GREG NUTT, PRESIDENT OF SOUTHAMPTON Homes, is very clear about the demographic he's targeting with the AMX system that will come standard at Regency Estates, his new, 61-unit townhome project in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Ill., which is also where the builder is based.

“I have a lot of people whom I've built custom homes for over the years asking me to build a high-end townhome complex,” Nutt says. “These are the empty-nesters who want to downsize, but they don't want to give up the amenities,” he explains, adding that the other demographic he's targeting is corporate executives who've been transferred to the region.

Nutt says the townhomes will start at $580,000 and sell for up to about $1 million, with units ranging from 2,400 to 3,900 square feet. The builder expects models to be completed in February, with the first homeowners moving in about two months later. At least five units have been presold.

Here's the package that goes into every Regency Estates home:

  • A 5-inch AMX wall touchscreen;
  • An AMX controller;
  • NuVo's distributed-audio system in eight rooms;
  • Lutron RadioRA dimmable lighting for the garage pathway, family room, and kitchen;
  • SpeakerCraft or Bose speakers; and
  • An 802.11 wireless router with one wireless access point placed strategically in the house.
  • What makes this project so unique is that this level of home automation, distributed audio, and lighting would cost about $35,000 for a typical custom home. Nutt, however, negotiated with home integrator Tom Turner and AMX to get the entry-level package down to about $20,000.

    “This is new technology that many people haven't seen yet,” says Nutt, who explains that all the features can be controlled via the wall touchscreen, or, if the homeowner wants, with a $2,500 upgrade to a wireless touchscreen.

    “With the wireless touchscreen upgrade, if someone sends an e-mail, it prompts the homeowner on the touchscreen,” Nutt says. “You don't have to get off the couch to go to a computer.”

    The package is part of AMX's latest builder program, in which AMX is willing to offer volume discounts on home-automation systems in exchange for a commitment from the builder to install AMX-based systems throughout the entire project.

    “AMX is fairly pricey stuff,” says Turner, whose company has the offbeat name of Office for Radical Alternative Thinking (ORAT). Turner says ORAT could always install AMX systems in $5 million estates, but this new program brings AMX into the mainstream.

    Nutt says the program makes business sense for everyone involved.

    “As a builder, I can tell my customers: ‘Look what you can get. These are smart homes that have the latest technology, and it's all included in the price of the home,'” Nutt says. “The home buyers get a much-higher-quality product than they would be able to buy if they were buying a custom home or buying the gear six months to a year after move-in.”

    Nutt also points out that with the technology infrastructure built into the house, the integrator has a strong foundation from which to sell upgrades such as additional touchscreens and plasmas, surround sound, and security systems. On the vendor side, AMX gets to make a volume sale as opposed to the company's traditional model of selling a single system for a high-priced custom home.

    Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.