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Homebuilders adding technology from the ground up

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Homebuilders sold $11 billion worth of technology products in 2004 and expect sales to increase 10 to 12 percent this year, according to Parks Associates' "2004 Builder Survey."

These findings show more builders are installing advanced products such as home networking and multiroom entertainment systems as a standard aspect or an option of a home’s base package.

"Builders are well into a new era in homebuilding that encompasses much more than lumber, bricks and granite countertops," said Bill Ablondi, director of channel research for Parks Associates.

By installing these technologies as part of the homebuilding process, companies are attempting to differentiate themselves in the market and adapt to the demands of today’s homebuyer.

“We’re starting to add (home networking) to our offering so we improve the homebuyers' experience," said Eric Simon, head of IT for Brookfield Homes (NYSE: BHS). Before construction is complete, the company tries "to get most of the lifestyle packages in place," which Simon said prevents homebuyers from having to go out to purchase these technologies.

Brookfield offers home networking, which connects all the different electronic devices in the house to a central hub, as an option of its base package, much like upgrading a car upon purchase.

Home networking systems have been in the most demand, followed by multiroom entertainment capabilities, which allow people to watch different shows while being connected to the same cable, or to view another room in the house through their TV screen. Simon said 40 percent of homebuyers are requesting multiroom entertainment, whereas two years ago demand might have been around 20 percent.

Overall, homebuilders are meeting the requests of homebuyers.

According to Simon, 80 percent of homebuilders who complete five homes or more per year are installing home networking or some type of multiroom entertainment.

Ramona-based New Dimension Homes is not part of this 80 percent, according to Andrew Paulson, president, who said he hasn’t received demands for home networking, but rather demands for more green- related building.

However, Barratt Homes is part of the majority as it has offered to buyers automated home smart systems, which control house temperature, security and lighting. Unlike Brookfield, Barratt offers this home system as a standard characteristic of its homes, which it has been doing for a few years, according to Lenette Hewitt, vice president of sales and marketing.

The company also offers standard a five-speaker surround sound system with a home theater that is pre-wired for other components.

“That’s part of a reason to buy new construction. It’s more economical to do it during construction versus buying a used home,” Hewitt said, adding that installing this type of technology after initial construction would require holes in the wall to allow for new wiring.

Brookfield is also looking to include a type of home networking system and multiroom entertainment system as a base standard to its new home.

“It’s an exciting time and we’ll see more convergence happening,” Simon said.

Send your comments, thoughts or suggestions to erik.pisor@sddt.com

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