Tech out your house to beat the competition

How can I make my house stand out from all the other homes on the market?

In a crowded home-selling market, making your home stand out from the competition is key -- and it can be done.

Buyers usually see dozens of homes over the span of several days, and even with notes and photos, those tours can start to blur. During one of my clients’ last house hunt, we saw so many two-story, four-bed, two-and-a-half bath or three-bath homes with two-car garages in newer subdivisions (less than ten years old), it was hard to remember one house from another. We started to 'label' each home with a short description that would help us remember which was which, such as:

  • The boring but very clean house
  • The great backyard house
  • The hardwood floor house

How would you label your home? How about "the cool technology house"?

Technology is hot, and incorporating it in your home is a great way to stand out and increase the perceived value of your home.  It also doesn’t hurt to increase security and ease of use.

Before you go tech-crazy with your home, it's important to keep a few things in mind:

  • A few hundred dollars spent on tech products will probably not make a multi-million dollar home stand out.
  • Overspending on a starter or mid-priced home might differentiate it from the competition, but you will probably not recuperate the cost.
  • For most of these products, I've found that it is very important to instruct your real estate agent on how to demonstrate them and leave short concise direction in an obvious place. I recommend that you leave the instructions on the kitchen countertop and use a large font that is easy to read.

Go Remote

Wow buyers with a home control and automation system. There are wireless systems for every budget and every use. Program it so the lights and heater are on before you enter the house. Set it so the lights turn on each night when you're away on vacation. For a few hundred dollars and a couple hours of your time, you can entice buyers with ultimate convenience and safety.

Intermatic InTouch sells a broad range of remote controllable lighting switches, dimmers and electrical outlets that use Zwave technology. Automate the lighting and electrical appliances in your home. If you don't want to wire the entire house, you can install an affordable lighting system like Lutron's AuraRa. And you'll never have to get out of the car or come home to a dark house with Wayne-Dalton's Zwave-enabled garage door opener.

Wireless Lighting Controls

Want your house to look like it came straight off of a newsstand for your open house? Many interior designers say dimmable lights best show off your home's assets.

Intermatic's InTouch line includes a wide range of remote-controllable lighting switches, dimmers and electrical outlets. With the master controller, you can set your lights to automatically turn on at dawn or dusk. The installation process is just as simple as installing a typical light switch or dimmer. The product is also part of the Zwave alliance, meaning that its technology is compatible with other wireless home technologies in the consortium.

Intermatic InTouch Wireless Controls, $40 for switches and dimmers, controllers start at $100

Install Flat Panel Televisions on the Walls

Flat TVs, both LCD and plasmas, have been around for a few years, but they still draw attention, particularly when they are mounted on a wall. Chief Manufacturing makes a wide variety of mounts for just about any type of TV and installation. Have an electrician install the cable TV jack (or other source) and an electrical outlet on the wall where you want to mount the TV. Make sure you have enough help to safely lift and support the TV while it is being attached to the wall. If you'd rather not hire an electrician, try Salamander Designs' Dyno Dynamic, a clever wall mount and wire concealment system. Your cables are hidden by a silver "spine."

Bring Music to Buyers' Ears

Your house will surely stand out with a multi-room digital sound system that lets you listen to the same or different music in various parts of the house. Aton makes switchers and speakers for whole-house audio. The company's DLA2RF can accept two sources, for example radio and CD, and distribute it to two rooms or zones. It has both an IR remote capability (infrared -- line of sight) and RF remote capability (radio frequency -- use the remote in another room or if the equipment is in a cabinet or closet). You can wire up to six rooms.

If you don't want to deal with installation and rewiring your home, try Sonos' wireless, multi-zone digital music system. The main unit has amplifiers for two speakers and the wireless transmitter. You need to connect powered speakers or an amplifier to the receiver.

If your home is wired for in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, show it off. Check out Boston Acoustics, which makes a full range of in-ceiling and in-wall speakers starting at $150 per pair.

Motorize the Window Coverings

Lutron's Sivoia QED is a line of motorized shades, blinds or drapes, which can really add the "Wow!" factor to make a home memorable. Press a button on a remote control and window coverings automatically open or close. Lutron even has accessories that will open or close the coverings at a specific time each day. The cost is about $1,000 per window.

Heat Up the Kitchen with a Television

Appeal to the aspiring chef in potential buyers with a high-end TV in your kitchen. Westinghouse's widescreen high-definition TV can stand on the countertop and or be mounted upside down under the cabinet so that it can be folded away, out of sight when it is not being used. It'll be available this spring in white and silver. What better way to follow along with your favorite Food Network chefs?

An installation trick: Mount the TV under a cabinet that is not too far away from the over-the-range microwave oven or microwave cabinet. There is usually a double socket electrical outlet hidden in a cabinet for the microwave. Install the TV under the cabinet, drill a whole large enough for the power cable in the underside of the cabinet and plug in the TV. Getting a cable signal to the set might be trickier, depending on your house.

Offer Security at Their Fingertips

Generate buzz about your home with Kwikset's Smart Scan Bio-Metric Door Lock, a deadbolt door lock that has a sensor beneath the lock cylinder. You can program the lock to read your fingertip (and up to 49 others) to unlock the door, or use a conventional key. And you can allow conditional access; for example, program the handyman's fingertip into the lock for only for one day. After that, he will be denied access.

Throw in Cool, Useful Gadgets

Ambient's 7-day Weather Forecaster is one of those cool products buyers will be talking about after the home tour. The device displays forecasts, the current temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, UV index and more. The backlight of the display even changes color to indicate the temperature: red when the outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees, blue for temperatures in the 30s, etc.

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