BUILDERS NEED TO GET PAST their skepticism about home technology and see that networked consumer electronics and home control products will soon be as common in new homes as microwave ovens and granite countertops.

New-home buyers are asking for these high-tech items, and builders who don't offer home networks, entertainment options, and home control systems will find themselves stammering when buyers pose questions like: “What do you mean I can't run a wireless network or have video in several rooms in my new house? Your competitor across the street says I can.”

A recent study by the Internet Home Alliance found that 76 percent of new-home buyers surveyed thought at least one home-technology product should be standard, with prewiring for cable or satellite television and home security being the most popular items, followed by structured wiring and a multi-zoned HVAC system.

So now that more customers clearly want home-technology options as standard, it's time to take a closer look.

“Roughly 30 percent to 40 percent of our buyers already have home networks in their existing homes,” says Bob Micho, who heads up the TechTouch division at Village Homes in Littleton, Colo.

“Too often, builders get locked into their day-to-day functions, [working on tasks] like lumber costs, contract labor, and warranty management,” says Micho. “Builders tend to lose sight of opportunities to generate new revenue streams that have pretty healthy margins as well as producing net profit.”

Village Homes is still very unusual among builders in that the company has its own home-technology division. Amore typical setup for a builder is to have two or three local home-technology integrators that they can refer to their home buyers.

Joe Piccirilli, managing director of Avad, a home-technology distributor that works very closely with consumer electronics integrators and builders, says one of his great challenges is to get builders to think about the sales possibilities of home technology.

“Structured wiring isn't a cost,” says Piccirilli, “it's an opportunity. Once you install a panel, the other home technology modules just snap in,” he explains, adding that builders also leave a lot of money on the table by not following up six months to a year after the home buyer moves in to a new home.

In discussions with Piccirilli, Micho, and Tim Woods of the Internet Home Alliance, we fleshed out a five-step home-technology sales plan for builders. Think of them as the five sales opportunities.