Hiring a consultant to automate my house

Hi there! I am moving into a big house in the SF bay area and am looking for a consultant who would be excited to build out a complete HA system for it.

Scope is roughly: Lutron lights and blinds, HVAC, audio, sensors, garage doors, homekit integration, 3-4 custom dashboards, doorbell, security cameras.

I’m an experienced programmer but don’t have time to do all this myself. Will pay well!

This topic has been up many times.
The general answer is, it’s not a good idea.
Even if we assume the best of all worlds and HA is 100% stable then the devices may cause issues and/or APIs change and it’s in need of fixing.

I understand your answer is I’ll pay for that too.
But what if the"issue" is a TTS message is repeating all the time and all lights is flashing non stop, and your “fixer” is on holliday?

I strongly advise against a smart home if you don’t know how it was built.
And if you still must, then get a company to do it that has staff and 24 h service.

3 Likes

I’m capable of fixing things myself, so I’d also pay the person to explain it all to me and tutor me on the basics so I can do that.

1 Like

I would suggest to take a raspberry PI and do it yourself. Hassio is super simple to install and community is very supportive.
take the opportunity to leverage your knowledge and do it yourself.
:slight_smile: at the end, you would be a happy master

The replies to this thread so far are pretty strong evidence that we are truly in the era of full employment when it comes to technical skills.

1 Like

ahahah … quite true ahahah

Could I ask why you want a smart home?

Not a criticism in any way. It’s just that for many (most?) of us, doing it ourselves is the point. We might as well be building scale models of the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks (quoting my wife here…).

I’d be genuinely interested in an objective view of what the real value of a smart home is.

Mostly just want to have one nice dashboard where I can see all the things, vs having to flip between lots of individual apps.

It’s a “nice to have” for me, not essential.

I wouldn’t say it’s a sign of full employment. The topic of using HA as a commercial product comes up every so often. The general consensus is that there are too many breaking changes.

On going support would be the issue. Most that are experienced enough to handle a paid install, know this. That’s why your not going to get a bunch of responses, jumping at the opportunity to be paid for an install.

So you just want another remote, not a smart home?
I mean nothing should be automated?

In that case it would be slightly less of a deal, but I still wouldn’t do the job.

The reason noone is really jumping on projects like this is too much liability. Home Assistant is a platform for tinkerers. It’s open source and most importantly, it feels like open source. While very powerful, things are always moved around, the amount of breaking changes is staggering. Depending on your setup you may have to spend a lot of time simply keeping things working. People doing home automation as a hobby can (usually) accept this. But when doing this commercially, this unstable target can quickly become a real support liability.

Typically home automation falls into two broad categories: do it yourself setups and commercial pro setups. The former is very heterogeneous, including anything from cheap crappy cloud based devices from AliExpress over home made or hacked ones, up to rather complex semi-pro DIY setups based on Home Assistant or one of the other open source HA platforms. The latter is based on homogeneous commercial systems like Creston, Loxone, Savant, etc. Those are very stable and mature platforms that come with professional installation, programming and support contracts. They’re also very expensive and don’t allow much DIY tinkering, if any at all.

There’s nothing much inbetween.

Home assistant can surely do that, but that is using it as a remote control rather than an automation service, and the latter is its real strength.

To be sure, another real strength is enabling a whole shitload of apps to be sidelined and give you a universal/combined dashboard to your disparate devices. But being able to turn your lights down and your music to your latest sexy thing by a dashboard is not the same as the real potential, which is

“shnak just got home, it is a friday night, there is someone with him so he must have scored, i’ll dim the lights and play that music the ladies like”

substitute your predelictions :slight_smile:

1 Like

That sounds fun!

Almost no one needs any of this stuff. It is, for the majority of us, just a fun toy. So all of you like toys, and I like toys, too, and I was hoping to find someone to help me setup a toy that I can play with. And I’m willing to exchange money for fun.

That’s all :-).

1 Like

Maybe I can be of assistance. PM me

If you are looking mostly for control and you are using Apple devices you might want to just integrate your devices directly (as much as possible) with HomeKit. The Home app is pretty good for general control of devices. All the Lutron stuff has native integration. Some of your other devices might. For those that don’t they may be able to be integrated via a Homebridge instance (like Nest thermostats for example).

Also note that Caséta lighting is pretty well supported by Home Assistant. RadioRA 2 and Homeworks have some HA functionality but if you need support there are not many responses to threads here. You might check out Hubitat, which has very good Lutron support, but not very easy to get right dashboards. Some Hubitat users link to Home Assistant to get the best of both worlds.

My wife and I bought our current house in June, and did some pretty major remodeling. The entire top floor was leveled down to the exterior studs, and there were many interior walls and ceilings on the main floor and the basement that were both open to some degree.

At that time, home automation was not on my radar, but whole home audio was. I started by putting in-ceiling speakers in many rooms throughout the house, and pulling a ton of wire to the basement, where the receivers would be going.

Shortly after moving in, I realized my WiFi gear from the previous house was woefully not up to the task (last house was a 2400sf ranch, current house is a 4000sf colonial). A Ubiquiti Dream Machine Pro and 4 wifi 6 APs filled out the connectivity quite nicely.

After living in the house for a few months, it began becoming readily apparent that the location of some of the lightswitches (not to mention the appearance and even “do these work?”) and the wall outlets meant that they were ALL in need of replacement. Every last one of them. Over 100 lightswitches, and over 150 duplex receptacles.

Two coworkers were both “HA nerds”, as I called them, and were constantly bombarding me with whatever their most recent thing was.

In late October, I ordered an HA blue and a handful of lightswitches, just to see. Then came the task of rewiring some of the circuits (where possible) because there were no neutrals. Some I was able to do, some I was not (because doing them to code would involve ancillary efforts I was not willing to invest, and/or because I didn’t have the required equipment), so I’m still waiting for an electrician to make those changes for me.

I implemented those lightswitches, and I also figured out how to add the stereo receivers to HA since they were both WiFi (we had been previously controlling them using the manufacturer’s app on our phones).

Now, it’s mid-January, and I have over 50 smart lightswitches, the garage door opener is attached to HA, both stereo receivers, a plex server, a dedicated wall-mount management interface running on a tablet, some motion sensors, a couple smart lightbulbs, some smart outlets, and some door open/close sensors.

How is any of this relevant to your question?

We bought this place a pretty good bit below market value, because it needed a LOT of work. The previous owners had done nothing more than live in it (for 20 years!) - literally every single light fixture in the house that had more than one bulb in it - only 1 bulb worked. Dining room chandelier with 8 bulbs? Yep, 7 were burned out. Bedroom fixtures/ceiling fans with 2-5 bulbs? Yep, only 1 bulb worked in each. Same for the exterior lights, and the track lights in the sunroom, and on and on. Point is, they didn’t maintain the place - but where other potential buyers saw “Ugh, work!”, we saw the potential to grow equity - a lot of it, and quickly.

I didn’t go into the smart home thing for the ROI, or the increase in resale value, or anything of the sort. I did it because I’m a nerd, and it sounded interesting - and more importantly, it sounded economical. I mean, I already had to replace lightswitches anyway, so why not? The cost of the smart switches I used, on average, was $10 each more than the cost of the regular switches I used for the places I couldn’t put a smart one or didn’t need a smart switch (like the dumb end of a 3-way circuit, for example). All told, not including the home audio stuff or the Ubiquiti stuff, I probably have somewhere around $1000 into my HA setup at this point. So even if it’s not worth a thing, I don’t really care. We plan to live here for the next 5-6 years, then sell and buy our dream house in our dream location.

BUT - somewhere along the way, I read an article about the home market that was written by a realtor, and it said that “millenials, in particular, are very interested in home efficiency (re: reducing energy costs, like expensive windows, good insulation, etc), and smart home features.” In fact, this particular realtor said that before she would list a house, if the house didn’t have a smart thermostat, she would BUY ONE and have it installed, out of pocket - because smart thermostats gave the appearance of a smart, energy-efficient home. Now… Is that shady? Perhaps. I don’t know, that’s not what I’m here to discuss. The point I’m making (albeit somewhat long-windedly) is that got me to thinking "what is the value of a “smart home”, or “home automations”?

I started Googling. The answer to this question varies wildly. It depends on the age of the article you read, it depends on the part of the country (or the world) you live in, it depends on the neighborhood you live in, and it depends on what the houses in that neighborhood have.

So… If you are the ONLY house on the block that has a smart home, you have an advantage. If every house on the block BUT yours has smart-home tech? You’re at a disadvantage. You have to consider the neighbors and neighborhood, as real estate is very much a game of “keeping up with the Jonses” (or ideally, keeping ahead of them!). An extreme example: If you live in a trailer park, installing a $30k home theater isn’t going to make your trailer worth double the original value, but putting that same $30k home theater into a $500,000 house might make it worth $515,000.

Since we’re talking about the value of HAVING this stuff, we’ll focus on the first part of that, the part where you have the advantage. How big IS that advantage, really?

According to everything I’ve found online, the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t directly add any value, but it makes your house easier to sell, which means in a softer market (not today’s market, obviously), it will sell faster - and faster is better. Nobody wants to be stuck in limbo, waiting while their listing languishes on realtor.com for 6 months or more. Consider: A buyer has narrowed their selection to two houses in your neighborhood. Yours has smart home tech, the other does not.

So, that’s worst-case. What’s the best case scenario? Again, depending on articles, the absolute BEST case that I’ve seen claimed as much as a 35% increase in value. NOW - to be fair - not all of that is DIRECTLY a result of the “smart home tech” - but rather, it’s the fact that some of that tech is the high-end appliances you installed in the kitchen that just happen to have WiFi and HA integrations. You know the ones, that entire suite of wall ovens, fridge, freezer, rangetop, and dishwasher… That set that cost you $28,000. So… Yeah, a big part of that 35% is going to come from the value of the appliance itself, rather than being a DIRECT result of the fact that now they are “smart” - but how we got there isn’t necessarily the important part, just that we did, right? ROI is about the destination, not the journey since the buyers are the ones who dictate ROI and they are buying the house, not the story of how it came to be in the configuration it is when they but it.

Real world? I’ll let you know. My house remains a work in progress, and I’ve been getting it appraised at fairly regular intervals to gauge our progress as projects are completed, and also to pick the appraisers brain about which projects we should do next, and what he thinks the place might be worth after the next project. It’s AMAZING the information you can get from a professional appraiser when you’re just paying him directly, and there’s no bank involved. (when there’s a bank involved, even talking to the appraisers is a challenge, since you cannot be seen as trying to influence the appraisers opinions). But, my last appraisal was JUST before I began this smart home stuff, and I’ll be getting another one within the next 30-45 days. My smart home stuff won’t be completed by then (still need doorbells and cameras), but it is still a significant enough part of the house now - and especially with the control panel prominently displayed right next to the thermostat, it’s difficult to miss, that the next appraisal will certainly notice it and take it into consideration.

For a “fully functional, complete home-automation system”, the running average I’ve seen across everything I’ve read seems to be somewhere in the 11-15% increase in home value. Time will tell, I suppose - but I’m sure a LOT of that value has to do with how nice you can make your dashboards look. :wink:

1 Like

For professional installer systems (Creston, Savant, Loxone, all those) or even for mass consumer devices like Nest, Ring, Hue, etc that may be true. For DIY systems based on Home Assistant, realistically, it’s probably a 15% decrease in home value, unless you remove everything before selling. Because the first thing the new owners are going to do as soon as they see a Raspberry Pi or NUC or whatever is hiring an electrician to ‘remove all that weird nerd stuff’. And that’s going to cost money. Anything that doesn’t come with a professional service contract or that isn’t from a well known brand they can call up in case of problems is going to be a liability.

I can certainly understand that point of view, and there may or may not be a certain amount of truth to that. But the fact of the matter is that if you build your system with a bunch of rag-tag nonsense that looks like someone assembled it in their garage (RPis with no case, wires zip tied to plubmbing/hvac, ugly devices), then that’s the appearance that’s going to be presented, and the result is going to be as you described. The same could easily be said for a home network. However, if you have a proper relay rack, with patch panels, and cat6 pulls that are properly terminated with keystone jacks and wallplates, and a nice system that both provides and controls access that is installed so that it looks nice - it gives the appearance of a higher-end solution.

Is there some segment of the population that is educated enough to ask “what brand is all this smart home stuff?” Undoubtedly. The bigger portion of the population is simply more likely to be starry-eyed when they click the buttons and “stuff happens”.

That aside, the most important thing you said in your post is “the first thing the new owners are going to do”… THAT is the important part. The new owners - meaning they bought it, and it’s not my problem. I’m only worried what buyers think, NOT what “the new owners” think. As long as they were impressed when they were buyers, what happens when they transition from buyers to new owners is their responsibility, not mine.

Is that disingenuous or unethical of me? I don’t think so. I’m putting this stuff in my house because I like it, and it’s making my life easier and better. If the buyer thinks that makes the house worth more to them because I’ve made easy-to-use dashboards with useful automations, who am I to argue with them? If the buyer says “none of that is worth a nickel to me”, well I got my years of enjoyment from it, and for what little it cost me, I’m certainly not going to complain one bit about it.

I don’t have a plan for what happens when the time comes that I sell, but it will undoubtedly involve disabling ALL updates to HA and other assorted items that automatically update - that way at least it removes the possibility of updates breaking things. There will also be a three-ring binder full of documentation about the system, how it is assembled and what components were used where, as well as a box of replacement lightswitches, outlets, and anything else that matches the existing installed components in the house. I’ve already thought far enough ahead that I have extras of a lot of the stuff, for no other reason than if something breaks while I still own it, I don’t have some mismatched nonsense somewhere. Same reason I bought more tile than I needed for the new master bath, or more hardwood than I needed when that was installed, etc etc. The 7 Ps…

Until nothing happens, because HA just updated and broke everything. Who are they going to call then ? The realtor who sold them stuff that doesn’t work. Or worse, their lawyer. Who is he going to call ? You.

Be careful about possible legal caveats. Because you specifically sold them a ‘smart’ house and suddenly it won’t work anymore. They might be able to push liabilities down to you, because you are the ‘manufacturer’ of the smart system. Depends on local legislation.

Keep in mind that you can’t disable all updates on a stock HAOS install, unless you really go bare metal with HA core or container and that makes it even more unmanageable to maintain for Joe Average.

And that’s where the electrician and the ‘rip it all out’ order will engage :wink:

I mean I don’t want to discourage you from doing all this, by no means ! Just don’t count on it as a way to increase resale price. Expect problems when you sell it with that stuff included. Best course of action, if you want to resell on a relatively short timeframe, keep the option to remove everything and just keep the well known brand stuff. Put in a Ring cam, Nest thermostat, maybe some Hue lights with Hue bridge and call it smart.

You might want to double-check that with your realtor.

My understanding is that whatever you state is included in the home’s sale, it is expected to be functional unless stated otherwise. So if the purchaser is told the home is “automated” and then given examples of what it can do (i.e. various hard-wired light switches are remotely controllable and operate according to a schedule) that functionality is now an expected part of the sale. If they need new accounts to maintain functionality then that information should be included as a courtesy in order to ensure it operates as described.

A safer approach is to mention the home is automated but with no promise of functionality (in other words, it’s sold ‘as-is’ and left to the new homeowner to explore).