Our final post on smart home technology looks at some key things to be aware of when buying or selling a home with smart technology. The first step is to evaluate what smart technology is present in the home. Sellers, make a list of all the smart devices you have- hubs, smart light bulbs, smart plugs, smart thermostat, etc. Buyers, ask your real estate agent to get a list from the sellers’ agent.
Once you know what technology is in the home, figure out which devices you might like to keep. As much of smart home technology is relatively new, there aren’t specific laws pertaining to what devices are assumed to be included or excluded with the home. However, there is a good rule of thumb (for smart devices as well as other items). If something requires tools to remove, it’s likely considered a “fixture” which means it’s assumed to be included in the sale*. For example, if you’re a seller and you want to take your Nest thermostat with you, you would need to specifically exclude it when listing your home.
On the flip side, buyers shouldn’t assume a device will be included. If there are certain devices you want, it’s wise to list them in your offer. Your attorney and your agent should be able to help you determine what is likely to be included automatically vs. what you need to ask to have included. Keep in mind that while you may want certain smart devices, the other party might want them too so you and your agent may have to do some negotiating. Depending on your real estate market, it may make more sense for you to just buy a new device. It’s also helpful to evaluate what smart devices you already have and check compatibility with the devices in the new home.
After all parties have agreed which devices are staying, each party should take steps to ensure that once the home has changed hands neither party is able to access the other’s devices or view information about each other. These steps are from movearoo.com:
For the seller
Create a list of all the smart devices that will be remaining in the home
Delete all your information from devices and prepare to disable your access on your move-out date
Let vendors and manufacturers know when you’ll be moving out so they can remove access from their end
Compile the manuals, manufacturer information, and customer support contact information for your devices
Reset all your devices to their factory settings; this will allow the new owners to set all their own preferences and the devices to “learn” from them
Update the software on the devices
When you move out, disable your access to all devices and delete them from your phone and your apps
For the buyer
Confirm when you move in that all devices have been reset to factory defaults
Make sure all smart devices have up to date software
Change the passwords on all smart devices and remove any pre-existing accounts you find
Contact the manufacturers to confirm that all previous users’ access has been disabled/removed- the previous step will typically take care of this, but occasionally an account won’t appear on your end but will still exist at the manufacturer’s end, potentially allowing a previous owner to control a device (nbcnews.com)
If you want additional security or are particularly worried, setting up a firewall or VPN (Virtual Private Network) for your entire home network provides additional security
Smart home technology does come with some additional steps and possible security risks compared to less connected devices, but it’s a great way to make your new house feel like home. As with any internet connected device, it’s important to be diligent about changing passwords, updating software, and following manufacturer recommendations for security. If you’d like an easy way to remember to do all this, Online Trust Alliance has a helpful checklist. If you keep your devices secure, they provide numerous ways to make your life easier and your home more efficient.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our blog series on smart home technology! Let us know if you have any questions or want to learn more- we’re always happy to hear from you!
*Since this isn’t clearly defined by law it’s always advisable to consult with your attorney about what you should do.