When embarking on a new home build or remodel project, the fuzziest budget item for most homeowners is typically the technology budget. Your builder, architect, and interior designer can quickly ballpark what a pool, a kitchen, or an electrical contract will cost. When it comes to technology, though, they often shrug their shoulders since there are so many variables.
Some clients want very basic systems, and others want audiophile music systems and George Jetson-levels of Home Automation. More often, homeowners do not really know what they want or need. Here are some budget guidelines:
Typically, in a major remodel or new home build, the budgets for technology systems range from 4 - 8% of your home's value. This excludes lighting control, motorized shades, and Home Theater systems. For a lighting control system, figure between $4 - $7 per square foot if you are controlling most of the home’s interior and exterior. The upper range is for a hardwired system, which provide the highest reliability. The lower range of the price scale includes wireless lighting solutions. For Home Theater systems, your budget can be anywhere between $10K and $1M (or more) depending on your desired level of performance.
Here are 4 key tips to get a handle on your home technology budget.
1. Divide technology systems into bite-size chunks
The first glance at a technology budget might send you running for the hills. Typically, it represents many different systems, therefore costs can add up quickly. Here are the technology systems you need to think about as separate budgets:
- House music systems
- House television systems
- Home theater or surround sound systems
- Home Automation or "smart home" home control
- Security cameras
- Burglar alarms
- Wi-Fi / home network systems
- Lighting control
- Access control
2. Do not skimp on the network / Wi-Fi system
Our life is run on the computer network. Our phones, tablets, doorbells, music, TV, movies, security systems, and just about every device that plugs into a wall or has a battery needs connectivity to function properly. Your home’s network is the foundation of much of your activity. We recommend strongly that you invest in an enterprise-grade network for your home. The devices you get in the mall or the office supply store are no longer adequate. Your technology integrator will suggest enterprise-grade brands such as Cisco, Ruckus, and Luxul. These systems, and others, are typically business-grade products that have a higher level of security, speed, and reliability than inexpensive office supply store devices. If you are going to splurge anywhere, splurge on the home network. Your family will thank you.
3. Do not always assume you are being oversold
The reality is that most homeowners underspend on technology. Feeling that they are being “oversold” on their technology needs, they may obtain enough bids until they get a price low enough that they feel is right for their needs. Experience shows that the vast majority of homeowners that settle for cheap-priced systems get exactly what they paid for, and later regret it.
Keep an open mind when listening to suggestions from your technology professional, though be very clear on what is important to you. Define your needs as specifically as possible so your technology professional can assemble the right systems for your price, performance, aesthetic, and reliability needs. Ask a lot of questions. Make sure you understand why your technology pro is making the recommendations they are.
Most reputable technology installers know what makes their clients happy, and are typically enthusiastic about delivering a great experience to you. If you have communicated that you are hard of hearing and your technology professional is suggesting an audiophile-grade sound system, though, it is time to find someone else. However, if you are communicating your needs and your technology integrator is suggesting logical solutions, resist the urge to be cynical. In the words of Ronald Reagan, "trust, but verify".
4. Do not underestimate the role that technology plays in your life
Surveys have shown that most Americans would rather temporarily lose electricity or running water than their Internet service. This says a lot about the role that technology plays in our lives. We spend a lot of money building beautiful pools, gyms, gardens, formal living spaces, and other home improvement projects that in reality get fairly minimal use by our families. Technology is touched constantly by all members of the family…daily. When implemented correctly, there is no aspect of our homes that will impact our enjoyment of where we live more than its technology systems. The reverse is also true. A home that has a poor technology implementation is a source of constant frustration. We suggest that you consider shifting some budget dollars from lesser-used rooms or features to the most used technologies in your home. Your family will thank you for it.
These are just a few tips to consider when deciding how much to spend on your home’s technology systems. The Home Technology Association has created a budget calculator to help you understand the cost ranges and drivers in building a budget. Click the button below to create a sample technology installation budget.