Company gives owners keys from cyberspace - East Valley Tribune: Business

Company gives owners keys from cyberspace

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Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 5:23 am | Updated: 2:21 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

For some future Gilbert residents, the idea of making a house call could take on a whole new meaning. Forget to set the thermostat? Want to check in on the kids while you’re at the office? It’s as easy as surfing the Web.

A new home automation system — developed by local technology outfi t LiTera Companies — allows owners to tap into surveillance cameras using a touch screen in the home, a television or a Web site to control lighting, air conditioning, heating and other systems. The system allows the owner to monitor what’s going on outside the house as well as Internet usage on home computers.

“If you’re laying in bed and someone’s knocking on the door, you can just hit a button on the remote,” said Doug Ralston, CEO of the Scottsdale-based company.

An owner can also use the home’s touchscreen to order groceries, listen to music and browse the Internet.

LiTera’s program is the latest evolution in home technology, and national builder Shea Homes is banking that it’ll be a hit with buyers.

Shea is partnering with LiTera to make the technology standard in its La Mirada subdivision, a gated development of 83 homes under construction in Gilbert. The system is also optional in Shea’s Desert Vista subdivision in Phoenix, and the builder has plans to put it in 300 more homes next year.

Helping corporations communicate with smaller, remote offi ces has been LiTera’s core business, Ralston said. Taking that technology into the home was the next logical step.

Shea is always looking for ways to give buyers the best home, and safety is a big priority, Shea representative Constance Sablan said.

“It’s an always evolving process,” she said.

The setup comes with cameras at the front and back doors. If someone triggers the motion detector or buzzes the home from the neighborhood’s gated entrance, the homeowner can be notified via e-mail.

It can also take a picture of who triggered the camera and send it to the homeowner’s cell phone, Ralston said.

Home alarm systems and guard gates have become increasingly popular throughout the country.

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $23.2 billion on professionally installed electronic security products and services, according to the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.

Some 30 percent of security installations were for residential customers.

Security systems are more common in higher-priced homes, whose owners are willing to shell out extra money, said Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders.

“People know what they want, but that’s not always the same as what they’re willing to pay for,” Melman said.

Still, security systems could become more popular as prices come down, he said.

The home automation system that comes standard in Shea’s development is valued at about $2,700, Ralston said.

Shea has also included the company’s ongoing support fee — $20 a month — for the first year, he said. Homes in La Mirada start in the low $400,000s.

A home automation system would likely be a novelty for many people until prices come down, said Linda Berg, Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors president.

“I like the idea,” Berg said. “I think it’s the future, as far as having computer systems in the home that can monitor the house.”

It could give peace of mind to working parents with children who go home from school alone, she said.

Mesa real estate agent Trent Powell said most buyers he works with never ask about security systems. A home automation program would be a “cool toy” for men and provide a sense of safety for women, Powell said. But when it comes to spending money, he said, owners would likely rather have free tile or other upgrades.

Still, such a system might catch on someday, he said. “Maybe down the road, but not now, not yet,” he said.

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