You find the home of your dreams. It is a perfect fit for your family, the kitchen is spacious with professional grade appliances, the master suite looks like a high-end room in a luxurious spa, and the living area opens into the backyard creating an indoor/outdoor area to entertain. But, you are hesitating to buy it because it is a smart home. Buying a smart home is the same as any other home, with a few exceptions.
Today, most smart home systems are not installed by the construction company that built the home. They are installed by specialized integrators or by the homeowners themselves. So, while the architectural plans for the home are all registered with the local government offices, documentation on the smart systems in the home are not. And, depending on who installed the smart home technology in the home, the documentation can vary from excellent to non-existent. Here are three keys to making sure the transition into your smart home is smooth.
Request All Smart Home Documentation
If you are buying a smart home the first thing to do is to request a copy of the smart home documentation. This should include:
- Documents showing all low-voltage wiring installed in the home (speaker wires, wires that carry control signals to TVs and other electronic equipment, wires for distribution of video signals, etc.)
- Documents showing all the electronic components that make up the smart home system and how the wiring connects these components together
- Documents that show all the networking components, how these components are connected to each other, and how all the smart home equipment connects to the network (wired or wirelessly)
- Documents that show all the configuration settings for equipment so that if one piece of equipment needs to be replaced, the replacement can be configured to work seamlessly into the smart home system. Simple backups of configuration settings are not enough. If, for example, a router fails a few years down the road, in all probability the original hardware will be out of production and a different make/model router will be installed. The backup file probably won’t be able to be loaded into this new router to configure it to the necessary settings.
In addition to the above documentation you will need backup copies of all the programming that runs the smart home system. Depending on the type of smart home system installed this can be a challenge. If the smart home system is from one of the professionally installed manufacturers (Crestron, Control4, Savant, AMX) then the current homeowner, or the company that installed the system, shouldn’t have a problem providing this. However, if the system was installed by the homeowner and runs off a smart home hub then the software is most likely stored in the cloud and getting a backup may not be possible.
Change All Usernames/Passwords
Next, you will want to get all the username/passwords associated with system. New homeowners always hire a locksmith to change all the locks in a home they purchase so it is secure. You will want to change the registration of the equipment so email notifications from manufacturers go to you, instead of the previous homeowners. Smart home products are all computers and, like any computer, there are software updates and patches that need to be applied. It doesn’t do you any good if the emailed notification of an important patch never reaches you because the manufacturer doesn’t have your email address.
Passwords are as important to change as the locks in the home. For example, having an app on your smart phone that lets you remotely control the house is a great feature, but the prior owners’ kids may have the same app, may enjoy opening and closing shades, or turning on lights in the middle of the night; just for fun.
Know the Installers
Finally, if the systems in the home were professionally installed, then you should be provided with the names of the companies that installed them. These companies know that the smart home system in the home is going to require maintenance and repairs over time; just like other systems in any home. They should be willing to meet with you and walk you through everything in the home, as part of a sales call, to build a relationship with you. They can be a great resource as you have to update the registration of products, make changes to the systems in the home so it matches your needs, and even teach you how to operate it.
If the smart home systems in the home were installed by the homeowner, then they should be willing to walk you through the system, explain how the overall system works, and teach you how to operate it. As part of the house sale process they should also work with you to update the registration of smart products. Unless they followed the suggestions I made in the article “Planning to Sell Your Smart Home? How Will It Work for the New Owner?”, this can be a challenge. For example, if the home includes a SmartThings hub, then changing the registration of the hub will wipe out all configuration information and programming. The current homeowner will need to reconfigure the hub after this is done to get the systems in the home operational again.
A smart home can be convenient and fun to live in. It can also, if designed for it, save your family money on utility bills. Unfortunately, at this point in time, home inspectors that will tell you all about the condition of the plumbing, heating/air-conditioning, and everything else in your home aren’t typically knowledgeable in smart home systems. Because of this you need to perform your own due diligence to make sure you have a system that is maintainable, secure, and is configured to work for your family in the years to come.