Smart Homes & REALTORS – What do you know?

Smart Home Survey Featured Image

We’re really excited to write today about our new survey, which highlights the emerging technology needs of our membership and our work. We’re kicking things off with our first survey for CRT Labs: the  Smart Homes &REALTORS® Survey. This is an insightful look into what our members and their clients know about smart home technology and where we can help you learn and grow your business in the smart home space.

Member Interest in Smart Home Tech

One of the most exciting things we see in the survey is the amount of interest members have in smart devices and how they can use them in their business. Based on our data, it is not just new and young agents who are interested in this technology, but more seasoned members of the REALTOR® population. A prime example of this is seen in this question about interest in an NAR Smart Home Certification.

A percentage based bar graph gauging interest of NAR members in an NAR smart home certification. 42% of those surveyed are interested, 22% are not interested and 36% don't know if they are interested.

What we note is that almost half of those surveyed were interested in a certification program. The characteristics of those interested in a certification are surprising to me in a good way. Looking at the median experience, hours of work, and age, we see that members working full-time and near the overall median member age of 54 are interested in this type of certification; this type of certification appears valuable to industry veterans.

When we move to the second tier of characteristics and break down interest by years of experience, we see that over half of those who say they are interested in a certification had more than 16 years of experience. We also see that members aged 55 and up are very interested in this type of certification.

Currently, NAR does not offer such a certification or designation – but, if you are interested in gaining some knowledge on smart home tech and energy efficiency (and I suggest you consider it because younger buyers are very interested in these features), NAR does have the GREEN designation, with a section on smart home technology and advantages to clients with respect to energy efficiency as part of this designation. Also, if you are interested in getting a better handle on the terms and concepts behind smart home technology, check out our smart home glossary and our internet of things FAQ.

Client Interest in Smart Home Tech

One of the big reasons for NAR members to understand this technology is because your clients will be interested in what these devices can offer them.

Client Interest by Type

These responses are insightful, and confirm that security and privacy are top priorities for clients. Concerns around these two topics have been evident for a while and have become hot topics since the Mirai attacks. Start with our Smart Home Checklist (509 downloads) to help clients with these concerns. What is surprising to me is that comfort remains in the middle of the pack as far as importance of functionality goes. That’s typically been a big selling point for these devices. If you look at the “Very Important” slice by itself, you get the top 5 in this order:

  • Security 51%
  • Privacy 45%
  • Cost Savings 44%
  • Energy Savings 42%
  • Comfort 38%

When you combine the “Very Important” numbers with the “Somewhat Important” column, the functions shift:

  • Security 81%
  • Energy Savings 78%
  • Cost Savings 77%
  • Privacy 75%
  • Comfort 71%

Energy Savings and Privacy swap places. I’m not declaring anything definitive here, just highlighting an unexpected shift. Privacy moves down the list and Energy Savings rise. It’s not a huge difference between that and Cost Savings, but could be an indicator of future importance for these areas. We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

For us, another interesting function-related finding was that Air Quality rated low. My personal opinion is that this will shift in the coming years as more devices and projects become available and consumers are more aware of the impact that air quality has on comfort and energy efficiency. This is a vertical we are going after with our Rosetta Home and PiAQ projects. Air quality will be key in the function of a smart home. We envision a home that reacts and self-regulates to keep you comfortable and safe. These metrics from air quality will inform decisions made by your house.

What You Can Do

So what can you take from this report and use in your business today? Well, a lot! First, the most surprising graph to me:


According to this, only 2% of you have given a smart home device as a closing gift. Most likely there are a few reasons for this:

  • Not understanding what’s on market
  • Cost
  • Concerns around privacy and security

Definitely start thinking about the potential of these devices, which are available at a variety of price points, as gifts. First, you can consult our gift guides here:

You can also look at our thermostat tear sheet for more options. Giving these devices as closing gifts are a way to keep the conversation going after closing. These devices last beyond a bottle of champagne and have the potential to offer improved living for homeowners. There is an opportunity for marketing yourself in a much different way.

In Closing

I wanted to close by saying that there is a lot for us here to work with to offer opportunities for you to help clients navigate the emerging smart home space. Smart home tech is here to stay for these reasons:

  1. Devices are becoming cheaper and more feature-rich.
  2. Security for these devices is becoming more important.
  3. Other verticals (utilities and insurance among them) are paying attention and penetrating the market with offerings.

Knowing what you’re interested in, combined with the ever-changing tech world, helps us at CRT Labs with our primary goals: to educate, innovate, and advocate for the future of technology and real estate.

CRT Labs Gift Guide 2016, Day Two

Yesterday, we took a look at some tech gifts under $100 to give this holiday season. Today, we’re going to recommend some of our favorite devices priced from $100-199. As always, we recommend looking towards your favorite shopping destinations to find the best prices, especially during the sales-filled holiday season.


  1. Nanoleaf Aurora Smart Panel Kit, $199.99. Coming in at just $200 are these awesome LED panels. We’ve recommended a few smart bulbs in the past; what makes these unique is that they are designed to be a centerpiece, not just hidden under a lampshade. You configure them by snapping them to each other, and they’re easily reconfigurable by just moving them around. They’re controlled by an app or Siri, and also includes a regular controller for guests (or tech-averse) people to use. Soon they’ll also have support for Alexa and IFTTT.
  2. Google Home, $129. Google Home is a voice assistant, like the Amazon Echo, that integrates seamlessly with other Google products and services. You can play your Google Play Music through the included speaker, ask it to cast from YouTube to your Chromecast, control your lights, and more. While currently not as robust as the Alexa system, Google will be adding more support for devices over time. We love how the Google Home’s speaker sounds compared to the Echo, and we’re impressed that it can have contextual conversations. For example, you can ask “Hey Google, do the Blackhawks play today?” and then, after receiving that response, ask “Hey Google, what’s their record?” You can check out a demo of this on our Google Home Facebook Live Office Hours.
  3. Logitech Pop Switch Starter Kit, $99.99. Alright, so this is a penny under our $100 suggested retail price, but the Pop Switch is a really cool new smart home controller from Logitech. It’s a zero-UI interface, meaning there’s no screen – it’s a large button that allows you to control a large variety of smart devices (including Hue bulbs, the SmartThings hub, and Sonos speakers) with just a tap. And who doesn’t like popping bubble wrap? The Starter Kit comes with 2 Pop Switches and a bridge to control them.

CRT Labs Gift Guide 2016, Day One

Our annual gift guide is back, and today we’ll be looking at four of our favorite tech gifts for under $100. We’ll also be putting out guides for gifts between $100-199, and for over $200. We’re featuring a lot of great devices to get your smart homes started. Note that we’re using the suggested retail prices; you can search the Internet for better deals, especially during the holidays. It’s also good to note that some smart devices, like thermostats, might also be eligible for rebates through your utility or insurance companies – check their websites for more information.


  1. Jackery Bolt, $69.99. Chosen by the Wirecutter as their favorite USB battery pack, the Bolt is a great choice for on-the-go charging for your phone. It features both microUSB and Lightning cords, and the cords are attached so you don’t even have to worry about carrying both the battery pack and the cord. It charges quickly and is small and lightweight.
  2. Google Chromecast, $35. The Chromecast is a streaming media player for your TV. There are several competitors in the streaming device space, and we like the Chromecast for its ease-of-use, compatibility with almost any phone or computer, and for its integration with the new Google Home (a product we’ll feature in the $100-199 guide). It’s small enough to tuck behind your TV, and it’s portable so that you can bring it with you to use for presentations on any TV with an HDMI port. We use one in the lab all the time to cast from YouTube and Google Slideshow from our laptops.
  3. Amazon Echo Dot, $49.99. We recommended the Amazon Echo last year in our $100-199 guide, and we love its little sister the Dot. The Dot is a voice assistant powered by Amazon’s Alexa. To bring the size and cost down, Amazon has taken out the large speaker from the Echo, but if you want better quality sound, you can hook up any bluetooth speaker to the Dot. Alexa is learning new things all the time, both with more product support (such as a variety of lights, thermostats, and more) as well as a robust set of skills (voice controls).
  4. Philips Hue White Starter Kit, $69.99. Another recommended product from last year was the Philips Hue starter kit, which retails for around $200. If you want to start switching to smart lighting for less, and don’t need colored bulbs, this $70 kit is an great start. The kit comes with 2 bulbs and the Hue hub, and is compatible with any Hue bulb (there are even some third party bulbs that will work with Hue – check for a “Friends of Hue” sticker on those bulbs). The Hue system works with all the major smart home hubs like Wink and SmartThings, as well as with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit.

A Look Back…Our Predictions about the Wink Hub

CRT Labs has come a long way in a year, and the lab is always excited to look ahead at future technologies and what they’ll mean for the real estate industry. However, it’s also important to look back at some old posts and see how our technology predictions panned out. In this post, I’ll be examining an old Bits & Bytes post about the Wink Hub from June 2014. In that post, Chad took a look at one of the early smart home hubs, the Wink Hub, and mused on the future of the smart home (including a couple guesses about Apple and Google’s smart home offerings).

The Wink Hub in our Chicago lab

The Wink Hub in our Chicago lab

First, let’s take a look at the past two years of smart home development and the Wink Hub itself. In 2014, the Wink Hub was a new device, created in collaboration with corporations like GE and Honeywell, by a startup called Quirky in New York City. The Wink Hub was a huge step forward for smart home technologies – large companies, already with their toes in the IoT waters, were beginning to think about interoperability and the lifespan of their devices. Quirky was a successful incubator that looked at thousands of ideas a month from inventors, carefully curating their offerings and facilitating the research, development, and production of dozens of products. The Wink was their first major foray into the IoT marketplace, a hub that promised the beginning of the easily automated smart home.

Did the Wink live up to that promise? Well, in 2015, Quirky filed for bankruptcy, which for some seemed like it would signal the end for the smart home hub technology. But Flex, a manufacturing company, bought Wink from Quirky, and Wink soldiered on. As of April 2016, Wink has 1.3 million devices on its network, with 20,000 more coming online each week. That bodes well for the technology, and Wink combining multiple standards into their device (in a world that still hasn’t standardized protocols) means that there will likely be an interest, at least in the near future, for people who want to centralize their smart home devices without feeling encumbered by the restrictions of only working within one company’s ecosystem.

We’ve seen a couple hubs come and go (and I’ll talk more about that in upcoming post), but Wink and Samsung’s SmartThings seem to be in it for the long haul. So that leaves us with the question – what about the future of companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google, who have recently extended their offerings to include voice assistants that can act as smart home hubs?

In his post, Chad mused that if these companies getting into the smart home – and smart home hub – game, would that mean that the Wink (and others like it) would become obsolete? I think instead of watching the hubs get pushed out of the market, the Big Three are embracing what hubs bring to the table. Google Home came to market with support for SmartThings; Apple’s HomeKit currently integrates with the Insteon Hub; and Alexa works with not only those hubs, but the Wink as well. Device manufacturers are creating their offerings for all the major hubs, and while there still isn’t a central standard protocol yet, it’s clear that the manufacturers are interested in allowing their devices to be part of these types of networks in order to get their products in the hands of more consumers.

Wink just announced an upgrade for their hub – the Wink Hub 2.0 began shipping late last month. Does this mean the company has legs? I don’t know if we can ever be confident in predictions in such a rapidly changing marketplace, but I do think it’s easy to see that, for now, hubs have a major place in unifying the internet of things and allowing consumers a wider variety of options when it comes to customizing their own smart home.

Facebook Live Office Hours: Welcome to Annual!

This weekend, we attended the REALTORS® Conference and Expo in Orlando. Last week, we gave you previews of all the exciting things we were going to be up to during the convention, and one of those things was our first on-location Facebook Live Office Hours. We gave a quick tour of the booth just minutes before the expo opened, giving our Facebook viewers a first look at the booth before anyone else could see it. Check it out below.

We’ll be settling back into Chicago over the next few days, and we’re looking forward to exploring a whole host of opportunities that came up during the conference. We met so many great people, and got to share all the work we’re doing with a lot of awesome industry folks. Some of our next few posts on the blog will be a chronicle of the time we spent in Florida, so make sure to check back in to get a recap of our time both on and off the expo floor. And don’t forget, if you like our Facebook page, you’ll always be notified first when we go live during Office Hours (Fridays at 1PM Central), and you’ll be able to ask questions live! We’ll see you next time.