CEA's Home-Builder Survey Finds Custom Install Has Room To Grow

By Joseph Palenchar On Feb 24 2003 - 8:00am

A majority of new-home builders offer home theater and distributed-audio systems as standard or optional equipment, but only a tiny number of systems are actually installed, a survey of 550 builders found.

The survey was conducted jointly by the Consumer Electronics Association and NAHBRC (the National Association of Home Builders Research Council).

CEA concluded that either builders aren't aggressively marketing the systems or that price (at an average $5,000 for a home theater system) is deterring most consumers.

The survey found that only 9.2 percent of homes built in 2002 were equipped with a home theater, and only 8.6 percent of homes were equipped with distributed-audio systems.

The single-digit numbers contrast with the double-digit rates at which builders say they offer the systems to homebuyers: Fifty-five percent of homebuilders said they offer home theater systems, mostly as an option rather than as a standard feature. Fifty-seven percent offer distributed audio, again usually as an option.

These numbers contrast with the availability and installation rate of structured-wiring systems. Seventy-eight percent of homebuilders offer structured wiring, which is available almost equally as often as a standard or optional feature. In addition, the percentage of homes built with structured wiring in 2002 hit an all-time high of 42 percent, up from an estimated 1 percent in homes built in 1996, the study also found.

Penetration of monitored security systems, in contrast, hit only 17.7 percent, and the systems are offered by 62 percent of builders.

Far fewer builders offer lighting controls, energy-management systems, and home-automation systems, and their penetration rates are even lower.

Only 31 percent of builders offer lighting controls, which were installed in only 1 percent of new homes built in 2002, the survey found. Likewise, 31 percent of builders offered energy-management controls, which were installed in only 0.8 percent of new homes built in 2002. The numbers for home automation are even lower, with only 27 percent of builders offering it. Penetration reached only 0.4 percent of new homes.

The high availability of structured-wiring from builders, the survey said, is likely due to low cost. The average national price to install structured wiring was $1,200, and with the typical home having 2,265 square feet, the cost to consumers is only 53 cents per square foot, the survey said.

The survey also attributed structured-wiring growth to consumer demand. Seventy-five percent of the polled builders said they must offer structured wiring to compete in their local markets. Only 25 percent say they offer it primarily to boost their profits.

On the other hand, many builders who offer home theater and distributed audio cite increased profit potential as their main reason for offering the systems. Fifty-five percent cited profit potential as the primary reason for offering home theater systems, and 48 percent cited profit as the primary reason for offering distributed-audio systems.

Almost half of all builders said home-technology installations have boosted their revenues during the past two years.

A total of 49.5 percent said home technology has "greatly increased" or "somewhat increased" their income, and two-thirds say marketing home technologies is "much more important" or "somewhat more important" than it was two years ago.

Percent of Builders Who Offer Home Technologies (2002)
TechnologyStandardOptionBothNot Offered
Structured Wiring33.9%37.5%6.6%22.0%
Monitored Security6.7%49.8%5.5%38.0%
Distributed Audio1.5%51.3%4.0%43.2%
Home Theater1.3%50.5%3.3%44.9%
Automated Lighting0.1%27.6%3.1%69.2%
Home Automation0.2%23.8%3.1%72.9%
Energy Management0.3%27.6%3.4%68.7%
Source: CEA, NAHBRC ©TWICE 2003

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