How to Win Over Property Developers — and What Not to Do

Peter Warren | May 06, 2019

Home automation. We tried to understand what this meant, and what benefit this Holy Grail of home technology was supposed to bring us. We awarded contract after contract to the next salesperson who promised this time “it would all be different,” praying that they got it right. It just never happened. Central control and endless connectivity (whatever that meant), all accessible from your smart device, not only promised to make the incoming purchaser’s life easier, but was also a must if we wanted to make our homes desirable in this demanding market. And time and again, the systems failed. But they didn’t just fail. By the very definition of the word, this implies that it worked at some point before.

In 2015, we as a company had decided enough was enough. There is nothing wrong with a switch. You turn it on, you turn it off. And the fewer switches, the better. Switches work. Switches have always worked.

Home automation, to us, was worthless, and although our houses lacked it, it was better to under- promise and over-deliver on what we did have going for us, than the alternative.

By mid-2017, every other email or telephone call was an AV company wanting to come and introduce themselves. We had sleepless nights inventing new ways to say “no thank you” politely.

Eventually, when Rob Garrett from CEDIA member company ARP Smart Homes got in touch, we gave in. Our first meeting went as you’d expect. We brought our passionate hatred for anything related to home automation, and Rob brought an undying need to prove us wrong.

But Rob came at it from a new angle. He promised that because he had a computer and networking background, as opposed to either electrical or AV, his installations would work. “It’s down to the stability of the network. If this works, everything connected to it will work.” No one had ever said this before, so it caught us off guard — we had no choice but to let him at least have a go.

We agreed to let him price our latest new luxury family home in Beaconsfield, Mulberry House. The difference between ARP Smart Homes’ pitch and the countless others that had gone before was again abundantly clear. ARP Smart Homes took their time to understand the plans, but also, most importantly, to understand how we as a developer spec our homes and what makes us different from others operating in this end of the market.

We tend to find that we spec our properties much higher than our competitors. For us, it’s important that in future-readying a property, we are not only providing the incoming owners with the very latest in equipment and wiring, but that we are giving thought to what the property may require during its lifetime and installing a system capable of being upgraded in the future. Spending the time with us to appreciate these factors meant that ARP Smart Homes was then able to produce a very concise and clear tender, again, something else that this industry often gets wrong. We felt nothing was too much to ask — they were always polite, helpful, and willing to spend the time.

Ultimately, we knew that as a business we had to take the plunge, as otherwise we risked falling behind in the marketplace. It was not an easy call to make for us, given our past experiences, but ARP Smart Homes got the job.
The installation process was smooth — and even better was the attention to detail. Ask a tradesperson on our sites what they love most about working with us, and they will tell you it’s that we keep a punch list rolling throughout. Our reputation is built on our finish quality for every aspect of the build, but what was really odd with ARP Smart Homes, is that there wasn’t really a punch list when they were done. Generally, a socket or switch has to move up, down, left, or right, at least one, but there was nothing! Throughout the build process, they were always talking to us and the site manager, and so items were being located correctly from the start. Wiring was being tested prior to areas being finished, and follow-up trades were being consulted regarding the location and finish detail of their items too. They even took the speaker covers away for powder coating to color match the wall finish in the cinema room.

And, still to our amazement this day, there is not a part of the system that doesn’t work. The Wi-Fi works. The gate entry works. The AV works. The CCTV works. It all works —from the wall-mounted iPads and Alexa integration in the property to my smart device three-hundred miles away. The benefit is not only that we know an incoming owner won’t be calling us two hours after moving in, but that since we’ve specially configured a scene on the Savant Pro system for the estate agents too, they can’t get it wrong either.

Finally, comes the handover. Again, ARP Smart Homes knows that we are quite demanding on this front, since we need to be able to pass on foolproof documentation to the new owners that clearly details not only what has been installed, but also what can be installed. The quality of the CAD plans that arrived was fantastic, with speaker and pre-wire positions clearly marked, and also detail on any consumable parts that any layman could understand. In keeping with our digital format for handovers to a new home purchaser, ARP Smart Homes made these all available electronically, and they now form an invaluable section of our sales pack.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. A phrase often used when looking back at a bad decision. In this case however, we look back at when we met ARP Smart Homes, and we’re not only thankful that we took the plunge, but we wonder how others managed to get it so wrong. For us, there is no looking back, only looking forward to the upcoming projects on the books, and that we know each installation from here on out will run as it should, on schedule and on budget.