Realtors and homeowners are facing unexpected challenges since the introduction of “smart appliances” which could allow former homeowners to retain control of some household utilities.
USA Today reported on cases of new homeowners discovering that their household utilities were still connected to the smart devices of previous owners, leaving them with no control over certain aspects of their own homes.
“Realtor Chad Curry recently talked to a home buyer who worried there was something wrong with the furnace in her new house. Every time she set the thermostat to 70º, it reset itself to 80º,” writes USA Today.
It was eventually found that the thermostat of the house was connected to the phone of the previous owner, who was attempting to increase the temperature of his new home. Examples such as this have lead to concerns for many, as smart appliances such as digital thermostats and keyless locks become increasingly popular.
“People can be vulnerable if they don’t reset these,” said Chad Curry, the managing director of the National Association of Realtors. “There wasn’t been much discussion of what happens when they sell that device or the house that contains that device.”
Charles Henderson, the global head of IBM X-Force Red, also spoke briefly about the topic at the RSA computer security conference in San Francisco recently: “It could be something as simple as turning lights on and off and make them think their house is haunted. Or it could be something creepier, like watching through their cameras or locking or unlocking doors.”
Curry has taken active measures to educate other realtors about the possible drawbacks of these devices by working with the Online Trust Alliance to create a Smart Home Checklist for real estate agents. The list is designed to help real estate agents know what to look for when preparing homes for new owners.
According to a 2016 survey by the National Association of Realtors, only 15% of clients ask their realtors about smart home technology in a property that they were viewing.