Home, Smart Home: 5 Questions With Coldwell Banker’s Sean Blankenship


Coldwell Banker Smart Home Technology

A full 71 percent of American home buyers want a move-in ready home, according to a new Coldwell Banker survey of 1,250 US adults. Of those, 44 percent expect smart home technology to be already installed.

Smart homes, of course, are those whose appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, security and entertainment systems are capable of communicating with one another via the internet, and can be controlled and scheduled remotely. Nest, Lutron, Samsung and other home technology, climate control and kitchen appliance brands have been booming on a wave of consumer interest in smart homes.

“It’s a defining moment for real estate,” said Sean Blankenship, Coldwell Banker’s CMO, in a press release. The survey results showed “a shift from the previous thinking about what constitutes a move-in ready home.”

Coldwell Banker CES Smart Homes

Years ago, “home buyers were willing to purchase fixer-uppers that needed tender love and care,” stated Coldwell Banker sales associate Angel Piontek. “But over the years, there has been a clear shift toward move-in ready homes that don’t require any updates or renovations. Most recently I’ve seen that the term ‘move-in ready’ is evolving still to include the convenience and comfort that smart home technology provides.”

Coldwell Banker Smart Home Technology

brandchannel spoke with Blankenship about how Coldwell Banker is positioning itself around smart home technology, including creating content in partnership with CNET.

bc: Is the trend described by your new survey being driven by millennials, or are there other factors at work?

Sean Blankenship - Coldwell Banker chief marketing officerSean Blankenship: We thought it would be driven by the younger generation but our research found that it really is across generations: empty nesters, millennials and Gen Xers with kids all want smart home technology.

Early on, we recognized that this spanned generations. It started from the feedback we were getting from our agents in the field who were telling us that buyers were starting to ask more and more about technology features in the home. This is really for us a consumer-driven initiative.

bc: How have you been taking advantage of it? How does it fit into your overall marketing plan?

Blankenship: On the consumer front, we are developing rich content and providing information through our partnership with CNET. That’s really important for us. And on our website, we’re also providing the ability for consumers to search for and tag smart homes.

On the industry relations front, we’re working with Real Trends, an industry partner, to gain the ability for agents to identify smart homes in the multiple listing services database. We also are keeping the National Association of Realtors involved, and we want to work with them.

Coldwell Banker CES Smart Homes

bc: How does this trend affect the crucial agent and broker side?

Blankenship: Two months ago, we launched the first-ever smart home certification course for our agents and brokers. And we’re going to start moving into a smart staging environment where sellers stage their home using technology. Staging a home is usually something agents work with their sellers on to present the home in its best light.

But if you think about how smart home technology can appeal to a buyer and make a home stand out from others in the neighborhood, there’s a huge opportunity there. From the research we just conducted, we know that the next generation of buyers are really looking for move-in ready homes—and when they say move-in ready, that basically means a smart home.

Coldwell Banker CES Smart Homes

bc: Last year you had a major smart home technology presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. What will you be doing at the next CES in January?

Blankenship: It’s overwhelming. There are a hundred vendors all with different products for the smart home. So this year we’re going to be the voice of the industry and work with partners to show how it all ties together. We’ll have more of an experiential presence at CES this year and say this is sort of a playbill for enjoying all the products that are here. We’ll take the fragmentation from all the various vendors and put it together to make sense from a consumer standpoint.

Coldwell Banker CES Smart Homes

bc: What’s your take on the US residential real estate market overall, including new concerns that the continuing rise in home values is coming mainly from short supply, not strong demand?

Blankenship: We’re continuing to see the normalization of the real estate market. Over the past two or three years, it’s been led in part by increases in average sales prices, and there has been a shortage of supply. But we’re starting to see that level off and we’re seeing a more normal housing market. Job growth continues to be positive. There are signs and speculation about morgtage interest rates but we don’t have anything we can point to that would give us concern about affordability.

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