The Art of Being Smart at Home

Smart technology is really, really smart in luxury homes these days.

Nearly everything in your home — including air-conditioners, thermostats, lights and garage doors — can be connected to the internet and be remotely controlled with a mobile device or smart speaker. 

When you’re at work, on vacation or just too lazy to get off the couch, your home’s smart features can be controlled by an app on your smartphone, wireless controller or voice control.

“We can remotely control everything,” said Sarah Frech, who with her husband, Stan Erck, are building a vacation home in Bluffton’s Colleton River Plantation.

Audio-video integration and design companies can help homeowners work technology into their homes without sacrificing style or acoustics. Control panels in the house can be easily camouflaged to match the home’s décor.

 “It’s all about simple control and the programming of those products. Our programmer has that ability to make things as simple as possible,” said industry-certified audio-visual designer Iain Brown. “Press a button, and the garage door opens; press a button, and the locks on the front door open; press a button from Ohio, and we can see the house and get the alarm unset when the bug sprayer comes in. We can do all of that.”

Frech and Erck worked with Custom Audio Video in Bluffton from the beginning of construction to ensure their home was both aesthetically pleasing and up-to-date in terms of technology.


– Iain Brown, certified audio-visual designer


Frech and Erck wanted to be sure every aspect of their home matched their style.

“Our home is modern, sleek, clean and minimal,” Frech said. “We have a lot of organic warmth with wood and stone. If we had had some obtrusive metal box, it would have ruined the whole feel of the home.”

There are more options now than ever when it comes to concealing details like speakers, wiring, electrical panels or switches. For example, an electrical outlet can be cosmetically concealed in a piece of granite for installation in a kitchen.

Frech and Erck’s home includes a five-zone Sonos listening system that streams digital music throughout the home and its outside living area, as well as many other smart features.

“We can control everything in the house that allows them to not have to walk into every room, shut a shade, shut off a light and lock the doors,” said Sandy Benson, owner and founder of Custom Audio Video. “It’s really convenient.”

Homeowners in the Lowcountry also are updating existing homes to embrace smart technology trends. On Hilton Head Island, homeowner Carla Golden and her family renovated their Sea Pines home after an oak tree fell on it during Hurricane Matthew.

They decided to “go green” and install solar panels — and enjoy the cost savings, which they can track.

“We’ll be able to monitor our solar panels with our phone,” Golden said. “It will allow us to see how much energy we’re producing, and it will monitor the functioning of each panel. So if a panel has a problem, we will be alerted.”

Inside the home, the Goldens will be able to remotely control the climate, blinds and other functions.

As the smart home wave crests, it’s influencing the real estate industry.  Local realtors say buyers want smart home devices for lots of different reasons, but security and energy management are among the most significant.  Smart home technology is more important to younger buyers, realtors say. A recent survey conducted by Coldwell Banker revealed that 72 percent of millennials are willing to pay $1,500 or more, and that 44 percent are willing to pay $3,000 or more to make their home smart.

The Lowcountry real estate market has seen interest grow in smart homes.

“We’re a marketplace of pretty dynamic buyers and sellers, and I think there’s a growing expectation for all of us because we’re being fed with technology on a daily basis,” said Chip Collins, owner and agent-in-charge of the island’s Collins Group Realty.

Collins said that smart home technology “bridges all price points” and adds value.

 “It doesn’t make or break the sale, but it’s more about impassioning the buyer into the purchase,” he said.

But those who invest in smart technology for their homes know it’s hard to keep pace with updates in technology and product innovation—even when a client pays top dollar for the latest and greatest.

“Something new will always come out bigger and better,” Benson said.

How to make your house a smart home

Roughly a third of United States households already have smart gadgets, and by 2022, more than half of all households will, according to the research firm Statista. If you want to quickly get started with a smart home, buying an Amazon Echo speaker may be your best bet because it is compatible with Apple and Android devices and has more than 10,000 Skills, or third-party capabilities. Summon Alexa—the most broadly supported virtual assistant--by saying “Alexa.” To set up your virtual assistant you’ll first need to download the Alexa app onto your phone. This app allows you to add “skills” to work accessories or increase your assistant’s set of capabilities.