It’s time to be SMART about SMART home devices


Every home buyer should be vigilant of SMART devices in the purchase of a home and protect themselves from risks like any other component of a home. 

Home’s new and old are being fitted with SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) devices. These are wired and wireless devices that can control many features of a home. Most prominent are Ring Doorbell’s, Nest Thermostats, and a plethora of video and audio security systems.   Other lesser-known systems control irrigation, sound, heating and cooling, door locks, lighting, water, smoke and CO2 detectors, refrigerators, laundry machines, and more.

In a 2017 report by McKinsey and Company, over 29 million homes in the United States had some form of SMART devices, and estimate the number is growing by 31 percent a year.  Many of these devices are Internet-enabled, wireless-controlled, and require passwords to manage. 

As a home buyer, You must have knowledge and control of these devices with your purchase.  This means having password access to change passwords and operating instructions. In many cases, wireless and Internet access is required to reprogram, control, and maintain the devices.

So what happens if you don’t? As an industry, our contracts and inspection procedures lag behind the SMART device revolution. I heard a case recently where a home had wireless controlled landscape irrigation. Upon moving out, the seller removed their wireless router, the irrigation system went down, and the landscaping died. Of other concern, a seller could spy on an unsuspecting buyer through Internet-enabled video and audio security systems. 

As a home buyer, add a special provision requiring your seller to provide a list of all SMART devices, instructions, and passwords at closing. Use your home inspection time to inspect and understand the operation of these SMART devices and what they control. Specify they must be operational and programmable when turned over to you. 

Our contracts must evolve to recognize a password can be an accessory to a home and SMART devices can be Property. Wireless communication should be treated as a utility when in critical systems. If in critical systems, wireless-control must be on and kept operational during the time the contract is in effect. The Sellers Disclosure Notice should evolve to list SMART devices and warn when they are operated wirelessly and if passwords are required to operate and pass ownership. Our inspection procedures should evolve to include SMART devices as Property to inspect. Inspect these as we do for garage openers, heating and cooling systems, water heaters, etc.