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Norton Agency adds smart features to homes
06292018 SMART 1
More new homes, and even rentals, are including smart home systems like this Nest, pictured Thursday, June 28, that connects to the internet and can be controlled remotely via a smartphone app. - photo by Nick Bowman

Gainesville realtor Frank Norton Jr. spends a lot of time reading. These days, much of that reading has to do with technology and how he can better serve residents in Norton Agency homes by using that technology to make their lives easier.

“We are at the infancy of all of this,” Norton said of the 5 percent or so of properties the Norton Agency has that have smart technology. “We should see this transpire over the next five years as the tenants are demanding a higher level.”

As millenials and even older generations are purchasing and renting homes, they are expecting more technology to come standard with the property, Norton said. That’s why he has been slowly moving in that direction since he first had a Nest thermostat, which allows residents to control heat and air through their smartphone, in a vacation home in 2011.

Since then, he’s seen utility savings up to 50 percent. It’s also convenient; during hot months, he can “precool” the property before he or his guests arrive. During cold months, he can “preheat.” And it can all be done remotely from an app.

“Anything that I build going forward, or my partners and I build, I will be using Nest thermostats because I do think that that’s a strong feature,” Norton said.

He’s encouraging landlords who have older properties to do the same by changing the thermostats in those homes to smart options.

That’s not the only enhancement available for smart homes. In addition to replacing traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs, Norton said he is making sure to replace key electrical outlets, like the ones on kitchen islands or either sides of a bed, with USB-compatible outlets.

“It is for some rentals, it’s an ‘Oh, wow,’” Norton said. “And I think we have to look at those kinds of features.”

Norton has plans to employ more smart technology as it continues to advance. He hasn’t seen any homes in this market go fully smart, like some on the West Coast, but he is prepared if that happens. He has numerous smart technologies in his own home and plans on testing more as they become available.

In addition to his thermostat, Norton uses a video system along with a separate security system and Sonos speakers, all of which can be controlled through the folder on his smartphone he named “controls.” He even has an app for temperature control on his Big Green Egg grill, and an Edyn garden sensor that gives him information about the soil in his garden.

Soon, he will be trying out an electronic fingerprint lock system for the doors at his home. Next year, he hopes to install a sprinkler system that can be controlled by an app, all in hopes of finding ways to make the lives of residents and guests at his properties easier as technology advances.

“I don’t think I want to recommend anything until I’ve tested it out,” Norton said. “For a number of years, we’ve been able to use an app to control the heating and air system for our biggest commercial buildings ... and look at the security system and look at the cameras all remotely. Now being able to drop it down to a residential, personal level I think is pretty cool.”