How to Hire a Technology Pro
The first step of a successful home technology project is hiring the right company. This is also easily the most important ingredient in the recipe for success. At the Home Technology Association, we realize this is a difficult decision, and our mission is to make it easier for you to get this right.
Here are some helpful tips in choosing the right home technology integration firm:
1 - Understand Your Budget
Some technology integrators specialize in projects of $600K and above, others are great at projects between $10 - 20K. Typically, the really good integrator that specializes in $20K projects is not equipped for the $600K project, and the $600K specialist may not be interested in the $20K project. You want a firm that has the most experience at your budget level. So, how do you determine your budget? This is a difficult task for homeowners with a limited knowledge of technology. Here are some basic guidelines: On a new construction project or a major remodel, expect to spend between 4 - 8% of the home’s value on your home’s technology installation. You will be on the higher end of the spectrum in regions where home costs are lower (Houston, Atlanta, Utah, etc.) and on the lower end of the spectrum where real estate costs are high (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc.). If you want a closer estimation of your anticipated budget, we created a budgeting calculator that you can access by clicking here. Do not be alarmed if your budget range comes as a surprise. We have found that most homeowners spend 2.5x the original number they had in their head for home technology.
2 - Hire a Technology Integrator that Specializes in Homes of Your Size and Value
Budget is not the only guideline. Also consider the size and value of homes the integrator specializes in. The complexity and fit/finish expectations of a 15,000 square foot custom home are wildly different than a 3,000 square foot production home. Technology systems do not “scale” in a linear way; the larger the home, the complexity increases exponentially. Find a firm that matches up nicely to your home size, and more importantly, your home value. In our dealer profiles, we show you these statistics. Hiring an integrator that is out of their wheelhouse is the single biggest mistake homeowners make.
3 - Assess your Service Needs
Unlike an electrician or a framer who you rarely see after the home is finished, your technology specialist will be a fairly regular visitor to your home. Technology is imperfect and changes constantly, so you need to choose an integration firm that gives you the level of service responsiveness you require. Are you ultra-demanding and expect immediate service when there is a hiccup, or can you live without technical perfection for a few days? Home technology integration companies handle service in different ways. Here are the things to look for:
- Does the company have a dedicated service department? This indicates a commitment to after-the-sale customer service.
- Who handles the service call? Do you get a service technician, or is it a small company where the owner is also the one to service you? Which do you prefer?
- Does the company offer 24-hour service for that evening or weekend problem?
- Does the company offer same day service for emergencies?
4 - Find a personality fit
This will be a long-term relationship, so be sure to hire someone you feel comfortable with. If you do not feel the main person you will be dealing with is a fit, abandon ship. Also, understand the firm size and pick a good fit for you. If you only ever want to deal with the owner, a small boutique firm of under 10 people is best. If you desire a larger firm that has a team of specialists, look for those firms with 20+ employees.
We suggest that you use this criteria as a start to select who you will interview. Pick three firms and get to know them, their approach, and what makes them different from their competition. We highly recommend only hiring HTA Certified technology integrators for several reasons. Through the rigorous HTA certification process, we have researched the firm’s history and reputation and capabilities. This is a good starting point, though we encourage you to do your own reference checks as well.