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Photos: 500gls

 

There’s only one place in Houston where every new-home buyer gets a house that lets them see who’s at the front door from their couch, use their smartphone from work to catch their teen hosting a party, or while away on vacation to turn off the lights they left on by mistake, all for free.

Since Feb. 1, every house Taylor Morrison sells in Houston comes with an On-Q Home Unity System that connects cameras, intercom, multi-room audio, and lighting control in one system. And it’s blowing away the local competition, says Amy Haywood-Rino, Taylor Morrison’s Houston vice president of sales and marketing.

“I’m telling you this is the single most exciting initiative I have ever done,” she says. “It has totally transformed our division; our competitors are [saying], ‘Oh my God, what is this?’”

Since Taylor Morrison started the program, sales in Houston jumped 29 percent month-over-month, with 51 orders in the first 22 days of the program, she says.

Model traffic has also jumped dramatically as customers stop by to demo the high-tech features. Sales representatives set up the customer’s smartphones so they can operate the features themselves. “Kids pick up the iPad and start working the home like it’s a video game,” says Haywood-Rino.

Different features appeal to men and women, she adds. “For females it’s a security thing.” They like the intercom system, the cameras that can see visitors at the door and the children at play or asleep.

“For guys it’s the gadgets, the things you can do with the TV, with the music,” she says. “They like that you could be operating your home from another country.”

In addition to increasing sales orders, the technology has also increased upgrade purchases. The homes come with a basic package that includes an LCD control panel/intercom, speakers, and cameras, but between 80 percent and 90 percent of buyers choose to add more. The system is easily customizable. For instance, it can be programmed to play a certain queue of music in the dining room at a certain volume for a particular period of time and then move the music to the patio later as a dinner party progresses.

For parents with latchkey children or dog walkers it can be set to send a text message when the entry code of the house is keyed in, and then the homeowner can call up the camera to see the child or the dog walker coming into the house. Those who travel can set the home’s lights to come on and go off at various times via their smartphone from wherever they can get a phone signal.

“This technology has been out there, but this is affordable for anyone. In the past, only really rich people could live this way,” says Haywood-Rino.

Taylor Morrison tapped into popular local tech guru Michael Garfield, known as The High-Tech Texan, to publicize the interactive home system. He agreed to endorse it on his radio programs and in-person at the models.

The success has led Taylor Morrison to make plans to expand the program to markets beyond Houston.

Haywood-Rino says the program helps Taylor Morrison’s homes stand out in the crowd of existing homes on the market as well as new homes offered by competitors. “I am sure that they are going to try to catch us, but right now nobody else is there,” she says.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX.