Smart Home in an Ostrom Home


So maybe you’re new to all the “smart-home” technology. Perhaps it scares or overwhelms you? Welcome to the club, the Ostroms are right there with you … Yes, we’re in California, and sometimes we see a few things sooner than most in seller homes, but let me tell you folks … there’s a good chance your clients know more about smart-home technology, so let’s get you on a quick start on the Smart-Home highway.

*This is Roy and I at CES (consumer electronics show)  in Vegas, and admittedly overwhelmed*

Smart-home items are showing up in homes for sale, and if they haven’t yet in your area, I promise you many of your clients are quietly adding these gadgets to the place they call home, even if you’re not seeing these homes on the market. There’s a lot of information out there, so we’re going to do our best to lay down in a blog post (or  two) … how to get smart-home savvy in your house *cue some Miami #GenBlue Memories* with a few tips from us and our buddies.

Yep this is my fun and funny family – Welcome to our house …

Pro-tip: before beginning in the adventure of “smart-home” makeovers, and putting a ton of money into a system, be sure your internet is up to speed and working fast enough to support a smart-home network. CNet has a great article to help check your home system and connectivity.


When it came to our house just last year, the only smart home device we had in our house, was a Chrome Melody speaker lightbulb in our bathroom … and we thoroughly enjoy having it. The app for this bluetooth lightbulb speaker is of little use to us (in fact I don’t even have it on my phone). I just sync via “bluetooth” on my phone – it’s nice to have a speaker for our iPhones in our bathroom (and it drowns out our awful voices when we sing in the shower #realtalk).

  • Pro-note: I am starting to notice the failure of many apps for smart home devices, is that they’re buggy and not user friendly in navigation. but let’s be real, it’s the only thing cool in this bathroom … goody gravy, check out those awful 80s lightbulbs behind me, *bless our own hearts.*

So after I got back from “CES” (Consumer Electronics Show) with the Coldwell Banker crew and my good buddy, Roy Powell (see his thoughts on Smart Homes here)I came back to my home in Roseville, with a smart-home fire in my heart and was ready to make the plunge into learning more about Smart-Home tools and slowly start adding items to our home system.

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So we started out with Amazon’s Alexa (which we had bought for ourselves at Christmas, but we hadn’t done more than plug in Alexa and listen to music).

  • Pro-Tip with Alexa: “Go in the Amazon Alexa App” and play around. See what you can “sync” up with other devices so you can fully utilize all of the skills for maximum enjoyment. She can do SO much – I lurve her.
  • Pro-tip with Alexa: If you have Amazon Prime, have fun with the music,
  • Pro-tip with Alexa: With your iphone, if you want to just play your music on Alexa from your phone, go to “settings,” then to your “bluetooth,” and then select your Amazon component (in our case, it’s “Echo”)
  • Pro-tip with Alexa: Be sure to go into the app and play around the “Smart Home” option in the drop-down menu (see above) and “Skills” to really maximize the fun and usefulness of Alexa.

Our next piece we added was the “Ring” doorbell. I know there are a few options out there, so I encourage you to check for yourself, what’s the right tier of coverage for you, whether standard or pro works better for you … I have a close friend, Denise who loves her “Skybell.”

  • Pro-tip 1. I would also encourage for you to see what angles work for you before installing, particularly if you get direct sunlight to your doorbell. In this case, I’m just lucky that the T-Rex was a friendly one.
  • Pro-tip 2. Also for installing power by using an existing doorbell so it can utilize your current “chime/bell” noise in place, be sure to read the warnings about the power being off, so you don’t fry your system. Otherwise, you’ll be like us, and being forced to buy a supplementary piece called the “Ring ‘Chime’” … which we have and we have it set for cuing any motion or someone physically pressing the door bell button. It’s SUPER cool all the variations you can do from the Ring app on your phone for “motion detected” and separate chimes for “door bell” rings.
  • Pro-tip 3. Great for knowing when packages arrive at your doorstep.
  • Homeowner tip / or nightmare (no judgement) for the Ring Doorbell: “Our kids use the Ring doorbell to call us, and it’s a tool for communication since it’s a two-way microphone.
  • Homeowner tip: “If you have the Chime’ plug-in as your way of hearing the doorbell ring, you can go into the app on your phone and change “motion” notifications and “doorbell” rings as separate sounds (there’s even a ‘dog bark’ option – great for say folks like us, that have chihuahuas, that are probably more like cats, than dogs)

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Okay, the next piece, is easily my favorite addition to the home, the Schlage Connect deadbolt … We have three kids, our lives are busy, and we’re REALTORs, our lives are always at a fast pace. This has been the best solution for us … now, there are SO many options for keypad entry, but we went with the highest tier option, because security is important to us (and I feel it should be for everyone when it comes to property access). This one is fingerprint resistant, ANSI Grade 1 (whatever that means), and it will cue me if someone tampers with our lock. But paired up with my “ring” doorbell, I’ll have an image of anyone that should NOT be on our porch. We bought the “Schlage Sense” and we stayed within our “oil rubbed bronze look” of metals we have in the house (yes, this stuff matters) and we already had “Schlage” keys in our house, so we decided to stay with the same key system we had currently in place. We used to do a lot of rekeys so you might as well stick with whatever “key” group you’re already using in your home. We opted to ONLY do the keypad.

  • Pro-tip: 1. Pay your trusted locksmith to help install or just kick down for the professional installation on this one. You want the auto-lock option moving smoothly and clean. Unless you’re a superhuman tech savvy person. If I wasn’t tech-savvy, I would have paid the Amazon technician to install. In our case, we had our locksmith install the key pad/deadbolt.
  • Pro-tip: 2. You’ll need to involve a locksmith if you buy online or if you know how to get the deadbolt keyed to your system.
  • Pro-tip: 3. Stay with the brand of keys you already have in the home (whether Kwikset or Schlage) – so to stay on the same system, work with what you have … or talk to a locksmith before kicking down the big bucks
  • Pro-tip: 4. The app is a bit rough … get a bridge piece that offers an app to house all your smart home pieces (see below)

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Okay, we also have a “smart hub” with is Z-Wave compatible (for our deadbolt and some other pieces you may purchase). Don’t let this jargon frighten or deter you – focus my friend, you got this now I have a few buddies that preferred hub pieces to connect a few of their smarthome pieces, but I got this for free when we bought some Samsung appliances, and we have been happy with this little tool, but I can also see why it has a poor rating. End of story, it does the job and I can use this tool to lock my home off-site, I have Samsung smart outlets.

There’s not much to state, but because we have this component, Alexa will interact with our deadbolt (we set up actively in the Amazon Alexa app the SmartThings connection).

  • Pro-tip: 1. There is rarely a passive / automatic set-up in connecting devices to “talk to one another” (example having Alexa “lock the front door” as a taught skill), so you’ll need to play around in the apps, to see how to sync different pieces. It’s not hard, but you do have to have a wee-bit of determination. See some of my screen grabs throughout this post – and hopefully that will give you a leg-up on knowing what to look for …
  • Pro-tip: 2. If you have a deadbolt or pieces that have a “Z-Wave” based smart home piece (Z-Wave is a wireless radio frequency technology that lets devices talk to one another in a connected environment – and Z-Wave is stated to be one of the more secure routes of communication).

So what’s on our wish list for next pieces: we’re going to tackle the thermostat (Nest or Ecobee) and maybe some interior cameras in the house (most likely Nest, if we go that route).


Update (5/5/17)

Thermostat Smart Honeywell

Wi-Fi Thermostat 9000 Color Touchscreen

We have added a Honeywell Thermostat to our repetoire of Smart Tools and we had a pro install (you should do the same, if you don’t know what you’re doing – and particularly if you need a “C” wire installed – which we did). I’ll be adding more about our addition here shortly – but I’m SO happy with our choice.


 Links to items I addressed in the video and post:

  • Schlage Smart Sense Padlock (there are SO many options between dealers – kwikset, schlage, and more)
  • Ring Door Bell – 1-way wi-fi camera + 2-way speaker
  • Alexa (Amazon)play music, control your smart home, get information, news, weather, and more using just your voice
  • Samsung SmartThings: Hub / bridge (some devices, including some Z-wave using devices, will need a hub – there are many options out there); you can tie in water monitoring devices, alarms, switches, and much more.
  • Chroma Melody Light Bluetooth Bulb: there are so many bluetooth lightbulb out there. Fun product, does have a cap on loudness, LED light, changes colors (I don’t use that), and has an app – I would encourage research.

Suggested Smart Home Components, from friends and other REALTORs:

Top Smart-Home Pieces our Clients and Agent friends have in their home (click the highlighted name to visit their site)

  • Sonos – wireless music system + home theatre (I had no clue what it was either – so don’t sweat – thank you Mel, Michael, and Stacie)
  • Skybell – door bell – 1-way wi-fi camera + 2-way speaker (thanks Denise)
  • Google Wi-Fi (not a smart-home tool) but if you notice that your internet is fast, but your router needs a step-up in it’s game – I’m told Google Wi-Fi is amazing. (thank you Aaron)
  • Google Home: Google’s Alexa
  • Apple Kit: Hub  (be mindful of what interacts and look for the “apple kit” logo to ensure compatiability)
  • Nexia bridge (Z-Wave compatible) hub / bridge / Z-Wave repeater – home connect (thanks Amy)
  • Life360 – from their website, “Life360 runs on your mobile device to allow you to view your family members on a map, communicate with them, and receive alerts when your loved ones arrive at home, school or work.”
  • Piper – works with Life360 and is a home security system
  • Vivint.SmartHome – Total system set-up and integration with different components (thanks CB + Tami) – security, cameras, doorbell, garage, temperature regulation, and more.
  • Simplisafe Alarm System – build your own customized alarm system with varying tiers of coverage, and no long-term contracts. (thanks Carol)
  • Alarm.com multi-use control and alarms system (thanks Ben)
  • Foscam – IP cameras – great for rental properties to see the status off-site – IP Cams (and I saw the quality and it was amazing – even in snowy conditions – even the neighbor makes use of my friend’s camera to watch his property as well; and see how conditions at the property are as far as weather).
  • Canary Cams – waterproof security system, indoor and exterior solutions for wifi cameras; including solutions in areas without wifi. Plus pet-monitoring (thanks Randy)
  • August Locks – doorbell, locks, and a good solution for AirBnB (per their website) – (thanks Randy)
  • Ecobee – thermostat with room sensors (thanks Randy)
  • Nest – thermostat, cameras (indoor/outdoor), smoke + CO detector, and more (thanks Peggy, Jody, and everyone)
  • Lutron systems + smart shadesLutron has light systems, shades (I have seen on a property recently, and they’re amazing). (thanks Stephanie)
  • Crafstman Smart Garage Opener – can be used as a way to provide home access, you know when the garage is up and when. Our friend has it with a keypad and enjoys it – just for knowing “in and out” traffic.
  • Wemo Switch – turn on/off electronics off-site via wifi, and is compatible with most systems – including Android and Apple. ( thanks Randy + Jeremy)
  • Phillips Hue – personal wireless lighting (thanks Randy)
  • AlertLabs (monitoring system) – not sure if Canada support only** – water consumption, leak, and flood monitoring (thanks Melissa)

  • Explore Coldwell Banker Smart Home Blog pieces – explore what already exists at your Coldwell Banker fingertips, re-blog and use the tools your awesome CB team has already produced.
  • CNET – reviews of products and tools: a great place to compare products for smart home products and where to start your research, outside of the awesome Coldwell Banker blog.

CB Agents ONLY: If you watched the video and you’re interested in purchasing the Coldwell Banker “Smart Home Staging Kit” for clients or yourself at a discount:

  • Affiliate CB – login into CB Exchange (and search “Smart Home Staging Kit)
  • NRT offices login to NRT Gateway first, and go to CB Exchange (and search “Smart Home Staging Kit)

If you have any questions – hit us up, or if I typed something inaccurate here – correct me. We’re all here to learn and succeed and we hope you enjoy our research here.

Heather and Steve Ostrom are both REALTORs at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Roseville, CA. Heather Ostrom is the cyber-fisherwoman getting new business with her marketing skills, while Steve O is the awesome negotiator and closer. You can follow them at: www.RosevilleAndRocklin.com
  • Ryan Lundquist

    What a valuable post. Thank you. This took a long time to write. 🙂 Regarding Ring, is it a one-time expense or is there a monthly fee you have to pay? I’m in the market. Thanks so much.

    • Hello @ryanlundquist:disqus – so I believe they offer the first 30 days of monitoring and storage for free, then it’s a monthly fee. You do not have to buy the plan, but you can’t resource footage (is my understanding). You can still do “live feed” views and answer the front door, via your app. Scroll to the bottom of this page and they’ll show you the plans. https://ring.com/video-recording. Currently, I only have one camera so I’m doing the $3/mo option.

      My friend prefers the Skybell (in the article as well in the “suggested by friends”) location over the Ring.

      Another thing to consider is how sunlight will hit the doorbell camera as it will affect visibility.

      • Ryan Lundquist

        Thank you. That is helpful. I really appreciate it Heather. $3 per month is not bad at all. That’s basically a Grande coffee at Starbucks. 🙂