand over their personal user id and password, you’re going to have to “re-invent” your home automation all over again.

All the great “experiences” stop working without the integration rules.

Apple Homekit and Google Onhub products are even more challenging since they rely on your personal Apple/Google account which may also handle phones, email, calendar and other sensitive information – you’re very much unlikely to have someone leave their personal email address in your control so you can turn the bathroom light on.

Without the programming and setup – a smart home looses all its intelligence – all the exciting experiences, like automated lighting and security no longer work.

My advice to buyers, sellers and people getting into smarthome:

Buyers – Know what conveys with the home – what hardware, and more importantly whether the accounts and rules are transitioning as is. Ensure your contract states the experiences you expect to still function when you move in so you don’t end up with a collection of gadgets you don’t know how to configure

Sellers – Decide in advance what you’re leaving behind – don’t get too attached to your widgets, they can always be replaced with newer versions. Make sure you’re in a position to hand over the access credentials for everything you’re leaving, and make sure you sanitize the personal data. This might require you to set up your whole home again if you integrated the devices and your personal accounts together.

Just Getting into smarthome? Remember that at some point you might move – so depersonalize your home IT. Most smart devices require some form of email-based authentication, so consider creating a “home email account” like number.zip@google.com, and register all your smart home apps against it. Then at least you won’t cross over your personal details with your smarthome infrastructure.

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