Homebuilder Business is Thriving for Alarm.com and Control4 Dealer

Home-builder business is booming for Sacramento, Calif.-based Liberty Bell Alarm & Home Theater, which installs Control4 and Alarm.com security and home automation systems in hundreds of homes in new residential communities.

The homebuilder business is back for security and home automation integrators like Mark Buzzard and his Sacramento, Calif.-based Liberty Bell Alarm & Home Theater. The company has more than 1,000 homes under contract with builders who are offering Control4 or Alarm.com (with Interlogix security/automation systems) in every home they build.

“It feels like all of our work over the past seven years is paying off now that things are getting better,” Buzzard says. “Builders are coming to us and asking, ‘Gee, what’s this smart home thing all about?'”

Those seven years, he says, were spent transitioning Liberty Bell from an alarm and low-voltage wiring company to a full-fledged home automation integrator.

“When the market took a dive in 2008, we were doing all the builder business,” he recalls. “But when that dropped off, I decided to go to CEDIA [Expo] to find home automation vendors. I made that my passion.”

He discovered Control4 at that time, “and haven’t stopped since.”

At the same time, Buzzard switched his security vendor to Interlogix, which offers interactive security and home automation services via Alarm.com (Nasdaq: ALRM), the cloud-based SHaaS (smart home as a service) provider.

Since 2008, there have been a “handful of builders that stuck with us,” Buzzard says. “Man, I’ve been on them like crazy. Every builder we’ve worked with, they’re all coming to us now for smart-home expertise.”

Business for both offerings is now booming and Liberty Bell is making money every step of the way, unlike the boom and the bust years of the past decade, when so many integrators gave away structured wiring and installation services in the hopes of selling upgrades … then died trying.

This Time It’s Different

During the economic boom in the early 2000s, builders couldn’t construct homes fast enough, and they packed their places with technology to differentiate themselves from the community next door. At the same time, a swell in the number of deep-pocketed low-voltage installers and their partners (Circuit City, Best Buy, Home Director, On-Q/Legrand, Leviton, etc.) meant integrators were giving away the farm for a chance to get into new communities, often equipping model homes for free and giving away prewires to home buyers in the hopes of selling add-ons.

Then came 2007 and 2008 and 2009 … and those hopeful low-voltage installation firms went out of business or scaled down dramatically. The high-volume installation firms – those that remained—turned their attention to the retrofit market, commercial installations and multi-dwelling units (condos and apartments).

But over the past couple of years, builders started building again. Homebuilder sentiment is rising, and so are housing starts.

The best news is that the climate couldn’t be better for integrators. Dealers no longer give away prewires, and instead of offering automation as “options” for their new projects, builders are paying for them up front and putting them in as standard.

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About the Author


Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration.

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