Home Theatre Can Increase Builder Profits
Joseph M. Piccirilli
The real estate market is booming, the population seems to be in a “nesting” phase and consumers are pouring money into their homes to make them as functional, comfortable and user-friendly as possible. With all of the home entertainment and technology features available today, this would appear to be an easy task. So why do studies show that out of the estimated 1.6 million recent new housing starts, only 10% were pre-wired for integrated home technology, especially home theater? Are builders offering it?
Certainly, builders are not reluctant to maximize their profits by offering these products. Most professional builders recognize the added value that a home theater and other high-tech entertainment features can contribute to the profit margin on a home. But builders may not be able to meet the demand for automated homes without easy access to the best brands all in one place and to qualified, reliable Electronic Systems Contractors (ESCs) who can design, install and standardize these products in new homes.
What Is Home Theater?
Ask 20 people this question and you’ll get 20 different answers. To some it might mean a moderate-sized TV and surround sound system in a corner of the family room, while others might think of a dedicated front projection theater room that is theme-decorated and equipped with everything from lighting control to a popcorn machine. So how does a builder wade through the thousands of possible configurations of products for any given home theater?
You start by gaining access to all of the best brands all in one place and, using those brands, you create standardized packages with easy upgrades matched to the psychographics and demographics of your target home owner market. Standardization is the first step on the road to success; and repeatability, reliability and ease of use are the three key elements a builder should look for when selecting a pre-designed packaged system.
These packages should include flat screen TV options. Flat screen has pretty much redefined home entertainment in the past decade, and the significance of this revolution cannot be underestimated. Flat screens bring outstanding picture quality to home theater and have even had an impact on the design and construction of new homes. As the demand for this technology increases, it only makes sense for a builder to partner with an Electronic Systems Contractor who has flat screen integration expertise.
A True Partnership
Working with an ESC is a true partnership, and to guarantee success in this relationship it’s best to choose a partner who can do it all — from the initial installation to any optional system upgrades. The consumer electronics industry is dynamic. Products change constantly as technology improves and a builder needs an ESC who keeps pace with these technologies through constant training and certification.
Look for an ESC who understands the fundamentals of doing business with builders — a person who understands accounting disciplines, licensing, permits, insurance and more. Also, look for ESCs who have CEDIA Professional Certification. CEDIA is the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, an international trade association of companies that specialize in designing and installing electronic systems for the home.
ESCs that can provide a “one-stop shop” — from design to installation to servicing the products — are your best bet, but where do you find them? One reliable resource is CEDIA. Another is an ESC/dealer-builder program that connects builders from around the country with qualified, reliable ESCs in their area. An ESC who can do the job right the first time, every time, is an invaluable tool for keeping your customers satisfied and growing your business exponentially.
Many home buyers will have extensively researched their home entertainment needs before they even come to you; others will need much more guidance. To help those home owners narrow their choices, you and your ESC should ask the following questions.
- What’s your budget? It’s good to know right off the bat what you are working with.
- Do you want to devote an entire room to your home theater or would you like to devote a part of a room? This could mean the difference between selecting a projector/screen option or a flat screen TV option.
- If your home theater is in part of a room, what other activities will take place in that room? This will have an effect on placement, power sources, etc.
- Where would you like to locate your home theater within the room? This should start a conversation on sound proofing, lighting control and a number of other considerations.
- What’s more important to you — audio or video? This will help you determine the configuration of the home theater system.
These questions will lead to other, more technical questions and this is where the ESC will be a great help. If your client wants a projector, the ESC will have to calculate the throw distance of the projector, the size of the screen, the mounting and the locations for the electrical outlets. For the flat screen TV option, questions such as positioning, ventilation, visibility and electrical outlets must be considered. Other questions will undoubtedly arise that only a qualified professional will be able to answer, so partner with someone who is extremely competent.
Know Your Market, Grow Your Market
It’s undeniable that home theater systems are in high demand and home buyers are expecting to see HDTV and cable connections along with pre-wiring options incorporated into their new homes. Consumer research consistently ranks technology as one of the top 10 attributes of an ideal home. One key to growing your business is to keep your finger on the pulse of consumers’ wants and needs. The second key is to deliver them the best brands via no-hassle, user-friendly, pre-designed package systems. The third key is to have those systems installed by highly competent, certified and reliable ESCs who are dedicated to providing the best customer service possible.
Statistics show that home owners are willing to pay top dollar for the latest technology in their new homes, and home theater systems are an easy sell. If you are not taking advantage of this, then you are giving money away to those who are. Smart builders get the big picture and so do their clients.
Joe Piccirilli has been in the consumer electronics and systems integration industry for more than 30 years. Serving as a retailer for 15 years and as a consultant to manufacturers and retailers for 10 years, he is currently the managing director of AVAD, a nationwide value-added distributor of premium home technology. AVAD is a member of the National Council of the Housing Industry — the Supplier 100 of NAHB. For more information, e-mail Joe Piccirilli.
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