And unlike other spec homes, it had a high-tech component, starting with the two 52-inch televisions included in the price, one mounted on the stone fireplace in the living room, the other in the master bedroom. Beyond those were the security cameras, heating and cooling systems, and in-ground pool controllable via smartphone and iPad.
“That was an attractive feature to this house relative to all the other houses we had seen,” said Mr. Steininger, who bought the home in September. “If we are driving out from the city, we can turn on the heat remotely, so when we get here the house is warm.”
Come summer, they plan to raise the pool temperature so that their children, ages 11, 9 and 5, can jump in as soon as they arrive at the East Hampton residence.
Previously the province of newly built mansions, home automation features are increasingly being built into smaller spec homes and new developments. Buyers like the convenience as well as the energy savings. Alfonso Giaquinto, the owner of Plum Builders, said he decided last year that “complete home automation systems” would be among the amenities that his spec homes offered. “The technology was available at a good price,” Mr. Giaquinto said, citing research showing that the 39- to 49-year-olds he was appealing to were “interested in having this technology in their home.”
The automation in the Steiningers’ $2.5 million home cost the builder about $45,000. The integrated system makes life easier, Mr. Giaquinto said. As with once-rare air-conditioning, “People are going to come to expect it.”
Chris Brody, the president and a founder of Crescendo Designs in Southampton, sells, programs and installs the high-tech packages used by Mr. Giaquinto and other builders. Homes with motorized shades, as well as controls for climate, alarm and pool, are becoming more common, Mr. Brody said. But if systems aren’t installed while the houses are under construction, the process involves costly retrofitting.
In high-tech homes, thousands of best-loved tunes are available to play automatically; favorite movies can be watched simultaneously in every room — even on a discreetly concealed “mirror TV” in the bathroom. At the touch of a button, paintings slide up the wall, revealing high-definition monitors. Advanced “occupancy centers” include motion and sound detectors that turn the lights on and off in walk-in closets. DVD players, iPods, wireless touch screens, Blu-ray players and high-definition televisions are networked together. And motorized shades work as a thermal barrier to retain heat in winter and block the sun in summer. If the sun is beating on one side of the house, Mr. Brody said, the system closes the shades so more cooling isn’t necessary.
In September in Port Jefferson, Enrico Scarda, a managing member of the Crest Group, started building Village Vistas, an age-restricted development of 43 town houses selling for about $850,000 each, with 16 units now under contract. Mr. Scarda said that although he had wired custom homes for the high-tech systems in the past, this was the first development he was wiring for integrated technologies. “The backbone to the home automation is standard, and the modules are optional,” Mr. Scarda said, explaining that they range from $2,500, for a Web-based system including a basic alarm, lighting controls and an iPod dock in the master bath, to $15,000 for a full home theater on the lower level and centralized video that can be seen on any TV screen in the house.
Part of the appeal is green. Room temperatures can be controlled from any distance. When an alarm code is entered upon leaving the house, the thermostat automatically goes into “away” mode, lowering the temperature in winter or raising it in summer. Scott Boxenhorn, the president of IDS Audio/Video & Technologies in Roslyn Heights, says that with the automation systems, a meter shows homeowners how much power they are using in real time, allowing them to dim the lights or lower the heat “to see what difference it makes.”
When construction started in 2007 at Stone Hill at Muttontown, a gated community of $2 million-plus houses, wireless technology “wasn’t a big thing yet,” said Sammy Janowitz, the vice president of the Janowitz Group, the developer. “A wall-bound keypad or touchpad was the way to go,” Mr. Janowitz recalled. “Now they are almost obsolete.”
Out of 80 houses planned at Stone Hill, 50 lots have sold. On 35 of them, houses have gone up and are occupied. These days, Mr. Janowitz said, “wireless has to be set up by the time we give them the keys.” Buyers want “to be able to sit in bed and turn the music off and on and not have to go to a keypad on the wall,” or to be able to supervise the painting of walls while vacationing in St. Barts.
Yet despite all this enthusiasm, Joe Calise, the president of Sight and Sound, an automation systems retailer in Seaford, said some builders were hesitant to include automation in spec homes, because it might not “add enough value to homes for builders to put it in for free.”
Still, he said, they prewire for digital entertainment systems, using conduits and leaving wires in the walls and mapping the layout. Buyers can install audio, video or any system they want, later on. “If you are sitting in your den and press play on the DVD system and your lights go down and press pause and the lights go up a little, it could be a complete smart home, or it could be as little as that.”
Even so, not everyone is ready for a high-tech home, Mr. Calise said. Some owners “want a traditional switch and a boom box.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 9, 2012
A previous version of this article misstated the number of properties sold at Stone Hill, a gated community in Muttontown. Out of 80 houses planned, 50 lots — not 6 — have sold. On 35 of them, houses have gone up and are occupied.