When homebuyers in Houston, TX, are considering Taylor Morrison as their developer, smart home technologies are just as important a part of their discussions as wood flooring, granite countertops, and kitchen cabinets. In fact, Taylor Morrison is the only homebuilder in the Houston market to offer what it has trademarked as The Interactive Home 2.0 as a standard feature, rather than an “option,” for 37 different home developments throughout the city, in homes ranging in price from $190,000 to more than $1 million. Other builders may offer similar smart home solutions, but not likely to the same scale and with monthly service fees associated.
Taylor Morrison launched its first Interactive Home package in February 2012, partnering with Legrand’s On-Q Intuity home automation products. When Intuity was upgraded to its 2.0 OS earlier this year, the builder added the 2.0 designation as well, and began a new, limited-time offer in its Legacy and Inspired Series homes through which a base package is free with the house, yet is fully customizable to meet the specific needs of the homebuyer.
Find out about the company’s latest 2.1 enhancement that were announced on April 4, 2016.
The buyer gets an initial taste of the Intuity 2.0 system during a model home walkthrough, where he or she meets with a Taylor Morrison representative who has been fully trained and certified by Legrand. They begin at the home’s Command Center, a wall-mounted iPad mini loaded with the On-Q software connected to all of the subsystems of the home.
Taylor Morrison's Ed Mercado demos Intuity 2.0 in a Houston, TX, model home.
“They know that it’s an iPad mini, so they’re not afraid of it,” said Taylor Morrison salesperson Ed Mercado. “I also explain to them that you can download the app and have full control of your home through your Apple or Android smart device.”
As they scroll through the interface, the buyer will learn that the Interactive Home base package includes not only the Command Center, but video door-entry control, home audio (one zone, two streams, one global input), 5.1 surround sound, lighting control (two zones), one outdoor camera, one home intercom station, whole-home Wi-Fi, thermostat control, one USB charging station, and monitored security. In a $700,000 home, the base package is valued at $10,321, but add-ons can easily raise that value to six figures. For smaller homes, the value scales accordingly, as well.
Find out about technology adding to the assessed value of homes here.
“One of the things the system does for us as sales people is its gives us the opportunity to break the ice with the customer,” Mercado noted. “A lot of times somebody walks right through the door, and they’re just going to give us the old Heisman trophy block and say, ‘We just want to go look at the model.’ But one of the key questions that I ask them is if they’ve heard of the Interactive Home. As we’re showing them around, I’ll ring the doorbell, because it has a camera in it and make sure they get their hands on the Command Center. But, we try to tailor the presentation to what’s important to them.”
From left, DataSmart's Jaime Garza and Randall Duncan, with Taylor Morrison's Jim Ellison In the builder’s first four-year run with the original Interactive Home, a survey of Taylor Morrison’s 40-person sales team revealed that the Intuity system seemed to increase their time spent with customers by about 15 minutes per customer in the model home.
“Fifteen extra minutes with a customer…you start rolling that out across the city, in 37 locations, and thousands of visitors every year, and that’s a huge amount of extra time spent with clients,” said Jim Ellison, VP of sales and marketing for Taylor Morrison.
If homebuyers progress beyond the introduction stage, they’ll work with a salesperson at the model home to select their exterior and roof color, as well as structural options and whether to add a media room or not. Eventually, they will schedule a session in a separate design center complex, where they will meet with their interior designer, the builder, and integrator for selection of hardwoods, countertops, cabinets, and other design details. Within that showroom, a meeting room is set aside for the integrator, DataSmart Home Technologies. DataSmart also maintains a separate showroom on the same “campus,” where its technology consultants walk clients through final preferences for their Interactive Home.
The distinctive quality of Legrand’s On-Q Intuity 2.0 system is just how scalable it is from entry level to luxury homes. It was a conscious decision by Legrand to design a system in this flexible fashion.
“Traditionally, home automation has been such an expensive luxury play. The idea with Intuity was to include more of the mass market,” explained Desiree Webster, marketing communication manager for Nuvo and On-Q. “Everybody wants a video door entry system at the front door, and security, and one or two rooms of home audio. For us it was about delivering a system that could deliver all of the traditional elements of a home automation system at a price point that was accessible and one that was scalable for homebuilders to deliver from house level to another, simply.”
A model home placard promoting Intuity security.
What Legrand came up with is a compact solution that fits into a structured wiring enclosure. “Traditionally with a big home automation system you would have a huge rack that you and I could fit in together,” Webster said. “You have lighting control, you have intercom, you have audio, security interfaces, and you can control your HVAC system. You still have all of that, but within a much smaller enclosure.”
Ellison acknowledged that finding such highly scalable system was “really a challenge.”
“Most builders find a pocket (area of focus), but we go from $190,000 to over a million dollars with the homes we build,” he said. “We worked really hard to scale this system, building five packages. Each is scaled to the product line.”
Whereas many homebuilders in the area offer a free washer and dryer in their print and radio ads, Taylor Morrison advertises the benefits of its tech packages. Real estate agents are trained to use the system and seem to love how much selling around the Command Center helps them close deals.
“We get a bigger draw from our realtors than any other group,” Ellison said. “They interact with the system, and then they tell about it to their clients and come back already having demoed it and played with it.”
Ellison noted that Taylor Morrison conducts post-sale surveys at the 30-day and 10-month marks, learning what areas of the system are most appealing to buyers. “It’s generally about music and entertaining–all the bells and whistles. For the first-time homebuyer, so many times, it’s the intercom, the radio, the security package, and the front-door camera. But the internet radio tested the highest out of all home types.”
Legrand’s primary core competency is lighting control, but the company also boasts strength in intercom, interface, and security technologies. There are areas, however, where the brand must forge third-party partnerships, such as with Honeywell and Trane for HVAC thermostats and Kwikset for door locks. In fact, Legrand is already planning a 2.1 Intuity upgrade to add three more security partners to the one it already has with Honeywell.
An entry camera at the model home.
The agreement between builder, manufacturer, and integrator is one that Legrand’s national builder sales manager Joshua Roberson calls a true three-way partnership. “If any one of us fails, the whole thing can implode,” he said. “From the builder perspective, they tell us ‘You can’t delay my homes.’ In four years working together, we’ve had zero delays from product availability; we have 60 days of inventory in town at any given time. They’re planning on doing a substantial amount of homes, so there’s a substantial amount of product in town to support them, so they don’t have delays.”
Legrand guides the training and certification for Taylor Morrison sales team. “That knowledge is essential,” Ellison said. “Every builder uses the same kind of brick, but the amount you know about it and the craftsmanship that goes into putting on the home, is the differentiator. There are other builders that incorporate technology, but is everybody in sync? Are you executing at the highest levels. That’s why we go through the certification process.”
Finding Their Integration Partner. DataSmart became the third prong of the three-way partnership when Legrand recommended the integration company after proving itself as one of its top-performing integration partners in Houston market. DataSmart, it was clear to the builder, was fully capable of solid execution of projects in the wide range of budgets sold by Taylor Morrison. With several hundred homes in the pipeline, having the ability to maintain the pace of a production homebuilder was also essential.
Randall Duncan founded DataSmart 16 years ago and has developed a reputation for full-service capabilities, including production homes and semi-custom and custom residences, and technologies including structured wiring, home automation, security, surveillance, and central vacuums. The 105-person company has multiple sales consultants assigned to Taylor Morrison. “That’s their full-time job, and they do nothing but represent Taylor Morrison clients and above them, there’s a dedicated sales manager,” Duncan explained.
Legrand's Desiree Webster at the DataSmart Interactive Home 2.0 structured wiring enclosure
At DataSmart’s own Taylor Morrison showroom and design center, the integrator takes home buyers through the final stages of designing their Intuity system. There they will meet with one of two full-time designers that staff the facility, which is about 200 yards down the street from the integrator’s main headquarters.
“The idea is to help customers understand what they saw in the model environment and really begin to dial that into their house, specific to things that are in their floorplan,” Duncan said.
The DataSmart staff designer pulls up a PDF editor tool on a large screen, moving virtually room by room, through the floor plan, explaining options and best locations for various devices.
“We have some tools that help customers walk away with some clear expectation of what they’ve selected and where it goes,” Duncan noted. “That document then follows the construction of the house through. What they create here is used for rough-in, QC, to trim-out, and it stays with the actual house for if there’s ever a service call.”
From an Intuity standpoint, DataSmart begins with a high-level overview of what Intuity is, focusing on the app. “We show them what they would see in the Command Center and give them a quick walkthrough of all of the functional components,” Duncan said. “We then explain how the system really starts with the structured wiring can. Everything else sort of cascades off of that.”
Inside the same meeting room, a fully built structured wiring can, immaculately wired to the DataSmart standard, demonstrates the integrator’s craftsmanship and attention to detail. “We can show customers what the base of their system will look like and how this is what activates the lifestyle around their system,” Duncan said.
If a customer can’t recall something he or she saw in the model home, Duncan team will demo it there in the DataSmart showroom. “The system here is fully functional,” he said. “Everything is contained in this room so the customer has a personalized experience.”
DataSmart's wall of Intuity interfaces at its own showroom.
Through its Duncan Security subsidiary, DataSmart also sets up a monitored security arrangement with clients, so their business relationship likely will continue on well past the installation.
“We’ve already built a relationship with clients when they’ve come through the design center,” Duncan noted. “Odds are that we’re handling their security needs and the needs of Intuity. They know how to contact us. We have 24-hour technical support in the event of an emergency, or they can contact our monitoring support, when it’s non security monitoring related.”
Additionally, Legrand provides its own five-year, end-to-end warranty on all parts and labor and Taylor Morrison maintains a warranty department to field calls on any of the home’s infrastructure. “There are some very simple fixes that our warranty folks can walk through to reset some things, but then it goes over to the DataSmart team and they’ll look into it,” Ellison said.
DataSmart manages numerous dedicated pre-wire and trim-out crews, and employees 16 quality control managers who walk every pre-wire and trim-out during the construction phase to make sure everything is being installed according to the plans. Then at move-in time, the integrator sets an appointment between the QC manager and the new homeowners for what they call the “commissioning process.”
“They’ll sit down with the customer to show how to run the system,” said Legrand’s Roberson. “It’s not difficult, so it’s not a long meeting. We do it about a week after the homeowner moves in because you need a live internet connection. It’s important for the integrator to spend time with the customer, where he or she will personalize the system.”
It’s a step that the Taylor Morrison team takes seriously, as well. “Before we hand off, we go through a stringent inspection process, with the final step being a new home demonstration, making sure they fully understand the systems in their home, and that they have access to us, our training videos, and the integrator as well,” Ellison said. “We don’t just hand over the keys; we develop strong relationships with our buyers.”