Smart home technology: which systems are worth the investment?

Amanda-lamb-smart-home-specialistTV personality and UK property expert Amanda Lamb talks about the latest smart technology for the home and things buyers are now looking for in their new homes.

The latest Barclays Mortgages Digital Homes Report highlights a real shift in how people want their homes to save them money and time. The research found that some people would even forego a garden if it meant they could have access to a faster internet connection, which I think represents a change in people’s lives, as, nowadays, everything is instant. For example, around four-million people work from home and rely on having access to reliable internet connection, plus families now enjoy streaming TV via services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, so a strong connection is key to enjoying life at home and entertainment systems.

We’re now so used to having everything instantly, that investing in home technology to make sure this is possible is key. Smart home technology also is a key feature when buying and selling a house and something I get asked about more and more when showing prospective buyers a property. One of the things people always ask me is what the broadband speed is, suggesting a shift in the types of homes people want to live in.

What is driving people to adopt new technologies?

The main reasons, in my opinion, are to make life easier and to save money. Technology can make a home more comfortable and efficient, which in turn will save money on energy bills. Systems such as smart heating controls (try Hive by British Gas or Nest) allow you to control zones within your house and let you warm up a space ready for when you need to use it, helping to reduce the amount of energy wasted by heating unused rooms.

Is practicality key when investing in gadgets and smart systems?

Systems which offer peace-of-mind and save money are what most homeowners are looking for. Those such as smart heating controls to monitor how much gas and electricity is used are among the most popular and worthwhile additions to a home, while security systems, fast broadband, and USB power sockets are also in high demand. Gimmicky items, such as app-controlled kettles and ovens, are not making as much of an impact because the practical element isn’t so strong, and there is no real time or money-saving benefit.

Has the rising cost of energy bills affected the uptake of home technology?

Definitely. The cost of living nowadays is so much more than it was, so any way to reduce the amount you’re spending on powering your home is hugely beneficial and a real selling point for smart technologies – especially those that control heating and lighting.

What other things should you look out for?

Think about how easy the product is to use. Manufacturers really need to think about making operation as simple of possible as there are some people who are really tech-minded and love their gadgets, but there are a lot of people who would like to invest in the latest solutions but want them to be simple to operate and easy to understand. I am definitely in the latter crowd – I really want super smart features in my home, but most of the time I don’t know what to do with them, so it has to be simple.

Will it add value to a property?

When thinking about adding value to a property, one of the most important things to consider is what’s going to make your house stand out from the crowd. If your house has solar panels that have proven to save money on bills each year, you have smart heating controls already installed, and a security camera inside and out, your house is more likely to stand out compared to a house that doesn’t have any of those features. A buyer will be much more inclined to invest in a property that is already equipped with smart features, simply so that they don’t have to install them themselves. USB sockets as standard fittings will fast become part of everyday living and people will look out for these in a property.

What’s the first thing to invest in if you haven’t got smart technology already?

Everyone is different, so the approach you take when thinking of which smart technology to buy must be personal. Work out what works for you and the needs you have in everyday life – whether you need instant access to the internet all day, want to charge devices via USB ports, or if you’d like to feel more in control of how much energy you use. Personally, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen-diner and I love music, so one of the first technologies I bought when I remodelled my space was a built-in Sonos speaker system, which is allows me to zone where music is played. It’s a case of working out what works well for you first and then see which systems are available within your budget.

Are there any other systems to consider?

One of the most interesting findings of the Barclays report is that solar panels are the technology people are most likely to pay extra for when buying a house. This suggests that the panels, which have previously held a bit of a bad reputation for being unattractive, are definitely worth considering. Technology has advanced so much now that you can get solar panels that look like roof tiles, so they blend in, so not only do you have a good bit of tech to help generate your own power, but its something that will save you money.

What should you consider when choosing the right technology system for you?

I’d recommend getting expert advice from local suppliers as to what will work best in your space, and do plenty of research online. There will always be the bigger and the better gadget and there will most likely be new a model released soon after you’ve just invested in a system, but the key is to find a system that works for you and one you find simple to use. Look for systems that have longevity and will benefit you financially – saving money on bills and adding value to your home – such as smart heating controls, solar panels, security systems and super-fast broadband. Choose practical fittings that will make a real difference to you and your home and always think about what will be attractive to prospective buyers should you ever want to sell your house.

Article kindly shared by Real Homes Magazine. Photography: Hive; iStock

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