DIY Home Security Systems and Sensors

Get a sampling of what products are on the market to help clients secure their home or listing while providing a value-add service as a smart-home adviser.
video doorbell

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Traditionally, if a homeowner wanted to install a security system, they would need to call a home security company to come out and set up their equipment, requiring a long-term contract. As a real estate professional, you’ve probably seen a home that has a 20-year-old security panel that no longer works and wiring running all over the home. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

With today’s wireless connections, homeowners can build their own network of cameras, sensors, and interconnected hubs without being tied to a single vendor or ongoing contracts. Owners can even monitor the home themselves or set up a month-to-month contract with a monitoring company. Today’s systems give your clients peace of mind. They’re even great for vacation properties and rentals.

“DIY systems give customers the flexibility to build the system they want and the freedom to include the devices and sensors that fit their specific needs. This is important because no two households are the same,” says Chris Carney, CEO of Abode.

SimpliSafe, for example, was one of the first self-install home security companies that came on the market 10 years ago. Now, new technology is helping the market grow and making advancements in the products available, according to SimpliSafe CEO Chad Laurans. “With our app, for example, you can stream video from your doorbell or cameras on your phone, or you can see alerts and let people in and out of your house,” he says.

These affordable DIY security solutions also provide real estate professionals and home sellers a competitive edge when listing a home for sale. “This can increase the marketability of the home and potentially increase the value of the listing,” says Carney. “An agent can easily deploy a whole-environment solution built around an Abode system including a smart lock, thermostat, and connected lights, all for under $1,000 and all easily controlled by one app.” A system can also be given as closing gift to protect the new home and “help establish the real estate agent as someone that buyer will call on again or recommend to a friend,” he adds.

Below is a list of customizable systems that real estate professionals can share with home buyers. These systems can be set up for either self-monitoring over an in-home network or professionally monitored with additional backup over a cellular network and battery backup in the event of a power outage.

  • Nest, which has gained popularity from its smart thermostat, now offers its own video doorbell, indoor and outdoor cameras, sensors, and security system that work across the Google network of devices. The “Works with Nest” program is now being transferred over to “Works with Google Assistant,” which may affect integration with third-party vendors. Professional monitoring and recorded backup plans are available for $5, $10, or $30 a month. This is a great system for someone who may already have the Nest devices and would like to stay within the Google family of products.
  • SimpliSafe is arguably the easiest DIY home security system to set up. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Nothing is drilled into to the wall or wired—it all operates over its own proprietary network. To get started, the homeowner selects a system package online or can pick and choose features; a number of different add-on sensors are available. Installation takes only about 20 minutes. The products do integrate with Alexa and Google to arm and disarm the system, but they do not include advanced smart-home automation, nor do they work with sensors from other companies. Self-monitoring is free, and professional monitoring is available starting at about $15 a month. Laurans points out that the company offers sensors for floods, freezing temperatures, smoke and carbon monoxide, and whole-home protection. “We are one of the only self-install companies to offer video verification, which means any true alarm events will get a faster response from police. These things were not nearly as accessible a decade ago, and they're things people want," Laurans says.
  • Ring Doorbell has been a common entry point for homeowners because it’s easy to install and works across Wi-Fi or a wired Ethernet network. Users can see who is at their door remotely on their phone, set up motion detection, and view and share video recordings through the included app. The company is under public scrutiny right now for its relationships with local police departments. Now under the ownership of Amazon, the brand has expanded its product line to include additional cameras, floodlights, and a customizable alarm system. There are various packages available, which can include motion detectors, door and window sensors, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This allows the homeowner to monitor everything in one app. Basic plans start at $3 per month for recording and self-monitoring; professional 24/7 monitoring is also available for $10 a month.
  • Abode offers the most flexibility for home automation along with self-monitoring, integration, and compatibility with various products across multiple manufacturers. This enables a homeowner to set up advanced automations via its platform, Cue, such as arming and disarming their alarm based on the location of their phone. There are several different triggers that can be paired with a desired action, and the user can even add conditions such as time of day or whether they’re home or not. “One feature of the Abode system many of our customers love is geofencing and the ability to set rules and automations that trigger automatically when specific phones enter or leave the geofence,” Carney says. Multiple starter packages are available. The Abode Gateway connects via Ethernet and functions like a traditional hub; the Abode Iota includes a built-in motion sensor and a 1080p camera and is capable of operating over Wi-Fi, which is ideal for placement in the front entryway. Currently, there are no video doorbells compatible with Abode; however, more integrations are being added regularly. Both systems come with an app that allows you to receive notifications on your phone, which is ideal for self-monitoring. Abode is the only company that offers short-term professional monitoring on demand, perfect for vacations. Professional monitoring with cellular backup is available for $8.30 a month. “The key is choice. We give customers the ability to run and secure their home on their own terms, which is paramount for today’s consumer,” says Carney.
  • Window and door sensors are the most common sensors, ranging from $15 to $40. They are included in most starter kits. Sensors can trigger an alarm and allow a homeowner to know when a door or window has been opened. Hubs such as the Abode Cue are able to connect to a number of different devices over protocols including Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Zigbee. This allows the owner to automate reactions when certain events happen. Let’s say an owner has just came home from work and it’s dark out. With the Cue, they could create a rule set that would turn on exterior lights when the outside door is opened using a compatible smart light or switch that senses when it’s dark outside.
  • Motion detectors allow a homeowner to monitor an area. They can typically be disabled when the homeowner is home to avoid accidental alarm trips. When owners are away, the motion detectors can be set to notify them or trigger the alarm. The typical cost for a motion detector is between $30 and $42, but one is often included in home security starter kits. Aeotec manufactures a variety of all-in-one sensors that can detect motion, temperature, light, humidity, vibration, and ultraviolet light in an environment. When paired with a compatible Z-Wave hub, this can be used to control lights, thermostats, fans, and shades.
  • Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors function just like their traditional counterparts but are able to alert the homeowner to the problem remotely. If the system is professionally monitored, they can call the authorities on the owner’s behalf. These sensors cost about $30 to $45.
  • Flood sensors will alert a homeowner to the presence of water in places it shouldn’t be, such as in a basement or underneath a sink. The sensors can be paired with a EcoNet water valve via a home automation hub to shut off the water and prevent further damage to the property. This is a great option for second homes or properties that will be left vacant for a period of time. “Leak detection and prevention systems are an important part of smart-home security,” says Blake Allen, chief operating officer and founder of EcoNet Controls, which offers home automation devices and solutions. In an effort to reduce risk of expensive claims related to water damage, insurance companies are now starting to get behind the benefits of smart-home technology, he says. Allen also advises that automation routines that shut off the water in the case of a leak be run locally and not rely on an internet connection or a connection to the cloud. “Be sure that the system is tested on a regular basis. The homeowner and other family members should be trained how to use the water shutoff in the case of an emergency,” Allen says. “Many homeowners do not know where to find their water shutoff.”
  • Kwikset makes a smart lock called Kevo Convert, which allows a homeowner to use an existing lock and key by only replacing the lock’s interior hardware. Setup is a breeze, and when paired with Kevo Plus and the Ring Doorbell, the owner can see who is at the door and remotely unlock it from anywhere in the world. By adding the Kwikset skill to an Alexa device, the homeowner can automatically lock the doors when they arm the security system or say “good night.”

Real estate agents are in a position to be the first person championing smart-home technology to their clients, says Mitch Klein, executive director of Z-Wave Alliance, including all the benefits and lifestyle enhancements they can expect. Even if a client had had a poor experience with smart-home technology in the past, as their agent, you can show the benefits of a well-implemented system and the value it adds to their home, he says.

“Agents who have a baseline understanding of the types of systems out there and how they are installed set themselves up to guide their client towards an informed decision that best suits their needs,” Klein says. “Agents already spend a lot of time looking for the house or neighborhood that best fits their client’s need and adding on smart-home considerations is a significant added value to the services provided, and a huge benefit in helping find the perfect spot for their client.”

Knowing what’s available in smart-home technology is a value-add for agents selling new and existing homes. Check out more articles from my Ultimate Smart Home series.