The Ultimate Smart Home on a Budget

Get a comparative analysis and cost breakdown on smart home products that won’t break the bank.
adjusting temperature on smart thermometer from phone

© Saklakova - AdobeStock

Getting started with smart-home technology doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You just have to know where to look. Here are some of my top recommendations.

Pay attention to local ads for good deals on smart home gadgets. Often places like Best Buy, Target, and Home Depot will have a sale that includes smart-home products. Recently, Lowe’s had GE Z-Wave smart switches and plugs on clearance for around $8 each. These items were originally priced just under $60, but the manufacturer rebranded and came out with new packaging.

Amazon owns Ring, so if you or your real estate clients are interested in a video doorbell, I’ve found they typically go on sale from Black Friday through Cyber Monday and of course on Prime Day. There are occasionally package deals where you can get a free Echo Dot or Google Home Mini included with the purchase of a TV or other home electronics.

When a new version of a product becomes available, manufacturers will discount the remaining inventory of the previous model. While you won’t have the latest and greatest features, the core functionality is the same and you can get a great deal. Examples include Amazon Echo devices and thermostats such as Ecobee—the Lite version does not have Alexa built in but works great at about half the price.

Remo+ makes a very stylish video doorbell similar to Ring for less than half the cost. It operates the same way and includes three days of free cloud storage within the app.

The goal at Wyze is to make quality smart-home technology accessible to everyone. By working with efficient manufacturers and selling directly from their website, they’re able to offer high-quality products at much lower prices. The Wyze Cam V2 is capable of streaming full 1080p HD; it records 12-second videos to the cloud automatically when it detects motion or sound, and the videos are accessible for up to 14 days for free. With the addition of a 32 GB micro SD storage card, which is not included, you can record up to eight days of continuous standard definition video or two days of HD footage. Once it has run out of cloud storage, it will record over the oldest footage. All of this is available for only $19.99 with no subscription fees. While Wyze Cam V2 is designed for indoor use, Wyze will be releasing an outdoor version in the future. In the interim, for some, it may work to place the camera in a window looking outside.

Last year, Wyze expanded its product offering to include a smart sensor kit ($19.99), bulb ($7.99/each), and plugs ($14.99 for two). They’re all controlled via the Wi-Fi connection and do not require a hub. The Wyze App is very easy to use, and it integrates with your favorite voice assistant. Setting up an automation is straightforward. For demonstration purposes, I put a door sensor on my pantry and a Wyze bulb in the existing light fixture. Now when the door opens the light turns on, and when it closes it turns off, which is great when your hands are full. I was also able to setup the motion sensor to turn on a lamp using the smart plug.

Just after the 2020 International Consumer Electronics Show in January, Wyze announced its smart-home lock, which replaces the inside of your current door lock, adding smart capabilities while using your existing keys and deadbolt. This has allowed the company to keep the cost down to $89—again, less than half the price of competitors. Wyze Labs will be a company to watch as they continue to offer affordable solutions for smart home technology without sacrificing features.

Wiz smart bulbs are a great alternative to more expensive Philips Hue or LIFX colored bulbs. I recently tested several different bulbs and found the Wiz bulbs to be very competitive. They’re four for $38 on Amazon, connect via Wi-Fi, and are controlled with the Wiz app or with your voice assistant. The app features different scenes, modes, timers, etc., which is comparable to the experience you’ll find with Philips Hue or LIFX bulbs.

Here are some typical costs for common smart-home products:

Smart Bulbs: $8 to $45 each

Light Strips: $25 to $90 each

Smart Switches: $27 to $60 each

Thermostats: $170 to $300 each

Indoor Cameras: $25 to $130 each

  • Budget: Wyze Cam

Outdoor Cameras: $89 to $500 each

Smart Locks: $150 to $250 each

Video Doorbells: $100 to $250 each

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.