SOME HOME BUILDERS ARE FINALLY starting to move past offering only structured wiring as a standard digital feature, with programs at national and local builders now including home theater and whole-house audio systems in the product mix.

For slightly under $10,000, Centex Corp.'s San Diego division offers Bose surround sound and a 42-inch LG plasma screen in the family room, as well as three rooms of Bose audio, as standard. And for about $10,500, 30-homes-a-year builder Harris Homes in Brentwood, Tenn., offers whole-house audio and a home theater as standard, including a 92-inch Draper screen, an InFocus projector, and an Elan whole-house audio system.

Why tie up so much money in technology?

“The technology gives us a competitive advantage against the builders we're selling directly against,” says Jay Kerr, president of Centex's San Diego division.

“Typically, [Mom] shops for the new home, but when Dad shows up and finds the plasma TV and home theater are standard, he doesn't want to look anywhere else,” says Kerr.

Pete Harris, president of Harris Homes, says he made the decision in early June to offer the home theater and audio as standard and says it puts him “way ahead” of his competitors in the Nashville market.

GENERAL DIRECTION Greg Simmons, vice president of Eagle Sentry, a home-tech integrator in Las Vegas, says that while home builders aren't quite offering home theater and audio as standard, he does see them heading in that general direction.

“When standardization comes, the first thing you'll see is builders offering in-wall speakers as standard,” Simmons says. “Basically, lenders will be free to pack them into the mortgage because it's considered attached to the house,” Simmons explains.

Other products that builders will be able to more easily offer as standard because lenders will accept them as attached are Sony's WallStation audio/video products as well as its New Home Entertainment Solutions, an all-in-one audio/video system. The WallStation products run about $1,000 per room for audio and $2,000 per room for video; the all-in-one system runs from $10,000 to $25,000.

“We expect to see home builders offering Sony WallStation products as standard starting this fall,” says Neal Manowitz, senior manager of Sony's consumer systems and applications group.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Diego, CA.